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By Bethany Krajelis Law Bulletin staff writer SPRINGFIELD - After more than 50 years of helping the legal community, the Illinois Bar Foundation is looking ahead with a new vision. Originally formed to provide financial assistance to lawyers in need, the IBF expanded its scope over the years, but recently narrowed it in hopes of making more of an impact on the cash-strapped world of legal aid. This new focus was announced in the IBF's annual report, which provides an overview of the group's work in 2009 and an outline of a revamped strategic plan designed to lead the foundation through 2012. Susan M. Lewers, executive director for IBF, said the group's objectives are: to increase the availability of legal aid, encourage pro bono legal work, educate residents about the law and to continue providing financial assistance to lawyers in need. "We are excited about the new objectives and future of the foundation," Lewers said. "We hope lawyers see value in our new strategic plan and invest in the foundation so we can do this as a community." The increased focus on legal aid was the result of a feasibility study conducted in 2006 to determine the foundation's chances of reaching a multi-million fundraising goal. Lawyers across the state were asked how likely they would be to donate to such a major fundraising campaign, and feedback showed that lawyers wanted the foundation "to find our stake in the ground," Lewers said. Two years and several drafts later, the foundation's new objectives were created as a way to let donors know exactly what the IBF's goals were, said Russell K. Scott, a Belleville attorney who chairs the group's long-range planning committee. "It become a labor of love for the foundation," Scott said. "I see it as something we can really rally around." Scott said the group's goal to increase its focus on legal aid was an easy decision to make, especially as state budget cuts and a tough economy have hurt legal aid providers. Lewers said in order to meet their objective, the group plans on creating partnerships with various legal aid providers to come up with solutions to some of the problems the field has and continues to face.
The Illinois State Bar Association's Lawyer Finder Service provides referrals to local lawyers Mondays through Fridays. The Service makes referrals in a number of areas of law.
[gallery link="file" columns="2"] The Illinois Bar Foundation Fellows honored James F. Holderman, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois, and Nancy Katz, Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, at the group's annual breakfast Friday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Judge Holderman received the Honorary Fellow Award from his wife, ISBA Board of Governors member Paula Holderman. Chief Judge Holderman has been a U.S. District Judge in Chicago since 1985, and has been the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Illinois since 2006. During his more than 20 years on the bench, he has presided over numerous cases in all areas of federal jurisdiction. Judge Katz received the Distinguished Service to Law & Society Award from her cousin, IBF past president David Sosin. Judge Katz was appointed to the bench in 1999 and is currently assigned to the Domestic Relations Division, where she presides over an individual calendar. She frequently speaks and trains lawyers, judges and law students in the areas of civil and family law.
President John O'Brien present Judge George Leighton with the ISBA's first Diversity Leadership Award.
President John O'Brien presents Judge George Leighton with the ISBA's first Diversity Leadership Award.
The Illinois State Bar Association honored legendary Judge George Leighton with its first Diversity Leadership Award on Thursday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. The presentation took place during a special program, Lincoln's Legacy: Lawyers Who Protect Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, that included a keynote address by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and a panel discussion moderated by WTTW Chicago Tonight Host Phil Ponce. Madigan called Leighton "the embodiment of Abraham Lincoln's spirit." Leighton cited the legacy of Lincoln "that we celebrate is the lawyer who protects the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And this is preserved and things have changed because of diversity programs like this one." During the panel discussion, Leighton cited two major changes in the legal profession during his 63 years as a lawyer. The first is the great advances made in technology and the ability to quickly research a case. The second is the increase of women in the legal profession. Click here to view photos from this event.
Former Governor and Class of 1959 honoree Jim Thompson spoke on behalf of his fellow classmates.
Former Governor and Class of 1959 honoree Jim Thompson spoke on behalf of his fellow classmates.
