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CHICAGO � Chicago attorneys Anton Valukas and Kimball Anderson are heading up a Chicago Bar Foundation effort to raise funds to alleviate a “crisis” in the city’s legal aid workforce, they said. Programs to provide free legal services for low-income people are suffering because lawyers in the field can’t afford to stick with such low-paying jobs, especially while shouldering ever greater law school debts. The basis for their concern was the results of a November study by the foundation and the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice that concluded that about 73% of Illinois legal aid attorneys, the bulk of which work in the Chicago area, are likely to leave those positions in the next three years. Most of those lawyers cite financial pressure as a top reason for their likely exit. A typical legal aid attorney in Illinois earns an annual salary in the low- to mid-$40,000 range and has average law school debt of $60,000, the study said. “It’s literally almost impossible to dig your way out of that debt on a public interest salary,” Anderson said in an interview, calling the effect a “double-whammy.” Valukas, who heads the criminal defense practice at Jenner & Block, and Anderson, a trial lawyer at Winston & Strawn, say they’ve signed up 13 law firms in the city and five corporations so far and are talking to about 20 more in preparation for a two-week fund drive that will officially take place in early March. The firms participating include Baker & McKenzie; Bell Boyd & Lloyd; Kirkland & Ellis; and Goldberg Kohn. Three of the companies are Aon Corp., Exelon Corp. and AT&T Inc. Valukas and Anderson are asking each firm to commit to a goal of raising $500 for every one of their partners in Chicago and $100 for every associate. They declined to comment on the total amount that they’re seeking.

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