The past 40 years of Dick L. Williams’ life has flown by, he said.



The past 40 years of Dick L. Williams’ life has flown by, he said.
In 1972, he established his office at 139 E. Washington St. In the years that ensued he watched his one-man law firm grow into a family affair.
 
Beginnings
Williams’ start in law came about because his father did not want him to be a jeweler.
Williams came from a long lineage of jewelers. His grandfather, father and uncles were all jewelers. Williams’ was growing up in Metropolis, in Southern Illinois, when his father was crippled by arthritis and blindness.  
“My father told me not to become a jeweler ... My dad talked about being a lawyer a lot. He respected them. He said there was no future for jewelers,” Williams said.  
Williams followed his father’s advice. Prior to opening his office in East Peoria,
Williams was an assistant state’s attorney for Peoria County for four years. He worked as a counseling deputy for the Department of Insurance from 1965 through 1968.
Williams graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in political science and also received his Juris Doctor in Law in 1965. While in law school in the 1960s, Williams participated in civil rights activities, including the Selma March. He ran for state’s attorney in Edwards County in 1968. After losing a close election, came to Peoria to work in the state’s attorney’s office with Robert Calkins, with whom he had worked in the Illinois Insurance Department, both as a student intern and later as an attorney.
He purchased the office building in East Peoria in the late 1970s. Then East Peoria Mayor James Ranney made a HUD grant available to Williams to remodel and restore the building. The grant enabled architectural plans to be drawn up by architect George Zimma to improve the three-tier flat roof and eliminate the front entrances. The redesign of the building completely remodeled the building with a cedar shake roof.

Williams has continued to improve the property by totally restoring the electrical and heating systems, and the interior of the building. A garden area in front of the building has recently added ornamental globes from Dutch Landscaping.
Williams said the practice of law, even after four decades, has not lost its attraction for him.
“I come in in the morning and look up and it’s 5 p.m.,” he said.
Part of the reason for the attraction is the ever-changing landscape of the law and the fact that he has changed.
“In the beginning, for me, it was about the victory. No, it’s about helping people. Everywhere I go I am approached by people that I have helped. I don’t remember some of them, but it’s nice to know I helped them.”
The law has changed for the good and bad, Williams said.
“In criminal law the people in the legislature think making laws stronger and tougher is the answer. All we have is full prisons,” Williams said. “But, there is also good. Look at Medicare and Medicaid. There are social networks to help people.”
 
Family
Williams’ son, Dick B., joined him after graduating from the University of Iowa with a degree in business finance and Northern Illinois University Law School in 1996.
His daughter-in-law, Sonni Choi Williams, was in the practice with him for a brief time before joining the City of Peoria’s legal department as a lawyer handling code enforcement and other legal issues for the City of Peoria.
Williams’ daughter, Jane Anne Williams Cervantes, received her degree in German Studies from the University of Arizona and her law degree from Northern Illinois University School of Law. She practiced law with the law firm of Williams, Williams and Loeffel, P.C., for three years prior to moving to California and opening her law office in Claremont, Ca.
Cervantes said her father inspired her to go into the law.
“Growing up I watched him helping people in need. He cared about his clients. That inspired me,” she said. “On days I can help someone, like my dad has, it’s a rewarding feeling.”
Williams’ youngest son, Andrew, has worked as an intern at the Williams Law Center this summer, and will be completing his final year of law school at Phoenix School of Law. Andrew received his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Iowa.
Andy said he enjoys working with his father. “It’s the only time he gets off our backs,” he said, laughing. “He’s so busy here.”
Andy said his father is the reason he took up the practice of law.
“Law worked out well for dad,” he said. “Being your own boss is a good thing.”
Williams’ wife, Jane, has been the bookkeeper for the law firm since its early days. Dick and Jane were married in 1965. She continues to do the accounting. She said his name may be on the door, but she is the boss.
“It’s a good partnership,” she said.
Their son, Benjamin, a graduate of the University of Indiana in history, works on the billings and book work at the office.
Williams said he was pleased about having so many family members in his law firm. It gives him some bragging rights.
“It feels great,” Williams said, laughing. “I’ve never met another lawyer who had three kids go into law.”