Serve the Community

Employer Spotlight: Equip for Equality

Image result for Equip for EqualityEquip for Equality provides an array of legal advocacy services that empower individuals with disabilities, strengthening their ability to advocate effectively on their own behalf. We partner with community groups and public and private agencies to bring disability rights education seminars to people with disabilities and their families in their neighborhoods. When individuals’ rights are violated and self advocacy is unlikely to prove effective, the organization can directly represent the individual in negotiations, administrative proceedings, or court.  In addition to individual representation, we also engage in impact litigation.

Equip for Equality serves as a catalyst for social change, breaking down barriers that prevent children and adults with disabilities from participating in all aspects of community living. We challenge policies and practices by both government and the private sector that discriminate against people with disabilities and deny them their rights to self-determination and community integration.


Equip for Equality’s mission is to advance the human and civil rights of children and adults with disabilities in Illinois.  Equip for Equality is a statewide agency with offices in Chicago, Springfield, Carbondale and Moline.

Areas of Practice

Our primary goal is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Consequently, we are experienced in a wide variety of issues relating to this goal, including abuse & neglect, community integration, discrimination, ADA rights, employment, misuse of restraints and seclusion, rights in institutions, self-determination, guardianship, and special education access.

We also receive funding to work on special projects that allow us to focus on specific needs in the disability community such as: assistive technology, rights of social security beneficiaries, rights of individuals with traumatic brain injuries, and voting rights.

Major Achievements

Borys v. Cook County – In our most recent major achievement, Cook County agreed to pay $4.75 million to compensate Michael Borys for severe injuries he sustained in Cook County Jail. Michael, a brain cancer survivor, had a seizure and fell from a top bunk in a Cook County Jail dorm resulting in a permanent traumatic brain injury and complete loss of vision in one eye. Michael endured two brain surgeries and a third surgery from skull fracture-related sinus infections.  But Michael should never have been in that top bunk. With a history of a seizure disorder, the County doctor ordered that Michael be placed in a lower bunk.  Tragically, the County did not communicate that mandate to jail staff in time and Michael was not given anti-seizure medication. By the time the jail staff learned of the lower-bunk mandate, Michael was in a coma in the hospital. We took on the case with a private attorney and eventually Cook County agreed to pay Michael $4.75 million, which was put in a trust so that Michael has the supports he will now need for the rest of his life.

Ligas v. Norwood – Our team represented people with developmental disabilities living in large, private, state-funded institutions who wanted to move into a community environment. The judge ruled the state must provide institution residents who want community placement with an individualized, independent evaluation, and the opportunity to live in the community with appropriate services. Through this case and the subsequent Williams v. Quinn and Colbert v. Quinn cases, we have helped over ten thousand people with disabilities exercise their right to live in the community of their choosing.

Callahan v. IHSA – Mary Kate Callahan was an accomplished high school swimmer who competed nationally and internationally, but because she uses a wheelchair, she was barred from meets sponsored by the Illinois High School Association. Equip for Equality and the Illinois Attorney General filed a joint federal lawsuit on behalf Mary Kate and other student athletes with disabilities. We negotiated a settlement that allowed Mary Kate to participate in her senior year swimming and track and field seasons.

What Sets Us Apart

Because no other nonprofit in our state provides legal services for people with disabilities on such a broad range of issues, Equip for Equality is often the only legal resource for people with disabilities. We are also the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy System for Illinois, which gives us broad powers to independently monitor public and private institutions and programs serving people with disabilities.

Why Do We Need Help?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other reforms meant to level the playing field for people with disabilities have improved accessibility and achieved other important changes in society. Despite these advances, however, many people with disabilities are still routinely denied their rights in education, employment, housing, government programs and in other important ways.  Others find their basic needs are neglected or that they are physically or emotionally abused in institutions and in their own homes. Disability rights have come a long way since the introduction of the ADA, but there are still many barriers that need to broken down. Our legal interns serve a critical role in supporting our mission.  To contact us about internship opportunities and opportunities for post graduate fellowships, please visit our website:

2018 Arthur C. Helton Fellowship Program

Arthur C. Helton 

Established in 2004, the Arthur C. Helton Fellowship Program recognizes the legacy of Arthur Helton, a prominent human rights advocate and ASIL member. Helton died in the August 19, 2003 bombing of the UN mission in Baghdad together with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Viera de Mello and 20 others.

Funded through the generous support of the Planethood Foundation and ASIL members, Helton Fellowships provide financial assistance
in the form of “micro-grants” of $2,000 for law students and new professionals to pursue field work and research on significant issues involving international law, human rights, humanitarian affairs, and related areas.

Helton Fellowships are intended to provide modest funding that can make the difference in enabling future international lawyers, scholars, and advocates to pursue a life-changing professional experience.

Applications for the 2018 class of Helton Fellows are open until Monday, January 15, 2018. Find out more about the next round of Helton Fellowship
applications online at To contribute to the Helton Fellowship Fund, go to

EJW Immigration Fellow

Equal Justice Works is now accepting applications for one immigration Fellow to be hosted at New Mexico Immigrant Law Center in Albuquerque, NM. The selected Fellow will begin September 2018. Candidates must be bilingual and have a passion for immigrant rights. Applications (personal statement, resume, and two letters of recommendation) are due online by January 31, 2018. Learn more and apply online here.

*Students who applied for the general 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellowship may also apply for the New Mexico Fellowship. Both applications will be considered.

