Access to justice will be a focus of new Chicago Bar Association president

By Jamie Kelly | Jul 15, 2016

CHICAGO — The role of a bar association has been changing with wider access to legal information online and more people working remotely, but the new president of the Chicago Bar Association still sees an important role for the organization, both for its members and for the general public.

Dan Kotin, a founding partner at Tomasik Kotin Kasserman and a 25-year member of the CBA, officially began his one-year term June 23. Kotin said a major focus of his term will be helping connect people with attorneys.

Dan Kotin  

“One particular initiative that we need to continue to follow through on is to focus on the problem with access to justice,” Kotin told the Cook County Record. “Our (Illinois State) Supreme Court just finished a year-long study, and the conclusion was that 90 percent of our citizens cannot afford to pay for the legal services they need. That's terrible, but that's only one side of the equation.

“On the other side is the sad reality that even though the legal market is turning a little bit, we still have thousands of lawyers in Illinois who are either unemployed or underemployed. And there is no mechanism where all these lawyers that need work are meeting all these citizens that need lawyers."

He said the CBA and other attorney groups should work to bridge the gaps between lawyers and the people who need their services. 

"We need to do whatever else we can do to make sure that our citizens get the legal services that our Constitution intended our legal system to provide," Kotin said. "That's not happening right now. Whether or not we can make much of a dent in that, who knows, but that's going to be a focus of my bar year.”

Kotin is assuming the presidency after years of serving in leadership roles for the CBA. He’s served a two-year term as a member of the board of managers, a two-year term as treasurer, a one-year term as second vice president and a one-year term as first vice president. He joined the association soon after earning his license in 1991, so he said he has seen what the group can do and he wants to keep its membership strong.

“We need to make sure the Chicago Bar Association stays a place that people want to come,” he said. “We have to keep it interesting, we have to keep it worthwhile, we have to keep it fun. I plan to have a lot of fun with the membership in the next year. One thing we're going to do, that I think is going to be a great time, is take our continuing legal education abroad trip, which is something the president plans every year. I'm planning my trip, for next April, to London, England.”

Kotin said the itinerary will include access to the legal system that the general public may not get. Another project he has planned for the year has its roots far closer to home, and is inspired by the memory of his deceased uncle, Phil Corboy, a Chicago lawyer who was president of the CBA more than 40 years ago.

Kotin said he had asked Corboy to write an autobiography, but Corboy wasn’t interested. So when Corboy died in 2012, there wasn’t a record of his accomplishments in his own words. Kotin said he wants to interview attorneys in Chicago who have had distinguished careers so there will be a record of theirs.

“I want to do a program this year where we do a series of maybe 10-minute interviews with legal legends in Chicago,” he said. “I want to record video interviews with them where we can capture from them what impact they think they made on our legal community.”

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