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.
TO READ THE ARTICLE IN ITS ENTIRETY: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/people/2012-05-27/25-years-public-service-law-have-suited-urbana-man-just-fine.html