Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives.
Bridget Duignan, Partner at Latherow & Duignan in Chicago, represents plaintiffs in medical malpractice, construction negligence, sexual abuse, and wrongful death matters.
Before joining Latherow & Duignan, she served as Assistant Counsel to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and worked as a defense attorney practicing in workers’ compensation and employment law.
Bridget attended the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law and currently serves as Second Vice President of the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA).
How has your practice evolved during the last few years?
Almost all of my clients, past and present, have experienced or are experiencing litigation for the first time in their lives. Through my years of experience, I have become more confident in my areas of practice and more empathetic to their struggles, and I feel better equipped to effectively manage their expectations.
My involvement with various bar associations has allowed me to advocate for women and diversity in the workplace. However, in recent years the conversation has evolved to not only diversity and equity but inclusion and feeling confident that we belong.
Finally, access to justice has always been important to me, and we, as a city [Chicago] and a nation, face a human rights crisis involving migrant families. Attorneys with our unique skill set, have an obligation to our communities, and so I have tried to do my part through pro bono asylum work.
What’s one piece of technology you could not function without?
Adobe Acrobat Pro. Since the pandemic, we have used it frequently to modify PDF documents, for signatures on paperwork, to organize exhibits, and much more.
How do you manage your well-being?
It is [stressful]! I am also a mother to three children, ages 14, 12, and 9, and active in various bar associations, including the ISBA, where I currently serve as Second Vice President. Work-life balance is of primary importance to me.
Every morning I set my priorities, which are my designated limits on what I’ll accomplish that day. I usually set very few so when I achieve those and more, it was a good day (sort of a mind trick).
When I return home to the kids for homework/sports/dinner/whatever else, I have firm boundaries and I do not answer the phone or return emails until everyone is in bed.
I make time to exercise and I give myself grace because I do not always succeed at all (or any) of these strategies.
This profession can throw curve balls, so I also meet with a coach to work through challenges and stay accountable for my professional, family, and personal goals.
How do you remain civil in tense situations?
I do not take anything personally in this profession. Being the “bigger person” in a situation earns you respect and preserves your dignity and integrity. In my opinion, that is more important than getting the last word.
How can attorneys advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession?
I think the first step is education. “Traditional” law firm culture has been slow to catch onto the good business sense of including a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds to accommodate a diverse clientele. Diverse attorneys often have networks extending into different communities and industries.
Being known as a firm that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion will also attract top talent who stick around long enough to succeed at the firm.
Leaders in the profession must lead by example. We do so through mentorship, advocacy for change, championing equal pay, and cultivating workplace policies that will enable diverse candidates to succeed.
Finally, we meet candidates where they are, which means we modernize recruitment and hiring practices to fit the demands of new lawyers entering the profession.
What is an attorney’s role in furthering public confidence in the rule of law?
We live in uncertain times. When the rule of law is threatened, so is political stability, social progress, peace, and security.
In a broader sense, we should engage in political discourse and reject conspiracy theories and false information designed to influence an otherwise disengaged electorate.
We should participate in access-to-justice initiatives so that those in our communities have positive interactions with the courts because the legitimacy of the judicial system relies on the respect of the public and acceptance of judicial decisions.
We also must make certain that the phrase “Rule of Law” is not used as a dog whistle to quash peaceful debate and protest.
Finally, we should advocate for our clients ethically and professionally, engage in public service, and educate others on the value of an independent judiciary and its commitment to fairness and truth.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Strive for work-life balance early on in your career because if you haven’t already, you will come across those who try to steal your time. Do not let anyone steal your time from you.
What do you think is the biggest challenge impacting lawyers today?
Loans, loans, loans. Consequently, we have to rely on the federal government for any real change. My hope is that the bar associations, particularly the ABA and the ISBA, will produce alternative solutions to law school debt.
What do you do for fun?
Spend time with my family and travel.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys here.