When I went to the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chicago, I always wished that I could speak Cantonese! A large portion of Chinese immigrants who came to the United States in the last century spoke only Cantonese since Mandarin at that time had not been populated yet. However, in comparison to the big crowd of Cantonese-speaking people who are in need of legal help, most of the law students who come from China today speak little Cantonese unless they are from Cantonese-speaking areas in the Southern China. Whether it is an English-teaching program or a pro bono clinic held at the Chinatown Pro Bono Legal Clinic, it is always the Cantonese-speaking students who are in shortage. I am trying to think if there is anyway that we can expand the volunteer group so as to include more Cantonese-speaking interpreters. Here is what I have thought of.

I first thought that we can teach Mandarin-speaking students Cantonese. However, this is not a practical idea since language is not something that you can learn in a short time. A lot of law students only stay here in Chicago for one year. And the legal clinic is held only once a month. The low frequency of the clinic and the short time of students’ stay makes it hard to teach students Cantonese and then let them volunteer.

Then I thought that a lot of those old people have children who can speak fluent English. So the problem can be solved if the old people bring their children together with them. But this idea is not good since some people come here to consult about wills and distribution of estate, which they might hope to hide from their children before death. Also, as I know, many of those children do not live in Chicago, which put a second hinder on the idea.

So then I thought we could expand the interpreter group by including more college students. It is possible that the Chinatown legal clinic contact the Asian-Pacific student organizations or Chinese student associations in each college to recruit interested Cantonese-speaking students and sign them up in a Google group. We can then send those students emails when they are needed. It might be a potential problem associated with legal terms when people have no idea how to translate. However, in most circumstances, no complicated legal term is involved since student/interpreter’s job is mainly to intake information, and lay people do not describe their daily life using legal terms. Also, the legal clinic can create a list of common legal terms that might be used in the volunteer work.

From a long-standing point, if this group of volunteer is established, the court system can use the same group of volunteers as well for interpretation in court.



Step One: Define Project Scope and Timeline

The project I am talking about today is to create default judgement forms for a divorce case. After one has filed a case for divorce, a default divorce comes into play when the respondent is either never served in person (can’t be found), or is served but does not file an answer/appearance. However, the petitioner would like to proceed with the divorce anyway. A default judgment will generally grant only part of the requested relief and reserve some issues until later when the respondent appears or participates. The forms packet would include:
1) Motion for Default Judgement for Dissolution of Marriage
2) Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage/Civil Union
3) Notice of Motion

The work I need to do includes: review the statewide divorce forms, the ILAO’s divorce content, the IICLE chapter on the IMDMA (Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act) and some of our automated documents (divorce with children and divorce without children); set up a meeting with an LAF family law attorney to confirm what forms we need and what instructions we should give; draft new forms or revise on existing forms to make two versions of this–one with minor children and one without.

I think this project will last at least two weeks. For this week, I will review all those materials to get a basic understanding of divorce forms and default judgment of divorce. Next week, my supervisor and me will discuss what we have with the LAF attorney and make revisions accordingly.

Step Two: Kanban – Visualize your work in Production



To visualize my work, my supervisor created the issue for me on Kanban board and I dragged it from “To do” to “In progress/Bundling.”

Before I began working on the issue:

kanban capture-before

After I dealt with the issue:

kanban capture-after

Step Three: SCRUM

I went through this process on my own. Here are some of my reflections.

I reviewed the statewide form and the ILAO content on divorce yesterday. I tested our divorce with children program this morning and found that when the petitioner knows that their spouse/partner can not be served or will not show up, the program will automatically help them prepare a Certificate and Motion for Default and an Order of Default. Also, I discussed with my supervisor what our current program already includes and identify it might be the case that only petitioners whose spouse is served but do not file an appearance/answer would need this separate program.

I will work on what questions we would like to ask during an interview for the default judgment divorce packet and what qualifications those petitioners should have. In addition, we will discuss with an LAF attorney to further confirm where we are going is right.

For similar projects, I would suggest myself go through our existing interviews first (since we have a rich content and interviews and the answer may already be there) and then identify what we need to add or revise. I hope the future me would not spend time on random Google search because content provided by family law attorneys could not be easily verified and is not as reliable as content from Illinois Courts and ILAO.

Step Four: Identify Bottlenecks and Iterate

Since the default judgment does not exist in every divorce case, one problem we need to address is to clearly define the qualifications. What we have thought of right now is that the spouse/partner of the petitioner is served but does not file an appearance/answer. Petitioners who thought their spouse/partner would be served but in reality was not might also qualify for this program.

Step Five: Self Reflection

Agile Project Management is especially helpful when I have multiple assignments throughout this summer. The visualization shows me what I need to do every day and all the developments and updates on one project.


Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) is one of the best legal aid websites in the United States. According to ABA Journal, “If Oscars were awarded for legal aid websites, Lisa Colpoys might be working on her acceptance speech.” ILAO offers useful legal information on daily topics like divorce, guardianship, eviction and small claim suits. To help users navigate through the website, it categories the content into: Family & Safety, House & Apartment, Money & Debt, Business & Work, School & Education, Health & Benefits, Citizens & Immigration, and Crime & Traffic. You can literally find every daily legal issue there! As a foreign student living in Chicago, I have no idea how I can ride a bicycle here. Guess what? I find an article talking about Can I ride a bicycle on the sidewalk?!

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