After a short stint working for the State of Illinois, Dick Schnadig became an attorney at Vedder Price, where he practiced law for 47 years in the areas of labor and employment. After retiring from Vedder Price in January 2012, “instead of abandoning the law and all of its rewards,” Dick approached the City of Chicago, where he was retained as a volunteer.
Dick works as a volunteer attorney in the Labor Division of the City’s Law Department, where he is “doing whatever I am asked to do.” The work Dick handles includes discipline hearings at the City’s Police Board and Human Resources Board. Most of those cases involve the discharge of employees from City employment and are highly contested. He also has a case load of Labor arbitrations, which involve discipline matters and contract interpretation issues. Dick also has handled employment discrimination cases pending at agencies including the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Additionally, Dick mentors attorneys and does some client counseling in relation to the cases he handles.
Dick finds the experience working in the Law Department “enlightening and fulfilling. I’ve been extremely impressed by the quality of my paid colleagues both in their professional capabilities and in general the warmth of their personalities, especially toward this old stranger in their midst,” Dick said. “In fact, as much as I enjoy the work, I enjoy my peers even more.” Dick works four to five days a week, usually arriving early in the morning and often leaving around 4 p.m. The work schedule has permitted Dick to enjoy more time off than his private practice allowed. He now is able to spend more time with his large family and enjoy his other interests, which include musical and cultural events. Dick offered that he is glad he made the decision to work in a government office, while also noting that the decision is “not irrevocable.”
The Labor Division also has greatly benefited from Dick’s presence and experience. Dick has worked alongside many of the attorneys in the Division, sharing his insights, analysis, and extensive knowledge. Dick’s enthusiasm and commitment to the work are always apparent, and he generously encourages and supports the other attorneys. Dick is always ready for the next challenging case.
For anyone interested in similar opportunities, the City of Chicago Law Department offers fellowships and a volunteer program for attorneys, in addition to externships. The Law Department Web site notes that the Department “serves the Mayor, the City Departments, Boards and Commissioners and the City Council.” The Law Department’s clients include more than forty City Departments, its agencies and officials. “The Department employs approximately 270 lawyers that handle litigation, transactional, and legislative projects, and enforce the Municipal Code.”
For more information about volunteer opportunities in the City of Chicago’s Law Department, visit <http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dol/supp_info/dol_volunteer_program.html>.