Our beginning: years 2000-2005 - Tech Center

Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) began in March 2001 as the Illinois Technology Center for Law & the Public Interest. In response to an October 2000 statewide assessment of legal services technology needs, 12 partner organizations created the 'tech center' as a unique and unprecedented statewide collaboration of Illinois legal services providers, funding entities, the private bar and law schools.

In July 2001, the “Tech Center” debuted three websites, one for each of ILAO's core communities:

  • lower-income Illinoisans seeking legal help,
  • legal services attorneys and staff members, and
  • pro bono attorneys and private, legal professionals.

ILAO was housed at Chicago-Kent College of Law for its first four years, which generously donated space and technical resources to the organization, in addition to supporting us financially, The Chicago Bar Foundation, the Lawyers Trust Fund and Chicago-Kent were instrumental in the formation and growth of Illinois Legal Aid Online and provided not only necessary funding, but early leadership, motivation and vision. 

In March 2005, ILAO incorporated as an independent nonprofit.

ILAO's public website circa 2004
Websites, websites, websites: Years 2006-2015

In March 2006, ILAO won the first Technology Leadership Award presented by Accenture and Lumity (formerly known as the IT Resource Center) for www.IllinoisLegalAid.org. Since then, the website has been recognized as one of the nation’s foremost resources for delivering legal tools to the public.

Also in 2006, ILAO partnered with Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice to develop and establish technology- based legal self-help centers in county courthouses and public libraries across the state. By 2012, the partners developed and supported centers in 98 of Illinois' 102 counties. As of 2020, these centers boast 184 locations in 99 counties. 

In 2009, ILAO launched its LiveHelp chat program to help users find what they need to seek justice. This program continues today - a team of 50+ volunteers help more than 50 website users per day find answers and tools they seek to exercise their legal rights. 

In 2010, ILAO receives the Paul H. Chapman Award and the ABA Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access for significant contribution to the improvement of access to justice in America.

In 2012, ILAO launched its Spanish-language site to serve Illinois’ growing Spanish-speaking communities. ILAO continues to offer one of the most comprehensive Spanish websites for legal issues in the country. People from all over the world visit ILAO's Spanish-language pages. 

In 2013, ILAO received the Innovation Award in the Pro Bono category for Statewide Online Access System for outstanding achievement in integrating technology into legal work to help lawyers deliver services to clients. The system is now a part of ILAO's Get Legal Help tool, one of the most robust triage and intake systems for legal services in the nation. 

ILAO's website circa 2015
Innovation Lab: 2016 - today

In 2016, March 8 was proclaimed to be "Illinois Legal Aid Online Day" in Illinois. Later that year, ILAO consolidated its five websites into a single state-of-the-art, mobile-friendly website.

In 2017, ILAO launched its Victims of Crime portal, in partnership with Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services as a part of a FY2012 Wraparound Victim Legal Assistance Network Demonstration Project from the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime. The project set out to develop a comprehensive, holistic model for a wraparound pro bono legal assistance network that offers a wide range of legal services survivors need in the wake of their victimization. 

In 2018, ILAO launched its Ready to Work portal. Also that year, ILAO launched text message services through the website, allowing for text-based appointment confirmation reminders for Get Legal Help and surveys.

In 2019, in addition to its English and Spanish websites, ILAO published a Polish-language website to serve Illinois’ Polish-speaking population.

ILAO's digital tools have evolved substantially to now include state-of-the-art multimedia training resources, easy-to-use interactive legal forms, foreign language resources, and online collaboration tools. Our current website - the one you are viewing now - moves ILAO to its next phrase of progress, beyond 'online'. 


ILAO's website circa 2019 via mobile