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The Magazine of Illinois Lawyers

August 2017Volume 105Number 8Page 10

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President's Page

New Judges, Lawyers Face Similar Challenges

New judges and lawyers both face obstacles and frustrations. For lawyers especially, ISBA resources can help.

Hon. Russell W. Hartigan

As I traveled recently in Cook and the collar counties I observed many lawyers who sought to be judicial candidates, either slated or without party support. As a private practitioner for many years before becoming a Cook County judge, I'm struck by the similarities between the paths of a new judge and a new lawyer.

The candidates for judgeship are an exuberant group, hoping to be called "judge" and ready to handle any call. Their enthusiasm is commendable and I wish them good luck.

However, that enthusiasm can wane a little when the reality of that first assignment sets in. Consider the example of former Cook County Judge Richard Cooke, who spent thousands getting elected but declined to serve in traffic court. He ultimately resigned shortly after taking office.

Traffic court is where Cook County judges generally begin. I actually didn't know where traffic court was before I started (I found it in the bowels of the Daley Center). However, the traffic court assignment is a rite of passage and judicial experience can be gained there.

In fairness to chief judges, they have the unenviable task of controlling the assignments of elected and appointed judges, as well as probation department employees and other staff. They have to create a budget for their personnel and go to the county board for funding. There is a lot on their plates.

Being a judge sometimes requires being a team player. Judges who exercise too much independence can face an expensive election challenge. And even a judge who wins an election can get an unfavorable judicial assignment and then has to cope with it.

At law firms, young associates sometimes get stuck behind a partner who doesn't help, mentor, or advance their career. They are under pressure to generate billable hours and, sometimes, to attract new clients. All this while the stress of student loan debt weighs on them.

Young lawyers going solo should be applauded for their grit and determination. As a judge, I gave them every consideration, since they are usually stretched well beyond their means.

The good news: When it comes to private practice, especially in the solo or small-firm setting, the Illinois State Bar Association offers help. Two new members-only resources are IllinoisLawyerFinder, our lawyer directory for consumers, and PracticeHQ, our online one-stop source for practice management and technology information, including checklists, articles, and training videos created and curated by the experts at Affinity Consulting.

What can be more important to your success as a lawyer than getting clients and making your business more efficient and productive? Both IllinoisLawyerFinder and PracticeHQ are free to ISBA members. Visit www.isba.org to learn more about these and other benefits.

The law is still a noble profession, and people in power, whether in the judicial or private sector, should be mindful of that. As a lawyer you get personal satisfaction from a well-written motion or argument for a client, a significant win at trial, or success at attracting new business. It's nice to serve and satisfy clients and be complimented by them.

Ideally, our professional goals fulfill our expectations. Let us pave the way for younger lawyers (my son Michael included) and for members of historically disadvantaged groups so they can be proud of being lawyers. Let's mentor and extend a helping hand to the many who will need practice management advice. Let us be positive to young lawyers and encourage them to be professional in all their undertakings.

Compassion, assistance, and communication from members of the bench and bar help bolster new candidates for judicial office or new lawyers starting out with a firm. Be positive and complimentary. Help new judges and lawyers succeed. Their success pays dividends for all of us.