Our Commissioner Spotlight highlights the judges, lawyers, and educators from across Illinois who serve as our Commissioners. The Illinois Supreme Court appoints Commissioners to a three-year term of volunteer service.
These leaders are known for their reputation for professionalism and contributions to the bar and their communities.
This Commissioner Spotlight highlights John F. O’Reilly, a Managing Partner at O’Reilly Law Offices in Wheaton, Ill., who has a unique connection to the origin of the Commission on Professionalism.
Mr. O’Reilly has served on the Commission since 2017 and is a member of the Executive Committee.
Why did you want to become a lawyer?
My father, Roger K. O’Reilly, was a trial lawyer in Wheaton, Illinois. Growing up, he regularly shared with us his experiences as a lawyer.
I particularly remember the stories he would tell us of how he was able to help people as their lawyer. He often invited us to watch him on trial and would explain the facts and legal issues of the trial.
So perhaps, in many ways, my brother, sister, and I were destined to become lawyers ourselves. However, my father never pushed us. In fact, he repeatedly encouraged us to pursue our own paths.
When I was in college at Providence College in Rhode Island, I had the good fortune of spending my junior year of study at Oxford University in England.
While studying at Oxford, I joined the Oxford Union Society, which is the university’s debating society.
As a member, I had the occasion to engage in university debates including one where I defended the proposition that the American presidential elections are farcical. It was during this time that I realized I enjoyed public debate and would like to pursue the study of law.
Tell us about your legal career.
I obtained my law degree from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1992. Upon passing the bar, I began as an associate with the law firm of Weidner and McAuliffe, Ltd.
After five years of learning the ropes, I decided to join my father, Roger, and my sister, Molly O’Reilly, to start our own law firm, which is the O’Reilly Law Offices, LLC in Wheaton, Illinois.
We worked alongside each for three years before my father fell ill and died in 2000.
Prior to my father’s untimely death, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a trial with my sister and father.
Following my father’s death, my sister and I have continued to be active trial lawyers operating the O’Reilly Law Offices, LLC. We handle cases in Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will Counties. We also have handled many cases in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois.
Can you tell us about the Roger K. O’Reilly Symposium on Civility and Advocacy?
During his career in Wheaton, my father, Roger K. O’Reilly, was widely respected in the legal community. He was known as a mentor to many lawyers and judges in DuPage County. He loved the law profession and embodied the meaning of civility and camaraderie among lawyers.
In 2001, I was contacted by Wheaton attorney and founding Commissioner David Rolewick to help organize and participate in the Roger K. O’Reilly Symposium on Civility and Advocacy for a presentation on “Civility in the in the Practice of Law.”
Former Commissioner Edward Walsh moderated the event along with former Dean of Northern Illinois University College of Law LeRoy Pernell and former Attorney General James Ryan.
The presenters who spoke at the symposium included Robert Clifford, Neil Quinn, Hon. Marvin Aspen, Hon. Robert R. Thomas (Ret.) [former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice], and Hon. John W. Darrah.
Following the Symposium on Civility, Chief Justice Thomas, along with other members of the symposium, believed the cause to be essential to the practice of law and, in turn, Chief Justice Thomas encouraged the Court to establish the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.
How did you become involved with the Commission?
In 2017, when Edward Walsh was retiring from his service to the Commission, Justice Thomas contacted me to invite me to become a Commissioner.
Since that time, I have been proud to serve alongside respected members of the bench and bar in the furtherance of the Commission’s goal to inspire civility, diversity, mentorship, and well-being in the practice of law.
Why does civility matter in the legal profession?
In this profession of advocacy and adversity, I am constantly reminded of the importance of civility. In my practice, I strive every day to offer respect and civility to opposing counsel to best serve the needs of my clients.
The best piece of advice I would offer a new lawyer would be to remember you only have one reputation amongst your peers and judges; be trustworthy and civil in your representations on behalf of your clients.
Our Commissioner Spotlights recognize the judges, lawyers, and educators from across Illinois who serve as our Commissioners. Check out more interviews with our current and past Commissioners here.