I also had a chance to learn a bit about where Mario came from and how he worked his way up to the top leadership in the ABA YLD.
Mario is proud to be a first generation college graduate and, of course, a first generation lawyer. With a father from Mexico, he is half Hispanic. Mario speaks fondly of his upbringing in a single-parent family, that parent being his mother. After secondary school, Mario enrolled at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. In 2000, he graduated with his B.S., majoring in criminal justice. From there Mario worked for two years as a clerk and paralegal before going to The John Marshall Law School, where he earned his J.D. in 2005.
After passing the Illinois bar exam, Mario began work with his employer of close to seven years, the Law Office of Peter Anthony Johnson, P.C. The Johnson firm consists of two lawyers, Mario and Johnson himself. Mario’s practice includes general litigation and small claims, with a specialization in landlord/tenant, real estate, and collection work.
Since his first days practicing law, Mario has appreciated the importance of giving back through bar service. Although Mario found the ABA YLD very early in his career, he began with service to the Chicago Bar Association (CBA). Mario served on the CBA Committee on LGBT Rights, later becoming the committee’s vice-chair and chair. Mario’s work on LGBT rights for the CBA led to his involvement in the National LGBT Bar Association. In 2006, Mario was chosen to become the LGBT Bar’s National Representative to the ABA YLD. As National Representative, Mario had a seat on Council, where he has served ever since. During his time as National Representative, Mario wasn’t comfortable just doing one job. This would become a trend during Mario’s bar service as the years passed. During the 2006 bar year, Mario opted to also serve on the ABA YLD Diversity Team.
During the 2007 bar year, Mario was selected to serve on the Division’s Resolutions Team, which is tasked with developing the resolutions that are considered by the ABA YLD Assembly at each meeting, and the National Conferences Team. In addition, Mario was appointed to be the Assembly Parliamentarian by then Assembly Speaker, Deb Smith. All the while, Mario continued to serve as National Representative for the LGBT Bar and on the ABA YLD Diversity Team.
The years 2008 and 2009 brought Mario’s elevation to leadership within the ABA YLD. He was appointed to be the Assistant Diversity Director for 2008 and Diversity Director for 2009. These positions are responsible for leading the ABA YLD Diversity Team. In addition to his work for the Diversity Team, Mario also served on the National Conferences Team and continued his work for the LGBT Bar. As if that wasn’t enough, Mario was also appointed to serve as the Division’s Liaison to the ABA Center for Racial and Ethic Diversity.
In 2010, Mario transitioned from Diversity Director to become the Division’s Conference, Programs and Products Director. Mario told me that in that position he focused on planning for conferences, reviewing program submissions, selecting conference programs, working with program leads, gathering information for program titles and descriptions, selecting and organizing speakers, working with host committees on planning both educational and social events, and assisting with obtaining sponsorships. It was clearly a busy year! When asked how he thought the four ABA YLD conferences went, Mario reported that everybody enjoyed themselves and that the topics were beneficial to the Division’s membership. Although there were a few hiccups, Mario is happy to say that the conferences ran smoothly overall.
Mario is especially excited about a new speaker database that was created during his year as Conference Director. The database will be a centralized location for names and bios of potential speakers for programs. Mario hopes it will be useful in planning both Division and Affiliate programs in the years to come.
With his new position as Secretary-Treasurer, Mario will automatically elevate to Chair-Elect and then ABA YLD Chair. As Secretary-Treasurer, Mario says that he will focus on planning for next year’s budget. He wants to work with the ABA YLD staff to find better ways of putting information together for reporting purposes and for responding to member questions. Mario will immediately start looking at conference locations for the fall 2013 and spring 2014 conferences. Let him know if you are interested in vying for a conference in your home town. Mario also will begin considering what he wants to do for his member service, public service, and Affiliate service projects in 2013.
Though it may come as a surprise, Mario tells me that he is glad to have had the opportunity to run in a contested election and that he “enjoyed every minute of it.” Mario says that the election process provided him with the opportunity to meet affiliate leaders and members from around the country and to talk about the Division and its goals. In the end, Mario believes that the contested election process is nothing but good for the Division. The first step for Mario was winning the election. Now he moves on to the important work of serving our Division, its members, and its Affiliates.