SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) has appointed a new president.

Vincent Cornelius
Vincent Cornelius

Vincent F. Cornelius was selected as president of the ISBA during the association’s 140th annual meeting. Cornelius joins ISBA from the Law Office of Vincent F. Cornelius, with offices in Joliet and Wheaton, where he is principal. He is the bar association’s 140th president and the first African-American in this position.

“I believe that the ISBA is the premier state bar association in our nation, so I consider it a great honor to serve as president of our 32,000-member association,” Cornelius told the Cook County Record. “It is a particularly special honor to have been elected to serve as president by my fellow members.”

During Cornelius’ presidency, he plans to focus on the future of young lawyers, an issue he has become very aware of since starting his own firm at the age of 30. His plans include collaboration with state law schools and law school deans, the Illinois Supreme Court and the American Bar Association, as well as others, to help prepare young lawyers for the profession.

“I am committed to the future of our profession,” Cornelius said. “That begins with a focus on young lawyers, new lawyers, law schools and law school deans. I hope to facilitate a collaboration between these and other critical stakeholders to ensure a better transition from law school to the legal profession. I have also planned programming that will educate our members about diversity, inclusion and implicit bias. My term will have a specific focus on high-quality continuing legal education, which will highlight the ISBA’s Solo and Small Firm Practice Institute.”

Serving as a member of the ISBA Board of Governors 37-and-under in 1999 and as chancellor of the ISBA Academy of Illinois Lawyers, Cornelius is no stranger to the association. As a way to improve the bar, Cornelius mentioned preserving the profession and more participation in social justice.

“The bar must continue to monitor and examine national trends that may be threats to the legal profession and the public we serve, such as improper non-lawyer participation in the practice of law,” said Cornelius. “Society would greatly benefit from members and leaders of the bar taking the lead on more issues of social justice.”

Cornelius is beginning a one-year term as president of the bar association. As for his legacy, he said, “I would be pleased if it could be said that my term as ISBA president made an impact on the future of our profession by embracing and assisting young lawyers, by developing the future leaders of our profession and by helping law schools, law students and members of the legal profession to find a single vision for the future. And, that I encouraged the legal profession to pursue a deeper understanding of the interplay between implicit bias and the rule of law.”

Cornelius was president of the Illinois Bar Foundation from 2008 to 2010. He served as assistant treasurer and chair of several committees of the DuPage County Bar Association. He is also a founding member of The Black Bar Association of Will County.

“I suppose many members observe the always inspiring installation of an ISBA president and momentarily envisioned themselves taking the oath of office too,” said Cornelius. “While I was probably as guilty of that as anyone, it was not my early aspiration. When the opportunity to serve as president did present itself, it was at a time when I believed that I was prepared to lead the association, and that time was right for me to serve as ISBA president.”

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