In honor of Women’s History Month, this Lawyer Spotlight series highlights a remarkable woman who plays a significant leadership role in the administration of justice in Illinois.
Marcia M. Meis serves as the State Court Administrator and Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC). This is a constitutional position (Illinois Constitution, Article VI, sec. 16) that assists the Chief Justice with administrative duties as well as supports the Court in its supervisory authority over all Illinois courts.
Prior to her position with the AOIC, Marcia worked in private law practice and served as an appellate law clerk.
How has your practice evolved during the last few years?
The Illinois courts, and by extension the AOIC, have undergone a number of dramatic changes during the past few years, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic but also by needs around trending court user issues and their impact on what was the traditional court system.
For example, the pandemic prompted much more routine use of remote capabilities for court proceedings and all the technology needed to make that happen.
As an example of other issues, the dramatic increase in the number of self-represented litigants during the last several years has prompted more work in the realm of access to justice, including language access, standardized forms, and the creation of Illinois Court Help.
How do you manage your well-being?
I make reasonable plans for what I want to accomplish every day. The breadth of responsibility in this position makes it hard to do this, but it is very important to just prioritize and chip away at the endless stream of issues.
I try to eat well and exercise every day. I am a poor sleeper, but exercise makes it a little bit better. I have tried to meditate, but I am not very good at it.
How do you remain civil in tense situations?
My interest is supporting the Supreme Court and the Judicial Branch as a whole, so that helps to keep civility paramount in my mind because my actions, and that of my staff, reflect on the Court.
I also routinely have to make sure I give appropriate consideration to all interests and all sides of an issue to find the best solution. This also helps with civility, because you are accustomed to meeting people where they are and working together to achieve consensus for the best outcomes.
How can attorneys advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession?
First of all, take the time to understand DEI issues and the real and persistent challenges that exist. Don’t simply approach it in a “checking the box” kind of way.
Hire and learn from DEI experts who have experience in this space. Review your recruitment procedures and eliminate unnecessary criteria that might rule out otherwise qualified individuals. Support education and engagement efforts to create interest in the legal profession and a pipeline to a career in the law.
What is an attorney’s role in furthering public confidence in the rule of law?
Be truthful. Disagree respectfully. Maintain decorum and respect for all in the courtroom, whether in person or remote. Be accountable to your clients and to all justice partners. Acknowledge your errors and fix them.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
If you don’t really like what you are doing, take the time to explore other opportunities besides the traditional paths. There are many callings that can use your legal skill set. Court administration was never on my radar and it has turned out to be incredibly rewarding.
What do you think is the biggest challenge impacting lawyers today?
Speaking particularly from the court side of things, I would say the biggest challenge is how to keep up with the relentless pace of change, especially in the realm of technology. What traditional aspects of the legal system do we keep and what do we modernize so we can best serve the public?
What do you do for fun?
Watching my kids play sports, though there is less of that now that two of them are away at college and we have only one at home in high school.
I love to travel, play tennis, run, read, watch movies, do Wordle with my kids, and play with my 1-year old puppy who NEVER runs out of energy.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys here.