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Self-Help Web Center. Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants. What is the Self-Help Web Center?.

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self help web center

Self-Help Web Center

Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants

what is the self help web center
What is the Self-Help Web Center?
  • The Self-Help Web Center (SHWC) is a legal information and self-help assistance desk designed to serve as a starting point for people who must navigate an unfamiliar and complex court system to resolve legal problems on their own.
  • The SHWC is located in the Clerk of the Court’s office in Room 602 of the the Daley Center courthouse downtown.

Room 602

helping self represented litigants
Helping Self-Represented Litigants
  • The Self-Help Web Center provides a number of services to self-represented litigants, including:
    • Document Assembly using A2J Interviews
    • Facilitated use of Illinois Legal Aid Online
    • Referrals to the Chicago-Kent Advice Desk and other legal aid services
    • Online Case information through Clerk’s website
    • Answers to general inquiries about the Daley Center
a2j interviews
A2J Interviews
  • Access to Justice (A2J) Interviews are document assembly programs designed to address a recurring problem among self-represented litigants: inadequately prepared court forms.
  • A2J Interviews use a graphical interface to guide users through a series of questions. Using the answers to these questions, A2J prepares a completed form that is ready to be filed with the court clerk.
a2j interviews5
A2J Interviews

A2J Interviews currently provide the forms necessary to:

    • File a Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
    • Sue for the return of their security deposit
    • Waive their court fees in Cook County
    • Navigate the post-judgment debt collections process
  • All of these A2J Interviews are available on
illinois legal aid online
Illinois Legal Aid Online
  • Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) is one of the country’s premiere legal aid websites.
  • ILAO provides user-friendly web-based legal information for over 20 areas of the law. This material is written with self-represented litigants in mind.
  • All computers at the SHWC have their homepage set to ILAO. If the page does not automatically open, the site’s URL is
using ilao
Using ILAO
  • The best way to navigate ILAO is the “Browse Articles” feature found at the bottom of the ILAO homepage.
  • Among the materials available on ILAO are a number of “Guide Me” modules. These modules provide an in-depth overview of a particular area of the law.
ilao guide me modules
ILAO “Guide Me” Modules
  • Common Questions provides a step-by-step overview of the law that module covers.
  • Forms/Letters displays links to relevant court forms, demand letters, and notices that are available online. Access to Justice Interviews can be found in the Forms/Letters section.
  • Users can print out an overview of the information provided in the module by clicking on Summary of the Law and selecting the print function.
  • The Helpful Organizations option at the bottom of the page allows users to search for legal aid services in their area.
helpful organizations
Helpful Organizations
  • ILAO returns 10 to 25 legal aid services depending on the visitor’s location and the area of the law selected.
  • User’s can print this information by clicking on “Print this Article” link in the top-right corner of the webpage.
advice desk
Advice Desk
  • The Chicago-Kent Advice Desk, located at the opposite end of Room 602, is a clinical program that provides legal assistance to indigent and working-poor self-represented defendants.
  • A litigant must be a defendant in a municipal case to qualify for the Advice Desk.
advice desk referrals
Advice Desk Referrals

The Advice Desk will only see defendants in municipal cases!

