Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation Newsroom

May 29, 2012

John Lafond to receive the Illinois State Bar Association with the ISBA First Annual Joseph Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award

Below is an article that was published in The News-Gazette about John Lafond, Senior Attorney with our Eastern Regional Office in Champaign.  He has dedicated a quarter of a century to serving our clients!  In recognition of his dedication, he will receive the first annual ISBA Joseph Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award at the ISBA Annual Meeting in June.  The ISBA’s Delivery of Legal Services committee established this Joseph R. Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award to annually honor the extraordinary commitment and dedication of a civil legal services attorney who has provided the highest caliber of compassionate legal representation and outstanding service to Illinois’ vulnerable and low-income population.  Congratulations to John on a well-deserved award!

25 years in public service law have suited Urbana man just fine

Mary Schenk, The News-Gazette, Sunday May 27, 2012

CHAMPAIGN — John Lafond is one of those rare people who enjoys being slapped up side the head day after day with perspective.

“Every day I see people getting by with not very much at all. I’m grateful for every little bit of what I’ve got. It’s just an added bonus when you can do something that brings spiritual satisfaction to the material comforts,” he said.

Lafond is not a minister or a counselor. He’s a lawyer practicing in a niche that few pursue: public service law.

The 52-year-old Urbana man has spent all of his 25-year career with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, advocating in civil matters for those who can’t afford a lawyer. For that, he’s being honored next month by the Illinois State Bar Association with the first annual Joseph Bartylak Memorial Legal Services Award.

Bartylak, of Alton, was the first executive director of Land of Lincoln and directed the public service agency for nearly 30 years. He died in 2010.

Established in 1972, Land of Lincoln is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation that provides free legal services to low-income and senior citizens in 65 central and southern Illinois counties. Much of its funding comes from the federal government, but it also receives state money. Lafond works in the Champaign office. There are also offices in Carbondale, East St. Louis, Alton and Springfield.

Lafond called Bartylak “our George Washington.”

“He was remarkable in so many ways. He would be embarrassed to have this award named for him. I’m feeling even more humility,” he said.

Colleagues say Lafond has an exceptional ability to solve problems, has done staff training for them on guardianship issues and created a fact sheet on custody for non-parents.

“John is probably the smartest person I know. You can’t find a question he can’t answer,” said Ramona Sullivan, a fellow Land of Lincoln attorney in Champaign who nominated Lafond for the award.

“I call him Encyclopedia John. Whenever I’m thinking about a new issue to try to figure out how it fits within a more general context, I go to him,” said Valerie McWilliams, a 28-year Land of Lincoln staff attorney.

Both women agree that Lafond’s sense of humor is one of his finer attributes.

“You won’t find a funnier person. Any event, any time there needs to be entertainment, John is the go-to guy,” said Sullivan.

A 1986 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, Lafond knew he wanted to practice public service law long before graduation. His father might have had an influence.

“Dad was an accountant, a principled man who, a lot of times, fired his bosses,” said Lafond, whose family moved from southern California to Illinois when he was in junior high school.

“Our family was broke for some years, and I was definitely broke when I got out of college,” he said.

With an undergraduate degree in rhetoric and a yen to help others, public service law was a natural. He worked in a welfare rights clinic while in law school and realized he preferred the hands-on experience to the classroom. Still, he passed the bar exam on his first try.

After college, he spent about nine months in construction and making pizzas before landing his position with Land of Lincoln.

While it’s not the kind of law office where clients can expect to be offered a Perrier or a Danish pastry or see their lawyers driving BMWs, Land of Lincoln has provided a decent living for its attorneys, Lafond said.



May 11, 2012

Congratulations to Russell Scott, a long-serving member of our Board of Directors, on receiving the American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Madison County Record: 5/10/2012 

By Christina Stueve

Attorney Russell K. Scott, a senior litigation officer and co-manager of the Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale Belleville office, has been named the 2012 recipient of the prestigious American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Scott received the award May 7 at the Seventh Circuit Judicial Conference in Chicago. He and other 2012 award recipients also will be recognized at the American Inns of Court annual Celebration of Excellence Oct. 20 at the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Inns of Court Professionalism Awards are given each year to one lawyer or judge from each federal circuit, whose life and practice display sterling character and unquestioned integrity, coupled with ongoing dedication to the highest standards of the legal profession and the rule of law. Award recipients are selected by a panel of representatives from the circuit and the American Inns of Court.

In nominating Scott for the award, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, wrote, “In addition to his considerable skills as a trial lawyer, Russell has throughout his career, exemplified the highest ideals of the legal profession. His record of service to the profession, especially in the area of legal services to the poor, is exceptional.”

Cherie Macdonald, an officer at Greensfelder and co-manager of the firm’s Belleville office said the award is very special.

“This honor for Russell is even more special since the Seventh Circuit typically bestows the award on judges from the Chicago area,” Macdonald said.

Scott focuses his practice on the defense of legal and medical malpractice suits, product liability actions, industrial accident cases, premises liability, as well as automobile, construction, insurance coverage, class action, toxic tort, general commercial and personal injury litigation.

He has more than 35 years of experience in all aspects of state and federal trial and appellate work. Scott also has a history of public service work, having served as president, chair of the board and chief volunteer officer of the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc., for 16 years and as chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Select Committee on Pro Bono Publico for 10 years.

He also is a member of the Board of Governors of the Illinois State Bar Association and past president of the Illinois Bar Foundation.

Scott earned his J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and has an A.B. from Earlham College.

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Richland County Legal Self-Help Center Opens

By Matt Courter, Olney Daily Mail: Posted May 10, 2012

A new way to receive legal assistance online was announced Tuesday at Olney Public Library.

According to information provided by John A. Dailing, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice, Richland County Legal Self-Help Center was developed to provide accurate information on Illinois law to the growing number of people who represent themselves in court.

Those using the service will have access to information about “simpler civil legal problems,” including videos on going to court, court pleadings and information on other legal organizations.

Richland County Circuit Clerk Sandy Franklin said deputy clerks in the office regularly meet people who need legal information. She said they cannot give such advice, but with the new online system, they now have a place to refer people.

Stacie Colston, Outreach Coordinator/Attorney at Law for Illinois Legal Aid Online, said that the anonymity the service provides can also be an attractive feature, especially in a small area in which a judge may be involved in the community outside of court.

The Richland County Legal Self-Help Center is the 80th to open in Illinois since 2007. Illinois Legal Aid Online and Illinois Coalition for Equal Justice provided technical support and assistance to the Planning Committee of Richland County. Judge Larry Dunn said the county is the last in the Second Judicial Circuit to receive the service.

He noted that the county’s local legal aid, Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, has more requests for service than it can meet with its staff or volunteer attorneys. The new self-help center will provide access to information to those who will have to represent themselves.

Colston said that each online center is geared to its county. She said she gives the Planning Committee a list of approximately 100 content items, including issues such as small claims, unemployment benefits and child support, and it chooses six that will be highlighted on the site.

“Each county’s site seems different,” she said.

Olney Public Library will serve as a place where people who don’t have Internet access can use the service.

Those who have worked to implement the center include Richland County Circuit Court and the Richland County Circuit Clerk’s Office, Olney Public Library, SWAN and Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance. Start-up funding comes from a grant from the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation through Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation.

The center may be accessed at

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