Head shot of John KimOur Commissioner Spotlight series highlights the judges, lawyers, and educators from across Illinois who have been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to serve as our Commissioners.

These individuals are known for their commitment to professionalism and contributions to the bar and their communities.

This Commissioner Spotlight highlights our Chair, John Kim, who counsels on labor and employment matters as Associate General Counsel at Edward Jones.

John currently serves on the Board of Directors of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Law Foundation and is on the state-wide boards of legal services providers Prairie State Legal Services and the Immigration Project.

John joined the Commission on Professionalism in 2019. He was appointed Vice-Chair in 2022 and Chair in 2024.

What drew you to the legal profession?

As the son of immigrants, the impact of the law and lawyers on migration and immigration drew me to the profession.

During college, I studied abroad in Kenya working with faith-based organizations and civil society. Shortly after graduating, 9/11 occurred. Though I was working in Washington, D.C. at the time, part of my response to 9/11 was to return to Kenya to work as a refugee and asylee caseworker.

I eventually returned to Washington, D.C. for law school and then came home to central Illinois to practice. However, throughout my career, I have retained an interest in immigration law as part of my work and pro bono activities.

What have you found most rewarding about practicing in central Illinois?

The collegiality among lawyers in various practice settings.

I spent the first half of my career in private practice and the second half as an in-house lawyer. I found building relationships and engaging with colleagues in local bar associations (Peoria County and McLean County), as well as the opportunity to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives, to be very rewarding.

Central Illinois is a great place to live and practice.

What unique professionalism challenges do in-house counsel face?

As an in-house lawyer, in addition to staying on top of legal and regulatory updates, one must stay ahead of the fast-paced nature of business and innovation in order to provide timely legal advice.

Today, the advent of generative artificial intelligence has accelerated the need for all lawyers to gain competence in this technology, which will continue to change the way we practice law and serve clients.

What can law firms do to better support Asian American attorneys?

Go beyond mentorship to sponsorship.

Often throughout my time in private practice, I did not see anyone in partnership or leadership who looked like me when I gazed up or across.

However, while in private practice, I was fortunate to have role models who included me in pitches, assigned me to complex matters, and invested in my development.

Law firms need to continue creating equitable spaces for diverse attorneys to develop and grow in the practice and in client development. Law firms should also encourage engagement with and sponsorship of NAPABA and its local affiliates as a source of support and networking.

How does the NAPABA Law Foundation work to increase access to the legal system for Asian Pacific Americans?

One of the primary programs of the NAPABA Law Foundation (NLF) is the Community Law Fellowship, which is a funded two-year, public interest fellowship for a recent law school graduate serving AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] communities.

These fellows are hosted at national legal advocacy organizations and local legal services providers that serve AAPI communities.

Launched in 2004, NLF is currently supporting the 12th Community Law Fellow in improving access to justice for AAPI communities.

How should those in less racially diverse areas of Illinois execute diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives?

The first step is learning more about diverse groups and initiatives in your community.

Take on-demand CLEs through the Commission on Professionalism’s website and invite speakers for in-person presentations.

Partner with your local bar association to establish a diversity committee, then define goals and take action.

The diversity journey is one that we are all on. Learn from and partner with a sister bar association that has had success in this space.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy watching (and driving) my three daughters in their various activities. I also love to travel with my family and plan trips to experience different cultures.

Our Commissioner Spotlights recognize the judges, lawyers, and educators from across Illinois who serve as our Commissioners. Check out more interviews with our current and past Commissioners here.

Commission on Professionalism Releases Oral History Interview With Judge Edmond E. Chang, First Asian American Article III Federal Judge in Illinois

Commissioner Spotlight: Judge Bonita Coleman, First Judicial Subcircuit of Cook County

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