  • To determine whether the case is in the municipal division, find the case number located in the upper left-hand corner of the litigant’s court forms.
  • The case number must contain a “M1” for “municipal” (i.e. 06-M1-465432).
  • Groups that do not qualify for the Advice Desk:
      • All Plaintiffs
      • Defendants in Non-Municipal cases
  • We can help these groups by guiding them through Illinois Legal Aid Online or by referring them to other legal aid services.
other help desks
Other Help Desks
  • There are over a dozen other legal help resources located in the Daley Center. Many of these desks focus on specific areas of the law, and it’s appropriate to send a person there when they come in.
  • To find a list of all help desks located in the Daley Center, search for “Self Help Resources in the Daley Center” in ILAO. (This link can also be found in the favorites section of the browser.)
collections helpdesk
Collections Helpdesk
  • Many SHWC visitors are involved in collections cases
      • Most commonly, these cases involve a creditor -- typically a bank of collection agency -- suing a debtor.
      • Other cases deal with the collection of judgments and related issues like wage garnishment and seizure of property.
  • The CARPLS Self-Help Collection Desk can assist individuals who fall into the following categories:
      • Defendants in lawsuits brought by a creditor to collect a debt;
      • Defendants that have had a judgment entered against them
      • Defendants who must appear in court in response to a proceeding brought by the creditor to determine whether the defendant has income or property available to pay the amount of the judgment.
  • More Information
      • The Collections Desk is located in Room 1401
      • Hours of Operations: Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm
cook county collections guide and plaintiff s a2j interview
Cook County Collections Guide and Plaintiff’s A2J Interview
  • On Illinois Legal Aid, search for “A Guide to Collections on Judgments in Cook County” to find a detailed page for plaintiffs and defendants involved in collections cases.
  • In addition, plaintiffs who have a judgment entered in their favor can use the “How to Collect a Judgment” A2J Interview to help them complete forms.
cabrini green legal aid clinic expungement help desk
Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic Expungement Help Desk
  • CGLA's Expungement Help Desk helps individuals seeking to clear their criminal record through expungement, sealing, or executive clemency. The goal of this help desk is to enable individuals with arrests or convictions in their past, who have demonstrated positive life changes, to become more productive members of our community.
  • Location and Hours of Operation:
      • Located in the cubicle space in Room 1006
      • Open Monday – Wednesday, 9:00 am – 12 pm
      • Clients must schedule appointments
looking up case information
Looking up Case Information
  • On-Line case information is available on the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County’s website. The site is listed in the browser’s Favorites section, but the URL is
  • Accessing the Case Search: On the left side of the webpage, move the cursor over Online Case Info and click on Full Electronic Docket Search
search by case number or name
Search by Case Number or Name
  • The Electronic Full Case Docket Search allows users to search for their case information by name or case number.
  • Searching by case number is easiest. Simply put the users case number into the appropriate field. Make sure you follow the format provided by the webpage.
  • If a visitor does not have their case number, you can search by name. Sometimes this can be difficult and requires multiple tries.
getting around the daley center
Getting Around the Daley Center
  • Many litigants come to the Self-Help Web Center in need of directions to a courtroom or clerk’s station. Volunteers and staff should familiarize themselves with the Daley Center.
  • The next few slides provide an overview of layout of the Clerk’s office. In addition to reviewing the slides, it is best to take some time and walk around the courthouse.
the sixth floor
The Sixth Floor
  • The layout of each floor of Clerk’s office is practically identical: there are two large rooms on each side of the building and an escalator and elevator in between.
  • Room 601 contains the following:
    • Information Desk The clerk at the information desk is a good source for directions and answers to general questions. In addition, litigants pick up almost all civil division court documents at the information desk.
    • Motion Counter All motions for civil division cases are filed here, and any court documents necessary for filing a motion are picked up here.
    • Court Records The Clerk maintains hard copies of civil cases going back 21 years. Clerks at the records station in 601 can help litigants who seek a hard copy of their case information.
seventh floor
Seventh Floor
  • The seventh floor elevator bank can reach any floor in the Daley Center. The elevators on most floors, including six, are more restricted. To get to courtrooms from the SHWC, for example, users should take the escalator to seven and then take the elevator to the floor their courtroom is on.
  • Litigants can serve defendants through the Sheriff’s Office located on seven. For more information on service process, see the civil division FAQ and the Service of Process article on ILAO.
eighth floor
Eighth Floor
  • The eighth floor is very similar to the sixth floor, except that it houses the chancery, law, and domestic relations divisions of the Cook County circuit court.
  • More information about these divisions can be found on the Clerk’s webpage.
printing policy
Printing Policy
  • Visitors are allowed to print out information relevant to their legal problem.
  • There is no charge for printing, but the amount of material visitors print out should be reasonable. Generally, visitors can print out one or two articles from ILAO as well as any online case information from the Clerk’s webpage.
  • Make sure users do not print out excessively long material such as whole sections of the Code or case information from multiple cases.
shwc does not give legal advice
SHWC Does Not Give Legal Advice
  • The SHWC is a self-help desk. Students facilitate the use of online legal resources, but, as law students, cannot give legal advice.
  • What constitutes legal advice is not always clear, and it is best to error on the side of caution. For example, the SHWC cannot tell visitors what to write on court forms, tell them what to say at court, or advise them on any legal questions.
record keeping
Record Keeping
  • The SHWC Database is located on the desktop of the computer used by volunteers and staff.
  • Each SHWC visitor should be added to the Daily Count. The more information that can be added about the user, the better.
  • Accurate record keeping ensures the future funding of the SHWC. Make sure the database reflects the number of visitors you helped that day.
daily count summary form
Daily Count Summary Form
  • The Daily Count Summary form is a new intake form that will be used in addition to the electronic SHWC Database.
  • Use a new form for each shift.
  • Take this form with you and submit it to Center for Access to Justice office no later than a week after the shift worked. Make sure that either Dave Bonebrake, Andrew Baker, or Jay Carle signs the form.
clocking in and clocking out
Clocking In and Clocking Out
  • The SHWC Database also keeps track of volunteer hours.
  • In order to get credit for a shift, you must clock in and clock out.
  • Volunteer hours are sent to the Public Interest Resource Center quarterly. Once students have done more than 50 hours of volunteer work, they are eligible for the Dean’s Certificate of Service.
additional information
Additional Information
  • Location
      • Room 602, Daley Center
      • 50 West Washington Downtown
      • Accessible by Blue and Red Lines
  • Hours
      • Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm
  • Dress Code
      • Business Casual
  • Contacts
      • Dave Bonebrake
      • Cell: 312.479.3864