A passion for the legal profession.
Graduating from John Marshall Law School in 1982, Joy Cunningham has practiced law in Chicago for over 30 years.
Over the course of her legal career, the native New Yorker served as associate general counsel, Loyola University of Chicago/Loyola University Health System; a litigator with French, Rogers, Kezelis & Kominiarek; Assistant Illinois Attorney General; judicial clerk to Illinois Appellate Justice Glenn Johnson; judge, Circuit Court of Cook County; and senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary, Northwestern Memorial System.
When discussing her current role, Judge Cunningham says being an appellate judge is “an intellectually challenging job. But I’ve practiced law, in one form or another, for many years and never had a job I didn’t like. I love getting up every day and coming to work.”
Early in her career, some challenges she faced were racial issues. “When I worked for Justice Glenn Johnson – [the second] African-American to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court – he said the Chicago Bar Association (CBA) had an ‘unwritten rule’ when he was younger that blacks and Jews weren’t welcome,” she recalls. “When he was able to join, he wanted to make changes from within the organization. So, he required all his law clerks to join the CBA.”
Years later, Judge Cunningham was elected president of the CBA. Being the first African-American woman to lead the organization, from 2004-05, she felt a great sense of responsibility to continue to be an advocate for diversity in the organization.
Today, the judge notes, “CBA activities are a great way to meet diverse groups of lawyers with similar interests. Chicago’s a great networking city. I love my hometown of New York, but it’s too big. If you’re serious about your profession, whatever it may be, you can establish a great network of professional colleagues that will help you grow in this city.”
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