Second Thies as president is a first for bar association

Second Thies as president is a first for bar association

URBANA — Urbana attorney John Thies has been installed as president of the 33,000-member Illinois State Bar Association, occupying an office held by his father, Richard, 26 years ago.

It's the first time the association has had a father and son serve as president, even though the U.S. has had two father-son duos — the Adamses and Bushes — in the Oval Office.

"I had the honor of swearing him in," said Richard Thies, 80, who performed the task Friday at the association's annual meeting at the Abbey Resort in Wisconsin.

John Thies, 49, said four members of the Illinois Supreme Court, including the chief justice, were on hand and could have performed the ceremony. But he requested that his dad do the honors.

The succession was established in 2009 when John Thies was elected third vice president of the association. That ensured he would become second vice president in 2010, president-elect in 2011 and president this year.

But getting elected in 2009 took quite a bit of campaigning, with John spending "a lot of time on the road" speaking to groups and lining up supporters.

Richard Thies said there wasn't nearly as much campaigning for the office a quarter-century ago. He initially lost a three-way race, but later ran unopposed for the right to head the association.

The job of president is nearly a full-time job, but John Thies plans to balance it with his practice at the Webber & Thies law firm in Urbana, where he concentrates on business representation and general litigation.

He called his dad "an exceptional lawyer" and a "great resource." His dad, in turn, said John is "far better equipped than I was" to lead the association.

John Thies has already outlined four projects for his term:

— A task force that will look at the debt that lawyers carry coming out of law school and how it could affect the availability of legal services. Specifically, Thies is concerned whether graduating law students can afford to work for small law firms that provide the bulk of legal services in Illinois.

— A committee that will look whether inadequate funding of the judicial system could threaten the fairness and impartiality of the courts. University of Illinois law Professor Andrew Leipold is expected to write that committee's report.

— A committee that will review standards for judicial disqualification and substitution and when judges should recuse themselves from cases. Serving on that committee will be attorney Jim Green of the Thomas, Mamer & Haughey law firm in Champaign.

— A public service project, "Lawyers Feeding Illinois," that will encourage law firms to collect food and raise money for the state's eight regional food banks. John's wife, Terry, will chair the committee overseeing that project, which will involve Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

In August, John Thies is slated to become president of the National Caucus of State Bar Associations during the American Bar Association's annual meeting in Chicago.

John Thies received a bachelor's degree in economics from Indiana University in 1984 and his law degree from the University of Illinois in 1988.

While in law school, he became involved in the state bar association's Law Student Division. He was in his second year of law school in 1986-87 when his father served as association president.

After law school, John Thies joined the association's Membership and Bar Activities Committee, eventually becoming chair.

He was elected to the association's 27-member Board of Governors after several years as an elected member of the Assembly, the association's policy-making body.

He and Terry have two daughters, 11-year-old Katie and 9-year-old Caroline.

Almost all the attorneys at Webber & Thies attended John Thies' installation, including his brother, David, who gave the invocation.

Richard Thies said he and his wife, Marilyn, were "very proud" to be there.

"It brought back some mighty good memories," he said. "It's such a great opportunity to be of service to the profession."

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