Member Groups

The Public Servant
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers

September 2007, vol. 9, no. 1

Someone You Should Know—Meet Jerry Larkin, Administrator of the ARDC

Between February 1, 1973, and March 16, 2007, the ARDC was led by only three Administrators; on March 19, 2007, Jerry Larkin took over the corner office as the fourth lawyer in Illinois to hold that title. Because he came to the ARDC as a newly-minted lawyer in 1978 and worked his way up the ranks of that organization, often doing behind-the-scenes tasks so necessary to a growing agency but unseen by the general public, he is perhaps less well known to the practicing bar than his predecessor, Mary Robinson. Jerry is now the supervisor of the ARDC’s two offices, one in Chicago and one in Springfield, managing a staff of 36 attorneys and about 75 support staff, including investigators, paralegals, secretaries, registration staff, and personnel to handle accounting, purchasing, information services, human resources and all the other tasks needed to keep the ARDC a smoothly-running agency. He has the final say on who will be prosecuted for misconduct and what sanctions will be sought from the Supreme Court, and, working with the seven Commissioners appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court, he will be setting the policies of the ARDC, overseeing the registration process and administering the budget based on the fees collected annually from Illinois attorneys—so he is certainly someone you should know.

When Jerry joined the ARDC, he was one of three new hires, thus doubling the Chicago legal staff of the ARDC at the time. Jerry recalls that the ARDC was, initially, a small, close-knit organization that grew quickly as staff was needed to respond to the Greylord crisis. In the ARDC’s early days, each attorney was responsible for conducting investigations, preparing and filing formal complaints, conducting pre-hearing discovery, trying cases, and then briefing and arguing them before the Review Board and, eventually, the Illinois Supreme Court. As a staff attorney, and later as a senior staff attorney and chief counsel, Jerry tried more than 100 cases and argued 21 of them in the Supreme Court. While he relishes the range of experiences that he had as a new lawyer, he recognizes that the agency has become more efficient as it has grown, with separate staff now responsible for investigations, trials, and appellate work.

In 1984, when he became chief counsel to Carl Rolewick, the first Administrator, Jerry assumed supervisory duties over a staff that had grown to eight staff attorneys. In his new position, he led the legal staff in determining what cases to bring and how to prosecute them, once a formal complaint was filed. Jerry was named Assistant Administrator in 1986, becoming responsible for additional duties involving the administration of the office. He became the Deputy Administrator in 1988, when John O’Malley was appointed to be the ARDC’s second Administrator; Jerry then took on even more responsibilities for agency-wide management, including provision of assistance to the Commissioners as they gave direction to the agency.

When John O’Malley left the ARDC to become counsel to the Archdiocese of Chicago, Jerry stepped in as Acting Administrator during the search that led to the March 1992 appointment of Mary Robinson as the ARDC’s third Administrator. Jerry was promptly made her Deputy, a position that he retained throughout Mary’s tenure. One of the first big projects that required his efforts, working with Mary and many members of the staff, was the ARDC’s 1993 move to 1-1/2 floors of the old Prudential Building, from its original headquarters at 203 N. Wabash Avenue, where increasing amounts of (non-contiguous) space had been leased throughout a building devoted mostly to theatrical agents. 

Throughout the 15 years of Mary’s tenure as Administrator, Jerry worked with staff counsel to finalize formal complaints, serving as a sounding board for any sort of pre-hearing issue that a trial attorney needs to discuss; he attended countless disposition meetings convened by the Administrator to discuss matters heading for hearings or possible consent dispositions; and he fulfilled a variety of administrative duties, including his continued interaction with the Commissioners of the ARDC and attendance at Commission meetings, addressing personnel and budgeting issues, and moving plans for an ARDC Web site from the theoretical to the creation of a functioning portal to cyberspace that enables members of the bar to register on-line and provides the bar and interested members of the public with a means of electronically searching Illinois disciplinary precedent. Jerry will tell you, with some quiet pride and very marked appreciation for the leadership of the Supreme Court, the past Administrators and the Commissioners who have volunteered their services throughout the years, that the ARDC is now recognized as one of the most effective lawyer regulatory agencies in the country. In 2003, Jerry received the ARDC’s twenty-five-year leadership and service award (it’s a plaque hanging on the wall of his new office).

As someone who has devoted his career to legal ethics and professional responsibility, Jerry has not confined his efforts to the work of the ARDC. He has been an active participant in his law school alumni association, which conferred on him the Robert Bellarmine award for distinguished service (no sign of this award in the office). He has also devoted a great deal of energy to the National Organization of Bar Counsel, the bar association for lawyer regulators across the country. Gene Shipp, who is now Bar Counsel for the District of Columbia, recalls meeting Jerry on a train from Windsor Castle to London when they were both young lawyers who had scrupulously saved for a trip to England to attend an NOBC seminar there (and then blew a lot of those savings on just one dinner that turned out to cost a lot more than they realized while they were ordering). Both of them decided to become active in the organization by taking charge of “hospitality” for NOBC programs – seeing to the refreshments seemed to them a good way to get to know everyone, and that job led to bigger duties – Gene and Jerry are past presidents of that organization, and they remain friends and frequent participants at NOBC’s semi-annual programs (even when the program is in Baltimore in February or Florida in August). Jerry recently received the NOBC President’s Award for lifetime achievement in the field of lawyer regulation (it’s a crystal piece in the shape of a flame, with a place of honor on his credenza). Gene describes Jerry as a “systems guy,” who will design new systems or re-think, and fix, old ones, and he explained that Jerry “creates loyalty” by patiently working through the problems that come through his office door. 

When asked about his plans for the ARDC’s future under his leadership, Jerry speaks of wanting to build on the success of his predecessors in reaching out to the legal community to share the agency’s collective knowledge and to assist lawyers in identifying and solving ethical dilemmas before they become disciplinary issues. He foresees even more outreach programs in the future to assist the bar in learning about amendments to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct that are anticipated as a result of proposals made following the Ethics 2000 work of the American Bar Association; the resulting revisions to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct led the Court’s Committee on Professional Responsibility to propose numerous changes to the Illinois Rules. 

Jerry graduated from Niles College and the Loyola University School of Law; he was president of the student government at both schools. He is one of six children, three of whom became attorneys—the first lawyers of the Larkin family. He is married to Antoinette Krakowski, a clinical psychologist, and they have two sons: Patrick, who will begin his studies at Villanova University in the fall of 2007, and Matthew, who will be a sophomore at New Trier High School. 

Jerry is an avid bicyclist, who was among the first in line to rent a space when the Millennium Park bike storage facility opened its doors to the public—weather permitting, he may be seen enjoying his commute to or from the office on the city’s bike paths. Jerry has been a soccer coach for his sons’ teams and a Sunday School teacher at the family’s church. He is (although a life-long north-sider) a loyal Sox fan, living with three loyal Cubs fans. As someone devoted to family traditions, Jerry makes sure that his family enjoys a Christmas-season meal under the Marshall Field’s (okay, Macy’s) tree, winter and summer car trips for vacations, and the July 3rd fireworks with the Grant Park crowds.

On announcing Jerry’s appointment as the ARDC’s new Administrator, Ben Schwarz, the Commission’s Chairman, described him as having a wealth of experience and contacts in the lawyer discipline field, adding that the Commissioners “are proud and gratified to have someone of his ability at the helm.” Asked to share a thought about her former Deputy, Mary Robinson said: “If you want to see a career public servant in action, look to Jerry Larkin. He believes in what he does, and he believes in doing it well.”