One year ago this month, Illinois lost a legendary legal services leader. Joseph Bartylak was passionately devoted to the cause of equal justice, and he furthered that cause not just by his brilliant and dedicated leadership of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation for 27 years, but as a state and national leader of legal services.
When Joe Bartylak began work in a small legal aid office in Alton in 1971, he brought to that office more than 20 years of general practice and trial experience. When Land of Lincoln was organized in 1972, bringing together a number of small legal aid programs, Joe was named as Directing Attorney of the Madison County offices. And in 1976, he became Executive Director of Land of Lincoln. Joe was an inspiration to many people – but particularly to legal aid attorneys and staff and to private attorneys involved in public and pro bono service. It is extremely fitting that several awards have been created in honor of Joe – to preserve his memory, to inspire others, and to recognize those dedicated to the cause of equal justice.
On May 20, 2011 the Illinois State Bar Association Board of Governors created this new statewide award at the suggestion of the ISBA Delivery of Legal Services Committee (which Joe once headed). This award will be presented annually to one ISBA member who is a full-time employed attorney of an Illinois legal services organization.
The criteria of this new award exactly track the qualities that Joe exhibited during his lifetime of service:
Joe Bartylak worked hard to involve private attorneys in the delivery of legal services. With his support and encouragement, pro bono programs were created in many counties throughout Land of Lincoln’s 65 county service area. He encouraged staff members to work closely with bar associations to implement such programs, and to help match needy clients with attorneys willing to serve them.
The Madison County Bar Association, beginning in 2008, has presented this award to a member of the bar who has demonstrated commitment to providing free legal services to the low-income or to expanding the availability of legal services to low-income persons. The Award is presented annually on Law Day.
After Joe’s death, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation’s Board of Directors established the following awards in his memory:
The Land of Lincoln Joseph R. Bartylak Pro Bono Awards are to be presented annually during Pro Bono Month in October to a pro bono attorney in each of Land of Lincoln’s five regions who has directly achieved outstanding results for clients or who has supported Land of Lincoln staff in their delivery of high quality legal services. The nominee must be a current volunteer attorney who
The Land of Lincoln Joseph R. Bartylak Advocacy Award will be presented annually to a Land of Lincoln attorney or paralegal whose high quality advocacy, leadership or community work has achieved exceptional results for our clients, either during the prior year, or throughout his or her career.
The Land of Lincoln Joseph R. Bartylak Excellence Award will be presented annually to a Land of Lincoln support or administrative employee who has demonstrated excellence in performance of his or her duties.
Soon after Joe retired as Executive Director of Land of Lincoln in 2004, these Fellowships were created in his honor by the Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Law. They fund summer work by a law student in a public service setting.
Joe Bartylak was a modest man who would probably be a little embarrassed by the many awards that are now given in his name. Yet I believe he would also be thrilled to see legal aid staff, pro bono attorneys and law students all receive recognition for the wonderful work that they do for the public good.