This February, my spotlight is aimed at Long Grove resident Beth McCormack. Beth was recently named one of the Top 50 Women Attorneys in Illinois in addition to being named one of the Top Attorneys in Illinois by Super Lawyer magazine.
That’s quite a resume in itself, but Beth involves herself in so much more. She’s quite a remarkable woman and going into law was something she’d never imagined during high school. After being advised by guidance counselors that the secretarial track was for her, she never prepared with college prep classes. She says, “As a result, I went on to community college and obtained an associate's degree that I later learned would not go toward an undergraduate degree. I worked as a legal secretary for a year and the next year, while clerking for Judge J. G. Townsend in Champaign County, he encouraged me to become an attorney. He told me I could do it."
While under the tutelage of Judge Townsend, Beth saw not only what domestic violence was, but also its effect on the entire family. Beth says, “I was blessed to be in a family where everyone had a voice and I had no idea life could be otherwise. From that experience, I was able to reflect on my adolescence and realized my best friend was a victim of teen dating violence. It was then, I knew I had to fight for survivors of domestic violence.”
At this point Beth went back to community college to get another associate's degree that would transfer and then finished her collegiate years with a degree from Illinois State University in sociology. It was there that Beth participated on a mock trial team and loved the courtroom experience. From there, she headed to The John Marshall Law School and “quickly learned that family law was the only way I was going to be able to fulfill my dream to help others and make a difference in women's and children’s lives.”
Beth initially represented survivors of domestic violence in obtaining orders of protection and divorces and, in 1994, she started the first domestic violence unit in McLean County.
Fast-forward to 1998 in Chicago, where Beth started a firm with partners Kamerlink, Stark, McCormack & Powers, who will celebrate 15 years together this June. Until 2008, Beth continued to represent survivors of domestic violence. Then, she says, “I made the mindful decision to turn over the reins of my litigation practice to my partners and associates and build our firm’s collaborative practice.”
So what’s collaborative law? Here’s Beth’s reply:
"Collaborative practice is a needs or interest-based style of negotiation where parties and attorneys work together, often with other professionals, including financial and mental health professionals to provide a holistic framework for the family to move forward after the divorce. The couple signs a contract stating they will not go to court except to finalize the matter and that they will resolve all of their differences with the help of the professionals no matter how difficult it will be. I chose to practice this type of law because it allowed me to 'problem solve' rather than to 'seek and destroy.'"
Her commitment to supporting survivors of domestic violence hasn’t wavered; she’s just using another vehicle to help. Beth has served on the board of Between Friends, a group that actively supports building communities without domestic violence. Her firm started a monthly program where attorneys from their practice would present various topics on a monthly basis. But that wasn’t quite enough. She says, “I started an annual gala at the agency in the late 1990s which is now known as The Bubble Ball. I have chaired the event at various times and my husband and I have provided financial support to the agency throughout the years. As a result, the agency has chosen to honor me as the Community Partner Friend of the Year at this year’s Bubble Ball.”
This year, the Bubble Ball will take place March 9 at the River East Arts Center. Pictures from previous years as well as auction items are on its Facebook page. Tickets can be purchased at the Bubble Ball website.
“I’m incredibly humbled to receive this honor. I am hoping that this recognition will inspire others to find their passion, whatever it may be, and go out and serve in whatever way they can," Beth says. "If you don’t have time, you can give money and if you don’t have money, you can give time. Whatever you do, just give because in the end it makes you feel really, really good.”
Well, that sums it up, folks. Beth is a great woman who not only works hard and is recognized by her peers for such, but also gives hard with both time and money, which is evident by her success with the Bubble Ball.
Please email me if you know someone who should be in the spotlight. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.