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Best Practice: Governance plan for a law firm

Posted on November 23, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. Our firm has 25 attorneys. We are located in the greater Washington D.C. area. I am one of three members on the Executive Committee. While we try hard to effectively manage the firm too many people are trying to make decisions on behalf of the firm, therefore nothing is getting done. All of the partners continually second guess everything that our committee tries to do. I have been told that we need a governance plan. What is a governance plan?

A. Sounds like your practicing attorneys are spending too much time on administrivia and there is not a definitive outline of roles and responsibilities in the firm. Everyone is dabbling in the day-to-day maintenance and administration of the office, leading to decreased profitability and billable hours. Not only are each of you practicing law, you are also involved in the everyday management of the firm as it relates to finance, staff and systems. Clearly these are roles within the office that could be delegated to a trained and professional administrator. It just takes a little push of encouragement and trust on behalf of the partners to let go of the day to day details of running the firm.

Illinois Supreme Court disbars 7, suspends 22

Posted on November 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court disbarred 7 lawyers, suspended 22, censured three and reprimanded five in its latest disciplinary filing. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics rules.

DISBARRED

  • Robert A. Drew, Marion

Mr. Drew, who was licensed in 1977, was disbarred on consent. He was convicted of attempting to provide contraband, heroin, to an inmate at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.  He was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

  • Scott Anthony Margherio, Metropolis

Mr. Margherio, who was licensed in 2009, was disbarred on consent. He made material omissions and misrepresentations to the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar and he was held in direct criminal contempt for appearing in court intoxicated while representing a client.

  • Jonathan D. McKee, University City, Mo.

Mr. McKee was licensed in Illinois in 1986 and in Missouri in 1987. He was disbarred in Missouri for misappropriating funds, falsely stating to a client that he had not received a settlement check from an insurance company, and for practicing law after he had been administratively suspended for failing to pay bar enrollment fees. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him.

2 finalists announced for associate judge vacancy in DuPage County

Posted on November 21, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Chief Circuit Judge Stephen J. Culliton has announced that following a Nov. 15 meeting of the Circuit Judges of the 18th Circuit Court, two finalists for the Office of Associate Judge have been selected. The finalists are seeking to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Judge George Sotos.The Circuit Judges will select from the following finalists:

  • Robert E. Douglas

Mr. Douglas is an assistant with the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office (2001-present). He is a 1982 graduate of the DePaul University College of Law.

  • Alexander McGimpsey III

Mr. McGimpsey is also an assistant with the Dupage County State's Attorney's Office (1992-present). He is a 1989 graduate of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

What can you count on these days?

Posted on November 18, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Does a statutory limitations period stated in calendar years end on the anniversary date or the day before the anniversary date? Two recent cases, one withdrawn and one with an Illinois Supreme Court Justice's pointed dissent, indicate that the answer you have been counting on may be subject to challenge.

By Joseph R. Marconi[1], for ISBA Mutual

Lawyers understand that every right, no matter how important, can be summarily extinguished if papers are not timely filed. The statutory timeliness of many key filings (such as a complaint) is set forth in terms of calendar years- i.e., the filing must occur "within one/two/three/ten years" of a "triggering event" (such as an injury or a contract breach). One important statutory deadline is the time within which to file a petition to vacate a judgment. The applicable deadline is found at 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(c) ("Section 1401(c)"), "the petition must be filed not later than two (2) years after the entry of the order or judgment."

Section 1401(c) identifies a clear triggering event-"entry of the order or judgment"-which is easily and unmistakably determinable. It also provides a clear time period within which to file-two years- a factor which is also easily and unmistakably determinable. The only possible variable is when to start counting down the two years-either on the day of the triggering event, or the day after the triggering event. If one starts counting on the day of the triggering event, then filing on the (second) anniversary date is one day too late, and thus, untimely. However, if one starts counting on the day after the triggering event, then filing on the second anniversary date is timely.

ISBA members save more than $500 on HP laptop

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The HP ProBook 6565b will be available to ISBA members for $610 starting Nov. 21.For a limited time, you can get the HP ProBook 6565b Notebook PC for just $610!1 The HP ProBook 6565b Notebook PC delivers the best balance of features, price, and performance, and now, the price is even better for ISBA members. The HP ProBook 6565b Notebook gives you on-the-go reliability wherever you’re working and enables incredible graphics, thanks to VISION Pro Technology from AMD.  You’ll also enjoy easy manageability, enhanced security, and extended battery life.

Get it now at the low price of $610. (Savings of $5201) Offer valid November 21 – December 2, 2011. (One per person while supplies last.) Buy online at hp.com/go/statebar. Or call1-888-202-4465 and mention STBAR. (Mon – Fri: 6am – 7pm (MST)*).

