As a Cook County judge, noted pre-trial mediator, and Partner at Goldstine, Skrodzki, Russian, Nemec and Hoff, Ltd., Hon. Russell Hartigan (’75) has left his mark on the Chicago legal community, in and out of the courtroom. As the 141st President of the ISBA, Hartigan has focused on helping attorneys manage their practices, helping smaller firms with succession planning, and providing support to new and young attorneys. In spite of his busy schedule, he found time to offer candid reflections on his John Marshall experience, and a few tips for recent graduates.
JMLS: What was your path to law school? When and how did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
Hartigan: While seeking my MBA at DePaul University, I would always listen to my best friends share stories of the various cases they were learning about in law school. That was what prompted my initial interest in law, but it was the Honorable Joseph Gill, a John Marshall graduate and the father of one of my best friends, who encouraged me to apply to John Marshall. I initially had many reservations about attending law school, but I decided to pursue a law degree anyway.
JMLS: Do you have a favorite memory of law school?
Hartigan: I was in my last class of the day when I was notified by Professor Donald S. Carnow that my wife was in pre-mature labor and that “I’d better get there as soon as possible.” Fellow students and staff found out about it, and they celebrated with me. It’s a very fond memory.
JMLS: Can you tell us one thing that your John Marshall classmates might be surprised to learn about you?
Hartigan: I never anticipated that I would become a judge at any point in my career or that I would become the President of the Illinois State Bar Association. It’s something that just happened in my career that I didn’t anticipate. *he asked me to omit that his classmates were surprised
JMLS: You practiced law for more than 30 years before you served as a judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County, in the Law Division and Fifth Municipal District, from 2010 through 2017. What compelled you to pursue the bench?
Hartigan: I have several friends who are judges, and they encouraged me to pursue the bench. And I have family members who are judges, like my cousin, Neil Hartigan, who was a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court. As a judge, I tried to help people when I could, and I loved the impact I had on my community.
JMLS: You retired from the bench and became President of the Illinois State Bar Association in 2017, where you have stated that one of your initiatives would focus on new and young lawyers. What advice would you give to some of our recent JMLS graduates as they enter the legal profession? What was some of the best advice you received at the beginning of your career?
Hartigan: I would advise them to take a law practice management course, if possible. They should also join the Illinois State Bar Association and become as involved as they can in the various committees. They should network as much as possible, write articles, and speak at CLE programs whenever an opportunity presents itself. Getting as much exposure as they can from their involvement is critical to their success, so that’s an area I advise our recent graduates to focus their energy on.
JMLS: In addition to your work with ISBA, you are a past President of the JMLS Alumni Association, an adjunct professor, a Distinguished Service Award recipient, and you have attended many of our alumni events. Why do you think it is important to stay connected to The John Marshall Law School?
Hartigan: I believe it is very important to remain connected to the John Marshall community, because it allows you to network and make connections with fellow alumni to build a referral source. Staying engaged in the legal community and with John Marshall allows you to put yourself out there and build a network.
JMLS: Will you share with us some of your hobbies or leisure activities?
Hartigan: I enjoy teaching and golfing. I also used to referee high school and college football games, which was something I enjoyed.