A legal career was not the long-time calling for Brad Windings ’21 that it is for some who come to Illinois Law. Having grown up working on farms in small-town southern Illinois, Windings figured agriculture was where he would make his living. He began his college career at Southeast Missouri State University, studying agriculture, but after an accident and some time off he was drawn toward law school.
Where Windings really felt his calling was in giving back. Still in the nascent years of his career, he has found a way to honor that calling while growing as a lawyer through the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Fellowship, which allows him to provide 50% of his time working pro bono for Concordance, a nonprofit re-entry program aimed at reducing reincarceration in the St. Louis area.
“I wanted to do something where I was helping people, I knew that,” Windings said. “I wanted to be in a place where I could use my JD to help people who were less fortunate than I was. When I saw this position, it seemed like a great fit and a unique opportunity.”
As the senior fellow, Windings works directly with individuals in anticipation of and after their release from prison. There are several aspects of Concordance’s program, including substance abuse treatment, group and individual including cognitive therapy, mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, career and life skills, and legal services. Windings explained that he and the junior fellow work together to run warrant searches and find any open or pending legal cases that need to be resolved to limit each individual’s involvement in the justice system and aid their re-entry from prison. Other tasks might include child support modifications or obtaining reinstatement of participant’s driving privileges.
“Anything we can do to help the participants succeed, we try to do it,” he said.
One thing that helped direct Windings toward this work was his time working in the Immigration Law Clinic with Professor Lauren Aronson, which he called “by far my best experience in law school.” As part of the Class of 2021, however, Windings’ law school experience was affected by COVID, which made some opportunities unavailable to him and his classmates.
Though he was unable to, for example, visit Costa Rica as part of Professor Heidi Hurd’s environmental law class, Windings appreciated how she connected his legal education to his agricultural roots. He also fondly recalled his time on campus taking classes such as legal writing with Professor Janice Pea, whose baked goods left a lasting impact.
Now Windings is doing his best to use his legal education to make an impact in the St. Louis area, and he’s grateful to have the opportunity to pay his good fortune forward through his work with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Concordance.
“I’m getting to work on complex cases, complex legal issues, and important, impactful litigation while also helping someone rebuild their life and try to stay out of jail,” he said. “It’s extremely personally rewarding and I think it’s set my legal career up for success. Bryan Cave is one of the largest firms in St. Louis, and they have a strong commitment to giving back to the community. I can’t think of a better place to start my legal career.”