Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Illinois Solicitor General Reflects on Transition From Academia to Attorney General's Office

By Charlie Ingrassia
Law Clerk to Hon. Susan F. Hutchinson, Illinois Appellate Court, Second District

On February 18, 2015, the Association gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago for its February luncheon. The luncheon featured Illinois Solicitor General Carolyn E. Shapiro, who, in 2010, was appointed by Attorney General Lisa M. Madigan to serve as the top appellate lawyer in the Attorney General's office. Association President Steven F. Pflaum opened the luncheon by welcoming ALA members and guests, which guests included three of Shapiro's predecessors: Hon. Gary Feinerman of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, ALA Vice President Michael A. Scodro, and Joel D. Bertocchi. President Pflaum noted the Solicitor General's unique role within the public service sector, quipping that, unlike the Attorney General, Shapiro "actually" practices law and, unlike a United States attorney, she gets to practice in both federal and state courts. 

Thereafter, Shapiro reflected on her transition from law professor to advocate representing the State in appellate matters. She noted that her office developed approximately 250 briefs during her first year, and given the breadth of matters involved, she has experienced a "tremendous learning curve," but that curve has made the job enjoyable. The wide range of matters can, at times, lead to interesting scenarios where attorneys in her office are representing opposing sides. Shapiro recounted one such situation where her office represented both the State and the Department of Children and Family Services; and to the audience's amusement, noted that her office "won." 

The Solicitor General also shared insight into her office's structure and organization. She emphasized that her office is an "institutional litigant," and that maintaining credibility with the judiciaries is key and is also in her client's long-term interests. On a practical note, Shapiro shared that she tracks all office cases on a legal pad, and that she personally reviews all briefs filed before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Illinois Supreme Court. 

The Association thanks Solicitor General Shapiro for her engaging and insightful comments.

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