The ambassador for Illinois' lawyer-discipline agency recently received an award from a national group of bar regulators for his achievements.
James J. Grogan, deputy administrator and chief counsel of the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, worked his entire 33-year legal career with the agency.
"Every day is something different," Grogan said. "I've never been bored for one minute in this job."
Grogan received the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC) "President's Award" at the group's mid-year meeting last week in New Orleans.
Grogan, a past NOBC president, received the honor in recognition of a lifetime of personal achievement, said ARDC Administrator Jerome Larkin, who received the same award in 2006.
"Nothing is more rewarding than being acknowledged by colleagues and friends," Grogan said. "It was a very humbling experience."
R. Michael Henderson, the ARDC's chairman, attended the award presentation and told attendees that he considers Grogan the agency's "ambassador to the world."
Grogan answers questions from lawyers, judges, the public and reporters, he said.
He "is the face of our agency and he is an ambassador to the profession on our behalf," Larkin said.
Grogan, 56, began work at the ARDC as a law clerk in 1979, while a student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
When Grogan got his Illinois law license the following year, he started with the ARDC as a lawyer handling disciplinary cases before the commission and Illinois Supreme Court.
Grogan continued as a trial counsel for the ARDC until 1988, when he became chief counsel. In that position, he helps direct and supervise a litigation group and serves as the agency's outreach coordinator.
Since 2007, Grogan also serves as the ARDC's deputy administrator, the No. 2 position among the staff of about 110 employees.
Grogan said he makes presentations at about 60 Continuing Legal Education events annually. That does not include the time he spends on the phone answering questions.
"It's a great opportunity to learn from (people attending CLE events) and also to impart some information," Grogan said.
George B. Collins, a partner with Collins, Bargione & Vuckovich, who regularly represents lawyers before the ARDC, called Grogan "effective, competent and honorable."
Grogan knows how to maintain the interest of an audience, along with providing information, he said.
"He knows the ethics area so well that he can address any part of it I think without preparation," he said. "He's a remarkably brilliant resource."
Larkin said he believes "the critical pieces of (Grogan's) success are incredibly good judgment, an encyclopedic knowledge of the law of professional responsibility and a gift of sharing that knowledge with others always with good cheer."
The most difficult part of Grogan's job involves sometimes delivering bad news to lawyers who can no longer practice, he said.
Occasionally, Grogan deals with veteran lawyers who experienced a physical, mental or emotional decline that impacts their law practice.
"But you have to treat all these people with the dignity they should be treated with," Grogan said.
Besides his outreach work for the ARDC, Grogan also teaches a professional responsibility course two nights a week at Loyola's law school.
"I love being near enthusiastic people, law students are enthusiastic people and they want to learn," Grogan said.
Grogan, a self-described news junkie, said he enjoys working with journalists.
"I think that it's an important part of government to be transparent and if I can help people understand the system, I think that's a very positive thing," he said.
This article appeared in the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. It was written by John Flynn Rooney, Law Bulletin staff writer
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