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ISBA Statehouse Review for the week of Sept. 29

Posted on September 29, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

ISBA Director of Legislation Jim Covington looks at bill in Springfield of interest to ISBA members. This week he looks at: Public Act 97-148 access to a principal's medical records by his or her agent under a power of attorney for health care; House Bill 1589 may pass in veto session changing law on custody and visitation orders  for deployed service members; House Bill 1712's amendatory veto that affects limited powers of attorney for property by financial institutions for limited business purposes.

Does your law firm need a virtual reality?

Posted on September 28, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

Do you really need that expensive office space you're leasing? Internet-based legal software lets you cut costs while expanding your potential client base by taking part -- or maybe all -- of your practice online. In the October Illinois Bar Journal, Peter Olson explains what he other ISBA lawyers, like Cheryl Morrison of Mokena, are doing to create virtual practices.

Best Practice: Law firm upstream mergers/acquisition - Merging with a larger firm

Posted on September 28, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Q. Our firm is a three partner general practice firm in a small community. Our ages are 72, 68, and 64 respectively.  Our firm has not adequately prepared for succession/exit of the partners. We have over the years hired associates but have been unable to keep them - they have all left for greener pastures. We are now contemplating merger with a much larger firm that has 40 plus attorneys. We have had several meetings at the office and we have provided them with our financials. They have not provided us with detailed information. We are getting frustrated. It has been over four months since we began talking with this firm and we seem to be "stuck" and not maintaining momentum. We have other options that we have just begun exploring. How can we get "unstuck" and move this process along?

A. Right off the bat - admit that this is not a merger of equals - it is more of an acquisition.  Hopefully, you have discussed firm name, whether your existing office will be retained or closed, and the future roles of each you as well as your staff. These are often deal breakers and many firm merger talks never get past this point.

Illinois Supreme Court disbars 12, suspends 43, censures 10

Posted on September 26, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the filing of disciplinary orders involving a number of licensed lawyers. The Court has disbarred 12 lawyers, suspended 43, censured 10, remprimanded two and transferred three others to inactive disability status. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics law.


  • Catherine M. Brame, Bloomington

Ms. Brame was licensed in California in 1987 and in Illinois in 1994. She was disbarred in California for misappropriating over $80,000 in client funds. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred her.

  • Richard William Fischer, St. Louis

Mr. Fischer was licensed in Missouri in 1991 and in Illinois in 1992. He was disbarred in Missouri for accepting a $5,000 retainer and then failing to perform any legal services or return the retainer to the client. He also did not pay his bar enrollment fee, failed to comply with continuing legal education requirements, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law while he was suspended, failed to file state tax returns, and did not cooperate with the Missouri lawyer disciplinary authorities. The Illinois Supreme Court imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him.

Legal services funding

Posted on September 23, 2011 by James R. Covington

As Congress negotiates the FY 2012 budget during the next few weeks, funding for legal aid may be drastically reduced. This couldn’t come at a worse time for those Americans who need the help that LSC provides. The Census Bureau’s recently released statistics cite that one in five Americans qualify for civil legal assistance at LSC programs. This includes 1.8 Illinois residents. These difficult times makes legal aid more important than ever. We need your help to make sure that the Illinois Congressional delegation understands the importance of LSC funding.

The Legal Services Corporation is the federal government’s principal means of funding legal aid for low-income Americans. LSC funding enables legal aid organizations to provide essential legal assistance to thousands of people in Illinois, including military families and veterans, domestic violence victims, the growing number of people facing foreclosure and many others who depend on legal aid for their safety and independence.

Please take a moment to act. Please call Senators Durbin and Kirk and your Representative and urge them to support funding for LSC at no less than $396 million for FY 2012. You may find your representative here. This amount is roughly proportionate to the overall discretionary spending levels approved in the recent debt-ceiling agreement and approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Quick takes from Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Peterson v. Peterson, Jablonski v. Ford Motor Co. and In re Mulroe and criminal cases People v. Masterson and People v. White.


Petersen v. Petersen

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

This family law case resolved the appropriate means by which to apportion postdissolution decree college expenses where the judgment of dissolution reserved the issue for future consideration.

The Petersens’ 1999 divorce decree provided that the court “expressly reserves the issue of each party’s obligation to contribute to the college…expenses of the parties’ children pursuant to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Marriage Dissolution Act.”  The decree also ordered the husband (Kevin) to pay monthly child support.

In 2007, the wife (Janet) filed a petition to allocate past and future college expenses for their children.  The circuit court ordered Kevin to pay 75% of the total college expenses for all three children.  The appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that the 2007 petition constituted a modification to the 1999 decree.  It held that the circuit court could not order Kevin to pay for those expenses that predated the filing of the petition.

AOIC Director Cynthia Cobbs appointed to judicial vacancy in Cook County

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Thursday the appointment of Cynthia Y. Cobbs to a judicial vacancy in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Ms. Cobbs resigned her position as Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to accept the judicial appointment. She was the first woman and the first African American to serve as Administrative Director and her tenure as Director is the second longest since the position was established in 1960.

Ms. Cobbs was  named to the Cook County vacancy, at large, created by the retirement earlier this year of Henry R. Simmons. Jr. The appointment is effective Friday, September 23 and terminates December 3, 2012.

Ms. Cobbs was named Director March 1, 2002 and has served under five Chief Justices. Her steady and loyal stewardship has helped guide the Supreme Court and the judicial branch through severe economic times, tight budgets and a technological revolution.

"She has served loyally and with dedication during rough economic times," said Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride. "The Court appreciates and values her long years of service and the numerous  innovations she has helped guide."

In “Eligible” IOLTAs We Trust

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

By Joseph R. Marconi[1]

Effective September 1, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court has amended Rule 1.15 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct respecting the safekeeping of client funds deposited in trust accounts. As professional fiduciaries, attorneys have long been required to keep their clients’ funds separate from their own. Now, the Supreme Court has limited the options for accounts to hold client funds, imposed new record keeping requirements on attorneys, and now requires banks to notify the ARDC when client accounts are overdrawn.

Specifically, Rule 1.15(a) limits the type of accounts in which client funds can be deposited to two kinds. The first is an Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA).  IOLTAs are pooled trust accounts that bear interest or dividends on nominal or short-term client funds—those funds advanced for costs or which belong in part to a client and “presently or potentially” to the lawyer.  The interest or dividends is paid to the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois (LTF) which donates the funds to organizations providing legal services to the poor.[2] An attorney or law firm can establish an IOLTA account by:

ISBA members now receive travel and entertainment discounts

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The TicketsAtWork Corporate Benefit Program offers Illinois State Bar Association members exclusive travel and entertainment discounts. There are over 400 regional and Nationwide offers that are not available to the general public, ranging from Las Vegas shows to Disney tickets. In Illinois, the discounts range from Blue Man Group in Chicago to LegoLand in Schamburg.

Check out the discounts at