Perkins Coie



Pro Bono Rank Firm
(Am Law 200 Rank)
Am Law
Pro Bono Score
Average Pro Bono
Hours Per Lawyer
% of Lawyers
With More Than 20 Hours
Perkins Coie (67)


Patrick Collins is well versed in the special brand of politics often practiced in Illinois. While an assistant U.S. attorney, he supervised an anticorruption unit and led the eight-year investigation and eventual prosecution of former Illinois governor George Ryan. So when another Illinois governor was arrested for allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, Pat Quinn, the then lieutenant governor, called Collins and The Am Law Pro Bono 100asked him for help in cleaning up the state government.

"Pat Quinn told me that he thought we had an integrity crisis, and he asked me to lead a citizens' commission to propose reforms," says Collins, who joined Perkins Coie in 2007 after 12 years in the U.S. attorney's office. The Illinois Reform Commission, created in January, was meant to evaluate current Illinois law with a special eye on ethics and then propose reforms to the state legislature. The commission was given 100 days to present its findings before the executive order that created it would lapse.

To do the work, Perkins donated more than 5,000 hours of pro bono service between January and April. Collins says that there were few attorneys in the 70-lawyer Chicago office who weren't involved. The commission evaluated campaign finance and government contracting, among other things. Public hearings and town hall meetings were held throughout the state. "Perkins was involved in virtually every aspect of the commission," says Collins. "It went from interviewing witnesses at our hearings to researching laws around the country to actually drafting the entire report."

The commission outlined its reform proposals at the end of April. Collins lobbied for the commission's suggestions to be incorporated into law in front of the Illinois legislature, which had to act before it went into recess on May 29. "They were all pretty aggressive reforms," says Collins.

Too aggressive, apparently. The legislature only passed a few substantive reforms, ignoring most of the committee's proposals. "We pushed the agenda forward, but we didn't get what we thought was attainable and achievable," says Collins. "The legislature left the real core issues on the table, and we are disappointed in the outcome."

Even though he was stung by the legislature's refusal to act, the white-collar litigator says he would do it again. "We were at a unique period in Illinois history," says Collins. "I just appreciate the opportunity to do my part."

—Francesca Heintz | July 1, 2009

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