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Best Practice: Reducing bar complaints and improving client service

Posted on November 30, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. Our firm has 14 attorneys. Just this year three of our more senior attorneys have had bar complaints filed against them. One has been disciplined by the bar. How can we improve this situation?

A. Hopefully you have the right attorneys on the bus and they actually care and see the importance and value of client service. If not - an educational program for the entire firm combined with a coaching program for the offenders, if needed, might be a starting point.

Here are a few other suggestions:

  1. Improve client selection. Learn to recognize problem clients and say no to some and do not represent them.
  2. Use engagement letters as a tool to manage client expectations. Under promise and over deliver.
  3. Ramp up your communications and communicate, communicate, communicate with clients as well as office team members. Communications problems with clients - both initially and later on in the engagement - is the root cause of most problems.
  4. Insure that you have effective office systems for managing client work production, conflicts of interest, calendar and docket control, and overall case management.

If all else fails you may have to roll up your sleeves that deal with a few problem partners.

Click here for our blog on client service

Click here for articles on other topics

Lyle appointed Circuit Judge of Cook County

Posted on November 29, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced that Freddrenna M. Lyle has been appointed Circuit Judge of Cook County, Second Subcircuit. This appointment fills the vacancy created by the retirement of the Hon. Michael W. Stuttley. It is effective Dec. 16, 2011 and terminates on Dec. 3, 2012.

Medical records of deceased family members

Posted on November 28, 2011 by James R. Covington

Public Act 97-623 was signed into law effective November 23, 2011. It creates a procedure and statutory form to allow certain family members to get the medical records of deceased family members without being forced to open an estate. A surviving spouse may make a written request for a copy of his or her deceased spouse’s records if: (1) An executor or administrator has not been appointed for the deceased’s estate; or (2) The deceased did not appoint an agent under a power of attorney for health care who was authorized to act for the deceased after death, and the deceased had not specifically objected to disclosure in writing.

If there is no surviving spouse, the records may be released if requested in writing by (1) an adult son or daughter of the deceased, (2) a parent of the deceased, or (3) an adult brother or sister of the deceased. Senate Bill 1694 also amends the Illinois Power of Attorney for Health Care to allow an agent to access the principal’s medical records after the principal’s death if the principal has delegated that authority in the power of attorney.

A copy of the Act may be found here.

Best Practice: Governance plan for a law firm

Posted on November 23, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. Our firm has 25 attorneys. We are located in the greater Washington D.C. area. I am one of three members on the Executive Committee. While we try hard to effectively manage the firm too many people are trying to make decisions on behalf of the firm, therefore nothing is getting done. All of the partners continually second guess everything that our committee tries to do. I have been told that we need a governance plan. What is a governance plan?

A. Sounds like your practicing attorneys are spending too much time on administrivia and there is not a definitive outline of roles and responsibilities in the firm. Everyone is dabbling in the day-to-day maintenance and administration of the office, leading to decreased profitability and billable hours. Not only are each of you practicing law, you are also involved in the everyday management of the firm as it relates to finance, staff and systems. Clearly these are roles within the office that could be delegated to a trained and professional administrator. It just takes a little push of encouragement and trust on behalf of the partners to let go of the day to day details of running the firm.

Illinois Supreme Court disbars 7, suspends 22

Posted on November 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court disbarred 7 lawyers, suspended 22, censured three and reprimanded five in its latest disciplinary filing. Sanctions were imposed because the lawyers engaged in professional misconduct by violating state ethics rules.


  • Robert A. Drew, Marion

Mr. Drew, who was licensed in 1977, was disbarred on consent. He was convicted of attempting to provide contraband, heroin, to an inmate at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.  He was sentenced to 16 months in prison.

  • Scott Anthony Margherio, Metropolis

Mr. Margherio, who was licensed in 2009, was disbarred on consent. He made material omissions and misrepresentations to the Illinois Board of Admissions to the Bar and he was held in direct criminal contempt for appearing in court intoxicated while representing a client.

  • Jonathan D. McKee, University City, Mo.

