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

October 2016, vol. 22, no. 2

Interview with Judge Clare J. Quish

Let me introduce you: Judge Clare J. Quish—Cook County’s newly appointed judge who inspires a love of the law.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with the newly appointed Judge Clare J. Quish. At first impression, Judge Quish strikes you as someone not atypical for the judiciary of Cook County: Irish, with South-side roots; active member of the legal community; and, well respected by judges and lawyers alike. But then, after spending just a little time with her, I quickly realized she’s remarkable in quite another way—she inspires a love of the law and that inspiration makes you believe in it.

Judge Quish in personal history is identifiable. She is the eldest of four and grew up in the North Shore suburbs, being predominately raised by a South-Side Irish mother. Close to her family, she enjoys their support, excitement, and loving pride in her and her accomplishments.

She commenced what became an ongoing love of travel early on—with trips that placed her in France and Ireland during her high school years. The subsequent variety of travels encouraged an awareness and first-hand experience of various cultures and politics, which she believes she brings to the bench today. She pursued law at Loyola and took her first position as a law clerk due to her—self-admitted—nerdish love of researching, writing and the law.

Her most meaningful experience is becoming a judge. Judge Quish’s appointment to the Circuit Court of Cook County became effective on June 28, 2016. And poignantly, she has already inspired such a love of the law that her very proud, and quite awed seven-year-old nephew, is writing a story about her—which commences with the day he enjoyed the privilege of holding the Bible as his aunt was sworn in.  

But more unusual of Judge Quish is the ability to not only achieve partnership by diligent lawyering, but also manage networking and the building of a reputation that gained recognition and widespread respect in the legal community at an unusually young age. She attributes much to her role model mother who has always been a “constant source of strength and example of perseverance.” From such instilled-in attributes, and mentorship of the late Judge Jean Prendergast Rooney, Judge Quish acted on determinable belief that the time-consuming work of networking and building a reputation is not only very useful, but provides opportunities that can often be better than your plans.

And when I asked what advice she would give female attorneys, she offered that your reputation is everything in this small community: conduct yourself as if everything would be transcribed in a deposition; be nice, helpful, and confident—and seek advice. “Success is somewhat plans and goals and hard work, but things doesn’t always go the way you plan, so some of it is being open to other situations and a slightly different path.” “Multi-tasking, time management, and taking advantage of time you have” are great skills. Established attorneys would get value from a mentorship role, and she recommends seeking out younger attorneys and taking them under their wings. Younger attorneys should “seek out leadership roles within their firms or companies” and strive to “ask for what they want,” but recognize balancing life and career will get “easier with establishing yourself.”

As my conversation with Judge Quish freely flowed from structured question and answer dialogue to experiences and with it, the natural flushing out of personalities, I began to realize a sheer exuberance and excitement of just talking law again in a most general all-encompassing way. And that’s the truly remarkable thing about Judge Quish—she reminds you of that law nerd you, who had dreams of any possibility; and she inspires you to believe that yes, you can do it too.