June 2016 • Volume 104 • Number 6 • Page 10
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Ciao for Now
Taking stock of - and giving thanks for - the hard work and accomplishments of 2015-16.
As I write my last President's Page we are well into May, my favorite month of the year, and our 2016 Annual Meeting is fast approaching. The time has come for me to say goodbye and to tell each of you that it has been an honor to serve as the 139th ISBA president.
New programs were initiated and challenges met as we all contributed our time and talent to the preeminent state bar association in the country - our ISBA! It has been an amazing, engaging, enjoyable, busy, and productive year; every day has been a highlight and I am proud of the progress we have made.
Each day of my presidency I was reminded that the lifeblood of the ISBA is our members who work tirelessly to represent their clients, support our legal system, and give back to the profession by volunteering with the association. I want to thank all the ISBA members who dedicated their time to support the initiatives, programs, and special events for my year and for our organization.
So, it's time to see how the 2015-16 year unfolded.
Proposed amendment to Supreme Court Rule 711. This was the main initiative for my year. I am pleased to report that the Special Task Force on Rule 711, chaired by the Honorable Michael Chmiel, worked judiciously and expeditiously to draft a proposed amendment that would permit private practitioners to have 711 limited license interns work for them. A petition for approval has been prepared and filed, and the proposal is under review by the Illinois Supreme Court Rules Committee.
The Special Committee on the Impact of Current Law School Curriculum on the Future of the Practice of Law in Illinois. Justice Anne Jorgensen, co-chair of the task force with Dennis Orsey, presented the group's findings and recommendations to the ISBA Board of Governors and then to the Assembly at the Midyear Meeting in December 2015. The 88-page report was overwhelmingly approved by both governing bodies.
As a follow-up, I invited all Illinois law school deans to attend a meeting at our Chicago office to discuss how to better address the issues and recommendations noted in the report. Seven of nine law school deans participated on March 3, 2016, and so began the first positive discussion on how we can work together to address those concerns. President-Elect Vince Cornelius has already taken steps to continue this initiative during his presidential year.
IllinoisBarDocs online legal forms were rolled out this year. The project provides members with a library of Illinois-specific automated legal forms in key practice areas such as family and real estate law. We now offer a low-cost set of affordable, secure, user-friendly forms that use document assembly to save lawyers time and reduce the risk of errors.
The Solo and Small Firm Practice Institutes continued for a second year. We reached lawyers across the state (in Bloomington, Rockford, Fairview Heights, and soon Rosemont, at the Annual Meeting) by bringing dynamic CLE speakers and topics focused on day-to-day practice. Lawyers have responded positively to these one-day programs, and I hope they will continue for years to come.
The emergence of limited license legal technicians (LLLTs) was noted at the June 2015 Assembly meeting. We heard a presentation on the subject by Paula C. Littlewood, executive director of the Washington State Bar Association, and Steve Crossland, chair of the Washington Supreme Court LLLT Board. The Washington Supreme Court has authorized LLLTs, who can advise and assist clients in many ways short of representing them in court.
A few other states are poised to follow suit. Timothy E. Moran of Chicago chairs a special ISBA task force to study what LLLTs, and entities such as LegalZoom and Avvo, mean for practicing lawyers, consumers, and other stakeholders in the justice system.
Civics education. The Standing Committee on Law Related Education for the Public and its civics education subcommittee continue to create programs for the classroom and the boardroom. Guest speakers and programs on civics education are available through the ISBA and I have supported the continuation of these programs. It was an especially rewarding experience to participate in this year's 34th Annual High School Mock Trial Invitational at the University of Illinois College of Law in April.
The ISBA Springfield office renovation has begun in earnest. The project is a much needed renovation of our 50-year-old, architecturally significant headquarters and will make the facility more accessible, useful, and user-friendly for our members and staff.
The Mutual Insurance Company renovation and relocation is complete, and the company is now on the eighth floor of 20 South Clark Street, one floor below the ISBA's Chicago office. A new staircase unites the ISBA and Illinois Bar Foundation offices with the Mutual headquarters. This new state-of-the-art office is spacious and available for member use. The ISBA is grateful to the Mutual and its officers for this member benefit and for all they provide to our members.