*U.S.-based call center will be closed for the holiday (November 25-27th) and will resume normal business hours on Monday, November 28th.

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Read PDFs (including ISBA newsletters!) flipbook-style on your iPad

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

In the latest issue of ISBA's The Catalyst, Janice L. Boback offers a list of apps any lawyer should love. There's one in particular that every iPad owner/ISBA newsletter subscriber should put to use immediately.

"The iBook app (free and built into the iPad 2) allows you to read books purchased from Apple’s iBookstore, but it is also a great way to read PDFs," she writes. "For example, you can download the PDF for this newsletter and press the button that says ‘open in iBooks’ and it will be added to your bookshelf. Once it is in your bookshelf, you can flip through the pages of the newsletter even if you aren’t online. Also works great for ISBA Fastbooks!"

ISBA Statehouse review for the week of Nov. 16

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

ISBA Director of Legislative Affairs Jim Covington reviews bills in Springfield of interest to ISBA members. This week he covers: cuts to Legal Services' funding, Senate Bill 1694, House Bill 1589, House Bill 1712, House Bill 1604 and Senate Bill 1259. Information on each bill is available below the video.

Legal Services' funding drastically cut.

The funding for Legal Services Corporation was reduced by about 14.8 % for FY 12. Fiscal Year 2011 funding was at $404 million, and the House Senate conference committee voted to reduce it to $348 million for FY 12.

Congress has settled on the halfway number between the House and Senate committee recommendations despite the fact that the overall cuts in this appropriation amount to 2%. This is a huge and disproportionate cut—more than $56 million. This has to be devastating for Legal Assistance Foundation,  Prairie State Legal Services and Land of Lincoln. As a practical matter, what this means for Illinois is about a $1 million cut for LAF and another almost $1 million combined cut for Prairie State and Land of Lincoln.

Best Practice: Contemplating merging with another law firm

Posted on November 16, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We are a 15 attorney estate planning firm just outside of New York City. Ten years ago we had 37 lawyers in the firm. We have had several defections due to internal management problems pertaining to structure and compensation. We have operated more as a group of solo practitioners than as a true law firm. Recently we have considered the option of merging with a larger firm. What are your thought regarding the pros and cons of doing this?

A. Research indicates that 1/3 to 1/2 of all mergers fail to meet expectations due to cultural misalignment and personnel problems. Don't try to use a merger or acquisition as a life raft, for the wrong reasons and as your sole strategy. Successful mergers are based upon a sound integrated business strategy that creates synergy and a combined firm that produces greater client value than either firm can produced alone. Right reasons for merging might include:

  1. Improve the firm's competitive position. Increase specialization - obtain additional expertise.
  2. Expand into other geographic regions.
  3. Add new practice areas.
  4. Increase or decrease client base.
  5. Improve and/or solidify client relationships.

I would start by thinking about your reasons for wanting to merge and your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions?

Book review: Breach of Trust

Posted on November 14, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Breach of Trust by David D. Ellis. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York 2011; 417 pagesBy Michael S. Jordan, Retired Judge – Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

David Ellis, the author of Breach of Trust, is a lawyer on the staff of the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan. He was the chief impeachment prosecutor on behalf of the Illinois House pursuing the impeachment of Governor Rod Blagojevich at the Illinois State Senate where the governor was convicted and removed from office. Ellis’ real life experience and the knowledge he acquired proved invaluable and fantastic as research and background to write this realistic, timely, and riveting novel.

Breach of Trust is a fast paced political thriller with murder, violence, and continual suspense as fictional hero, Jason Kolarich, a former prosecutor and acclaimed defense attorney, goes underground to settle a score. In the process Ellis has Kolarich pursue this saga with several of Ellis’ characters from his other works of fiction. Ellis cleverly unveils the levels of deceit, corruption, and intrigue in the politics of Illinois government.

DuPage County announces Veteran's Track

Posted on November 11, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Chief Judge Stephen J. Culliton, Chief Judge Elect John T. Elsner and MICAP Programs Judge Jane H. Mitton and State's Attorney Robert B. Berlin announced recently that a Veteran's Track is being initiated as a cooperative effort between the 18th Judicial Circuit of Illinois Drug Court and Mental Illiness Court Alternative Programs (MICAP) and the Veteran's Administration.

The mission of the Veteran's Track is to reduce the number of incidence crimes committed by verteran with substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and/or mental health issues as a results of their military service. This will be achieved by the operation of a highly structured judicial intervention process for these veterans that brings together Veteran Administraiton treatment services and intesnsive judicial monitoring through Drug Court or MICAP.

Participants will consist of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and who have received an honorable or general discharge from the military. For further information, please contact Jim Wojtas, Drug Court/MICAP Program Manager at (630) 407-8846 or james.wojtas@dupageco.org. The start date is Jan. 1, 2012.

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