Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation recently honored its Executive Director, Lois Wood, for 40 years of service. Ms. Wood began her distinguished career with Land of Lincoln on August 9, 1974 upon graduating cum laude from Harvard Law School, where she had been President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.
Ms. Wood began her career with Land of Lincoln as a staff attorney working on consumer, public utility rate making and public housing issues in the East St. Louis office. She became managing attorney of the East St. Louis office in 1978 and from 1986 to 1996 she also represented financially distressed farmers in the Family Farm Law Project. In 2004, the Land of Lincoln Board of Directors promoted her to Executive Director.
At the celebration of her 40 years of service, Ms. Wood said that it has been her honor and privilege to have been able to spend her career promoting access to the civil justice system for low-income and disadvantaged residents of central and southern Illinois. She said she knew she wanted to work in legal aid after she met with her first client at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau during her second year in law school. She acknowledged the support she has received over the years from members of the legal community, and thanked the staff of Land of Lincoln for “being like a family.”
Ms. Wood has been actively involved in local and state bar associations, holding many leadership positions. She has also received many awards and honors throughout the years. In 1994, she received the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois Attorney Recognition Award. In 2002, she received the Chief Judge Richard A. Hudlin IV Memorial Award from the St. Clair County Bar Association. This award is in memory of the first African-American Chief Judge in southern Illinois and is presented annually for community service and professionalism. In his nomination letter to the St. Clair County Bar Association, Russell K. Scott wrote: “Lois Wood epitomizes the best our profession has to offer. Her many years of selfless service to the less fortunate throughout Central and Southern Illinois is a testament to both her character and her abilities.”
In 2003 Lois received the Kutak-Dodds Prize presented by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and the Robert J. Kutak Foundation. This cash award of $10,000 is presented annually to a civil legal services attorney for advocacy on behalf of the poor. In 2006 Lois received the Laureate of the Academy of Illinois Lawyers, Illinois State Bar Association. This is presented annually to lawyers who exemplify the highest ideals of the profession. In 2010, the St. Louis University School of Law Public Interest Law Group presented Lois with the Clarence Darrow Public Interest Law Group.