EAST ST. LOUIS — John Thies has been president of Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation for just a few weeks, but is already making an impact on the organization and its work.
Land of Lincoln provides eligible low-income and senior residents of central and southern Illinois witl legal services related to civil cases.
Thies, former president of the Illinois State Bar Association and a shareholder at Weber & Thies in Urbana, was sworn in as president June 22 and said this position is a continuation of the work he has been doing for years.
"I personally share the passion of doing whatever we can to provide legal services to the public, not just people who can afford it,” Thies told the Record.
One his first projects is working with the American Bar Association to change regulations regarding payment for law school students in clerk positions, requiring that students receive school credit as well as compensation. Thies said this change would have an impact on Land of Lincoln’s ability to recruit and retain attorneys.
“The cost of legal education is a huge issue that impacts a lot of front line lawyers and the ability of organizations like Lincoln to hire lawyers,” Thies said.
Another goal, Thies said, is to change the organization’s fundraising model from holding large-scale campaigns to focusing on annual giving from contributors.
Though Land of Lincoln employs more than 50 attorneys, the organization relies on outside attorneys who take cases pro bono to fill in the gaps. This work illustrate the philanthropic side of the legal profession, something Thies said is often overlooked.
More than 750,000 residents in Land of Lincoln’s coverage area are defined as poor by federal income guidelines, Thies said, and their biggest needs are in the area of debt and family law.
“People need to know their rights and government programs are often difficult to understand,” Thies said. “We are well positioned well to help with those issues.”
Over his years of work in legal assistance, Thies said he continues to see the low-income population struggle.
“It has not gotten any easier even though economy has improved,” Thies said. “Those improvements definitely have not been felt by everyone.”
Thies served as the 136th President of the Illinois State Bar Association from 2012-2013. He is also past president of the National Caucus of State Bar Associations, and is a member of the Executive Council of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.
Together with his wife, Terry, he has led church mission trips to West Virginia, Mississippi and Mexico. Thies received a B.A. in Economics from Indiana University in 1984 and a J.D. from the University of Illinois in 1988.