Member Monday: Ava George Stewart

Owner // Law Office of Ava George Stewart, P.C.

Description of your practice: 
I am a criminal defense attorney and owner of The Law Office of Ava George Stewart (est. 2005) in Chicago, Illinois.


Why are you a member of the WBAI?
I have met some of the most incredible practitioners through WBAI.  They have been the source of professional growth, clients, resources, sisterhood and fellowship in the Bar, and true friendships.   Many of our practices are unique and I earnestly don’t believe I would have ever met most of them but for my membership in the WBAI.

Additionally, through the WBAI I have been able to provide meaningful CLE and author pieces on matters of import across practice areas.  I also served as a co-chair for criminal litigation and that work assisted practitioners in the field.  Finally, serving as a member of the Hooten Committee was a highlight of giving back to the WBAI by ensuring its health with my fellow committee members.


What do you think is the best way to empower women in law? 
The best way to empower women in law is to assist them.  When we see each other we acknowledge the work.  And we ask, how can we assist.  It can be a challenge to even think about what one wants or needs.  The demands of the practice of law are numerous.  We support each other best when we acknowledge those demands and ask how we can lighten the load.

It seems like yesterday that past president, Hon. Patrice Ball-Reed, led by providing a simple example of how I would model empowering women in law.  We were at an event, and she told me she wanted me to meet a few people.  Apparently, she told them the same thing.  We were all, young attorneys.  We were in different substantive areas.  We bonded to the WBAI through the years and we developed a brain trust that continues to support each other.

A couple of years ago I was able to interview WBAI past president, Hon. Debra Walker, with another attorney, Kenya Jenkins-Wright.  Our interview landed in a publication of the State Bar Association.  In that interview, the challenges of being a woman and an attorney were highlighted.   I think my co-author and I simply saw a compelling and relevant piece with a respected jurist highlighting the issues.


What are you most looking forward to in the following year, personally/professionally?
Last fall I announced my candidacy as the first woman of color to run for Illinois State Bar Association’s Third Vice-President.  This is one more ceiling smashed.  I have traveled throughout the state, talking to members, many of them women in rural communities and many of them wise women who fueled my run as they became lawyers and active members of the ISBA over forty years ago.  It has been amazing to have women practitioners, all ages, all practice areas, and geography supporting me. That said, I have continued to be heartened by the support of my male colleagues as well. I can recall one lawyer I met in Normal, Illinois simply repeating that in all of his years as an active member of the ISBA he had never met a candidate as he shook my hand.  I view my candidacy as a connector to strengthen the State Bar Association for its members and for practitioners and the people we all serve throughout Illinois.

Ballots go out on March 26th.  I am asking for your vote.


Tell us something interesting about you.
Law is my second career.

Prior to becoming an attorney, I gained over ten years of management experience as Executive Director at several not-for-profit organizations, with a focus on homeless and disenfranchised women and children throughout Chicagoland. In addition to managing my law firm, I also teach Appellate Advocacy at The UIC John Marshall Law School.

Additionally, I am a Master Gardener.  I had to pass a test with quite a bit of chemistry and botany to achieve the title in addition to completing over sixty hours of volunteer work.  I declared at the conclusion of the Bar exam that I wouldn’t take another test.  I am glad I changed my mind.  It wasn’t until I completed the program that I realized why so many Master Gardeners were retired, not working full-time as lawyers.   This time of year, I start planting leafy green vegetables and earnestly considering how I will plant fewer varieties of tomato, peppers, and eggplant than I did last year.