Jessica Bednarz
Chicago Bar Foundation
Director of Innovation and the Justice Entrepreneurs Project
40 Under Class – 2020

Jessica Bednarz has two important missions at the Chicago Bar Foundation. As director of innovation at the foundation, Bednarz oversees special projects that inspire lawyers to think differently and advance innovation in the practice of law, including the CBA/CBF Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation and the launch of Legal Entrepreneurs for Justice.

As director of the Justice Entrepreneurs Project at the foundation, she oversees a small business incubator for lawyers interested in starting their own socially conscious and innovative law firms. These firms are designed to provide representation to low- and middle-income people and the small businesses that serve them. 

"Generations of lawyers are changing as we speak. Some of the younger lawyers do not have the same passion, enthusiasm, creativity and commitment that I witnessed in younger lawyers when I was their age," said Daniel Kotin with Chicago's Tomasik Kotin Kasserman. "Jess is an exception to that rule. Undoubtedly, she will be a leader in Bar Foundation work for years moving forward. It is my sincere hope that this leadership is displayed at the Chicago Bar Foundation."

After graduating from DePaul University College of Law, Bednarz entered private practice, specializing in family law. She was first called to public service when she began working for the Chicago Bar Association. She later found her current home at the Chicago Bar Foundation. 

In a letter written jointly, Justice Mary Anne Mason, board secretary of the Chicago Bar Foundation, and E. Lynn Grayson, second vice president of the Chicago Bar Association, said that public work has been a natural fit for Bednarz. 

"Her passion for helping others and her legal skills make her a tremendous leader, role model and mentor to young lawyers starting their legal careers," Grayson and Mason wrote.

The pair praised Bednarz's work with the Justice Entrepreneurs Project. Bednarz works closely with newer lawyers to provide hands-on legal and business training. The goal is a big one: to make sure legal services are more accessible and affordable to the public.

"Ms. Bednarz has a proven track record for getting things done and making things better along  the  way," Mason and Grayson said.

In addition to her  leadership  position  at  the  Chicago Bar Foundation,  Bednarz  is  active  in  the  legal community and has served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and volunteered at local legal clinics. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Utah Peoples’ Legal Services. In her continuing efforts to improve the lives of lawyers and improve the legal profession, Bednarz serves as the co-founder of the On Purpose Legal Network, the On Purpose Legal Workshop and A Different Practice.

Matt Passen, with Chicago's Passen + Powell, has worked often with Bendarz in her roles with the Justice Entrepreneurs Project, the Chicago Bar Foundation's Young Professionals Board and on other projects. 

"Jessica has been a rising star in the legal community," Passen said. "This is especially true with respect to her efforts toward achieving access to justice for those in our community regardless of socio-economic status, as well as her eye toward planning for the future of the legal profession."