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Welcome from the CCBA

For several months I have been aware that this addition of Central Illinois Business would be devoted, in combination form, to our national Law Day that is annually celebrated on May 1, along with highlighting the Champaign County Bar Association and its member's role within our community as a whole and our system of justice in particular. I was elated by the prospect of such an issue. Now, it's here.

Law Day is only tangentially about lawyers. It is about a concept, a concept of justice and fairness that the framers of our Constitution embodied and imbedded in that instrument. It is a concept that for almost 250 years has served this Nation as the most perfect legal system devised by mankind. Does that system sometimes fail? The answer is yes. Does that system have problems that need to be addressed? The answer is yes. Is it a system that is easily trashed when something goes wrong and gets 24/7 coverage in the media? The answer is yes. Have any people in the history of mankind ever devised a better system? Here, the answer changes. The answer is no. No system comes, or ever has come, close.

For the reader who regards the above accolade as something that is politically appropriate for the president of a bar association to pen, let me ask one last question. If you have a legal matter of any kind that requires it be placed in the hands of a system of justice that functions fairly, where else would you want to go? The answer is self-answering and self-evident. You don't go looking for your passport.

Law Day hasn't always been celebrated nationally. It was initiated during the Eisenhower administration and was a direct response during the Cold War 1950s to the Soviet Bloc's May Day event, also celebrated on May 1.

While the Soviet Union and its satellite nations annually produced massive parades featuring its instruments of war such as tanks, planes and ever imaginable armament, this Nation said to the World, "Look, we have all that and more and in contrast, we have something that the Communist Bloc does not have. We have system of justice and fairness that works for our citizens. How about that?" While it is true that my profession and the Judges that it produces are what implements the system and makes it work, it is our Constitution that provides the basic framework and structure in which lawyers and Judges function. It is a system for which American blood has been spilled on every continent to protect. I am proud to be part of that system. Yes, I enjoy lawyer jokes just like everybody else; but, when it comes to the bottom line, I am proud of my profession and make no apologies for being a part of it, being a lawyer.

There is no doubt that this publication could have found someone brighter than me to have written this piece. After all, being President of the Champaign County Bar Association is presumably a one year job for a much younger lawyer. As I am nearing the end of my 11th year as president, I am not sure that that makes me all that bright.

If your question to the length of my tenure is "why" it is because it is important to our profession and this community. Also, I enjoy it. Our association offers the perfect framework to complement what lawyers do. Without a lot of fanfare, lawyers contribute to this community by serving on boards, assisting the needy from things ranging from pro bono legal services to help feeding those same people who receive those services. When local attorney, John Thies, was president of the Illinois State Bar Association, he spearheaded a drive to help feed hungry people throughout the State known as "Lawyers Feeding Illinois." Through John's efforts and the efforts of those John chose to implement the program, Illinois lawyers raised well over 1 million dollars and provided close to ½ million meals for hungry citizens. The local bar also is active in contributing to the Land of Lincoln Legal Foundation, CASA and the Illinois Bar Foundation, a structure that was established to help the families of fellow lawyers who have fallen on hard times and are in need. On an as needed basis, it assists lawyers or lawyer's families when medical or other financial hardships strike. We are not required to do this. It is done because we care. Contrary to the lawyers jokes on a T-shirt I have, that's the way lawyers really are. And yes, there is the important component of a local bar association that blends both the professional and social aspects of our lives. Those banquets, parties, softball outings and keggers; continuing legal education lunches, picnics and mixers all play roles important to those who practice law.

Just think for a moment, because our system of justice is adversarial, when we go to work, we function in a system where it is our job to contentious. After all, we represent people whose interests are not the same as people who the lawyers on the other side represent. We work with disputes between opposing clients whether it is a contract dispute, will contest, a marriage dissolution or, conflicting claims that must be litigated by way of an actual trial. Yet, after "doing battle" we get along with each other, not only individually but in large part by participating in activities supported by our bar association. What other profession offers an association at a local level that affords opportunities for its members and their families to get together and enjoy each other? As president of the Champaign County Bar Association, I can help facilitate doing just that.

In closing, I would like personally, and on behalf our membership to offer, a thank you to the News-Gazette and this publication for the spotlight it has placed on Law Day and the lawyers who are a part of what makes our system of justice so vital to all of us and our Champaign County Bar Association, that plays such an important role in the lives of those professionals and their families who play such a significant role in making that system work as it should