Mary Curry: U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois

Mary CurryI began my legal career as a law clerk in the Chancery Division. I first worked for the Honorable Patrick E. McGann, and then for the Honorable James F. Henry (Ret.). After two years, I decided I wanted to see the federal side. In 2007, I started a position clerking for the Honorable Susan E. Cox. Though my clerkship was intended to be two years, I was offered the opportunity to stay on for an additional year. I gladly accepted. Two children and four years later, I am still clerking for Judge Cox. It has been an invaluable and exceptional experience.

How has your practice evolved in the last few years?

Clerking has given me an opportunity to work on a variety of practice areas. When I started clerking, I thought this variety would help me determine what practice area was the best fit for me. Instead, it has broadened my areas of interest. From my time in Chancery to my work in federal court, I have written on constitutional issues, insurance disputes, ERISA matters and civil rights cases, and worked on personal injury cases from pre-trial discovery up through trial (to name a few). At this point, I am ready for a new challenge. I am in the process of determining how all of these skills can translate to work in another legal setting.

If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?

Know what you want; show your willingness to work thoroughly; and be confident.  I have mentored and assisted many young lawyers in my time in Chambers, and I know, almost immediately, who will be successful. Those that have the confidence to ask questions, are dedicated to their work (despite how many drafts they may have to complete), and show enthusiasm while doing it, are always those who do well.

I would be remiss if I did not also encourage getting involved in your legal community. I am nearly 10 years out of law school and have been a part of the Chicago Bar Association and the Federal Bar Association for most of it. I just completed my year as Chair of the Young Lawyers Section of the CBA and have served on the Federal Bar Association Board for several years. My first year out of law school, I accepted a Co-Chair position of the Health Law Committee, which started me on the leadership path through the YLS. Because of my bar association work, my network, and professional opportunities, have expanded immensely.

What is the one technological device you could not function without daily?

Thankfully, federal court is much more technologically advanced than state court. Here, the internal network that provides all of our case information online, as well as CM/ECF, is invaluable to the work we do. I do not need to rely on paper to know what is going on in a case or to see a filing. More recently, all of that information has been linked to my phone so, outside of being in the courtroom for hearings or mediations, I can do my work from anywhere.

How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?

The issue of civility is a constant conversation in Chambers. In this job, I see lawyers present themselves daily in court – supposedly on their best behavior, and yet, each week there is someone who has been less than professional. Lawyers that impress me the most are those who are able to remain detached emotionally from even the most frustrating opposing counsel. We see it, but not as often as one would expect. Litigation is difficult, and lawyers are too often unprofessional to each other. This can make anyone lose their temper. But it is surprising how many are unable to control their frustration in front of the judge on their case.

What do you do for fun?

With two small children at home, fun has changed slightly. I still very much enjoy summer activities outdoors and planting a vegetable garden (I have managed to work those in with my three year old by my side). I speak French and had once thought I would live in France, and, fortunately, my husband and I have been able to travel to our favorite place – Paris – two times since our children were born.

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2Civility is the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s communication channel. “2” because we are fostering transformation. “Civility” because it’s the moral code that binds us together as a society, and as the legal profession, encouraging a productive exchange of perspectives and rejecting disrespect for individuals or classes of people. We advance the highest standards of conduct among lawyers to better serve clients and society.
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