We are civil rights lawyers and advocates working to secure racial equity and economic opportunity for all. We provide legal representation through partnerships with the private bar, and we collaborate with grassroots organizations and other advocacy groups to implement community-based solutions that advance civil rights.
WHAT WE BELIEVE
We are committed to the unfinished business of our nation’s civil rights movement. Our vision is to root out and dismantle deeply entrenched systems of discrimination, racism, and economic oppression. We believe in the power of the law to uplift and give voice to those individuals, organizations, and communities most impacted by poverty and racial disparity, including racial and ethnic groups, religious minorities, women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities.
WHAT WE DO
We identify and disrupt patterns of discrimination. Through longstanding partnerships with member law firms, we provide high quality legal assistance to clients and communities in litigation and transactional matters. We collaborate with community leaders, advocacy organizations, and attorneys to craft and implement community-based solutions and policy reform. We use a broad range of advocacy tools that include direct legal services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, community education, and coalition building. Our current legal projects focus on education, housing, voting and civic empowerment, public safety, and community economic development.
Partnerships are central to the success of our mission. Our collaboration with law firms and individual attorneys, grass roots groups, educational institutions, and other advocacy organizations is vital to our ability to secure successful legal outcomes, and strengthens our capacity to help clients and communities achieve their broader social justice goals.
By listening and providing information, tools, and legal support, we strengthen communities’ capacities to advocate for themselves on the issues they identify as priorities.
Recognizing the broad reach of discrimination, we challenge oppressive practices, advocate for expanded access to opportunity, and promote the fair allocation of resources so that everyone has a chance to succeed.
By matching clients with attorneys, we increase the likelihood of successful outcomes in individual matters, and develop high impact advocacy strategies to address underlying policies, practices, systems, and structures that perpetuate poverty and racial disparities.
In a constantly changing environment, we utilize a multi-faceted advocacy tool box to develop solutions for today’s most pressing civil rights challenges. We work with clients and community leaders to craft the “right strategy at the right time” to secure the outcomes they seek.
In the summer of 1963, civil rights activists throughout the South risked their lives to end discrimination and segregation in education, housing, employment, and voting. At President Kennedy’s request, nearly 250 lawyers met at the White House where the President urged them to use their legal training to move the struggle for the protection of civil rights from the streets to the courts. As a result, the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its regional affiliates were born.
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opened the northern front in the civil rights movement. As part of the Chicago Freedom Movement’s push for open housing, Dr. King organized freedom fighters to march in all-White southwest side neighborhoods where they were met by violent mobs. These actions laid the groundwork for the country’s passage of the Fair Housing Act. In 1969, in the aftermath of riots, violence, and mass arrests in response to Dr. King’s assassination, and political protest and police brutality at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, a group of Chicago attorneys and law firms formed the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Since that time, the organization has operated as Chicago’s preeminent non-profit, civil rights legal organization, producing important victories in fair housing, hate crime, education, and other cornerstone civil rights cases. Among our major successes are the nationally recognized Lewis v. the City of Chicago race discrimination class action suit, where the federal court required the city to hire by-passed black firefighter applicants and awarded over $50 million in damages for pensions and loss of opportunities to be hired, and the Coiley v. Delawder case, where the state court awarded $1.44 million to three young Black men who were brutally beaten by a mob of white men in a racially motivated and unprovoked attack near Manteno, Illinois.
Today, the civil rights battle continues in policing, housing, voter access, education, and other aspects of public life. With entrenched segregation and deepening poverty in parts of our city and state, the organization operates with an even sharper focus on racial equity and community empowerment. Chicago is ground zero in the fight to make America fulfill its promise of democracy and equal justice for all under the law. Chicago Lawyers’ Committee answers the call to create a new narrative for Chicago and beyond so that residents in all neighborhoods can thrive.