Mary: Angela, it’s such a great pleasure to interview you! You’ve had a big year, haven’t you? You were voted the 2012 ISBA Young Lawyer of the Year for outside Cook County. How does one become the young lawyer of the year? What is the process?
Angela: The Young Lawyers Division of the ISBA puts out an announcement that they are seeking nominations for the award. I was nominated by the Women and the Law Committee. Emily Masalski headed up the effort to compile letters from attorneys who work with me, articles, and other application materials. She turned it in and not too long afterwards, I was told that I won.
Mary: You’re definitely not a native Illinoisan, with that beautiful southern belle accent, are you? Please tell us where your roots are and how you ended up in Peoria?
Angela: I am from Eufaula, Alabama which is a quintessential “Old South” small town. I say “yes ma’am, yes sir, and bless her heart,” on a regular basis and try to never forget my southern charm. I had never heard of Peoria except for the saying “Will it play in Peoria?” before I met my husband. I moved here to be with him and his children. It really has grown on me.
Mary: You’re very active in the ISBA. How did you first become involved in our bar association? What are your areas of interest in the ISBA?
Angela: I attended a CLE hosted by the Women and the Law Committee in Chicago and chatted with Emily Masalski and Sandra Blake a bit afterwards. I quickly submitted my request to be appointed to join these lovely ladies on the Women and the Law Committee. The rest is really a result of the welcoming nature of the ISBA. It seemed so intimidating at first but now it really does feel like family.
My areas of interest in the ISBA are, of course, the areas of law in which I practice, such as construction law. I am also very interested in simply remaining a part of the organization as a whole and contributing as much as I can to keep the ISBA as active, friendly, welcoming, and beneficial to Illinois lawyers’ professional development in the years to come. I am not sure that those contributions will be in one particular area so much as I will just try to contribute what I can when the opportunity arises.
Mary: What schools did you attend, up to and including law school and what were your areas of study?
Angela: I graduated from Auburn University with a double major in English and Political Science. War Eagle! My Juris Doctor is from Samford University Cumberland School of Law.
Mary: Who would you say were and are the biggest influences on your life and why?
Angela: My husband, my father and my professional mentors are my biggest influences.
My husband is my rock. He is the kindest person that I have ever known. We respect each other’s intellect and have really interesting conversations. He is quick-witted so we laugh a lot and he has great ideas that I love to steal, so I constantly peg him for his thoughts.
My father is my constant reminder to work hard. There are a few of his sayings that pop into my head daily. I hear “Pee Wee, don’t do it at all if you aren’t gonna do it right,” pretty regularly. “Make your plan and work your plan” pops up every so often. Another good one is “When you get nervous, just walk into the room and act like you own the place.”
I have had several wonderful mentors over the years and each of them has helped shape my professional decisions as well as my personal life in positive ways. Since moving to Illinois, Tom O’Neal of Westervelt, Johnson, Nicoll & Keller, LLC took me under his wing as soon as I stepped foot into Peoria, and I am eternally grateful to him for giving me a shot. From him I learned professionalism, substantive law, legal strategy, and how to be a zealous advocate, while still employing compassion. Chris Nichols is an attorney from Washington, Illinois, where I live. He has gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve as my mentor through the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s Mentoring Program. Mike Kraft is my mentor at my law firm, so he has a great deal of influence on my day-to-day decisions and has quickly become a central and positive influence in my professional life.
Last but certainly not least, the Women and the Law Committee has been a hugely positive influence on my professional development. The members are the root of the support network I have found in my ISBA family.
Mary: Whom do you consider the most influential woman in your life and why?
Angela: I am fascinated with Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton. I love learning about them and find myself trying to copy cat some of their nuances. For instance, I have a little brooch collection and I am determined to use Angela Baker Evans now that I am married.
Sandra Crawford is the most influential woman in my life that I really know. Though I am not extremely personally acquainted with her, I know her through the ISBA Women and the Law Committee and was instantly invigorated by her excitement and vision. This is a great example of how the ISBA Committees and, ISBA in general, provide an exceptional avenue through which ideas and professionalism can rapidly expand from more accomplished and experienced attorneys to its newer members. Sandra and I have met in person probably five times and had one phone conversation, however, I find her to be extremely inspirational and influential in my life.
Mary: When did you decide to become an attorney? Was there a specific event or individual who made an impact on you to reach that decision?
Angela: I was that kid that stuck up for the kids that got picked on and, frankly, got picked on myself a good bit. I tried very hard to dish back as much as I could. I also had someone close to me have horrible experiences with abuse and I wanted to help change this by being a prosecutor. It is simply instinctive to me to try to find balance. I really don’t look at my job as work so much as I find it a privilege that people allow me to assist them with their life’s or business’s biggest problems.
Mary: Tell me about your first job out of law school and how you got hired. Any tips for our new law school graduates?
Angela: I clerked for free at a U.S. Attorneys Office and a District Attorney’s Office for a large portion of my summers during law school and, while it didn’t pay at all, it continues to pay dividends to this day. I did research and other normal clerking duties but I was in a really unique position to learn, simply because I was there because I wanted to learn and not to get paid. These clerkships turned into my first full-time legal job as a Deputy District Attorney. So, my advice would be to look at the big picture rather than the immediate return.
Mary: If you had to say you have a passion for some area of the law, what would it be?
Angela: Business law and family law.
Mary: Tell us about your own family life. What do you and your husband enjoy doing in your leisure time? Any community activities that interest you?
Angela: My husband and I stay pretty busy. He helps me with Peoria Promise, which is a scholarship program, and he is always a sounding board for my community interests. We have two gorgeous daughters that I don’t think I could have made better even if I had given birth to them myself. When we do have time to ourselves, we like to sit on the back porch, listen to music, reflect, and dream.
Mary: Angela, our “very own” young lawyer of 2012, what does the future hold for you? Your dreams and goals?
Angela: I have no idea what the future holds but I think I am going to like it! ■
Mary F. Petruchius is a solo general practitioner in Sycamore, IL. She is the 2012-2013 Vice Chair for the Standing Committee on Women & the Law and is also a member of the Child Law Section Council and Diversity Leadership Council. Mary is an incumbent on the ISBA Assembly for the 16th Judicial Circuit. She can be reached at and her Web site is .