I am an environmental lawyer, and that has been the focus of my practice since I graduated from law school. I started out in government, first as an Illinois Assistant Attorney General in the Environmental Division in Springfield and, thereafter, as General Counsel of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. When I transitioned to private practice in Chicago, I continued as an environmental lawyer but with a broader array of cases and matters.
Through my pro bono representations over the years, I also have gained different legal experience and expertise, including, for example, defending felony criminal cases, representing victims before the Cook County Domestic Violence Court, representing children before the Social Security Administration in Social Security Income (SSI) cases and providing business and environmental counseling to 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations.
How has your practice evolved over the last few years?
The practice of environmental law has become more international in scope, both in the U.S. and abroad, involving many more subareas of expertise than used to be the case. The continuing evolution of environmental law, including a number of new and different regulatory initiatives, requires significant continuing legal education to stay on top of new and changing regulations, guidance and directives. As your practice grows, you tend to develop expertise in certain areas and/or preferences. Representing clients in regulatory compliance, business counseling, enforcement and litigation matters, I devote a substantial amount of my time to environmental transactional work. This work involves helping clients perform environmental due diligence in a number of forums, such as mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy/363 sales, financing/refinancing situations, debt offerings and complex real estate matters.
Looking ahead, I think environmental lawyers will see even more emphasis in their practices focused on: international operations and assisting U.S. companies expanding into or continuing operations in other countries, with particular growth in South American and Asia; growing attention on the sufficiency of natural resources and specifically on water scarcity concerns around the world; increasing need for differing and more energy sources, including considerations of renewables, costs and availability; climate change concerns, including greenhouse gas emissions and related aspects; and environmental disclosures, both voluntary and those required by the SEC.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
A good reputation within the legal community is critical to your short- and long-term success as a lawyer, and you need to be mindful that every action, word and deed reflects positively or negatively upon you personally and, to some extent, the legal profession as a whole. Make sure your conduct with clients, judges, opposing counsel and others is professional, ethical and respectful. You play a key role in making the legal profession more welcoming and inclusive.
What is the one technological device you could not function without daily?
While both a blessing and a burden, a smartphone is critical to staying connected to your clients and your office, particularly when you are on travel or out of the office. It offers the advantage of allowing you to be better connected in a manner that works best for you.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
As a young lawyer, I am not sure I fully appreciated the importance of civility in the legal profession but simply sought to live by the golden rule learned as a child, to treat others as you like to be treated. I have come to understand that civility and professionalism are critical considerations needed for the fair administration of justice. Practicing law is not a right, but a privilege. Civility and professionalism preserve the public trust in the justice system, and it is every lawyer’s responsibility to serve the public ethically, diligently and competently. The public’s confidence in the justice system and the integrity of the rule of law are compromised when lawyers behave badly in any aspect of their practice. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Berger one said that “lawyers who know how to think but have not learned how to behave are a menace and a liability, not an asset to the administration of justice.”
At a recent Domestic Violence Court hearing, I witnessed a more senior male lawyer attempt to intimidate, and even threaten, a younger female lawyer, in order to oppose an order of protection sought against his client. His comments were insensitive, rude and unprofessional. My younger colleague maintained her cool and was well prepared, professional and respectful despite how she was being treated. She successfully obtained the order of protection for her client. It was an excellent reminder that civility and professionalism are an effective means to an end.
Understanding the importance of civility early on in my practice has made me a better lawyer, one more capable of successfully defending and representing my clients in all manner of cases.
What do you do for fun?
I love to: spend time with my family and friends; attend Loyola Academy Ramblers football games where our son, Joe, is a linebacker; hang out in Lake Geneva, WI; and, travel to new places, particularly if opportunities to collect fossils or sea glass are included.