John N. Gallo, an adjunct professor at Notre Dame Law School and a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, has been appointed executive director of LAF, which is the Chicago area’s largest legal aid organization.
Formerly known as the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, LAF has provided free, comprehensive civil legal services to Cook County’s most vulnerable residents since the 1960s. Every year, the organization helps thousands of people obtain justice and start moving out of poverty.
“When the opportunity to join LAF presented itself, I recognized immediately that it would allow me to follow my passion to provide a voice for those in need while helping an incredibly deserving organization continue to grow,” said Gallo, who earned his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in 1983 and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1986.
“I’ve always felt that, as a lawyer, I have a responsibility to use my skills to provide services to individuals that otherwise could not afford legal representation,” Gallo said. “It is an honor to be selected to lead the city’s preeminent provider of legal services to people living in poverty and other vulnerable groups.”
Gallo has held several leadership positions at Sidley Austin during his 21 years at the law firm. He has served as head of the litigation group of more than 100 lawyers in the firm’s Chicago office and as global co-leader of Sidley Austin’s White Collar practice group. Before joining the firm, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney for 10 years in the Northern District of Illinois.
Since 2002, he has taught Federal Criminal Practice as an adjunct professor at Notre Dame Law School.
Throughout his career, Gallo has demonstrated a deep commitment to providing pro bono counsel to indigent criminal defendants and others in need. For example, he succeeded in persuading the Illinois Supreme Court and Illinois Appellate Court to overturn the conviction of a pro bono client accused of a 1978 murder, and a federal court to order a new trial for an Indiana inmate on death row. He is in charge of Sidley Austin’s Capital Litigation Project and personally represents two Alabama inmates on death row.
He will start as LAF’s executive director on Oct. 1.
The organization has more than 150 full-time attorneys and staff members who provide clients with comprehensive legal services that lead to healthier, more stable lives for people. LAF helps families stay in their homes and avoid homelessness; enables victims of abuse and trafficking to begin new lives in safety; ensures veterans receive the benefits to which they are entitled and children receive the special education services they deserve; protects seniors victimized by consumer scams and employees victimized by wage theft and employment abuses.
“John is a transformational candidate with an impeccable public service background and exceptional professional pedigree,” said Rich Klawiter, co-president of LAF’s Board of Directors. “His ability to think outside the box to conceive and implement innovative solutions will advance our mission to make legal services accessible to the most vulnerable members of our community.”