Diversity Leadership Award
The Diversity Leadership Award recognizes long-standing, continuing, and exceptional commitment by an individual or an organization to the critical importance of diversity within the Illinois legal community, its judiciary and within the Illinois State Bar Association. Congratulations to the 2019 winner, Mario Sullivan.
His nominators note that Sullivan’s legal career, thus far, has spanned a little more than a decade. During this time period, his contributions to the advancement of diversity within the Illinois and nationwide legal community has been exceptional. His commitment to representing and advocating for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community has been the common thread running through Sullivan’s dedicated years of service to the bar.
Service has been a hallmark of Sullivan’s legal career from the start. He has served on countless committees, councils, and societies that all have diversity at the core of their missions. As a law student, Sullivan organized an LGBT group at his law school and engaged with the broader LGBT community within the legal profession. He also served as a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) law student intern at the Chicago Legal Clinic, where he worked closely with staff attorneys to assist low-income clients dealing with landlord/tenant issues, divorces, bankruptcy, and other legal services. He continued his connection to PILI as a member of the organization’s Alumni Network Leadership Council. He regularly serves as an adviser to one of PILI’s law student interns each summer, and he has advocated for funding for PILI to support a law student intern focused on legal issues impacting the LGBT community.
After his admission to the Illinois bar, Sullivan went on to serve as a member and as co-chair of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, an organization dedicated to providing continuing legal education on issues surrounding the LGBT community and to providing a community for LGBT attorneys and judges to discuss the challenges they face in their legal careers. Sullivan is also a current member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), which advocates for the LGBT community through continuing legal education and programming, provides consumer information for the LGBT who are seeking to understand their legal rights and advocating for or against legislation that could have a direct or indirect impact on those individuals who identify as LGBT. Sullivan personally drafted a resolution that SOGI approved and submitted to the ISBA Assembly, asking it to take a position opposing President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. He is also involved in the Chicago Bar Association.
Sullivan’s commitment to diversity extends outside of Illinois, as well. He has held significant leadership roles in the American Bar Association, serving on its Council for Racial & Ethnic Diversity, Section on Civil Rights & Social Justice, and Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
According to PILI Executive Director Michael Bergman, much of Sullivan’s work “has focused on mentoring and developing the future generation of lawyers, especially those who are LGBT and from other minority populations, advocating for LGBT lawyers and individuals, and using the organized bar as a vehicle for positive change to improve our profession and justice system. I am very glad to lend my support to his nomination.”