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Practice News

Judge Enjoins State from Implementing DS-1 Disclosure of Financial Interest Form

Posted on July 2, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund, Inc. (ATG) prevailed in its request for a stay of implementation against the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The judge granted ATG’s request for a stay of implementation of the revised DS-1 form until a hearing on the merits. He found particularly compelling ATG’s argument that attorneys should not be required to disclose their fees to third parties and that the IDFPR does not have the authority to regulate attorneys’ fees.

ATG believed the form, which is meant to disclose to consumers the fees related to title and settlement services, does not accomplish its intended objective, contains terms that are confusing to consumers, exceeds the regulator’s statutory authority, and shows serious bias against lawyer agents both in the disclosure form itself and in the instructions for completing it.

The Algorithm Behind the Curtain

Posted on July 2, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Computer algorithms guide and propel decisions we make every day, from the shows we choose on Netflix to the purchases we make on Amazon. Algorithms also operate behind the scenes of our professional lives. Susan Nevelow Mart, director of the University of Colorado Law School library, recently published a study (see https://bit.ly/2GJBmwW) that compared how six legal search platforms reacted to identical keyword queries. She and her team looked at the first 10 cases retrieved by Westlaw, Lexis Advance, Fastcase, Casetext, Ravel Law, and Google Scholar. She found, on average, that each platform listed four cases that did not appear within the first 10 results of any of the other platform’s top10 results.

U.S. Attorney's Office Seeks Assistant U.S. Attorney

Posted on June 29, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

The U.S. Attorney's Office Central District of Illinois is accepting applications for an assistant United States attorney opening in its Criminal Division.

Applicants must possess a J.D. degree, be an active member of the bar (any jurisdiction), and have at least two years post-J.D. legal experience. U.S. citizenship is required.

Preferred qualifications: excellent academics, significant litigation experience, criminal law experience, strong legal writing skills, and a demonstrated commitment to public service

Best Practice Tips: Elder Law Firm Expanding into Personal Injury and Other Areas

Posted on June 27, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am a partner in a four-attorney law firm in a small town south of Waco, Texas. We have two partners and two associates. Our practice is limited to elder law, estate planning, and estate administration. The practice was formed 30 years ago by the two partners. The firm has built a strong brand, does a significant amount of business in several other counties, and is doing well financially. Our main problem is that we are overwhelmed with work and we need to hire an additional attorney. We have interviewed an attorney with some limited experience in small business corporate work and estate planning. However, most of his experience is in personal injury plaintiff, criminal, and family law. If he joins our firm, he wants to continue to develop these practice areas as well as bring his personal injury, criminal, and family law cases with him. Bringing him on board could solve our lawyer staffing issue as well as increase our business. Should we bring him on board?

New Illinois Supreme Court Rule Requires Specific Language for All Civil Summons

Posted on June 27, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Effective July 1, a new Illinois Supreme Court Rule requires the following language to be added to all civil summons:

“E-filing is now mandatory for documents in civil cases with limited exemptions. To e-file, you must first create an account with an e-filing service provider. Visit https://efile.illinoiscourts.gov/service-providers.htm to learn more and to select a service provider. If you need additional help or have trouble e-filing, visit http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/FAQ/gethelp.asp.”

Think Twice Before Responding to Negative Online Reviews

Posted on June 25, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

More than nine out of every 10 consumers use reviews to make decisions. Nearly as many trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Regarding the legal profession, of the 58 million people who sought a lawyer in 2012, more than 75 percent used online resources in their search.

Good online reviews can be a great thing for your firm; they essentially translate into cheap and effective advertising. But what happens when a negative review of your services lands online? How do you react? Should you react at all? 

Best Practice Tips: Associate Attorney Compensation and Motivation

Posted on June 20, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Asked and Answered 

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

Q. Our firm is based in Springfield, Ill. We have four partners and four associates. We are a general practice firm. All of our associates have been with the firm for more than 10 years, and they receive $100,000 base salaries plus discretionary bonuses. Our associates are excellent attorneys; however, none of them bring in any business and their production numbers are low. Annual billable hours are below 1,200 and working attorney fee collections are below $300,000. We have not given raises or bonuses for the last several years. We are losing money on some of our associates and not even covering our overhead, alone making any profit from our associates. We are at a loss at what to do. Please share any thoughts or ideas that you might have.

The Folly of Overemphasizing Emphasis

Posted on June 18, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Justice Michael B. Hyman of the Illinois Appellate Court – and one of the Illinois Bar Journal’s regular columnists – has had enough of bold, underlined, italicized, and ALL-CAPPED words and phrases. Don’t even get him started on redundant exclamation points!!! 

We all may agree that such stylizations are all too common in our emails, texts, and social media posts. But Justice Hyman says such bad habits are making their way into legal documents meant to sway his opinion. In his June "Judging Your Writing" column, the justice – in no uncertain terms – says this isn’t a good idea. 

Illinois State Bar Association Assembly Approves Proposed Rule on Succession Planning

Posted on June 18, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

The Illinois State Bar Association Assembly approved a proposed rule on succession planning for lawyers during the 2018 Annual Meeting. 

It would require all Illinois licensed private practice lawyers to name a designated representative on their ARDC registration documents or certify that they have made a similar designation in a succession plan or other valid document. The designated representative would have the authority to take limited fiduciary action in the event that the designating attorney dies, becomes disabled, disappears, or abandons the practice.

Spiros Law Files Suit against Peoples Gas on Behalf of 17 Mahomet-area Residents who had their Drinking Water Contaminated by a Gas Leak

Posted on June 14, 2018 by Rhys Saunders

Spiros Law, P.C., filed a lawsuit June 13 in Champaign County Circuit Court against The Peoples Gas Light and Coke Company (Peoples Gas) on behalf of families affected by a gas leak from Manlove Field, an underground natural gas storage facility operated by Peoples Gas in rural Mahomet. 
 
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of 17 people who reside in six homes serviced by five private water wells. The complaint outlines 52 counts against Peoples Gas and one of its top employees, Thomas Davis, that include negligence, private nuisance, trespass, breach of contract, consumer fraud, and battery. The plaintiffs are seeking an award of damages for health exposures, property damage, financial loss for decreased property value, loss of use and enjoyment of their property, loss of quality of life, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The complaint also requests a court-ordered injunction prohibiting Peoples Gas from injecting any more natural gas into the ground below the Mahomet Aquifer.

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