Member Groups

The Catalyst
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

June 2006, vol. 11, no. 4

Irene F. Bahr, ISBA President Elect

The Woman and the Law Committee is proud that one of its founding members, and a strong supporter of women in the legal profession, Irene F. Bahr, will be installed on June 16, 2006, as the 130th president of the Illinois State Bar Association, and only the third woman to hold this position. 

Resolute of strength and spirit—these are familial qualities. The second daughter of an Irish immigrant mother, Helen Murtha, who—all alone and in her 20s—boarded a ship embarking from Ireland and arrived in New York City in the 1940s where she got a room and a job. One evening, after work, she attended a street dance where she met Thomas Bahr, just discharged from the Army, and, as they say, the rest is history. The couple settled in Chicago’s southeast side (the family’s first home was in a Chicago Housing Project) where Tom Bahr had a long and distinguished career as a Chicago fireman and Helen raised their eight children.

That same strength, energy, Irish spirit, and a lot of hard work earned Irene two degrees in Sociology (B.A. with Honors and a Masters Degree), from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She then pursued a legal education at DePaul University, School of Law, receiving a J.D., Cum Laude, in 1977. 

With Irish ingenuity (and some luck too), she carved out a very unique niche for herself in the legal profession: a concentration in liquor licensing, regulation and related litigation, representing manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of alcoholic beverages in state, local, and federal regulatory and disciplinary matters. This path began as legal counsel at the Illinois Liquor Control Commission in 1977 and continued as Chief Legal Counsel from 1979 to 1987, where she prosecuted miscreants for violating liquor laws. After those 10 years, Irene switched sides and opened a private legal practice to assist individuals and companies to comply with liquor licensing regulations. 

Irene brings that same resolute strength and commitment to her work in the ISBA, joining the association upon graduation from law school and being elected to the Assembly in 1990, to the Board of Governors in 1997, and as Third Vice President in 2003. Throughout that time, she has also served on numerous committees, task forces, and the Administrative Law Section Council. She also supports the Illinois Bar Foundation and the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company. 

On a local level, Irene was a founding member of the DuPage Association of Women Lawyers and served as its President for two years, 1990-1992. DAWL recognized Irene’s contributions with its Distinguished Leadership/Meritorious Service Award in 1993 and the Glass Ceiling Buster Award in 1999. Irene was instrumental in establishing the Child Friendly Courts Foundation which operates Safe Harbor (The Children’s Waiting Room in the DuPage County Courthouse), served as its President in 1997, and continues to serve as its Vice-President and Board member. 

Irene has been recognized by the community as well: The Illinois Lincoln Series Fellow for Excellence in Public Service in 1997; the YWCA DuPage County Outstanding Women Leaders Award: Business and Professional Category in 1998. Former Governor Jim Edgar appointed Irene to the Governor’s Committee on the Status of Women in Illinois Workgroup: Balancing Family and Work Lives, October 1997 to 2003. 

Irene brings her strong spirit and resolute drive to her new position as President of the ISBA. Not surprisingly, her resolve to help improve the lives of all attorneys and to create opportunities for women and minorities is evident in the topic of her first President’s Page in the ISBA Journal, “Strength Through Diversity.” The question addressed is what can a professional association of lawyers do to help promote diversity in the legal system and instill in citizens a greater faith in that system. 

We wish Irene a successful and happy tenure as president of the Illinois State Bar Association. Supporting Irene in all of her endeavors are her equally resolute husband of many years, Robert J. Anderson, a Circuit Judge in DuPage County, and her three children, Robby, a second-year law student at Chicago-Kent College of Law; Sean, a senior at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and Erin, a junior at Benet Academy.