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Susan Shulman was a senior economics major at Brandeis (Massachusetts) University when she performed in the play Merrily We Roll Along. One of the production’s other cast members? “Some f reshman,” Shulman recalls. “Some freshman named Debra Messing [of future Will & Grace TV fame]. “I had little roles in that play,” adds the 52-year-old resident of Highland Park and former self-described “theater nerd” at Highland Park High School (Class of 1983). Shulman’s role today, at the Highland ParkHighwood Legal Aid Clinic (HPHLAC), is that of executive director, a position she has held since July 2016. Or the lead role. But, shortly after getting comfortable in a booth at Country Kitchen in Highland Park and ordering corned beef hash with an egg over medium, she wants a spotlight more than she wants a utensil. A spotlight isn’t available, so she uses her voice to direct attention to her HPHLAC staff (Managing Attorney Karla Livney; Director of Domestic Violence Practice Marykay Foy; Director of Immigration Law Practice Lia Hyunji Kim; Staff Attorney Matthew Guthrie; Director of Client Services and Bilingual Staff Assistant Alicia De La Cruz; DOJ Accredited Representative Esteban Carbajal; and Paralegal Jan Baranczak. “My staff is ridiculous,” Shulman gushes. “I could brag about it all day.” Today at the restaurant is October 18, Day 18 in Domestic Violence Awareness Month. HPHLAC’s mission is to provide pro bono legal services — in the areas of immigration, housing and domestic violence — to low-income individuals who live or work in Highland Park, Highwood or West Deerfield Township. (There are no income requirements for victims of domestic violence). More than 88,000 women in Lake County will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, I learn. “Domestic violence knows no boundaries; it permeates everywhere,” Shulman says, adding her clinic works on approximately 13 cases involving domestic violence each month. “Affluent victims come to us, too. In many cases they don’t have money, because their abusers had cut off access to it.”


Susan Shulman

A mother with a daughter, who had untreated bi-polar symptoms, sought help from the HPHLAC not too long ago. Her perpetratorhusband was under the care of a VA psychiatrist for post-traumatic stress disorder. The clinic helped the mother get an emergency order of protection and worked with her to prepare a Plenary Order to present to a judge. The Plenary Order includes court authority to obtain appropriate care for the daughter, addresses the husband’s need to remain under psychiatric care and prohibits his possession of guns and weapons. Most of the clinic’s cases each year are immigrationrelated. “We are the only organization in Lake County that provides pro bono asylum and deportation defense representation,” says Shulman, a former pro bono initiative director of the Chicago-based Public Interest Law Initiative, where she worked with lawyers at law firms and corporations to facilitate increased participation in pro bono legal work and to focus greater attention on the unmet legal needs of low-income individuals. City of Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, founder and honorary chair of HPHLAC, created a City of Highland Park Human Services Task Force in 2013. The group of more than 250 volunteers (ages 17-85) assessed needs and inventoried services available. The Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Clinic was born two years later. In 2015 the clinic employed a part-time executive director who managed a $60,000 budget and handled 70 cases. This year? HPHLAC has a budget of $500,000 and a caseload of 450. “The clinic would not exist without our communit y ’s suppor t, ” Shulman says. “Our community knows the importance of giving back, and it does so in spades.” HPHLAC’s funders: Allstate Corporation, First Bank


Domestic violence knows no boundaries; it permeates everywhere.

of Highland Park, Healthcare Foundation of Highland Park, Highland Park Community Foundation, Illinois Bar Foundation, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Lake County Community Foundation, Moraine Township, Rotary Club of Highland Park, Trillium Foundation, West Deerfield Township and YEA! Among the clinic’s partners are A Safe Place, HACES (Hispanic American Community Education and Services), Open Communities and SHALVA. The daughter of Alvin, a retired patent lawyer, and the late Gerry, Shulman grew up in Evanston and lived there until she was 8. In between her time at Brandeis and Northwestern School of Law, she worked in advertising in Connecticut and got involved with the National Council of Jewish Women. Advocacy became one of her passions. She later spent two years at the ACLU of Illinois, where one of her colleagues was staff attorney Colleen Connell, now the executive director at the ACLU of Illinois. “She was a mentor, one of my early inspirations in my professional life,” recalls Shulman, the wife of Avery Cohen (a Deerfield High School graduate) and the mother of sons Eli Cohen (a junior computer science/theater double major at Northwestern University) and Nate Cohen (a sophomore football player/track athlete at Highland Park High School). “I admired Colleen’s management style. It was nurturing. She proved it’s possible to be an effective leader and nurturing at the same time. “I’ve tried to pattern my leadership style after hers.” Shulman finds time to do yoga (she did that, hours before our 9 a.m. interview), walk the family dog — the excitable, social Luna — sing at Congregation Solel and watch Eli take the stage and Nate hit the gridiron. Shulman’s family lives about a mile from Alvin’s house in Highland Park. “My dad,” Susan Shulman says, “is one of the nicest people I know. Kind, so kind. And he’s a fabulous writer, just like my mom was. My mom had a passion for the arts; I got that from her.” The former castmate of Debra Messing and the current executive director of an essential clinic in Lake County exits … booth left. Curtain calls to follow. The Highland Park-Highwood Legal Aid Clinic is located at 491 Laurel Avenue in Highland Park, (847) 737-4042. Please visit for more information. THE NORTH SHORE WEEKEND

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The North Shore Weekend East, Issue 317  

The North Shore Weekend East is published every week and features the news and personalities of Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Northfield,...

The North Shore Weekend East, Issue 317  

The North Shore Weekend East is published every week and features the news and personalities of Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Northfield,...

Profile for jwcmedia