Access to Justice, Self-Representation and The Lilac Tree Center for Education

Access to Justice

Access to Justice is an initiative announced in 2012 by the Illinois Supreme Court to improve access to the justice system. The Court formed the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission and charged the Commission with promoting, facilitating and enhancing equal access to justice with an emphasis on access to the Illinois civil courts and administrative agencies for all people, particularly the poor and vulnerable. Innovative projects will be proposed that will make the civil justice system more user-friendly and accessible for the growing number of people who are coming to the courts without lawyers. The Civil Justice Division within the Administrative Office has been charged with supporting the multi-dimensional initiatives to improve access to justice throughout the state.


Self-Represented Litigants (SRL) are people representing themselves in court (pro se litigants).

According to the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, no longer do the majority of civil cases involve disputes with legal counsel representing each side’s interests. In 2015, 93 of Illinois’ 102 counties reported that more than 50% of civil cases involved a self-represented litigant on at least one side. In some case types, that number rose as high as 80%, and that remained true in jurisdictions from all four corners of the State. Income plays a significant role in this trend as these self-represented numbers include not just those Illinois residents living in or near poverty, but also working class and modest means residents who still struggle to pay the rising costs of private attorneys.

The Lilac Tree Center for Education

A primary tenet of The Lilac Tree is that any person contemplating or moving through the divorce process must be educated, whether they are represented by an attorney or self-represented.

The Lilac Tree offers educational services including:

  • Procedural Information - such as local and state court rules, the procedures for eFiling, and court procedures.

  • Forms - where to access statewide forms and instructions on how to complete and file forms

  • Referrals - The Lilac Tree collaborates with family law attorneys who will provide limited scope or unbundled legal services to SRLs in order to better manage costs. Additionally, The Lilac Tree encourages all people contemplating or going through the divorce process to meet with a Financial Wellness Counselor to gain a better understanding of their financial position and what impact a divorce may have on it.

  • Legal Information - The Lilac Tree may provide general, factual information about the law and legal process that is both neutral and objective.

  • Legal Advice - The Lilac Tree may not provide guidance regarding an individual’s legal rights and obligations in light on their unique facts and circumstances.

If you are considering self-representation and would like help, call The Lilac Tree at 847-328-0313.