'Vanguard Award' to be given to 6 lawyers, judges

18 Apr 2011 1:00 PM | Sandra Yamate (Administrator)

April 18, 2011
By  Jerry Crimmins
Law Bulletin staff writer

A retired Illinois Appellate Court justice who now works to improve black political representation as well as a founder of the Puerto Rican Bar Association are among six winners of the "2011 Vanguard Awards."

The "Vanguard Awards" are presented every year "to honor lawyers and judges who, through their efforts, have made law and the legal profession more accessible to and reflective of the community at large."

The six honorees will receive their awards Wednesday in an event at the Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Court, with a reception at 11:30 a.m. and a luncheon at noon.

The awards are presented by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area, the Chicago Bar Association, the Cook County Bar Association, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois, the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois.

Those to be honored this year are:

  • Judge Manuel Barbosa of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western Division of the Northern District of Illinois, chosen by the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois;
  • William Cousins Jr., a retired justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, chosen by the Cook County Bar Association;
  • Selma C. D'Souza, legislative director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, chosen by the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Chicago Area;
  • Marc S. Firestone, general counsel of Kraft Foods Inc., who was chosen by the Chicago Bar Association;
  • Edwin Reyes of Briskman, Briskman & Greenberg, who was chosen by the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Illinois;
  • Laura M. Ricketts, board member of the Chicago Cubs and chairwoman of Chicago Cubs Charities, who was chosen by the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago.

As examples, some activities of three of the winners are described below.

Cousins is a board member of the Cook County Bar Association, currently also works with the South Side branch of the NAACP, and works with the ad hoc group, African-Americans for Legislative Redistricting.

This is according to Lawrence N. Hill, president of the CCBA, who is a member of the ad hoc group on legislative redistricting with Cousins.

Hill said Cousins in his career has also helped Operation PUSH and the Chicago Planned Parenthood Association.

Cousins' contributions to diversity "go back decades," Hill said.

Cousins began his legal career in 1953 after service with the Army in the Korean War. He has been an attorney in private practice, a Cook County prosecutor, also 8th Ward alderman for 9½ years, and later a Cook County Circuit Court judge and finally an Illinois Appellate Court justice.

Another award winner, Reyes, "has been a leader in the struggle for diversity in the legal profession for years," said Charles P. Romaker, president of the Puerto Rican Bar Association (PRBA).

Reyes was one of the founders of the PRBA and is now treasurer of the group.

Reyes "has raised thousands of dollars for Latino law students" through the Latino Law Student Scholarships Program, according to the award announcement.

He also is active in the PRBA's Adopt-A-Family program which gives food and gifts to families in need over the holiday season and he has participated in Lawyers in the Classroom for the PRBA.

Reyes is a member of several bar associations and is currently under-secretary of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

"He is a very energetic, high energy guy and he maintains a very active practice, as well," Romaker said.

Another award winner, Firestone "is a leader in the truest sense of the word. He never hesitates to contribute in whatever way he can to advocate for increased diversity and inclusion in our profession," said Sandra S. Yamate, chief executive officer of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession.

Yamate said Firestone is head of the board of her institute and "doesn't just say he's interested in improving diversity in the legal profession, he makes the time to do it."

"He thinks about and he ponders what can we actually do to affect change and then he considers what strategies can be implemented to do it," Yamate said.

"He takes time to be accessible to diverse lawyers. … Young women and minority associates tell me how they met him once, struck up a conversation and maybe a few months later, he happens to be in their town. He contacts them for coffee to get a handle on how things are going in their careers, what's really happening, how they are being treated by their employers.

"I don't know any other person of his stature who does things like that," Yamate said.
   
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