Serving the Community: In and Out of Law

Featured Attorney of the Month Leslie Allred

Serving the Community: In and Out of Law

By Rachel Barks 

Leslie Allred has a special touch when it comes to her attorney and lawyer work, driven by her passion for the Will County area and dedication to community service as a professional and individual.

A Heart for Others

“I have always known that I wanted to be in a position where I could help people! Even as early as second grade I circulated a petition to each member of my class to sign for one of my best friends because I felt she had been wronged,” Allred said. “I actually presented it to the teacher!” 

The heart of her work is in giving back to the community and considers it an honor to serve the area in which she grew up. 

“Whether it is participating hands-on at community events, raising money for organizations, or even just speaking at different schools about being an attorney…it is one of my driving forces, to give back and pay it forward to my hometown and neighboring areas,” Allred said. 

Community service is a staple in her life and one she honors through O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates, LLC, such as participating and supporting as many different community programs and groups as they possibly can. As an individual, Allred takes part in volunteering for different, personal community service projects. 

She also serves as the current president of the Wilmington Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that raises scholarship money for graduating seniors and creates grant money for the district teachers to expand their resources outside of what the school can offer, a Wilmington City alderman, and active member of the Will County Bar Association. 

Above and Beyond

Allred didn’t find her calling for law right away but has made a lasting footprint ever since stepping into it. Currently, she works as a Managing Partner at O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates, LLC. She has a bundle of awards under her belt as well, including National Trial Lawyers Association Top 100 Criminal Defense Attorneys, Joliet Area Young Professional of the Year, and Kankakee County Women in Business Honoree. 

“Working with Leslie makes me love my job more; her positivity lights up our office and inspires us all to be our best selves,” said Caitlin Davenport, O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates, LLC paralegal & office manager. “She instilled in us that sky’s the limit not only at work but also in our personal lives.”

Her love for being an attorney is true and life-long. She explains that some of her favorite moments are the times when she could connect with a victim as a prosecutor or a client in private practice and at the end of their case feel that in some small way, she changed their lives. 

“There are some simple, “thank you’s” that I have received at the end of a case that I will honestly carry with me for a lifetime,” Allred said. 

Allred credits her unassailable work ethic to the mentors she’s had throughout the journey of her career and her tight-knit family, both of which sparked the drive to perpetually set goals, work toward them, and the importance of having strong basics and keeping them fresh.

To learn more about Leslie Allred and O’Dekirk, Allred & Associates, LLC visit https://www.odekirklaw.com/meet-the-team/leslie-matlock-allred/.

Nominate an Attorney

Eligible nominees must be a WCBA Member in good standing, and individuals cannot nominate themselves or members of their own firm.

The Board will review all nominations monthly and select one nominee to be featured each month. Individuals not selected will remain as nominees for future features.

If there are any questions please reach out to info@willcountybar.org or
(815) 726-0383.

Speaking Truth to Power: The Legacy of Raymond Bolden

Featured Attorney Judge Raymond Bolden

Speaking Truth to Power: The Legacy of Raymond Bolden

As a highly esteemed lawyer and judge in the Joliet area, Raymond Bolden had the power to give a case context, and tell a captivating story of why it mattered. He was also a beloved friend, mentor, and more, with many individuals looking up to him professionally and as an individual. His legacy will forever have a print within the Will County legal community.

“If the community needed a credible voice to speak truth to power, Judge Bolden was always up to the task,” said Will County Circuit Judge, Vincent Cornelius. “If he was invited to be the guest speaker, you could expect a packed house. You left one of his speeches less ignorant, more knowledgeable, and with food for thought.”

Bolden was Will County’s first Black Assistant State’s Attorney, President of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, a criminal defense lawyer, Will County Associate Judge, and Circuit Court Judge. Recognized as a trailblazer by his fellow lawyers, judges, and loved ones, he also had many awards and accolades, as well as being one of the founders of the Warren Sharpe Center and the Black Bar Association of Will County.

“The impact of his influence and service to our Will County community and beyond will continue to serve and benefit future generations,” said Will County Associate Judge, Chrystel Gavlin. “Many of us [judges] have considered the time we spent in his courtroom as one of the best experiences in our legal careers.”

A life passion for Bolden included speaking up about racism, inequality, and the unfair treatment of people of color in the legal system. He was active in the civil rights movement throughout his life and career and will go down in history as a patron of African American attorneys and judges in the community.

Those who knew Bolden as a judge and person fervidly believe he had a natural understanding of people, a sense of discernment, and distinctive compassion. Being an exceptional judge was inside of him, something that will remain long after his professional presence.

