EFFINGHAM — Barry Schaefer was a business major at Eastern Illinois University when he took a course that would change the course of his life.
"I took a course on business law and I found the subject so fascinating," the longtime attorney said. "The teacher was an attorney who also taught.
"Whatever he did, I found the subject really interesting."
Schaefer found it so interesting that he has pursued a legal career for more than 25 years. He opened a new chapter in his life Feb. 3 when he started working for the statewide grand jury bureau in the Criminal Enforcement Division of the Illinois Attorney General's office.
Born in Menomonie, Wis. as the oldest of four children, Schaefer moved to Effingham at age 8 when his dad Eugene opened Bobber's Cafe. After graduating from Effingham High School in 1978, young Barry began at Eastern as a pre-engineering major. But after changing majors, he graduated from Eastern in 1983 with a degree in administrative office management.
Schaefer then received a law degree from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and was sworn in as an attorney in November, 1986. By then, he had already been clerking at the Robinson law firm of Price and Shaner. After he passed the bar exam, he began handling a wide variety of cases.
Price & Shaner had been handling public defender duties in neighboring Jasper County during Schaefer's five years with the firm. After he opened his own practice in Newton in 1991, Schaefer remained the county's public defender.
Schaefer was drawn into the prosecution side in 1993, when fellow Effingham High grad Kevin Parker, who had been one year ahead of Schaefer at EHS, hired him as an assistant state's attorney for Effingham County. When Parker decided not to run for a third term in 2000, Schaefer ran to succeed him — but lost to Ed Deters by 500 votes.