Danielle E. Hirsch
Administrative Office of Illinois Courts
▶Access to justice
40 Under Class – 2017
Danielle Hirsch has devoted her career to making sure everyone who needs legal representation can access it.
It’s a laudable goal. And as assistant director with the Civil Justice Division of the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts, Hirsch has helped countless citizens who need legal help but who in the past have struggled to access it because of everything from language barriers to a lack of income.
Justices and attorneys throughout the Chicago area have taken notice of the work that Hirsch has done, and they have nothing but praise for her seemingly tireless work ethic and devotion to the cause of access.
“Danielle’s career has been marked by a dedication to the citizens of Illinois who cannot afford legal representation and, yet, must navigate our court system without that assistance,” said Justice Mary Rochford with the Appellate Court of Illinois. “Through her tireless efforts, many court innovations and programs have been established to address access to justice issues. Her work has served to make the Illinois court system more procedurally fair and efficient.”
Bob Glaves, executive director of the Chicago Bar Foundation and Kelly Tautges, director of Pro Bono & Court Advocacy for the foundation, have both worked closely with Hirsch on her efforts to make the justice system more accessible.
The two were so impressed with Hirsch’s legal mind and dedication that they nominated her jointly.
Hirsch formerly worked as the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Advocacy, a position she held for four years. During this time, Hirsch worked with judges, legislators, government officials, members of the non-profit community and many others in her efforts to make the courts friendlier and less overwhelming to people in need.
During her career, Hirsch developed and managed Illinois JusticeCorps, a program in which college and law students provide procedural assistance to people without lawyers. Hirsch started the program as a pilot in Cook County. It is now operating in courthouses across the state, helping more than 60,000 people gain access to legal assistance each year.
During her time at the Bar Foundation, Hirsch also played a key role in the development and founding of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice.
Today, Hirsch is charged with leading and managing the Illinois Supreme Court’s work to promote and enhance access to the justice system in the state.
“Danielle’s work requires her to work with virtually every justice system stakeholder, and to navigate sometimes difficult terrain that involves many competing interests and viewpoints,” Glaves and Tautges wrote. “Danielle has a unique ability to assess and understand the practical and political realities of the situation and the views and needs of each stakeholder.”
Katherine Alteneder, Executive Director of the Self-Represented Litigation Network in Washington, D.C., says that Hirsch’s work has had an undeniable impact.
“Danielle’s service in pursuit of access to justice is making a difference in the lives of literally millions of Americans as they encounter court systems that previously were impenetrable, but now have language access, standardized forms or self-help services because their leaders learned how to effect these changes from Danielle,” Alteneder said.