40 Under Forty 2022



C aroline Manley became director of Chicago’s Center for Disability & El- der Law (CDEL) -- an agency that provides free legal services to low-income seniors and people with disabilities -- six months before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life in the United States and worldwide. This threw new challenges Manley’s way, forcing her to stretch herself beyond the role of a traditional executive director. Manley reacted quickly by leading CDEL’s staff in transitioning to remote program- ming and obtaining the necessary tech- nology to make the continuation of ser- vices possible. Manley successfully managed the unique challenges CDEL faced with navi- gating the pandemic, continuing services to clients, and maintaining and building vital relationships with volunteers and funders. She worked closely with CDEL’s Governing Board to transform the orga- nization’s bylaws, recruit a diverse group of twelve new board members, and sig- nificantly increase revenue. Manley almost doubled CDEL’s budget in just three years by expanding its sources of funding. This additional support grew CDEL’s staff from eight to 14 members, allowing CDEL to better respond to the significant needs of its clients. This performance isn’t a surprise to Terri Ahrens, Assistant General Counsel at US Foods, who said that Manley has a history of strong leadership. Manley initially joined CDEL as a fellow and created CDEL’s community legal clin- ics. She built her career and reputation on connecting with community partners in order to make CDEL’s legal services more accessible to low-income seniors

and people with disabilities who are fac- ing legal challenges. Manley has not only represented hundreds of clients on le- gal issue concerning housing, end of life planning, and consumer matters, but she has engaged hundreds of pro bono attorneys and student interns to further CDEL’s mission. “Through her dedication, Caroline is instilling the value of pro bono service in generations to come,” Ahrens said. Manley is also an activist, one who isn’t satisfied with simply reacting to legal is- sues. She has worked on several consum- er initiatives over the years. Manley was instrumental with the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission in the drafting and implementation of Su- preme Court Rule 280, which strength- ened pleading requirements in debt buyer and credit card collection cases. She also assisted on the drafting of an emergency Supreme Court order early in the pan- demic to ensure that consumers with ci- tations to discover assets had access to the funds in their bank accounts. “I have worked with Caroline on several initiatives that highlighted her extraordi- nary ability to bring courtroom adversar- ies together to negotiate much-needed reforms,” said Steven Pflaum, co-chair of the litigation department at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg. “I attribute Caroline’s effec- tiveness as a negotiator of the Consumer Fairness Act of 2019 to her even-tempered demeanor -- I have never heard her raise her voice in anger—and consummate professionalism. Those attributes earned her the respect of opposing counsel and enabled her to bring together parties that appeared unlikely to agree on legislation.”

“ Caroline is instilling the value of pro bono service in generations to come”

AGE 38

FIRM Center for Disability & Elder Law LAW SCHOOL DePaul University College of Law AREA OF PRACTICE Legal aid, elder law



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