“Raymond Bolden was small in height but stood tall in his determination to improve the lives of others; he practiced what he preached,” said 12th Judicial Circuit Judge, Carmen Goodman. “For me, personally, Judge Bolden was my idol, my hero, and my friend.”

Goodman recounts a dear memory of Bolden sitting in his kitchen during the Christmas holidays as he gathered young African American lawyers together that later became the Black Bar Association of Will County, the first African American lawyers’ association outside of Cook County. They admired his fair and even-tempered ways, and ability to be a great listener, confident, respectful, and always willing to provide honest feedback.

Bolden’s wise, compassionate, and courageous touch will forever be missed within the Will County legal community but his spirit and memory as a lawyer and judge live on.

“I always loved to see Ray holding court around the house and at gatherings of family and friends,” Cornelius said. “His pipe would be ablaze, his head slightly tilted, his smile confident, and his wit quick and sharp. He was an unrivaled storyteller.”

Nominate an Attorney

Eligible nominees must be a WCBA Member in good standing, and individuals cannot nominate themselves or members of their own firm.

The Board will review all nominations monthly and select one nominee to be featured each month. Individuals not selected will remain as nominees for future features.

If there are any questions please reach out to info@willcountybar.org or
(815) 726-0383.

After Three Decades of Will County Practice, Donald DeWilkins Rises to the Bench

Feature Attorney of the Month Sept. 2021 Don DeWilkins

After Three Decades of Will County Practice, Donald DeWilkins Rises to the Bench

Time flies when you are doing what you love.

For Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court Associate Judge Donald W. DeWilkins, serving on the Will County Bar Association (WCBA) Board of Directors was one of the most memorable and productive engagements of his still-evolving law career.

“It allowed me to help make a difference in the community,” says DeWilkins, who was appointed to the bench in November of 2020. “The Bar Association does a lot to help bring legal services to Will County. My 10 years flew by. I wish I had more time on the Board.”

His interest in becoming an attorney took hold at “a very young age,” he recalls. After graduating from Governors State University in 1987, and John Marshall Law School in 1990, the Orland Park native, now 56, was able to achieve his longstanding goal.

He went straight to work for the Will County State’s Attorney’s office under then-Will County State’s Attorney Edward A. Burmila. Coincidentally, Burmila now serves as a Twelfth Circuit Associate Judge, too. From the State’s Attorney’s office, DeWilkins was hired by a private firm, the Law Offices of Robert Beranek, and by the late 1990s he had been named a partner. Focusing on litigation, mainly in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury, he logged thousands of courtroom hours, eventually opening his own practice, the Law Offices of Donald W. DeWilkins, with locations in Orland Park and Joliet.

His work for the WCBA has had a lasting effect. In 2018, when he was serving on the Board, the Twelfth Circuit Chief Judge at the time, Richard C. Schoenstedt, expressed interest in establishing an online traffic school. The initiative would bring Will County in line with the surrounding counties that already had a similar program up and running.

To that end, DeWilkins and other WCBA Board Members met with representatives of the DuPage County Bar Association for advice on establishing a Will County program. “They were very helpful in pointing us in the right direction,” DeWilkins says.

Two years later, DeWilkins was installed as WCBA President, and the online Traffic Safety School went live. Since then, it has been managed by the WCBA, and today it is considered a singular success.

“We were able to create state of the art software with a company to give the best product possible,” DeWilkins says. “Our interactive program is very beneficial to traffic offenders, especially offenders under 21.”

DeWilkins’ life has not been all work and no play; he has also had a lifelong love of sports. “I was fortunate to play hockey, baseball and golf at a fairly high level of competition,” he says. He also coached hockey for about 30 years, and softball and baseball for close to 20 each. But the law profession has been, and continues to be, his true passion.

He has witnessed Will County’s immense growth over the, starting with a population of 357,313 in 1990, the year he first practiced as an attorney, to 696,355 in the most recent Census (2020). The judgeship DeWilkins was appointed to last year was created in response to the county’s continued expansion.

So, after four decades of service in many sectors of the law profession, it appears his career has come full circle in a way. In the space where he once prosecuted cases on behalf of the state, and later defended clients, he now presides on the bench. In his first eight months, he served as a floater Judge, but on July 1, 2021, he was permanently assigned by Chief Judge Daniel L. Kennedy to the Misdemeanor Division.

“Becoming a Judge is a dream come true,” he says.

Nominate an Attorney

Eligible nominees must be a WCBA Member in good standing, and individuals cannot nominate themselves or members of their own firm.

The Board will review all nominations monthly and select one nominee to be featured each month. Individuals not selected will remain as nominees for future features.

If there are any questions please reach out to info@willcountybar.org or
(815) 726-0383.