For the Love of the Law

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For the Love of the Law

Kobey Ronk, Staff Writer

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As adulthood is slowly approaching, we ask ourselves, what do we want to do? How long do we want to work? How much money do we want to make? These questions are easy for former city attorney of Granite City, Leo Konzen.

Leo was born in 1929 in Wood River, IL. He grew up in Wood River and eventually graduated from now East Alton-Wood River high school in 1947. He furthered his education and eventually got his law degree from Saint Louis University. His career in law after college would be paused as he was drafted for the Korean War, though he was never sent out of the states.

Involvement in community affairs is important as practicing law because if the community helps you, then you help the community.”

— Leo Konzen

According to Leo, at first he went into the wrong kind of law. He was working in St. Louis to start but did not like the kind of law he was practicing so he started looking for new options in business law. He is not a big fan of family law. Leo was also looking for new opportunity as he became engaged and it was, as Leo said, “time to grow up”. Luckily, a phase opened up in his home county right across the river and he couldn’t pass it up. That town just so happened to be Granite City. He was hired by Wesley Lueders in February 1957. Wesley was an outstanding judge and a well respected man in the county so Leo knew working for him would be an honor. Sadly, Judge Lueders died that next May from cancer.

Leo grew a special bond with former lawyer and partner at the firm, Randall E. Robertson. He worked with Randall for 50 years. When asked what kind of a person Randall was he described him as “Brilliant, articulate, an energetic lawyer who was accepted at all levels and treated everyone equally.” Randall taught Leo many great things and one special lesson was that “Involvement in community affairs is important as practicing law because if the community helps you, then you help the community.”

Leo served as city attorney for 4 years. The mayor at the time was the late Ron Selph. Leo was originally going to serve only 2 years as city attorney, but Mayor Selph asked him to stay for his first term. Leo’s son Brian Konzen, the current City Attorney, has served for 12 years and enjoys the position.

For being a big part of the Granite City community, you would expect that Leo would run for a political position, but he thinks differently. “I’m really not suited for that. I don’t always do what’s politically correct and prefer to be independent. It’s very hard to be independent when you have people relying on you. Nothing against the people who are in political office, it’s just hard for me to do.” He only served a year in office at Belleville Area College (now known as SWIC) because he was appointed to finish out a term. When asked if he would run for another term he denied.

He doesn’t have a “favorite” case, but some of his favorite memories with law is representing the Attorney General of Illinois at Lewis & Clark College.

After all these years people wonder why he still comes back to the office everyday? He loves where he works and what he does. “I enjoy it, I enjoy the lawyers and paralegals, it’s just kind of nice to do.” He is now 88, working in the same building, and with all the profit he brings into the firm, he only makes 15% of it. He doesn’t do it for the money, but for the love of his job. He has enjoyed working with his son, for it has been a transition from son to partner, and a learning experience for both. Leo plans to remain in the law firm and work as long as he can because he loves his job and community.