Public Interest Law Initiative

Happy Valentine’s Day from PILI Alumni

Posted on: February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine’s Day! We spoke with one of our PILI Alumni Couples, John and Jami Gekas, about their experience as PILIs and how their commitment to service plays a role in their relationships. Jami was a PILI Fellow at Legal Aid Chicago in 2001 and is now a partner at Foley & Lardner. John was a PILI Fellow at Legal Aid Chicago in 2003 and is now a partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

Jami & John Gekas

How did you meet?

We met at Kirkland and Ellis, in 2002.  John was a summer associate in litigation and Jami was a first year associate in the IP practice group. We attended a group summer associate lunch at one of John’s favorite restaurants in Greektown, Athena. We discovered that we both had attended the University of Michigan, John for college and Jami for law school (Go Blue!), so we had an instant connection, in addition to our interest in the law. We were married four years later.

What was your favorite thing about being a PILI Fellow?

John: My favorite part of being a PILI Fellow was going to court every day. It was a great opportunity to get familiar with not just the formal procedures, but the informal practices of moving a case through the courts.

Jami: Being a PILI Fellow really helped me to keep things in perspective while studying for the bar exam.  Bar prep that summer was stressful, but at the end of the day, it was just a another standardized test, and I had been taking those my whole life!  Each of our clients in the family law group at the Legal Assistance Foundation (now known as Legal Aid Chicago), however, was trying to navigate our legal system, while simultaneously weathering major life changes and personal challenges.  The work I did that summer was not only interesting and educational, it was important – I was helping to make a real difference in the lives of our clients.  Whenever I would feel anxious about the bar exam, my work at LAF helped remind me of what really matters.

How has each of your commitment to service played a role in your lives and your relationship?

Jami: I got a lot out of my experience as a PILI Fellow, and it really set the foundation for me to continue to make pro bono work an important part of my practice. It was such a positive thing for me, so I urged John to be a PILI Fellow too, two years after I did it. His fierce dedication to his pro bono clients – which I first witnessed during his summer as a PILI Fellow – is one of the things I love the most about him! He always fights for what’s right, and never gives up. He was even recognized with a Pro Bono Service award from the Northern District of Illinois for his efforts in a civil rights case, where he served as appointed counsel on behalf of the plaintiff.  He makes me very proud, and I love that he is such a strong role model for our children.

John: Committing yourself to the service of others keeps you grounded, professionally and personally.

Meet other PILI Alumni couples »

Learn more about PILI’s Alumni Network »

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