Anita Alvarez, Class of 1986

First female and the first Hispanic Cook County State’s Attorney

Anita Alvarez

When Anita Alvarez was elected to serve as the Cook County State’s Attorney in 2008, she became the first female and the first Hispanic ever to hold that position. She has spent her entire legal career in the State’s Attorney’s Office representing the victims of crime in Cook County. Since taking office, Alvarez has stepped up the investigation and prosecution of public and government corruption; opened four new community-based prosecutions office; formed a mortgage fraud investigations and prosecutions unit; and worked to stem the tide of gang and gun violence in Cook County. She also created a Human Trafficking Initiative to crack down on individuals and human trafficking groups that exploit children and authored the Illinois Safe Children Act.

Alvarez began her career as an Assistant State’s Attorney in 1986 and steadily worked her way up through the ranks, handling hundreds of felony cases, including homicide, narcotics, armed robbery, criminal sexual assault and domestic violence. She has served as Chief Deputy State’s Attorney, Chief of Staff to the Cook County State’s Attorney, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Bureau, Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Bureau and Supervisor of the Public Integrity unity. Alvarez has also been active in various bar associations and organizations. She served as President of the Chicago Bar Association in 2009 and was a founding member of the National Hispanic Prosecutors Association and served as its President.

What advice would you give to a young attorney just starting out?

Especially if you’re coming out of this school, you have a solid base from which you can build. No matter what your interests are or what your specialties might be, I think what’s important in whatever job you get as a lawyer are the basics. Work hard, prepare. No matter what you’re practicing, that’s the key. You have to stay up on your case law and make sure you’re prepared. Stay active.

How did Chicago-Kent prepare you for your present success?

I think Chicago-Kent is a tremendous school. It gave me the basics that I particularly needed as a prosecutor. Kent gives you such practical experience, and I think when you walk out of Kent, you’re prepared to go wherever. You’re prepared to make that transition into the world. The emphasis Kent has always placed on the Legal Writing program and what it presents and offers. You have to know how to be a good writer.

What would people find most surprising about you?

I run 5 miles every morning. It’s my therapy; I always say. It’s not only physically great for you, but for me, it’s mental as well. It’s that one hour of the morning I have for myself, where I can de-stress. Sometimes if I’m on trial, I’m thinking about my case and my argument as I’m running along!

What were you like as a law student?

I was certainly not a student that raised their hand and asked to be called on. I was more behind the scenes and a little nervous, especially that first year. I sat in the back of the room and hoped not to be called on. It wasn’t until my third year that I was a little more settled in.

What does your future hold?

I love this job of being the Cook County State’s Attorney. Public service has always been my calling and I plan on continuing in public service. I think it’s the best fit for me with my background and training.