This year, IIT Chicago-Kent is honored to welcome two speakers for the 2012 Commencement ceremony—Her Royal Highness (HRH) Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand, and Laurel Bellows, president-elect of the American Bar Association. The ceremony will be held at the UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt Rd., in Chicago on Sunday, May 13 at 2:30 pm.
Since joining the Office of the Attorney-General in 2006 until her recent appointment as Ambassador, Her Royal Highness served at various offices including the Executive Director's Offices of Criminal and Narcotics Litigation, the Offices of Public Prosecution in Udon Thani, Pattaya, and Nong Bua Lam Phu provinces and the Office of the Legal Aid and Protection where she served as the Provincial Public Prosecutor attached to the Office of the Attorney-General. Her Royal Highness is not only well-known for her acumen in prosecuting criminal cases, but she is also recognized for her engagement in various international conferences related to law and criminology.
From 2005 to 2006, following a graduate study in the United States, Her Royal Highness served as First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in New York, covering various issues of the Third and Sixth Committees of the General Assembly. She also played a key role in negotiating and reaching consensus on Thailand-sponsored GA resolution 60/177 "Follow-up to the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice." Her Royal Highness's involvement in the work of the 60th General Assembly accentuated her genuine interest in the nexus between legal affairs and multilateral diplomacy.
Additionally, Her Royal Highness has a keen personal interest in promoting women's rights, especially in the context of the criminal justice system. In 2006, Her Royal Highness initiated the Kamlangjai Project (Inspire) with the aim to improve the quality of lives of women prisoners in Thailand. In 2008, Her Royal Highness launched another project called "Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates" or ELFI to promote Thailand's proposal for international rules on women prisoners. This resulted in the adoption of the "United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders" or the "Bangkok Rules" by the General Assembly at its 65th session in 2010. Also, since 2008, Her Royal Highness has served as UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador for Thailand to raise awareness on violence against women. In April 2009, the UNODC awarded Her Royal Highness with its Medal of Recognition for her continued advocacy work on these issues.
Her Royal Highness's prime academic interest is in the field of criminal law. Her Ph.D. dissertation focused on the protection of the right of the accused, drawing from comparative analysis between different criminal justice systems. Her Royal Highness received Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) Degree from Cornell University in May 2005, after earning her Master of Laws (LL.M.) Degree from Cornell Law School in May 2002. Her Royal Highness holds a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) Degree from Thammasat University in Bangkok where she graduated in January 2000. In addition to her legal studies, Her Royal Highness also received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in International Relations from Sukhothai Thammathirat University in 2000.
Laurel Bellows, a principal of The Bellows Law Group, P.C. in Chicago, represents executives in the United States and internationally. Laurel is an experienced business lawyer counseling senior executives and corporations on employment matters, employment and severance agreements, executive compensation and workplace disputes. Her expertise in executive compensation matters also includes mid-level management compensation and benefit plans, and matters involving incentives, pensions, retirement and workforce restructuring.
Bellows is currently president-elect of the American Bar Association. Her one-year term as president will begin at the conclusion of the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2012. She has served as chair of the association's policymaking House of Delegates (2006-2008), the second highest elected office in the ABA. Bellows has also served as chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and as a member of the ABA Board of Governors, where she chaired the Finance Committee. She was also president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and chair of its Metropolitan Bar Caucus, ABA affiliates.
Bellows' work in the law and her community has been recognized by many publications. Crain's Chicago Business lists Bellows among its annual list of Power Players; in 2006, she was named one of the 28 Power Lawyers in the City by Chicago Magazine; she was cited as one of Chicago's 100 Women of Influence in 1996, also by Crain's Chicago Business; and Bellows was listed among Working Mother Magazine's 25 Most Influential Working Mothers in the country in 1997.
Bellows has been on the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on the Administration of Justice, and on the U.S. Senate Judicial Nominations Commission for Illinois. She has served as chair of the Chicago Network, a networking organization of diverse, professional women in the Chicago area. Bellows was the second female president of the 22,000-member Chicago Bar Association where she founded the Women's Alliance.
She is admitted and qualified as an attorney and counselor of the Supreme Court of the United States and is a mediator, certified through the Institute for Conflict Management. Bellows is licensed to practice in Illinois, Florida and California.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Loyola University School of Law, Bellows has practiced law for more than 30 years. She practices law with her husband, Joel, in Chicago. They have four children and four grandchildren.