Terrence J. Lavin, Class of 1983
Leading plaintiff’s attorney, now Illinois Appellate Court justice
Terrence Lavin was a civil trial lawyer for 27 years before being appointed as a justice of the First District Illinois Appellate Court in 2010. His law practice centered on personal, injury, wrongful death and medical negligence cases. Over the course of his career, he was an associate at Corboy & Demetrio, an associate at Wildman, Harrold Allen & Dixon, a partner at Power Rogers Lavin and the founding partner of Lavin Law Offices, where he practiced from 1994 through 2009. He also served for nine years as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent, teaching a Legal Writing course to third-year law students. Justice Lavin has published more than fifty articles on civil trial practice and has given numerous presentations to various bar associations.
Justice Lavin served as President of the Illinois State Bar Association in 2003-2004 and is also a past president of the Society of Trial Lawyers and the Chicago-Kent Alumni Association. He has been admitted as a Fellow to the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and was a twenty-year member of the Board of Managers of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association.
What was your favorite part of law school?
Law school, for me, was great because it taught me a new way of thinking. It didn’t matter whether it was Contracts or Criminal Procedure. I was interested in all of it. Whatever it was, it was flipping my brain around from college. I think what I really liked the most was getting up on your feet and responding to questions. The Legal Writing classes were just terrific.
What has been your greatest challenge?
I think the greatest challenge that almost any lawyer faces is how to separate yourself from the herd. There’s just so many people out there wanting to practice law, and how do you present something that’s different, that’s special? I opted to go outside the pack and do something a little bit different. I just trusted my gut and did things on my own after learning from my mentors.
What would you say has been your greatest professional achievement?
I would say that it was getting an article published that ultimately the Illinois Supreme Court used in changing an area of law. When I was a lawyer, I was reading an opinion one day on a very important issue in the cases that I tried, and a Justice cited an article that I wrote with a Kent student of mine on proximate cause in malpractice cases. To me, that was better and more meaningful than any multi-million dollar verdict I ever had.
How did Chicago-Kent prepare you for your present success?
I think Kent had the perfect combination of academic and street smarts. You had great professors, a great Trial Advocacy team and fantastic legal writing professors. It prepared us with the things you needed to know in your head and the things you needed to know on the street. It was an effortless combination in my mind.
What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting out today?
Separate yourself from the herd. You do that by working harder than anybody else. A first year lawyer at a firm is measured by how hard he or she works amongst all the other people at that firm. You have to work so hard that after one year of practicing law you have the knowledge of a third year practicing lawyer. You have to aim for perfection.