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Bringing public employee free speech claims

Posted on January 11, 2012 by Mark S. Mathewson

When you work for the government, your employer's ability to restrict what you say is more -- how to say it? -- restricted, thanks to the First Amendment. Not that there's anything wrong with that. "[T]he general public has an interest in the government working transparently, and punishing employees for speech may have adverse effects such as suppressing useful speech or deterring whistle-blowing," Matthew Feda notes in the most recent issue of the ISBA Labor and Employment newsletter.

But the law of public employee speech is evolving, especially in federal circuits like our own seventh. In his article, Feda discusses trends in the cases and offers "practice advice for attorneys, including when and how to bring a claim."

Best Practice: Starting a law practice - challenges and tips

Posted on January 11, 2012 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am an associate in a 6 attorney firm in Cleveland, Ohio. I have been a practicing attorney for four years and have been with my present firm since law school. I am considering starting my own firm. What is your advice for someone like me starting up a practice on a shoestring?

A. I receive at least 10 calls a week from attorneys that are in solo practice or are the sole owner of a small law firm with similar concerns and frustrations. However, there tends to be different needs and challenges depending which phase of development the firm is in. Here are a few survival tips for the first phase:

Phase I – Solo Startup

In this phase it is all about you. More than likely initially you will not have office staff. If you are a new attorney right out of law school you must learn your trade and develop competencies in lawyering and client service. Your first priority will be to supplement your law school education with nuts and bolts practice skills – and you will have to do it quickly. Since you won’t have a senior partner in your firm to mentor and train you – you will have to reach out to resources outside of your firm. You will not have an accountability partner in your firm. Your second priority will be getting clients. You will have to actively marketing and promote yourself and your practice. Funds may be limited so your largest marketing investment will be your non-billable time devoted to marketing and client development activities. Finally, your third priority will be getting paid by your clients. Self-discipline and exceptional time management and time keeping skills are critical success factors.

Cost to take Illinois Bar Exam jumps to $400

Posted on January 10, 2012 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court amended Rule 706 on Tuesday, raising the cost of taking the Illinois Bar Exam to $400 - up from $250. The cost of late applications increased $100 and is now $600. The cost of re-examination for those who have taken the bar and failed doubled to $300.

The deadline for the July bar examination was changed from Feb. 1 to Feb. 15. The deadline for the February examination remains Sept. 1.

Supreme Court Rule 706

“Recent Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court” airing on Illinois Law

Posted on January 10, 2012 by Chris Bonjean

Appearing on the shows are (from left) program moderator John T. Theis, Cecil J. Hunt II, Michele M. Jochner and Hon. Leonard Murray.“Recent Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court” will air on Chicago Access Network Television, Channel 21 in Chicago, at 10 p.m. as follows: Part I will air on Tuesday, Jan. 17, and Part II will air on Tuesday, Jan. 24.

Appearing on the shows are program moderator John T. Theis, a Chicago lawyer; Cecil J. Hunt II, a professor at The John Marshall Law School; Michele M. Jochner, judicial law clerk to Justice Charles A. Freeman of the Illinois Supreme Court; and Hon. Leonard Murray, an associate judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Illinois Law is a cable production of the Illinois State Bar Association and can also be viewed online at

Illinois Lawyer Finder makes 601 referrals in December

Posted on January 9, 2012 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 December 2011, ISBA helped people in need of legal services find lawyers in the following areas:

7th Circuit has opening for bankruptcy judge

Posted on January 5, 2012 by Chris Bonjean

The Judicial Council of the Seventh Circuit is seeking applicants for a bankruptcy judge position for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division headquartered in Rockford. An applicant must also be willing to travel to other courts in the circuit to handle cases as need arises. Interested applicants may obtain an application from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit website at

Persons interested in applying for this position should send their applications to:

Best Practice: Goals and Plans For Focusing the Law Firm in 2012 and Beyond

Posted on January 5, 2012 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. Our firm, a 12 attorney firm in Detroit, needs to find a way to improve fee revenues and financial performance  in 2012. We do not have a business or strategic plan, have never had a retreat, and we don't even have a budget. We believe that we must do something for 2012 and yet we are out of time since 2012 begins next week. Any suggestions?

A. Generating adequate fee revenue is the primary challenge for most law firms and this is where I would start for 2012.

I am a strong believer in the power of focused goals and objectives when integrated with a system of accountability. I have clients that have improved fee revenue by 20% (over a two-three year period) with existing headcount simply by establishing production goals for each attorney and paralegal in the firm - reporting, measuring and reporting goal v.s. performance monthly using simple reports, and follow-up with individuals behind on their goal attainment. Solo practitioners can use the same system and use a staff member, spouse, or coach to serve as an accountability partner. You might want to consider the following:

1. Ask each attorney and paralegal to provide SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and on a timeline - i.e 2012) goals for fee generation, fee origination, billable hours, etc.

2. Review and discuss these goals with each member and engineer an agreement (commitment). Insure that there is adequate stretch - but that the goals are attainable.

Protecting anonymous online speakers: Stone v Paddock Publications

Posted on January 5, 2012 by Mark S. Mathewson

Plaintiffs seeking pre-suit discovery to unmask the anonymous online posters who allegedly libeled them must first state facts that support a defamation claim, the first district held. Find out more in the January IBJ.

Want to run for ISBA office? Petitions are now being accepted

Posted on January 3, 2012 by Mark S. Mathewson

Interested in running for an elected ISBA leadership position? Petitions are being accepted through the end of January.

Visit the 2012 ISBA Elections page to download the Notice of ISBA Elections (it includes a list of available positions) and candidate packets and to access the online elections form to submit your biography and photo. Read all election material carefully for exact deadlines and procedures.

Beginning this year, all biographies and photos must be submitted via the online form. You must be logged into the ISBA website to access this page.

The dangers of litigating in the media

Posted on December 22, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

Clients often seek an advantage in litigation by publicly discussing an ongoing case. In the January Illinois Bar Journal, Richard L. Miller explains the perils of doing so.