The current landscape of the profession is rapidly changing, and the ISBA is prepared to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of its members throughout this period of change. At the beginning of my term I initiated periodic sessions with the ISBA officers to assure that we are all involved as we formulate an approach to the changes and challenges facing our profession as they unfold over the next several years.
The ISBA family
Naturally, tending to these projects and the day-to-day business of the ISBA while keeping pace with my solo law practice kept me quite busy. However, it was a privilege and a pleasure to be invited to the various bar association meetings throughout the state. I traveled all over and took the time to visit as many members as possible.
I was impressed by the turnout at all of these meetings and the warm reception I received. In meeting so many wonderful lawyers across Illinois, I was also impressed by the dedication they have to our profession and our bar association. This is truly what makes our organization great.
And speaking of dedication and what makes our bar association great leads me to thank ISBA Executive Director Bob Craghead and the entire ISBA staff for all their support and assistance during my year. It is an amazing group of professionals who keep this organization running smoothly and efficiently. If I had the space I would name you all! I sincerely thank you for your time, talent, and efforts in contributing to my year as president.
I was especially pleased that Bob Craghead celebrated his 40th year with the ISBA during my presidency. I think we were all happy to see him on the cover of the Illinois Bar Journal. I was also thrilled when Bob and his wife, Fran, joined us on my president's trip to Sicily. I was able to put Fran in touch with Judge Linda Davenport, who traced Fran's Sicilian heritage/genealogy and actually found her family's hometown. Fran was even able to meet one of her Sicilian relatives on the trip. Thank you, Bob, for your wisdom, guidance, and friendship throughout my year.
We continue to work closely and cooperate with our supreme court, and we appreciate their support and involvement with the ISBA. All of the justices were responsive to requests we had this year and it was a pleasure to see them at local bar events throughout the state.
I was given the opportunity to speak at the memorial service for Justice Thomas Fitzgerald on May 11, 2016, at the Illinois Supreme Court Building in Springfield. As we remember Justice Fitzgerald, I will also remember the privilege I had to be a part of this memorable day. I thank Chief Justice Rita Garman for her gracious invitation.
I also want to thank Justice Anne Burke for recommending that I wear a wet suit during the Polar Plunge in Chicago, Justice Kilbride for recommending that I order the famous "Chicken George" at the Whiteside County Bar Meeting, and Justice Lloyd Karmeier and his wife, Mary, for joining us on the President's Sicily trip!
I certainly can't forget to thank my entire family: my sons, Dion, Michael, Ryan, Evan, and my wife, Jan. I was extremely grateful and proud to have my extended family attend the 2015 Annual Meeting when I was sworn in as president.
It has been a busy year for everybody. Jan has been by my side for more than 40 years, was a participant when I first started my law practice, and is still involved with it today. We have both enjoyed the "second family" we met through the ISBA over the years. I am grateful for her support, talent, and tireless efforts as she helped make it a great and enjoyable year for everybody.
I would also like to thank my loyal paralegal of 30 years, Rose Wisniewski, and my intern and John Marshall Law School mentee, Marie Sarantakis, for all their assistance during this busy year as well. I appreciate Rose's dedication, knowledge, and foresight and am grateful to her for keeping the law office running smoothly this past year. Marie is a bright, energetic, and talented third-year law student who has begun to transition into the practice of law. She serves on several ISBA committees and will continue to be an active ISBA member.
All presidents want to make their mark. Like those who went before me, I learned that it is the dedication, loyalty, and efforts of all ISBA members, staff, and volunteer leaders who serve on the Board, Assembly, section councils, and committees that make the difference. These contributors deserve the credit for bringing about positive change and getting the job done.
There is more to be done, of course, and the ISBA is in good hands as Vince Cornelius takes the helm. I want to thank all the presidents who have gone before me and shown me the way, especially Rick Felice. I also thank the current officers, Hon. Russell Hartigan and Jim McCluskey, for their support. And best wishes to David Sosin, and congratulations on his victory!
To serve as ISBA president has been the highest honor of my career. I appreciate this opportunity to give back to the profession and the organization that has served me so well for the past 34 years. I will forever cherish the experience and be grateful for the support of colleagues, friends, and family, as well as to members I have come to know this past year. Meeting and interacting with all of you has confirmed and renewed my passion for the profession. Thank you, and molto grazie,