First Woman Recipient of Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship is Named

Ayanna Squires

First Woman Recipient of Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship is Named

By Rachel Barks

The second annual Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship has found a recipient, and this year, it has been awarded to its first woman law student – Ayanna Squires, an Algonquin resident.

Squires is a driven and passionate individual, having already received her bachelor’s in criminal justice at Lewis University last May and is returning to school this fall, this time to tackle law school at Northern Illinois University.

WCBA President Tom Manzella, with Ayanna Squires and attorney Frank Cservenyak

WCBA President Tom Manzella, with Ayanna Squires and attorney Frank Cservenyak

“I really like the sense of community that people are there to help you in any way they can to grow and network,” Squires said. “I think it is awesome that different professionals and organizations are coming together for this one scholarship to help someone in their legal field.”

Squires took a gap year from school to jump into working within the legal field and get her feet wet; she is currently the 2021-2022 AmeriCorps Illinois JusticeCorps Fellow in the 12th Judicial Circuit. This is where she found out about the scholarship and waited for months for the scholarship to officially open so she could apply. Squires has a strong sense of love for Illinois, and the Will County community, and can’t see herself practicing law anywhere but her home state.

“One of the things that the scholarship will help with is building these community ties, and making sure to lean on those if I need them in law school, after law school, and while I continue to work within my community,” Squires added. “When I am a licensed attorney, I look forward to helping in any way I can.”

The Legal Opportunity Scholarship promotes a strong message of celebrating diversity within the legal community. Squires supports this and expresses how much this means to her as a black woman entering the field.

“It is really telling of the people that they see this issue within the legal community, a lack of diversity, whether that be with a lack of people of color in the legal field, gender ratios, anything of that sort,” Squires said. “I like that they tailored the scholarship to help an underrepresented minority in the legal field, and that helps me a lot as a black woman entering this field; I don’t have any lawyers in my family or anything as a first-generation student.”

Recipients of the Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship, an incoming first-year Black or Latino Law Student, can earn up to $46,000 to assist in paying for their legal education by practicing law in Will County after graduation, which will allow them to further insert themselves into the community.

This year Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC joined an annual collaboration with the Will County Bar Association, the Black Bar Association of Will County, Latino Bar Association of Will County, Will County Women’s Bar Association, and Spesia & Taylor Attorneys at Law to sponsor the 2022 Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship.

Frank Cservenyak of Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC sees great value in giving back to the talented, upcoming professionals of the legal community, which is why they joined the annual collaboration this year.

“This broadens the types of lawyers, from all walks of life, instead of just a narrow walk of life,” Cservenyak said. “And I think that’s good so that we have across-the-board representation of ideas, backgrounds, and all different kinds of cultural experiences when we’re using the law and practicing law.”

Squires looks forward to beginning law school and being open-minded to what area of law she will practice specifically. She plans to take part in valuable internships and externships, taking advantage of what opportunities come her way and developing through those in preparation for graduation and the bar exam.

“One of the most joyous parts has been telling my friends, my family, my coworkers, and just sharing the good news; I’m so very grateful for this opportunity,” Squires said. “Thank you so much to those that created the scholarship and for taking action to have it move forward.”

Featured Attorney Gary Mueller

Featured Attorney Gary Mueller

Give Back Something of Great Value

By Rachel Barks

Gary Mueller has worked in the law industry for over 32 years, served in numerous nonprofit organizations, as a community college adjunct professor, and is a member of many organizations including the Real Estate Section Council for the ISBA, past President of Will County Bar Association, fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus, and more.

Mueller started his law firm, Mueller & Associates, Ltd., after working with McKeown Law Firm and Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered, concentrated in transactional law and mitigation and as an income partner.

Being able to help others is very rewarding to Mueller, and those stories he carries with him throughout his career.

“Honestly, the most important, most rewarding part about being an attorney is being able to assist others, especially those who are less fortunate,” Mueller said. “I’ve been very fortunate and blessed in my life, with what I’ve been provided, the opportunities and guidance I’ve been given and I like being able to share that with others.”

Early in his life, Mueller didn’t plan to work in law. He came from a family of teachers and expected to become a doctor. Being able to open his law firm was a large accomplishment for him but he credits that to the amazing mentors he’s had and uses this to give back to the community.

“It’s a great opportunity that individuals in many professions have, to give back and give back something of great value,” He said.

