Yearly, Illinois Law LL.M. students do key legal work in Chicago

Once again, as part of an annual ritual, a small group of University of Illinois College of Law foreign LL.M. students went to Chicago during spring break to participate in the Chicago Service Project (CSP).

The program is designed to provide LL.M. students with valuable, hands-on experience and exposure to a variety of legal areas. Partnering with judges in the city, the CSP provides an opportunity for students to work directly with assigned attorneys and to meet and speak with leaders in the Chicago legal market. 

Judge Charles Reynard (Ret.) helped coordinate the placements and supported the students during their time in Chicago. Reynard noted the program's importance: “The feedback the students furnished was quite positive. It was also a learning experience for me, observing how other judges actually conduct business, how they analyze cases, and how cases involving real-world disputes involving down-to-earth people receive extraordinary care and attention in the justice process. I am looking forward to next year's CSP and I will be trying to line up the same placements as well as several more. The clinical dimension of the educational experience partners quite effectively with the classroom experience.”

This year, six LL.M. students participated in the program, along with a study abroad student from Australia.

Pilar Quiñoa, an LL.M. student from Argentina, was assigned to Judge Patrice Ball-Reed, who serves on the Housing Section, and witnessed matters involving building code violations, including new construction claims and heating issues. Quiñoa found Judge Ball-Reed to be very welcoming and gained insight from the Judge on her hearing process. Outside of her time with Judge Ball-Reed, she was also able to observe domestic relations and malpractice matters before other judges. 

Of her experience, Quiñoa said, “As an Argentinian lawyer, this internship has been an excellent opportunity to see how the American judicial system works,” further explaining that “It was an intensive week in which I was able to see a great variety of cases and observe how different judges perform their work.”

Antoinette Essilfie, an LL.M. student from Ghana, primarily spent her week with Judge Thomas More Donnelly, where she observed the final week of a high-profile civil case involving a police shooting that resulted in a $5.1 million-dollar verdict for the family of a man shot and killed by a Chicago police officer.

Essilfie said, “I have gained great insight on the practice of law from Judge Donnelly and Reynard, from the application of constitutional provisions to ensure that the rights of parties are protected and to the strict application of civil procedure rules to ensure that there is compliance with the rules of court in the United States of America.”

Outside of the courtroom, the students were able to enjoy downtown Chicago and concluded their week with a meal overlooking Lake Michigan. In the opinion of study abroad student Harold Peng, “There is no other meaningful way of spending spring break other than getting involved in the Chicago Service Project.”


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