BLOOMINGTON — In certain families, career choices seem to be contagious.
For Jim Finegan, the legal profession he joined more than 40 years ago has become equally attractive to two of his sons, Phil and Rob Finegan. But with different areas of the law as their focus, the common bond of law degrees is where the similarities end for the trio of Bloomington attorneys.
Bankruptcy is the main area of focus for the Finegan Law Firm at 111 W. Front St., operated by Jim Finegan for more than two decades.
Phil Finegan divides his time between the family office and defense work under a contract with the McLean County Public Defender's office. He left the McLean County State's Attorney's office several months ago after about a year as a prosecutor.
The decision to leave the state's attorney's office was difficult, said Phil Finegan.
"People in the state's attorney's office are very close. It was unique to leave and have a full case load against the friends I just left," he said.
Among the co-workers he left was his younger brother Rob Finegan, who worked a stint in California's oil refinery business before going to law school.
Like his brother, Rob Finegan was looking for "courtroom experience and exposure," from the prosecutor's job.
Jim Finegan knew in grade school that he would be a lawyer when he grew up.
"I always tended to be fairly logical and confident. And I was never shy about public speaking," said Finegan.
An offer from Costigan and Wollrab brought Finegan to Bloomington for his first job after law school. When Finegan started his own firm and he and his wife Laurel started a family, their five children became familiar with the business.
"I was always interested in the law from watching Dad and from doing odd jobs around the office," said 34-year-old Phil Finegan. He recalls acting as his dad's courier, delivering paperwork to the Law and Justice Center.
Obvious to the Finegan children were the pluses and minuses of their father's job.
"I told them it was a lot of hard work and not an 8 to 5 job. But there's a certain satisfaction to having someone come in whose life is a complete mess and you're able to help them get back on track," said Jim Finegan.
From their positions on opposite sides of the courtroom, the Finegan brothers each see changes that they believe would improve the justice system.
Longer sentences beyond the 14 years available in most aggravated drunk driving cases would allow tougher consequences when a person has died, said Rob Finegan.
If expanded, the attention given to mentally ill defendants could keep more out of jail, said Phil Finegan.
"Sometimes problems go unidentified and situations are overlooked. We need to provide more treatment and that should happen before people go to jail," said Phil Finegan.