Mr. McKee was licensed in Illinois in 1986 and in Missouri in 1987. He was disbarred in Missouri for misappropriating funds, falsely stating to a client that he had not received a settlement check from an insurance company, and for practicing law after he had been administratively suspended for failing to pay bar enrollment fees. The Supreme Court of Illinois imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him.

2 finalists announced for associate judge vacancy in DuPage County

Posted on November 21, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Chief Circuit Judge Stephen J. Culliton has announced that following a Nov. 15 meeting of the Circuit Judges of the 18th Circuit Court, two finalists for the Office of Associate Judge have been selected. The finalists are seeking to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Judge George Sotos.The Circuit Judges will select from the following finalists:

  • Robert E. Douglas

Mr. Douglas is an assistant with the DuPage County State's Attorney's Office (2001-present). He is a 1982 graduate of the DePaul University College of Law.

  • Alexander McGimpsey III

Mr. McGimpsey is also an assistant with the Dupage County State's Attorney's Office (1992-present). He is a 1989 graduate of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

What can you count on these days?

Posted on November 18, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Does a statutory limitations period stated in calendar years end on the anniversary date or the day before the anniversary date? Two recent cases, one withdrawn and one with an Illinois Supreme Court Justice's pointed dissent, indicate that the answer you have been counting on may be subject to challenge.

By Joseph R. Marconi[1], for ISBA Mutual

Lawyers understand that every right, no matter how important, can be summarily extinguished if papers are not timely filed. The statutory timeliness of many key filings (such as a complaint) is set forth in terms of calendar years- i.e., the filing must occur "within one/two/three/ten years" of a "triggering event" (such as an injury or a contract breach). One important statutory deadline is the time within which to file a petition to vacate a judgment. The applicable deadline is found at 735 ILCS 5/2-1401(c) ("Section 1401(c)"), "the petition must be filed not later than two (2) years after the entry of the order or judgment."

Section 1401(c) identifies a clear triggering event-"entry of the order or judgment"-which is easily and unmistakably determinable. It also provides a clear time period within which to file-two years- a factor which is also easily and unmistakably determinable. The only possible variable is when to start counting down the two years-either on the day of the triggering event, or the day after the triggering event. If one starts counting on the day of the triggering event, then filing on the (second) anniversary date is one day too late, and thus, untimely. However, if one starts counting on the day after the triggering event, then filing on the second anniversary date is timely.

ISBA members save more than $500 on HP laptop

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The HP ProBook 6565b will be available to ISBA members for $610 starting Nov. 21.For a limited time, you can get the HP ProBook 6565b Notebook PC for just $610!1 The HP ProBook 6565b Notebook PC delivers the best balance of features, price, and performance, and now, the price is even better for ISBA members. The HP ProBook 6565b Notebook gives you on-the-go reliability wherever you’re working and enables incredible graphics, thanks to VISION Pro Technology from AMD.  You’ll also enjoy easy manageability, enhanced security, and extended battery life.

Get it now at the low price of $610. (Savings of $5201) Offer valid November 21 – December 2, 2011. (One per person while supplies last.) Buy online at Or call1-888-202-4465 and mention STBAR. (Mon – Fri: 6am – 7pm (MST)*).

*U.S.-based call center will be closed for the holiday (November 25-27th) and will resume normal business hours on Monday, November 28th.

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Read PDFs (including ISBA newsletters!) flipbook-style on your iPad

Posted on November 17, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

In the latest issue of ISBA's The Catalyst, Janice L. Boback offers a list of apps any lawyer should love. There's one in particular that every iPad owner/ISBA newsletter subscriber should put to use immediately.

"The iBook app (free and built into the iPad 2) allows you to read books purchased from Apple’s iBookstore, but it is also a great way to read PDFs," she writes. "For example, you can download the PDF for this newsletter and press the button that says ‘open in iBooks’ and it will be added to your bookshelf. Once it is in your bookshelf, you can flip through the pages of the newsletter even if you aren’t online. Also works great for ISBA Fastbooks!"