Director of Pro Bono and Community Partnerships, Melissa O. Picciola, receives the Supreme Court of Illinois’ Jeffrey D. Coleman Access to Justice Award.
This award is given to individuals who have made a significant or meaningful contribution to improving access to our court system for litigants who are self-represented, have limited English proficiency, are disabled, or otherwise vulnerable.
It is no exaggeration to say that Melissa has been responsible for increasing access to justice for thousands of people. Throughout her career, Melissa has worked closely with people living in poverty and has a rich comprehension of a wide variety of legal issues that our clients face and how our courts interact with and serve those without counsel.
Melissa oversees more than 20 distinct volunteer-focused projects of Legal Aid Chicago’s volunteer and pro bono projects, including internships, in-house volunteers, community legal clinics, and all law firm and corporate partnerships. In addition, she has created or expanded volunteer focus projects at Legal Aid Chicago serving clients in advance directives, eviction defense, and criminal and juvenile record expungement.
All of Melissa’s work ensures that an increased number of lit against understand court processes and procedures and/or have access to legal assistance or representation. Melissa has an exceptional ability to engage the private bar in pro bono work, greatly expanding access to justice. She provides thorough and supportive training to her pro bono partners, and combined with her mastery of the law, this results in her partners coming back for more opportunities to serve the otherwise unrepresented.
Melissa’s outstanding work in connecting self-represented litigants to legal advice and representation, particularly in the area of criminal records relief and eviction, is being recognized by the state’s higher courts. Congratulations Melissa!
Melissa O. Picciola – Director of Pro Bono & Community Partnerships
Melissa oversees all of Legal Aid Chicago’s volunteer and pro bono projects, including internships, in-house volunteers, community legal clinics, and all law firm and corporate partnerships and has created volunteer focused projects at Legal Aid Chicago serving clients in advance directives, eviction defense, and record expungement. She also oversees Legal Aid Chicago’s 45-member statewide AmeriCorps VISTA program. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2018 after a career in legal aid. She has practice experience in family law and domestic violence, eviction defense, and representing people with disabilities on individual and systemic matters. Melissa received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.