A longtime Belleville lawyer will soon take over the helm of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
Gregory L. Shevlin, a partner at Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin, will be installed as the statewide organization's 59th president Friday at the group's annual convention in Chicago. He will succeed Chicago attorney Jerry Latherow in the one-year leadership post.
"He's a bright guy and determined," Latherow said of his successor. "A lot of people think of ITLA as a Chicago organization and it's not. It's important that we have people like Greg involved so we have communication with downstate legislators."
On top of carrying on the group's tradition of having a strong presence in the Statehouse, Shevlin plans to create a program that will put trial lawyers' skills to use in times of natural disasters.
Under his initiative, lawyers would volunteer to participate, receive training from the American Red Cross and when called upon, assist victims of disasters with their legal problems. Whether it's navigating those displaced by tornados or floods through federal emergency programs or the insurance claim process, Shevlin said he wants his colleagues to be ready to help if a disaster, like the tornado that hit Harrisburg earlier this year, occurs in Illinois.
Shevlin, 49, said the Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers created emergency response teams several years ago and helped those displaced by last year's tornado in Joplin. Setting up the program, he said, will be easier given that Missouri's trial lawyer group has already paved the way.
"It's something that has really been helpful for a lot of people and it's a way for our profession to give back," he said.
Referring to Shevlin's idea for the program as great, Latherow said it will not only benefit disaster victims, but trial lawyers as well.
"We help injured people and we help families who lost loved ones and I think Greg is taking that idea a step farther," Latherow said. "We all know we help people, but this is showing that we can help people not just in the courtroom and with insurance companies, but that we are here helping people in community."
St. Clair Chief Judge C. John Baricevic said Shevlin's desire to get fellow trial lawyers involved in the community stems from his personal dedication to do so.
On top of being a skilled trial lawyer with a great work ethic, the chief judge said Shevlin is active in the community, a great father and "is just a solid guy. The kind of person you want to be around."
Shevlin serves as a founding board member of the St. Clair County Bar Foundation, the relatively new charitable arm of the county's bar association, and has spent a fair share of his legal career volunteering for the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation.
Baricevic said he has known Shevlin since about 1988. Baricevic, who at that time was the St. Clair state's attorney, hired Shevlin to work at the office shortly after he graduated from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kan.
While Shevlin might be a natural fit for the legal profession, he didn't always plan on becoming a lawyer. He originally wanted to be a doctor and studied political science and philosophy at Benedictine College, a small liberal arts school in Atchison, Kan.
"But, then early on in college, someone steered me toward the law and I took to it," Shevlin said.
After about a year at the state's attorney's office, Shevlin took a job at his current firm. He's been focusing his practice on personal injury, products liability, medical malpractice, wrongful death and workers' compensation cases ever since.
There was a period of transition, but Shevlin said he quickly fell in love with being a trial lawyer.
"Once you get in there and you start doing it, maybe it's the adrenaline rush or something like that, but I got comfortable with it," he said. "There's a lot of thinking on our feet, responding to arguments by the other side, thinking of the right evidence to present and I really enjoy those aspects."
He also likes being able to help those who have been injured. No matter what case he is handling, Shevlin said he puts the same amount of effort into representing each and every person, whether the end result is viewed as a large or small case to someone on the outside."
With that in mind, Shevlin said he looks forward to his upcoming stint as president of the trial lawyers' association. Aside from his plan to create a program for lawyers to assist victims of disasters, Shevlin said he "will try to keep up with the work that all the former presidents started."
Shevlin said the past two ITLA presidents spent a fair amount of their time in Springfield, pushing proposals and fighting legislation. He expects he will follow suit.
Todd A. Smith, who served as ILTA's 2010-2011 president, was heavily involved in the group's lobbying efforts against the reforms to the state's workers' compensation system that Gov. Patrick J. Quinn eventually signed into law.
As the group's outgoing president, Latherow said he focused his time on pushing some of the ITLA's legislative priorities. He successfully lobbied for last year's passage of a measure that allows people to obtain the medical records of their deceased loved ones without a court order.
And this year, Latherow said, he pushed House Bill 5823, which deals with medical payments and reimbursements. The legislature approved the measure on May 31, the last day of the spring legislative session, and it now heads to Quinn's desk for his consideration.
Although he doesn't foresee any major legislative problems arising during Shevlin's time as president, Latherow said he has faith his successor will be able to handle whatever comes his way.
"My advice to Greg is to be yourself," Latherow said. "He's got a great reputation as a lawyer and in the trial lawyer circle, he has great credibility. He's a real personable guy and I think that personality will help him in Springfield."
When Shevlin isn't busy working, he enjoys spending time with his 9-year-old daughter, Olivia, restoring vintage automobiles, woodworking and flying planes. He said his law partner and fellow pilot, Bruce N. Cook, urged him to get his pilot's license.
"It's been really helpful for my work," Shevlin said, explaining that he occasionally uses his firm's plane to get to and from depositions.
Although he enjoys flying, Shevlin said his love for woodworking came first.
"It's something I started doing in law school," he said. "I enjoy it because it's something you can see immediate results with. The cases we do take a lot of time and sometimes you don't see results right away, but with woodworking and working on cars, you can get something accomplished and get immediate gratification."