DeKALB – A Northern Illinois University law school alum’s rise to a coveted role within the state bar association was cause for a celebration this week that was attended by local community stakeholders and others attached to the university.
Vincent Cornelius graduated from NIU’s law school in 1989. Since then, the Joliet native has gone on to open his own firm in this hometown and in Wheaton, practicing criminal law. Then, in June, he took the helm of the Illinois State Bar Association as its first African-American president.
“I am, for this season of time, the face of Illinois lawyers – our emissary, our ambassador,” said Cornelius, who was elected to the role. Dozens of people, including NIU trustees and DeKalb County State’s Attorney Richard Schmack, attended the reception Wednesday honoring Cornelius. It was held in the NIU College of Law’s Marshall Gallery.
NIU’s law school dean called Cornelius, who also was the university’s Class of 2016 commencement speaker, an accomplished and insightful leader.
“NIU Law is especially proud of Vince as an alum who understands the role of lawyers as public servants, and who works tirelessly to reinforce and strengthen that role,” Eric Dannenmaier said.
A number of current law school students and faculty were among those in attendance. Cornelius said his one-year term as ISBA president will focus on engaging aspiring lawyers and law educators, as well as recent grads who are new to the field.
“I’m really committed to helping them to transition into the practice well, to find new ways that the differing age demographics can benefit from one another, and to helping law schools to find the best ways to prepare students for the practice of law,” Cornelius said.
The 139-year-old nonprofit ISBA, which is based in Springfield, provides professional support to attorneys throughout the state and boasts a membership of 30,000, according to information on its website.