Could This Simple Idea Solve the Justice Gap?

At a time when the legal community is increasingly concerned about access to justice for all, and is searching for innovations to make that possible, a viable solution may be found in CARPLS.

News Story (Illinois)

Susan Beck
April 14, 2016

Tags: Access to Justice, Justice for All, Technology

Organizations mentioned/involved: CARPLS (Cook County, IL)


“Friday usually starts off slow,” said Allen Schwartz, the executive director of CARPLS, which stands for Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services. This pioneering legal aid hotline, now in its 23rd year, handled roughly 50,000 free consultations for 28,000 clients last year. Schwartz, 52, has been with CARPLS from the start, and took the very first hotline call. (He doesn’t remember what it was about.) He’s talked to 15,000 low and moderate income clients over the years about everything from divorces, to landlord disputes, to questions about whether a homeowner can cut down an overhanging limb from a neighbor’s tree.

What’s remarkable about CARPLS is its efficiency. It handles a high volume of clients by offering them relatively simple solutions that keep most out of court. “We resolve about 85 percent of cases in-house through advice and brief services,” Schwartz said. “If they need a higher level of service, we can refer them to the most effective legal aid provider.”