Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives. These attorneys are teaching us how to adapt and thrive in the changing legal environment.
Adrian Barr is Managing Attorney in Prairie State Legal Services’ Bloomington Office. Adrian supervises the delivery of civil legal and pro bono services to low-income people and seniors in McLean, Livingston, and Woodford counties.
What’s your primary practice area?
Civil legal aid, including domestic violence orders of protection, landlord-tenant cases, and expungement and sealing of criminal records.
How has your practice evolved over the last few years?
At Prairie State Legal Services, I have always had cases against self-represented litigants. Over the last few years, the percentage of self-represented litigants has increased and continues to grow.
How can lawyers adapt to the changing legal profession?
Lawyers handling civil litigation must be prepared to litigate against self-represented litigants. Self-represented litigants are at a distinct disadvantage and usually do not understand the court process.
It is important to be professional and ethical when dealing with self-represented litigants. Attorneys must self-govern. We should respect the rules of evidence even if a self-represented litigant does not know to object (see Illinois RPC Rule 3.4(e)).
We should not use our power to bully self-represented litigants. A lawyer’s actions may seem personal to self-represented litigants. It is not worth making a personal enemy. Unethical or unprofessional behavior harms the reputation of our profession.
Why is civility important to the practice of law?
Law is a stressful profession. It is likely we will work with many of the same opposing counsel throughout our careers. Over the long term, this stressful job will be more difficult and more stressful without civility. Most importantly, a lawyer who is not civil will get a reputation for being a jerk.
What advice do you have for young lawyers?
Apologize for your actions if you get caught up in the moment and act unprofessionally. I will never forget an interaction I had with a lawyer when I was in private practice. We were on opposite sides of a claim. During a phone call, the lawyer acted unprofessionally and tried to bully me. About 5 minutes after that call ended, he called me back and apologized. I forgave that lawyer for his behavior and have positive memories of him to this day.
Young lawyers should join a non-profit board. I have served on three boards so far. Joining a board is a great way to make connections with leaders outside of the legal community. You will gain valuable experience while also helping your community. My board experience has helped me improve my leadership skills and given me an opportunity to see other excellent leaders in action.
What do you do in your free time?
I have a wonderful wife, a 2-year-old son, a 5-year-old daughter, and an 11-year-old German shepherd. I enjoy spending most of my free time with them.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys like Adrian Barr here.