Libertyville attorney wins lifetime achievement award
Attorney Gary Schlesinger of Libertyville earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lake County Bar Association this winter. | Photo courtesy of Schlesinger & Strauss, LLC
Where to find Gary Schlesinger
Schlesinger & Strauss, LLC
1512 Artaius Parkway, Suite 300
Libertyville, IL 60048
Updated: March 5, 2013 11:06AM
LIBERTYVILLE — Gary Schlesinger got into law with hopes of buying a fancy car and earning his family’s admiration, but he quickly learned the real reward is helping others.
Now in his 42nd year as an attorney, the Libertyville resident won the Lake County Bar Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award this winter. The honor is given every two years to a lawyer who is knowledgeable in his or her field and works to better the practice of law.
Schlesinger received multiple nominations, according to bar association President Marjorie Sher.
Looking back on his legal career as a family law attorney, Schlesinger shared how he got started and whether he still believes making a difference is possible.
Q: What made you want to be a lawyer?
A. I had a great-uncle who was a lawyer and every time there was a family problem, they said “Talk to him because he’s a lawyer and he’ll know what to do.” My father’s first cousin was a lawyer too and he had an Impala Supersport. In the late ‘50s to early ‘60s, that was really something. So I thought: “The whole family looks up to you to fix problems and you get the funds to buy a nice car. Seems like a pretty good gig.”
Q: What solidified for you the decision to go to law school?
A. When I got to college I was a sociology major. I was thinking I might do something else besides law. Then when I was a junior I spent a Christmas vacation in Kentucky with a group called the Christian Appalachian Project. I never saw anything like that. Such poverty. People were living in log cabins with cardboard boxes stapled to the logs to try to keep the winter out. One way I thought I could help people like that was to become a Legal Aid lawyer. I realized that you could use legal skills to try to bring about change.
Q: What do you remember about those early days in law school?
A. I started at Northwestern in 1967 and at the time it was very straight-laced. The attitude was that you’re joining a profession and people wore suits, ties and wing tips to classes. There were five women in our class and that was a record at the time. I suspect now women make up 50 percent of law school students.
Q: How did you keep trying to make a difference at that point?
A. A group of us got the school to open a legal aid clinic. The dental school had a clinic for low-income people, the medical school had one, but we didn’t. We opened in 1969 and there were seven of us who drew the first straw for who would get the first case. Everyone wanted it. We were all fired up and nowhere to go. I won and I’ll never forget the case. A 16-year-old girl came to us holding a baby and both of them had welts that her 18-year-old husband had inflicted with an electrical cord. This was maybe 20 years before the Domestic Violence Act. We got an injunction to keep him away from her and then we got them divorced. That’s how I fell into family law.
Q: Do you still think you’re making a difference now?
A. Yes, I do. It’s different now, of course. The change we’re making now is that people are in a bad family situation and hopefully we can help them get through it and come out the other end in better shape than they are now. We’re really practicing psychology within the confines of the legal system.