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ISBA, IJA to co-sponsor Civics Education program

Posted on October 10, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

Initial training for volunteer judges and lawyers set for Oct. 24

Through the initiatives of Illinois Judges Association President Michael Hyman and Illinois State Bar Association President Richard D. Felice, the two organizations have joined efforts to co-sponsor the IJA’s “Bringing the Courtroom to the Classroom” program. This innovative program is designed to bring civics education about the legal system and courts in Illinois to students throughout the State.

Hyman and Felice have focused efforts to engage high school students with civics education about our legal system. “Each wants kids to know about our legal system from those who know best about it,” explains Judge Mike Chmiel, who chairs the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Law Related Education for the Public. “Our goal is to increase the knowledge of individuals on the mechanisms that are basic to our system,” wrote Felice in the Illinois Bar Journal in July 2014.

The IJA program is being expanded to join a volunteer judge with a volunteer lawyer, who will each be trained to make presentations to high school students throughout Illinois. The first joint training for judges and lawyers will occur on October 24, 2014, at the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago.

Training is being required for the presenters, and will be provided by Judges Clare McWilliams, Eileen O'Neill Burke, and Chmiel. For more information about the program, or to reserve a spot at the training, please email or

Ethics Question of the Week: Can I represent the president of a client organization in a separate matter?

Posted on October 9, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

Q. I serve as in-house counsel for an organization and its President wants me to represent him in a small personal matter. Can I?

Seventh circuit upholds attorney fee award 50 times larger than verdict

Posted on October 8, 2014 by Mark S. Mathewson

In Montanez v. Simon, 755 F.3d 547 (7th Cir. 2014), a civil rights case, the plaintiff won a $2,000 verdict against a Chicago policeman for excessive use of force. The fee ultimately approved by the court for his lawyer? $109,000, reports Michael D. Bersani in the latest ISBA Local Government Law newsletter.

An outrageous aberration? Not so much, Bersani writes. The case "reflects the accepted notion in the seventh circuit that there is no strict proportionality rule when it comes to the application of fee shifting statutes," he said. The court also called out the “scorched earth defense strategy” that drove up the price tag. “This simple civil rights claim, overlitigated by both sides, took on all the protracted complexity of high stakes commercial litigation, replete with hard fought discovery battles and a mock trial,” the seventh circuit opined. Read the article.

Illinois Judicial Candidates rated in ISBA Lawyers’ Poll and Evaluations

Posted on October 8, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

Illinois judges running for election and retention, as well as candidates for Illinois judicial offices who won in the March 18 primary election, have been rated by Illinois State Bar Association evaluations committees, or in a poll of lawyers conducted by the ISBA. Results are available at

Best Practice: Consequences of waiting too long for law firm succession plan

Posted on October 8, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a solo practitioner in an estate planning firm in Carbondale, Illinois. I am the only attorney in the firm. I have one legal assistant that has worked for me for 10 years. I am 72 years old. I suppose it has always been my goal to practice forever as I have been in denial about my age. I have done nothing concerning the eventual transition of my practice and I don't even have anything in place in the event that I would become ill and out of the office due to illness. I am beginning to have more and more health problems and as a result I am coming to the realization that I must address the transition of my practice. Please share your thoughts.

Illinois Lawyer Finder makes over 800 referrals in September

Posted on October 7, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois State Bar Association’s Lawyer Finder Service provides referrals to local lawyers Mondays through Fridays. The Service makes referrals in a number of areas of law. For the month of September 2014, ISBA helped people in need of legal services find lawyers in the following areas:

Here are the results for September 2014:

  • 843 phone referrals made by Lawyer Finder staff
  • Most requested areas of law: Family (212), Personal Injury (141), Civil Disputes (75), Criminal Law (70), Real Estate (60), Civil Rights (44) and Employment Law (33).
  • 21,827 visits to (19,602 unique visitors)

Want to be part of the ISBA Lawyer Finder Service? Call (800) 252-8908 and ask for the Legal Department, or visit

Clients should call (800) 922-8757.

