The primary areas of my practice are civil and criminal litigation. I began my career as an assistant state’s attorney. Before starting my own practice, worked for a downtown Chicago law firm where I practiced in the areas of injury law, medical malpractice, civil rights, municipal law, administrative law and criminal defense.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
From June of 2016 to June of 2017, I served as the 140th president of the Illinois State Bar Association. Over the past few years, I seem to have taken on fewer cases, but those cases seem to be bigger cases, with much more at stake. Our firm moved our main offices from Wheaton to a top floor suite in my hometown of Joliet, where my office overlooks the courthouse, the schools and college I attended, and the neighborhoods where I grew up. Most recently I have announced my candidacy for circuit court judge.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
If I could offer one piece of advice to young lawyers, admittedly, it would not be cutting edge counsel, but it would still be the best advice. It would be that the value of your reputation cannot be overstated, and not just in the practice of law, but in every area of your life. I’ve learned that no matter where you go in life, your reputation usually arrives first.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Lawyers should discern quickly when the potential for resolving a matter has been exhausted, and refrain from allowing their discourse to become antagonistic and counterproductive. I always say just save the remaining arguments for the judge. You can be a passionate advocate without allowing your passion to overtake your civility.
I feel fortunate to practice law throughout the northern region of our state with a certain benefit of the doubt that I’d like to think is the product of a hard-earned reputation. I believe that anything worth earning is worth protecting and maintaining. In a recent case, an offer was extended to my client to resolve a criminal case. The offer was much better than I could have anticipated. It was beyond my client’s expectation as well. I knew that the prosecutor could not have been fully informed when he extended the offer. I chose not to accept the offer before ensuring that everyone was fully informed. The prosecutor quickly acknowledged that he was not fully informed. Still, his supervisors authorized him to stand by the original offer, given our candor. Everyone won. A lawyer’s integrity and reputation are inextricable.
What are you most hopeful for about the future of the legal profession?
I am most hopeful about the future of the legal profession because of the emergence of a generation of lawyers and judges who are less encumbered by the biases of previous generations. Justice and bias cannot exist in the same space, nor can justice and indifference. I am encouraged by a generation that is more exposed to different demographics and beliefs, and more vocal and courageous in the face of inequity. I am grateful for the generation that produced this new generation.
What do you do for fun?
I love music, the NCAA basketball tournament, politics, and time with my family. However, when I’m on trial, before a great judge and a worthy adversary, it doesn’t feel like work at all. It feels very much like the playground did, on a sunny day, when I was in elementary school.
Learn more about Vincent Cornelius at the Law Offices of Vincent F. Cornelius.