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Practice News

When law school theory meets practice

Posted on August 19, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
"In theory, you should never ask a question unless you already know the answer (and, presumably like that answer)," Maxine Weiss Kunz writes in the latest ISBA Young Lawyers Division newsletter. "But in application, sometimes the opposite will get the job done just as succinctly. Sometimes there is no room for theory in practice." She goes on to tell a clever and instructive tale about the time she decided to “[p]ut Mom on the stand and ask her all of the questions you would find on a completed Financial Affidavit,” thus effectively "conduct[ing] a discovery deposition during cross-examination of the defendant." No, it's not a true story. But it's "based on the stringing together of numerous true stories." Read it here.

Attorney's fees in family law cases

Posted on August 19, 2009 by James R. Covington
Public Act 96-583 was signed into law on Tuesday, August 18. It does four things affecting the award of attorney's fees in family law cases: (1) limits the presumption in favor of summary hearings to prejudgment cases, (2) tolls the deadline for filing a final petition for fees in some instances and permits a stipulated deferral of one year for such a filing, (3) eliminates the requirement that the attorney must file billing statements in court if he or she is seeking a consent judgment, (4) and expands the applicability for fee awards for hearings that are prompted by improper purposes. Effective January 1, 2010.

Four must-have tech tools for solos

Posted on August 17, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
Naperville lawyer, ISBA member, tech expert, and Solo and Small Firm Conference presenter Bryan Sims (aka The Connected Lawyer) says there are four must-have tools for sole practitioners: a smart phone, a laptop, a scanner, and a good backup system. “Unless you’re going to be tied to your office, you should have some sort of smart phone,” such as an iPhone, a BlackBerry, or a PalmPre, Sims told Helen Gunnarsson in an interview for the yet-to-be-released September Illinois Bar Journal. “You need something that will allow you to get your e-mail, look at documents, and otherwise get some work done when you’re out of the office.” As for laptops, Simms recommends buying a business class model directly from the manufacturer instead of the cheapest thing available. “If you’re using your computer for your law practice, you can’t afford to have it out of operation for a week,” he says. A scanner will help you create a paperless and a portable office. “I recommend that you keep all of your documents in .pdf format. If you want to keep the hard copy too, fine, but scan everything,” Sims says. Scanned documents are easy to manage and disseminate. Finally, you need a good backup system.

543 new public acts - 200 more to come

Posted on August 17, 2009 by James R. Covington
Governor Quinn has signed 543 new public acts into law. He will have another 200 to sign in the next 30 days. You may want to go to the General Assembly's homepage at and click on "public acts." It lists them in chronological order in the order he signs them. Some of these new public acts take effect the day he signs them and could affect your practice area.

Marchese named new Associate Judge in DuPage County

Posted on August 13, 2009 by Chris Bonjean
Chief Judge Stephen J. Culliton is pleased to announce that following a tabulation of ballots by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts in Springfield, the Circuit Judges of the the Eighteenth Circuit Court, DuPage County have appointed Paul A. Marchese to the position of Associate Judge. Mr. Marchese fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Judge Kenneth A. Abraham. He is a 1990 graduate of the John Marshall School of Law and is currently a DuPage County Assistant State's Attorney, supervising the Narcotics Unit.

Dirksen Courthouse to remain open during major 3-year renovation

Posted on August 12, 2009 by Chris Bonjean
Even during a three-year, round-the-clock renovation soon to be under way, the Everett McKinley Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, home of the nation's third largest federal district court, will remain open with normal hours for courts and government offices, the U.S. General Services Administration announced today. The phased construction, which begins in September, will be keyed to keeping the 30-story building open, along with its 57 courtrooms and 11 federal government offices. The renovation's major focus will be the replacement of the building's nearly 50-year-old heating and ventilation, fire alarm and lighting systems. Most work will be done at night and on weekends to limit disruptions. "The modernization of this architectural landmark designed by Mies van der Rohe exemplifies GSA's commitment to sustainable design," said GSA Acting Regional Administrator J. David Hood. "By making our public buildings higher-performing and more energy-efficient we maximize their value to the taxpayer. And with the benefits of new technology, we are renewing the future of this courthouse by building upon the creative energies that produced it and the stewardship that has preserved it." The building's largest tenant is the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois with 40 judges and more than 400 employees. The courthouse is also the seat of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Northern Illinois. Other tenants include the U.S. Attorney, U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Trustees. Chief Judge James F. Holderman of the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois acknowledged that the project will cause some disruption and inconvenience. He said, however, "We of the United States District Court, as tenants, look forward to working cooperatively with GSA to keep the disruption to a minimum and the courts running smoothly as GSA completes these necessary renovations."

Share your success story: Practicing law in a challenging economy

Posted on August 11, 2009 by Chris Bonjean
We've heard all the negatives, but now we want to hear the success stories and share them with ISBA members. For the premiere print issue of Illinois Lawyer Now Quarterly in September, we would like to feature how ISBA members are adapting their practices in light of the challenging economic climate.
  • Have you succeeded in attracting new clients or growing your practice despite the downturn?
  • Have you been able to cut your overhead while still maintaining the same level of service?
  • Have you been successful in finding a new job despite the current economy?
If so, we want to hear how you did it! Please send your story (as long or as short as you feel necessary) to Alexa Giacomini, ISBA Director of Marketing & Membership at

Dress for courtroom success, not distress

Posted on August 10, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
"The Seventh Circuit Bar Association has seen its share of lively conversations at its meetings over the years, says Chicago lawyer and member Jeffrey E. Stone. But federal Judge Joan Lefkow, known for her softspoken grace, never expected that a discussion she launched at the meeting in Indianapolis on May 19 would incite a passionate debate that reverberated in the national news and blogosphere." So writes Helen Gunnarsson in her cover story in the August Illinois Bar Journal. She goes on to explore the topic of that discussion -- appropriate courtroom attire -- and to tell us what judges and ISBA members have to say about it. Learn what to keep and what to cull in your closet.

Trading lower debt for higher tax

Posted on August 5, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
When you help a debtor-client negotiate a new deal with a creditor, don't be surprised if the debt reduction generates a tax increase. "[I]n a non-bankruptcy, noninsolvency context, debtors and creditors are often surprised that a debt modification that does not appear to reduce principal or the effective interest rate may nevertheless result in adverse tax consequences," writes Steven W. Swibel in the latest issue of the ISBA's Commercial, Banking and Bankruptcy newsletter. Learn more about the tax traps.

Memory mastery

Posted on August 5, 2009 by Mark S. Mathewson
"Do you ever find yourself frantic and frustrated at the time and energy you're wasting searching for a paper or file, maybe just before you have to have it for a client meeting or a court hearing?" Helen Gunnarsson asks in the August Illinois Bar Journal. "Have you forgotten someone's name at an inopportune moment? Do you watch others speak calmly and confidently without notes, and wish that you could do so as well?" If so you'll want to read Helen's interview with memory expert Paul Mellor and -- more importantly, and please don't forget -- make plans to attend ISBA's Solo and Small Firm Conference in October, where Mellor is a plenary speaker.