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Quick takes from Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the civil cases Peterson v. Peterson, Jablonski v. Ford Motor Co. and In re Mulroe and criminal cases People v. Masterson and People v. White.


Petersen v. Petersen

By Alyssa M. Reiter, Williams Montgomery & John Ltd.

This family law case resolved the appropriate means by which to apportion postdissolution decree college expenses where the judgment of dissolution reserved the issue for future consideration.

The Petersens’ 1999 divorce decree provided that the court “expressly reserves the issue of each party’s obligation to contribute to the college…expenses of the parties’ children pursuant to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Marriage Dissolution Act.”  The decree also ordered the husband (Kevin) to pay monthly child support.

In 2007, the wife (Janet) filed a petition to allocate past and future college expenses for their children.  The circuit court ordered Kevin to pay 75% of the total college expenses for all three children.  The appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that the 2007 petition constituted a modification to the 1999 decree.  It held that the circuit court could not order Kevin to pay for those expenses that predated the filing of the petition.

AOIC Director Cynthia Cobbs appointed to judicial vacancy in Cook County

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court announced Thursday the appointment of Cynthia Y. Cobbs to a judicial vacancy in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Ms. Cobbs resigned her position as Director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to accept the judicial appointment. She was the first woman and the first African American to serve as Administrative Director and her tenure as Director is the second longest since the position was established in 1960.

Ms. Cobbs was  named to the Cook County vacancy, at large, created by the retirement earlier this year of Henry R. Simmons. Jr. The appointment is effective Friday, September 23 and terminates December 3, 2012.

Ms. Cobbs was named Director March 1, 2002 and has served under five Chief Justices. Her steady and loyal stewardship has helped guide the Supreme Court and the judicial branch through severe economic times, tight budgets and a technological revolution.

"She has served loyally and with dedication during rough economic times," said Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride. "The Court appreciates and values her long years of service and the numerous  innovations she has helped guide."

In “Eligible” IOLTAs We Trust

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

By Joseph R. Marconi[1]

Effective September 1, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court has amended Rule 1.15 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct respecting the safekeeping of client funds deposited in trust accounts. As professional fiduciaries, attorneys have long been required to keep their clients’ funds separate from their own. Now, the Supreme Court has limited the options for accounts to hold client funds, imposed new record keeping requirements on attorneys, and now requires banks to notify the ARDC when client accounts are overdrawn.

Specifically, Rule 1.15(a) limits the type of accounts in which client funds can be deposited to two kinds. The first is an Interest on Lawyers Trust Account (IOLTA).  IOLTAs are pooled trust accounts that bear interest or dividends on nominal or short-term client funds—those funds advanced for costs or which belong in part to a client and “presently or potentially” to the lawyer.  The interest or dividends is paid to the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois (LTF) which donates the funds to organizations providing legal services to the poor.[2] An attorney or law firm can establish an IOLTA account by:

ISBA members now receive travel and entertainment discounts

Posted on September 22, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The TicketsAtWork Corporate Benefit Program offers Illinois State Bar Association members exclusive travel and entertainment discounts. There are over 400 regional and Nationwide offers that are not available to the general public, ranging from Las Vegas shows to Disney tickets. In Illinois, the discounts range from Blue Man Group in Chicago to LegoLand in Schamburg.

Check out the discounts at

"The partner of the first part": civil unions and real estate documents

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

Divorce lawyers aren't the only ones still sorting out the civil union law. Not by a long shot.

Take real estate lawyers, for example. In the latest ISBA Real Property newsletter, Dick Bales poses just a few of the questions they face. "How should parties to a civil union be described in deeds and other documents? How should the issue of homestead be addressed in these documents? Can parties to a civil union own their home as tenants by the entirety, and if so, how should they be described in the deed?"

Read his article.

Best Practice: Law firm strategic or long-range plans - Why does a small firm need one?

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I have a small firm in Indianapolis. I am the only attorney in the firm and I have three staff members. I have been in practice for 30 years. I have been reading your posts on strategic planning. Why do I need one for a small practice such as mine?

A. A strategic or long range plan serves as the roadmap for your practice. When you go on vacation do you head out without a map, plan or your GPS. Probably not. The same should be true for your practice. A plan defines who you are, where the firm should be heading, and how you get there. It helps focus you as well as your staff and improves productivity, accountability, and alignment with your goals. It identifies what work your firm does (or sometimes more importantly) what it does not do. In essence it outlines what services your are selling, to who, and where. Your plan then lists out the steps you should be taking to move to your desired future.

I have seen solo practitioners time after time reach their 60s and realize that if they had it all to do over again they would do things differently. Often they have completely failed to put in place solid succession strategy and realize no value for their sweat equity when they retire. A plan or roadmap can help direct your efforts over the years.

The important thing is to it keep your plan simple and update it often. Ten pages or less - in outline form. I have seen excellent one page plans. When circumstances change - change it. Review it every month.

Click here for our blog on law firm strategy

Mental Health programs to air on Illinois Law in October

Posted on September 20, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

"Mental Health Concerns in the Juvenile Court" and "School Advocacy for Children with Mental Health Concerns" two half-hour programs presented by Illinois Law, will air on Chicago Access Network Television, Channel 21 in Chicago, during the month of October. "Mental Health Concerns in the Juvenile Court" will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, October 4 and 18, and "School Advocacy for Children with Mental Health Concerns" will air at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, October 11 and 25. Illinois Law is a cable production of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Appearing on the shows are Nancy Z. Hablutzel (front), a Chicago lawyer and program moderator; and (from left) Bernard Glos, Ph.D., of Westmont; Joseph T. Monahan, of Monahan & Cohen in Chicago and a member of the ISBA Standing Committee on Mental Health Law; and Phil Milsk, Law Offices of Phil Milsk in New Lenox and a member of the ISBA Education Law Section Council.

View previous programs online at

Lawyers' Assistance Program to sponsor retreat for eating disorders and better health

Posted on September 19, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Lawyers' Assistance Program will sponsor a 24-hour retreat for eating disorders and better health on Oct. 28-29 at The Center in Palos Park. The program will begin at 5 p.m. on Friday evening and end at 5 p.m. on Saturday and will focus on healty eating, compulsive eating and the causes for behaviors related to food.

Speakers will include Dr. Kimberly Dennis, a Chicago-area psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders; Judge Sheila Murphy, president of Lawyers' Assistance Program; Circuit Court Judge Allen Goldberg; Wheaton attorney Brigid Duffield and event chair CJ Muller of Palos Hills.

Cost is $135 for single occupancy, $124 for double occupancy, and $65 for commuters. Space is limited. Contact Lawyers' Assistance Program at (312) 726-6607 to register or for more information.