The rule of law is the bedrock of our American democracy and after the tumultuous year we’ve all experienced, I find it extremely fitting that the theme for this year’s Law Day is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now.” The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) has been a champion of the rule of law since the association’s inception and it has been my life’s highest honor to continue that effort as the 144th president of the largest voluntary bar association for Illinois lawyers. For it is those individual lawyers who truly serve as the defenders of the rule of law. Each and every day, these dedicated lawyers are in the trenches fighting for justice and equality for all.

But we must also recognize that the rule of law requires access to justice for all. That is why the ISBA has recently established its Rural Practice Initiative (RPI), which seeks to address the troubling problem of attorney shortages in rural parts of our state. This landmark program is designed to connect rural and small-town law firms looking for law clerks and associates with law students and newer attorneys interested in practicing law in rural parts of Illinois. During the program’s inaugural year, the ISBA was able to connect 10 graduating law students and new attorneys as permanent associates with rural practitioners. Additionally, four law students were selected for summer fellowship positions, allowing them the opportunity to gain valuable experience working in rural communities before they leave law school.

It is my hope that through efforts like the Rural Practice Initiative, the ISBA can continue to lead Illinois’ legal community in its efforts to ensure that all Illinois residents have access to the legal representation that they deserve.