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CHICAGO — The Chicago Bar Foundation plans to raise more than $1 million next March from law firms and corporate legal departments in a second annual campaign to help increase the pay of legal aid workers in the city, said Winston & Strawn attorney Dan Webb, who is chairing the fund drive. “It will be a challenge,” Webb said. “The secret is to recruit as many major law firms and law departments as possible.” The foundation expects to approach more law firms this year, perhaps as many as 40, up from 28 last year, and may also seek support from more than the six corporate legal departments that contributed last year, said Bob Glaves, executive director of the foundation. Webb and other attorneys will again ask law firm partners to contribute $500 each and associates $100 each as part of the effort to stem the departures of legal aid attorneys, Webb said. The foundation undertook the fundraising campaign for the first time in March after a 2006 joint study with the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice showed that 42 percent of legal aid attorneys at that time planned to leave their jobs within three years because of the financial pressure of low pay and high law school debt. Average starting pay for such lawyers is $38,500 and they carry $60,000 or more in law school debt, the study said. The research also showed that a departure of 10 percent of the lawyers in a given year can mean 9,245 fewer Illinois legal aid clients are served. The foundation raised $960,000 in the first campaign and recently distributed that money to 26 Chicago area legal aid organizations that are seeking to retain about 260 full-time, seasoned lawyers by raising pay as much as 10 percent. As a precursor to distributing the money, the foundation asked the organizations to commit to keeping the pay at levels comparable to those of public sector attorneys, diversifying their sources of funding and receiving training on other ways of supporting the aid lawyers, Glaves said. “This is not a long-term solution, it’s a short-term solution,” Webb said of the ongoing campaign. Law firms that contributed last year include Baker & McKenzie; Foley & Lardner; Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal; and Jenner & Block. Legal departments that participated included Aon Corp.; AT&T Midwest and Exelon Corp.

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