November 2016 • Volume 104 • Number 11 • Page 10
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The Journey Thus Far
The middle of the ISBA presidential term is a good time to take stock of progress made.
I am enjoying every single day of my time as president of the Illinois State Bar Association.
It is also among the most challenging periods of my career. There seems to be no end to the keynote speaking engagements, bar related events, ISBA meetings, articles to be written, and occasional fires to be extinguished. The days are long, and often the nights are, too. Still, I find myself more exhilarated than exhausted by the travels and the great people I continue to meet along the journey. Here is some of what happened in just the last few weeks.
A centerpiece of my agenda as president of the ISBA was the formation of the ISBA Council of Law School Deans. I remain humbled that every Illinois law school dean has agreed to join the Council, along with the deans from some of the law schools in surrounding states. I believe it is a model for the nation.
These brilliant legal minds are enthusiastic about ensuring that their students are prepared to make a meaningful contribution to the future of the legal profession. Among the many topics at our meeting last month were the uniform bar exam and trends in experiential learning. I learned a great deal.
I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Peoria County Diversity Luncheon. The PCBA filled a ballroom to capacity for the event. I addressed a collegial and attentive crowd of lawyers and members of the Peoria community.
Just before the luncheon, I met with a large group of Peoria high school students, who asked many insightful questions about the legal profession. After the luncheon I met with a large group of students at Bradley University, many of whom were aspiring law students. They too asked insightful and challenging questions about law school and our profession.
Each year, the ISBA hosts a Distinguished Counselors Luncheon to honor members who have been admitted to the bar for 50 years. This event was formerly known as the Senior Counselors Luncheon. It was appropriately renamed because so many of these seasoned lawyers are still practicing law at a very high level and remain far from ready for emeritus status.
It was my distinct honor to preside over the luncheon. ISBA Past President Don Schiller, a member of the class of 1966, gave the address to the honorees. I learned that during their first semester of law school, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I also reflected on the fact that during their second semester of law school, I was born. Wisdom, professional pride, and collegiality defined the day.
A few months ago I testified before the Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee. With the support of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and ISBA staff, I testified with as much passion as I could muster against the indiscriminate shackling of minors in juvenile court. I believe America is better than that. I testified that in my humble opinion, the automatic shackling of minors is "less than First World."
In October I attended a reception hosted by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission on the very day that the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 943 banning the automatic shackling of minors. While I received many pats on the back for my testimony, I admit I felt as though the IJJC had handed off the ball to me at the one yard line. The perfectly timed reception allowed us to celebrate in the end zone together.
Finally, I attended the Illinois Bar Foundation Gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. As a past president of the IBF, this event is especially meaningful to me. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was the 2016 honoree, receiving the Distinguished Award for Excellence. Her remarks were particularly notable for her humility, her willingness to recognize and honor others, and her brevity. Someone in the crowd even yelled, "Lisa for president!" She handled that, too, with grace and humility.
My brief remarks at the IBF Gala allowed me the opportunity to recognize the ISBA officers, board members, past presidents, and our extraordinary executive director, Robert Craghead. Organizations that ensure access to justice and lawyers who have fallen on hard times will ultimately be the beneficiaries of the tremendous generosity of the many sponsors, donors, volunteers, and attendees who filled the ballroom. I congratulate IBF Executive Director Dave Anderson and IBF President Elizabeth Kaveny on a night that will be remembered for years to come.
The first four months as ISBA president have been a whirlwind, to say the least. I trust that I have aptly explained why the exhilaration outweighs the exhaustion.