Brent grew up in Villa Grove, working in high school for his father who owned the local newspaper. He received his undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, graduating with high honors.
In college, he was president of his fraternity chapter of Alpha Kappa Lambda. In 1987 he was elected president of the national fraternity which is headquartered in Indianapolis.
He was admitted to the University of Illinois College of Law and helped earn his way through law school by working as a law clerk for law firms in Urbana and then Mattoon. He excelled academically, graduating in 1978 magna cum laude and was named to the Order of the Coif, an honor reserved for the top 10% of the graduating class.
Brent worked as a law clerk for Mattoon attorney Harlan Heller during law school and was hired as an associate upon passing the bar. Harlan Heller, now retired, was considered by his peers as one of the most outstanding trial attorneys of his era. Brent credits his success as a trial lawyer to the invaluable experience he obtained from Harlan and second-chairing many jury trials with Harlan as the lead attorney.
A principal in the firm, Brent is an experienced and successful trial attorney. He has obtained substantial jury verdicts for his clients in both state and federal court. They include a $1,269,815 verdict in Coles county and the largest wrongful death verdict in the history of Effingham County, being in excess of $3 million.
He has appeared in circuit court in 42 counties throughout Illinois. He also has tried cases to verdict in the U.S. District Courts for the Central and Southern Districts of Illinois. He also has prosecuted appeals to the Illinois Apellate Court, the Illinois Supreme Court as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.
Brent handles a wide range of civil cases, including personal injury, wrongful death, products liability, trucking and motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, will contests, estate litigation, contracts, commercial cases, consumer fraud, real estate litigation and a host of others. He also handles worker's compensation cases and has an active docket of family law cases, including dissolution, custody, child support and paternity. "I love the challenge of having a diverse practice, as I believe it makes me a better lawyer."
He also does estate planning, probate and estate administration, organizing businesses, real estate and contracts.
Brent is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, the American Association for Justice, and is a past president and current member of the Coles-Cumberland Bar Association. Putting his journalism background to good use, Brent was on the Illinois Bar Journal Editorial Board from 1994 to 2006 and served as editor-in-chief from 2004 to 2006.
He was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2008 to serve on the IPI Civil Committee on Jury Instructions. This committee meets periodically in Chicago and prepares model jury instructions that are used by judges and lawyers in civil jury trials throughout Illinois' 102 counties. Currently Brent is vice-chair of IPI.
Brent gives of his time and talent by accepting pro bono cases from Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation through the Coles-Cumberland Bar Association Pro Bono Project. For this work he was honored as the 2011 recipient of the Joseph R. Bartylak award, recognizing outstanding volunteer service in representing persons who cannot afford to pay for legal representation.
Brent is active in the community, serving on the following boards:
* Immaculate Conception Church Finance Council
* Mattoon Area P.A.D.S. Community Organization which operates a homeless
shelter and soup kitchen and has programming to help its guests to obtain
housing, employment and to become self-sufficient
* Mattoon Golf & Country Club
He formerly served on the board of education of St. Mary's School.
Brent and his wife Kathy have two daughters. Rachel is a graduate of the University of Illinois and is working as a campus missionary for FOCUS at Eastern Michigan University. Melinda is a junior at the University of Illinois, majoring in food science.