See what else Equal Justice Works offers HERE

What I Say YES to the Equal Justice Works Conference & Job Fair by Charlotte Granison

As law students planning on working in public interest the Equal Justice Works Fair is our best career fair, OCI and networking reception rolled into one. There are often one or two public interest organizations at city based job fairs and maybe a few more during Spring OCI, but the EJW fair brought together 180 different employers from around the country to one room. If you are a student considering public interest through direct service, policy, public private firms or government work, the opportunity to interact with employers is unparalleled.

Here are some of my EJW suggestions from someone who went for the first time this year. Apply to jobs through the EJW portal, you can apply and potentially schedule interviews with the organizations you are most interested in prior to the event. This can also cut down on your need to table talk. Be aware that all of these interviews do take place in one large room, so be prepared to focus. As someone that took on too many interviews, I think not accepting more than eight is ideal. Get there before the first day; the conference is pretty overwhelming with a lot of people in one large room for interviews, table talk and milling around the lobby. Arriving early, enjoying a D.C. dinner, and getting a good night sleep can make the first day easier. Meet with CCD to strategize about networking tips and who you want to meet during table talk prior to the event. There are a lot of students and organizations, it can be challenging to get where you want to if you do not have an organization in mind. Be friendly and have informal conversations with other law students. EJW has student representation from schools all over the country which presents an opportunity to network with your peers as well.

Yes, you will be tired because it is a very long two days, but make the most of it; attend sessions in your free time, sign up for networking receptions, apply for interviews and attempt table talks. In my own personal experience, the exhaustion was worth it because I was able to secure a job for the coming summer with the National Immigration Law Center, less than a week after the job fair and learned about a number of organizations I would like to work with in the future. If you have any questions about EJW feel free to email me, Charlotte.Granison and I hope to see you there next October!



Public Interest Student Spotlight: Emma Schruben by 1L Hopey Fink

Emma Schruben, a 3L from Washington, DC, has been involved in public interest opportunities throughout her time in law school. She spent her 1L summer in Pine Ridge, SD, working for the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council as legislative and general counsel through Wash U Law’s American Indian Law Summer Program. In this role, Schruben wrote and edited ordinances, researched legal issues, assisted in litigation, and represented tribal members at the request of the Tribal Council. With lots of responsibility and independence in her job, Schruben was constantly learning about American Indian law and about the complex ways that this field interacts with the practice of law more generally.

After serving on the executive board of the Energy & Environmental Law Society and as head of the PSAB Public Service Committee during her 2L year, Schruben went on to work in the Environmental Section of the United States Coast Guard’s Office of Maritime and International Law in Washington, DC, this past summer. Her job there was at the intersection of regulation and policy, allowing her to work with the State Department and other agencies as a consultant on laws and safety issues related to the navigable waters under Coast Guard jurisdiction. Schruben appreciated the opportunities she had to learn about other sections of the Coast Guard as well as other government and legal programs in DC.

Schruben advises students with public interest aspirations to take advantage of the Equal Justice Works Conference, held in DC every year. She landed her Coast Guard job by expressing interest at a table at the conference her 2L year. For 1L summer, Schruben says to do something you might not want to do long-term, while you have the flexibility to really get to know a client community. “Do something weird!” she recommends.

International Summer Internships and Study Abroad Meeting [Thursday at 12:00] by Professor Karen Tokarz

Are you considering an international summer (or semester) internship?  You may have some questions:

  • What would my internship experience include?
  • What type of legal skills will I develop?
  • What is the cost?
  • What impact will my work have in the country I visit or from a global perspective?

Are you considering studying abroad?

  • What type of courses can I take?
  • Will they be taught in English?
  • What is the cost?
  • How will I apply and interview for jobs if I am abroad?

Assistant Dean Peter Cramer, Career Strategist, Jim Guest, prior students who have interned or studied abroad (Anton Crayniy (2L), Andrew Boytos (2L), Riane Lenzner-White (2L)), and I will be available to answer your questions about study abroad and international summer internships this Thursday, November 2nd from 12-1 pm in AB Room 306.   

We hope to see you there!

PSAB Brown Bag Lunch Series: What it’s Like to be a Prosecutor 10.26.17

Join PSAB to learn what it’s like to be a prosecutor with attorneys Sara Koppenaal, Assistant United States Attorney for  the Eastern District of Missouri, Cynthia Copeland, Former St. Louis Circuit Domestic Violence Prosecutor, and  Mahrya Fulfer-Page, Former St. Louis Circuit Prosecutor. Bring your lunch and  questions! This Thursday 10.26.17 at 12:08pm in ABH309



Monday Market Talk with 3L Justin Chavez – South/Southeast Region

Hey everyone! Are you interested in big law but hate the cold and a high cost of living? Have you considered working in the South or the Southeast? I spent the summer working at Alston & Bird in Atlanta, Georgia, and I would love to talk about the firm, my summer experience, and finding a job in these markets. Join me on Monday, October 23 at 3PM in CCD to discuss walk-around programs in Georgia and Texas, direct-sending your applications to these markets, working at a large law firm in the South, and my personal experiences at Alston. Even if if you are not from the South, I urge you to come learn about these exciting job markets. I am happy to answer any and all questions! 

Winter is Coming

Winter is coming and so are exams. You will soon focus only on exams as you should. However, we don’t want you to miss opportunities while you are studying. For the next two weeks, get your application materials ready, make sure we have the most recent materials and give us permission to provide your resume to employers. You can focus on studying and we will only text you if there is something urgent.

Peer Wednesday: 3L Rose McCarty Firm vs Public Interest 10.18.17

Did you spend your first summer doing public interest work? Are considering moving to the private realm? Let’s talk about it! Join me on Wednesday, October 18th from 12:15pm-12:45pm at the CCD Big Table to discuss important differences between public and private practice and how to work at a firm while still positively impacting the community. It is possible!-Rose