The Illinois State Bar Association and President John O'Brien honored the 1959 Class of Senior Counsellors at a luncheon Wednesday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers. Former Illinois Governor and class member Jim Thompson spoke for his fellow classmates by looking back at his 50-year legal career. Thompson recalled working on criminal defense cases as a third-year law student at Northwestern. After a turn in the courtroom on a certain case, he received a call from an Illinois State Supreme Court Justice. "Son," Thompson recalled the justice saying, "unless you want to be disbarred before you are barred, I suggest you stay out of the courtroom until you have a law license." Thompson also recalled the great changes that have taken place over the last 50 years in the legal profession and especially in technology. "We all had typewriters and carbon paper back then," he said. "I was the last person at Winston & Strawn to get a computer. I thought it would mess up my desk." Congratulations to all of the members of the 1959 Class of Senior Counsellors. Click here to view the photo gallery from this event.
ibf-annual-report-cover The 2008-2009 Annual Report of the Illinois Bar Foundation is now available. The Annual Report highlights the charitable activities of the Foundation and includes a list of donors whose support made these activities possible. The Foundation distributed more than $325,000 to not for profit organizations promoting justice in our state, contributed almost $100,000 to 13 lawyers and their families in financial distress due to medical issues and participated in two joint charitable ventures with the ISBA. "We are proud to say that the IBF has maintained fiscal stability during what has been perhaps the most tumultuous economy decline of the Foundation's existence," said IBF President Vincent F. Cornelius. "Over the course of the last year the Foundation still awarded more than $450,000 in direct assistance." Visit to view the Annual Report online. Call (312) 726-6072 to request a printed copy. As the charitable affiliate of the Illinois State Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Foundation's mission is to ensure meaningful access to the justice system, especially for those with limited means, and to assist lawyers who can no longer support themselves due to incapacity. This past year, through the support of ISBA members, IBF distributed more than $450,000 to support these efforts.
Former Gov. Jim Thompson will join President John O'Brien in recognizing the 1959 Class of Senior Counsellors of the Illinois State Bar Association on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 E. North Water, Chicago. The event will begin with a reception in Chicago Ballroom Six at 11:15 a.m. and will continue with a luncheon at noon. Tickets are $65 per person and tables of 10 are available. Advance reservations required. For further information contact JoAnn Hibbs at or call 1-800-678-4009. Click below for the full list of the 1959 Class of Senior Counsellors.
The winners of the ISBA's 2010 Lincoln Award Legal Writing Contest have been named. Geoffrey T. Burkhart, Chicago, took first place with "Voir Dire Under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 431(b):  Navigating the Complex Straits of a Seemingly Simple Rule."  His article will appear in the February issue of the Illinois Bar Journal. The second-place winner is Samuel G. Wieczorek, Chicago, who wrote "The Outside Sales Exemption:  Does it Really Apply to Your Client?" Third place is a tie and it goes to Paul A. Rodrigues, Chicago, for "After Caperton:  Judicial Disqualification and Elections in Illinois" and Nicholas P. Cholis, Chicago for "Title VII and Retaliatory Litigation Conduct:  How Attorney Conduct May Expose Your Client to Additional Liability under the Civil Rights Act." The first place winner will receive a check for $2,000, second place $1,000, and third place $500. Plaques will be presented to all four winners at the ISBA Annual Meeting, which will be held June 2010. Twenty-seven manuscripts were submitted in the 2010 contest.  The contest judges were Hon. Mary Jane Theis, Chicago; Hon. Diane M. Lagoski, Mount Sterling; Keith A. Hebeisen, Chicago; Celia G. Gamrath, Chicago; and, A. Ben Mitchell, Mount Vernon. We wish to thank all the winning contestants, and other contestants, for entering the contest.
Equip for Equality, which is funded in part by a $20,000 grant from the Illinois Bar Foundation, was part of a case recently featured in U.S. News & World Report. The case involved whether an autistic boy in Villa Grove, Ill., could bring his service dog, Chewey, to school.
Margie Wakelin, an attorney who works with the Chicago-based Equip for Equality and who represented the Drew family, says that service animals are becoming more common as more is learned about the benefits that they can offer in assisting people with a range of mental disabilities—not just autism. "The animals allow the person to better segue into relating with other people," she says.
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