October 2013Volume 51Number 2PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Getting to know Alice Henrikson: Brand new WATL Committee member

Mary: Well, it is indeed a pleasure to interview one of our Committee’s newest members! We’ve known each other for only 21 years, so now I want the rest of the Committee to get to know you. You currently live in Elgin and practice in Sycamore. Have you always lived in the Midwest or are you a transplant?

Alice: I was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and raised in Kentucky. I consider myself a “southerner.” I have lived here for 24 years, but I still miss the southern winters and the southern lifestyle.

Mary: What schools did you attend, up to and including law school and what were your areas of study?

Alice: I attended Denison University in Granville, Ohio for my freshman and sophomore years. I then transferred to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana where I earned by B.A. in Political Science, Pre-Law. I received my J.D. from Northern Illinois University, College of Law in 1991.

Mary: When did you decide to become an attorney? Was there a specific event or individual who made an impact on you to reach that decision?

Alice: In seventh grade we were assigned to write our first term paper. It could be on any subject we wanted. For some reason, the topic I selected was an historical perspective on the death penalty. Coincidentally, that was around the same time that Gary Gilmore asked to be put to death by firing squad. The research really fascinated me. I decided I wanted to be a prosecutor, and a judge as a result of writing that paper. I’m still working on the second half of that goal.

Mary: Whom would you say were and are the biggest influences on your life and why?

Alice: I believe everyone is influenced by their parents. My upbringing instilled in me a good work ethic. My parents also taught me to be kind to everyone, and to help others whenever and however you can. These things have served me well in my career and in life.

Mary: Whom do you consider the most influential woman or women in your life and why?

Alice: This is a tough one, because there are so many, but:

My mother taught me the value of patience and being kind, especially to those who are not as capable as you.

My paternal grandmother spent much of her life as a widow. She taught me that you have to seize the opportunities presented to you, and not wait around for “someday”.

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay cosmetics, developed an incredible company because she trusted her feminine instinct when all the men in her life told her that her vision would never work. That was 50 years ago and it is a billion-dollar company succeeding in a global market.

Mary: Tell me about your first job out of law school and how you got hired. Any tips for our new law school graduates?

Alice: I was hired as a 711 intern at the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office between my second and third year of law school. I worked under that license my entire third year and was hired on officially in August after I graduated.

Truthfully, I think I was hired because the person that interviewed me and I had lots in common. We were both political science majors, both had taken Russian in college, and he had fond memories of Kentucky.

I wish I had some earth-shattering tips for the new graduates but I have only interviewed for two legal positions in my career and I was hired both times. Generally, I believe finding a legal job is similar to other positions. The best advice I have is be persistent, but not a pest when following up after interviews. Be willing to take some low-paying or unglamorous jobs to get the experience you need. Find a good mentor and LISTEN to what they have to say.

Mary: You had a brief hiatus from the practice of law. Tell us about that and about your return.

Alice: I took nine years off after the birth of my third child. I had three children in four years. My husband at the time worked seven days a week and was rarely home. I decided someone needed to be home with the children. It was not the best thing for my career long-term, but I have never been sorry that I did it. You cannot buy back your children’s childhood, and I was blessed that I had the financial stability to do so. I was able to do so many wonderful things with my children.

During my hiatus I opened a home-based business in which I was able to work part-time and yet earn a free car. Running a business gave me some invaluable skills that I use daily.

I opened my own law practice in 2007 to test the waters and see if I wanted to make the transition back to a full time legal career. Ten months later the Kane County State’s Attorney Office made me an attractive offer, so I returned.

Mary: You practiced several years as a criminal prosecutor and recently made a huge career change. Tell us about that.

Alice: I did make a huge career change and it has been very good for me. I loved being a prosecutor, but life changes made that position less and less desirable as time went on. I now practice in the area of Personal Injury, Worker’s Compensation, and Wrongful Death. I really enjoy private practice. It is very different and not without its challenges but, overall, I believe it is very fulfilling. I like meeting with clients and setting a plan to achieve a good result for them. I am also thrilled to find that my skills have transferred over even though I knew nothing about this type of work before I made the switch.

Mary: This is your first committee appointment. How did you decide to become involved in the bar association? What are your areas of interest in the ISBA?

Alice: I have always been a “joiner.” I was very involved in different organizations throughout high school, college, law school etc. As a prosecutor, I served on four separate committees for the Kane County Bar Association, plus two task forces for mental health. My boss suggested that I join a committee and you, my good friend, also encouraged me to do so.

I am excited to serve on the Women and the Law Committee and would also be interested in serving on committees for juvenile justice, mental health and worker’s compensation.

Mary: If you had to say you have a passion for some area of the law, what would it be?

Alice: I practiced Mental Health law for 11 years as part of my duties at the State’s Attorney’s Office. I really found the entire subject fascinating. I currently serve on the Kane County Mental Health Protocol Task Force and the Kane County Crisis Intervention Task Force. I wish I could inform the world about the benefits of Crisis Intervention Training [CIT]. CIT helps train first responders on how to interact with mentally ill people. It retrains them from a “tackle and shackle” mentality and helps keep mentally ill people out of the criminal court system. The criminal courts are ill-equipped to deal with them.

Mary: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time…..do you have any leisure time?

Alice: I rarely have any free time. I enjoy reading but generally only get time to do that on vacation. I like to travel. I also have a passion for cooking and entertaining.

Mary: What does the future hold for you? Your dreams and goals?

Alice: Only God knows what the future holds. I am still applying to become a judge since that has been my goal since the age of 13. I would like to continue to travel with my sisters and see that my children become successful, stable adults. ■


Mary F. Petruchius is a solo general practitioner in Sycamore, IL. She is the 2013-2014 Chair for the Standing Committee on Women & the Law and is also a member of the Diversity Leadership Council and Child Law Section Council. Mary can be reached at marypet@petruchiuslaw.com and her website is www.petruchiuslaw.com.

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