It was with great pleasure that I nominated Heather M. Fritsch for the 2007 ISBA Young Lawyer of the Year Award because I firmly believe that Heather possesses all the attributes of a “lawyer of the year.” She rightly deserved that distinction. Although Heather and I have both practiced in De Kalb County for several years, I met her only a couple of years ago when she was Sandra Crawford’s mentee. At that time, Heather was just setting into motion the process of establishing her own solo practice firm. We have grown closer working together as members of this Committee.
Heather Fritsch was born and raised on a farm approximately one and one half hours west of Chicago near Shabbona, Illinois. She attended and graduated from her local rural grade and high schools. Upon graduating with honors from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Heather attended the Chicago-Kent College of Law. While at Chicago-Kent, she was employed by the law school as a Serving Our Society volunteer placement counselor and enjoyed many leadership roles in several student organizations, including serving as President of both the Society of Women in the Law and the Kent Justice Foundation and as acting as Co-Chair of the Foundation’s Auction.
Heather began her legal career as a general practitioner in 2000 with the firm of Dreyer, Foote, Streit, Furgason & Slocum in Aurora, Illinois. During that time, she served on the Rebuilding Together/Christmas in April Board of Directors for two years and was the Board’s President in her second year. After two and one half years, Heather became an associate with the Foster & Buick Law Group in De Kalb, Illinois, also a general practice firm.
In August of 2006, Heather launched her own solo general practice firm in Sycamore, Illinois. Heather fervently believes in providing what she terms “honest, down-to-earth representation” of her clients, no matter what the situation. To Heather, the legal profession is one of service, and an attorney’s main purpose is to help those individuals in need. She is of the opinion that an attorney’s role is not only to be a strong advocate who zealously protects and pursues her clients’ rights, but to always be mindful that she is dealing with the lives of people, not just theoretical situations or sets of facts.
A large portion of Heather’s practice is in the area of family law, including contested divorce and custody cases. Heather focuses on the fact that the individuals involved in these matters are experiencing what may likely be the worst time of their lives and deserve to be treated with compassion and understanding. To this end, Heather seeks to minimize conflict in a way that will achieve a positive outcome, while avoiding costly and lengthy litigation in the representation of her clients. Heather also accepts a substantial number of Guardian Ad Litem appointments in dissolution and adoption proceedings. She is a volunteer attorney with Prairie State Legal Services, providing pro bono representation to individuals in divorce and family law cases. Additionally, Heather is the pro bono attorney for The B.E.S.T. for Women, Inc., a not-for-profit organization offering annual conferences that encourage women to grow personally and professionally.
Heather Fritsch’s decision to establish her own firm was made, in part, because she wanted to be able to devote more time to farming with her father and to increase her participation in volunteer and pro bono work and in the ISBA.
As a member of the ISBA’s Young Lawyers Division and the Standing Committee on Women and the Law, Heather has committed to several activities and projects. She has authored numerous articles for both committees’ newsletters and has two regular columns in the Young Lawyers Division newsletter.
Heather was Co-Chair of the March 30, 2007 “Women of the West” outreach reception at the Northern Illinois University College of Law, hosted by this Committee along with the Standing Committee on Minority and Women Participation. She was a speaker on the subject of starting your own firm at the Young Lawyers Division’s seminar “Nuts and Bolts for the Young Lawyer” on April 17, 2007 in Chicago. Heather was a member of the 2007 Solo and Small Firm Conference Planning Committee, held in early September.
Within her own community, Heather serves on the Board of Directors for Opportunity House in Sycamore, a charitable, not-for-profit rehabilitation center serving persons with physical and mental disabilities by assisting them in obtaining employment, housing, and enjoying community life. She is a Board member of the Kishwaukee United Way and serves as its Campaign Vice-Chair and Chair of the annual Taste of the Vine silent auction and wine-tasting fundraiser, which was an unprecedented success last year. If that isn’t enough, Heather makes cookies for the guests at the Pay-It-Forward House in Sycamore. The Pay-It-Forward House is a Ronald McDonald-type residence for persons who have loved ones at Kindred Hospital.
Heather’s enthusiasm and passion for every venture she undertakes, whether professionally or in her personal life in the community, is impressive. She is an extraordinary asset to this bar association and a devoted advocate to her clients. Not only do I consider Heather to be an esteemed colleague, I am truly proud to call her my friend. I urge you all to re-read Heather’s article in the May 2007 Catalyst, entitled “Ground Yourself.” Our Very Own 2007 Young Lawyer of the Year is an inspiration to us all!
*Mary F. Petruchius is a partner in the general practice law firm of Schmack & Petruchius, 584 W. State St., Sycamore, Illinois 60178. Her areas of concentration include criminal and juvenile law. Mary may be reached at email@example.com.