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Virtual legal clinic expanding to Cairo 


Southern Illinoisan
May 24, 2013

CARBONDALE — Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon’s virtual legal clinic is expanding to The Cairo Women’s Shelter, she announced Friday.

The online program connects survivors of domestic violence with lawyers for a free legal consultation using webcams and high-speed Internet. It gives domestic violence survivors at local shelters in underserved areas a single, free consultation with attorneys across Illinois, who specialize in family law. Topics can include child custody and visitation, marriage and divorce, elder abuse, immigration and property issues.

“The virtual legal clinics are a confidential, effective way to help domestic violence survivors ensure their safety and the safety of their families,” Simon, a former prosecutor and founder of the domestic violence clinic at Southern Illinois University School of Law, said. “The legal system can seem overwhelming, but this service helps survivors take the next step toward safety and stability.”

The Cairo Women’s Shelter serves Alexander, Massac, Pulaski and Union counties and sees approximately 400 survivors every year. This is the third center in Illinois to use the virtual legal clinic program, joining centers in Peoria and Jacksonville.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the virtual legal clinic and to offer this free legal consultation to our clients,” said Jeannine Woods, executive director of the shelter. “This will help survivors understand the important legal rights they have.”

Nationally, one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, and in Illinois, nearly 40 percent of women will experience domestic violence by an intimate partner. However, there are 47 counties in Illinois with no attorneys practicing family law. An additional 33 counties have five or fewer attorneys practicing family law.