For Mueller, giving back looks like the work he does within the law firm every day and his work for nonprofits over the years. He was a Steward of the Gertrude P. Zalar Alzheimer’s Center, which has since disbanded but are memories he holds dearly.

He has also done legal work within the real estate industry which he states is very rewarding. Mueller was recently selected to serve as a member of the Real Estate Section Council for the ISBA. He authors a monthly article for all REALTOR® members of the Three Rivers Association of REALTORS®.

Mueller notes that many stories come out of legal careers and numerous have positively shaped his journey. One from many years ago, he notes, is when he was asked to represent a young couple that was experiencing difficulty having a child. They worked with a young lady out of Ohio who was going to be the couple’s surrogate, which was difficult due to the distance.

“One of my most favorite moments is that the best possible thing happened after we had that set up. It was all up and running and the couple got pregnant on their own. With the combination of surrogacy and natural birth, they now have two beautiful daughters who were born two weeks apart,” Mueller said.

“Mr. Mueller has dedicated his practice to the Will County legal community. He has served with dignity and honor. He exemplifies all of the characteristics of a practicing attorney who gives back to the community,” said Frank Czervenyak, another member of the Will County law community and one of Mueller’s right-hand colleagues.

Mueller personally thanks the following attorneys for their help and guidance throughout his career: Justice Daniel Ward, Joseph Fitzgerald, Douglas Hutchison, Steve Veltman, Frank Cservenyak, Ken Grey, Marty Cann, Mike Wojtak, Myles Jacobs, Jan Pena, Dorothy Seaborg, and all on the WCBA Real Estate Committee.

To learn more about Gary S. Mueller and Mueller & Associates, Ltd., visit muellaw.com

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. 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.

Giving Back for Equal Opportunities

Feature Attorney Frank Cservenyak

Giving Back for Equal Opportunities

By Rachel Barks

The Will County law community has multiple leaders of the trade dedicated to giving back to the coming generations. Frank Cservenyak of Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC from Joliet, Ill. is one of those leaders.

This year Frank Cservenyak and Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC are joining an annual collaboration with the Will County Bar Association, the Black Bar Association of Will County, Latino Bar Association of Will County, Will County Women’s Bar Association and Spesia & Taylor Attorneys at Law to sponsor the 2022 Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship.

Cservenyak grew up less fortunate in a two-bed apartment with his mom, which opens his heart to sponsor giving back to younger individuals who may have similar struggles.

“I hope these students can see in me, a young kid from the South Side, that ‘if he can do it, so can I.’ I think it’s an important message to send to young people, that this is possible, you can do it with the desire and discipline,” Cservenyak said.

He believes this scholarship to be realistic and tangible assistance with a monetary aspect to it, and it makes him think of his role models and support system when going through law school. He hopes this will be encouraging to students and remind them that their dreams are just that: tangible.

“The purpose of this program is to encourage diversity within the Will County legal community by awarding a scholarship to an incoming first year Black or Latino Law Student,” the Will County Bar Association website said.

Recipients of the Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship can earn up to $46,000 to assist in paying for their legal education by practicing law in Will County after graduation, which will allow them to insert themselves into the community.

Cservenyak is one of Chicago’s premier personal injury attorneys and has been in the practice of law for 34 years. He practices in several counties such as Will, Grundy, DuPage, Cook, Kendall and Kane. He is also a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and Illinois State and American Bar Associations.

Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC started in 1998 with Cservenyak being one of the firm’s founders. They wanted to do things a little differently and provide even better service to their clients, thus starting their own law firm and making a leap of faith to go digital.

“I think you have an obligation to give back to the community in which you are successful,” Cservenyak said. “I don’t think you can be successful without giving back.”

Cservenyak also believes these scholarships give current students who are considering applying the chance to look at past recipients and know that if that individual can do it, they can too.

Last year’s recipient of the Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship was Adrian Gomez, a Rockdale resident, and son of immigrants from Mexico, with the aspirations of becoming a lawyer.

“I hope students from all walks of life can look at this and go “hey, I can do this,’” Cservenyak said.

For more information on the 2022 Will County Legal Opportunity Scholarship or to apply visit https://willcountybar.net/scholarship/.

To learn more about Rathbun, Cservenyak & Kozol, LLC and Frank Cservenyak visit https://www.rcklawfirm.com.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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.