Peoria's Muir a shining example for McAndrews Award

Posted on October 7, 2014 by Douglas Knapp

By Michael T. O'Connor

Robert Muir of Peoria was the 2014 recipient of the John C. McAndrews Award.  He exemplifies what this award stands for, and at 80 years of age, Attorney Muir will celebrate 50 years of practice this coming November. 

After retirement from Caterpillar Inc. in 2004, where he was the head of the Intellectual Property Department, managing 50 people and a budget of more than $16 million, he took it upon himself to establish expertise in family law so as to provide pro bono assistance in a subject area of high need.  Since 2004, Attorney Muir has served 128 clients and has given 2,093 hours of his time.  Attorney Robert Muir began his long volunteer career with Prairie State Legal Services in October of 1999, the first time he volunteered at one of our divorce clinic.  It was the beginning of a long and rewarding partnership.  He was well aware that family law is the single biggest need for Prairie State’s clients, and that Prairie State’s scarce resources prevent us from assisting with all but the most egregious cases involving domestic violence. 

In 2013, Attorney Muir closed 11 cases for a total of 416 hours.  As a result, he obtained $22,764 in annualized child support, future pension payments, and college expenses for clients.  He has six cases pending and is in the process of taking on new cases. 

Illinois Bar Foundation to administer expansion of Illinois JusticeCorps

Posted on October 6, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Bar Foundation (IBF), the charitable arm of the Illinois State Bar Association, will administer the statewide expansion of Illinois JusticeCorps to recruit, train and supervise college, university and law students to serve as guides in courthouses.

Launched as a pilot project in Chicago in 2009, the program was expanded in 2012 with AmeriCorps funding from the Serve Illinois Commission, and additional funding and significant in-kind support from The Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) and the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice. The program currently provides assistance at the Daley Center in Chicago and courthouses in Markham and Bloomington. The IBF will administer the expansion into seven additional courthouses around the state including those in Rockford, Waukegan, Kankakee, Champaign, Galesburg, Macomb and Edwardsville. The CBF will continue to partner with the IBF for the Cook County portion of the program.

“Volunteers are trained to provide navigational assistance to unrepresented litigants in overburdened courts, often helping them find existing legal self-help centers so they are able to obtain the help they need,” said David M. Anderson, IBF executive director. “Their work does not replace the work of courts, attorneys, clerks or help-desk staff but complements it by helping self-represented litigants find available resources quickly so people can be served more promptly.”

Volunteers make a 300-hour commitment and come from local schools and universities including DePaul University, Loyola University, Governors State University, Roosevelt University, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, The John Marshall Law School and the University of Illinois at Champaign.

Celebrate Pro Bono Week by taking the Pro Bono Pledge

Posted on October 6, 2014 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois State Bar Association, along with the ISBA Delivery of Legal Services Committee, is proud to participate in this year’s National Celebrate Pro Bono Week from October 19 through October 25, 2014, and invites all ISBA members to get involved.  

One of the most fundamental American values is that we are all equal in the eyes of the law and the justice system, regardless of who we are, where we are from, or how much money we have. However, the justice system only works when people have access to the legal assistance they need.

National Celebrate Pro Bono Week aims to expand the delivery of pro bono legal services and increase access to justice. At a time when so many Illinois families are struggling, legal services can make a real difference in people’s lives.

ISBA members are urged to get into the pro bono spirit and sign the ISBA Pro Bono Partnership Pledge, encouraging attorneys to incorporate or increase pro bono services in their practice. If you are able, please donate the time to accept a new pro bono client; or consider making a financial contribution to an Illinois legal aid provider in your area.

Members are also encouraged to take advantage of a CLE program on Friday, October 24, in Joliet titled “Pro Bono Palooza: Family Law, Employment Law, and Ethics.” This program provides an opportunity for members to learn the basics of employment law and be introduced to more complex financial issues arising in divorces. Attendance is free to all attendees who commit to taking just one pro bono case.