Lessons from the Heartland - Stories from Illinois's Legal Advocacy Service

Laurel Spahn, J.D.

Illinois's Mental Health Code designates the Legal Advocacy Service as the first choice for court-appointed counsel for anyone facing involuntary commitment or involuntary treatment in the State who doesn't have counsel appearing for them, in other words, most mental-health respondents. The 14 Legal Advocacy Service attorneys operate with the understanding that mental-health proceedings are regular legal proceedings that should be treated in the same manner as any other civil-court proceedings (that is, not pro forma or rubber-stamp hearings). Hear from a Legal Advocacy Service attorney about how the agency continues to evolve its practice to address -- and strive to overcome -- various roadblocks to justice for its clients.


  • learn strategies to avoid litigation & attachment of collateral legal consequences to a person with a mental illness
  • learn about pretrial/trial strategies, methods
  • learn about alternative dispositions
  • learn about changing the law through appellate practice versus legislation