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Best Practice: Reducing law firm employee benefits

Posted on August 10, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Asked and Answered

By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC 

Q.  As the administrator of our 14 attorney firm I have been asked to present a plan to the partners for reducing employee benefits. We have had a difficult time during this recession. So far we have not had to reduce our employee headcount - but this could change in the future. It is our hope that if we can reduce the cost of benefits we won't have to layoff or terminate any employees. What is the best way to handle/manage this difficult discussion and process?

A.  As an "at-will" employer you have the right to change benefits whenever you please. However, you must be careful as employees will perceive a reduction in benefits as a reduction to their overall compensation package.

If you do decide to cut benefits it is advisable to plan carefully and communicate as much in advance of the changes so that people know what is coming in time for them to allow for changes in their lives. It is also a good idea to be prepared to clearly and concisely share comprehendible reasons for making these changes. If implementing this type of change will save jobs, present it this way. If you believe that you may again provide benefits that have been cut once the economic environment is better, that knowledge will make it more palatable to employees.

A key point here -- do an overall examination of your benefits and cut once and be done with it -- don't keep reducing benefits every month or so.

An interview with Justice Theis

Posted on August 10, 2011 by Mark S. Mathewson

In the latest ISBA Bench and Bar newsletter, Ellen Ogden interviews Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis about her career as a pioneering woman in the law. Among other interesting topics, Justice Theis discusses how the presence of more women on the bench is shaping the judiciary and the interplay among judges. Read the article.

Beyers appointed associate judge in 3rd Circuit

Posted on August 9, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois Supreme Court has announced the appointment of Ben L. Beyers II as an associate judge of the Third Judicial Circuit.

Mr. Beyers received his undergraduate degree in 1996 from the University of Illinois in Urbana and his Juris Doctor in 1999 from the University of Illinois.

He is currently affiliated with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office in Edwardsville.

Environmental Law networking opportunity: Come meet fellow practitioners!

Posted on August 9, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

The Illinois State Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section Council invites you to a joint networking event held in conjunction with the Chicago Bar Association’s Environmental Law Committee and YLS Environmental Committee. The event will be held on Tuesday, September 6, 2011, from 4:00-6:00 p.m., in the CBA offices, located at 321 S. Plymouth Court.

There is no cost to attend the event, and will feature appetizers and cash bar. No RSVP necessary. If you have any questions, please call (312) 554-2000. 

This event is sponsored by the law firms of Much Shelist and Latham & Watkins.

Don't miss the all new “Hanging Out Your Shingle” sessions at Solo & Small Firm 2011

Posted on August 8, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

You asked for more programming on how to start and run a law office and we’re giving it to you! Attend all 11 “Hanging Out Your Shingle” programs or mix and match them with the other programs available to choose from at the ISBA's Solo and Small Firm Conference Oct. 27-29 at the Springfield Hilton. You choose the topics that best fit your needs. “Hanging Out Your Shingle” sessions include:

  • The Secure Firm: Best Practices, Policies and Strategies
  • It’s Your Law License – How to Protect It in Your Office
  • New Office Technology Shopping List: What Do I Really Need to Get Started?
  • How to Get Orders of Protection to Stick
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: Oh No, My Hard Drive Crashed and It Can’t Get Up
  • How to Create a Website in 60 Minutes – Ethical and Practical Tips
  • The Biggest Mistakes Lawyers Make and How to Avoid Them
  • DUI and Traffic Fundamentals for the New Solo
  • Social Media: Ethical Issues
  • Fighting City Hall: Administrative Actions at the Local Level
  • Using Technology to Avoid Malpractice

For more information about the 11 “Hanging Out Your Shingle” sessions and the other 26 sessions held throughout the Conference – including program descriptions and speaker listings -- visit our Conference Schedule.

Register at

Quick takes on Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions

Posted on August 4, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Our panel of leading appellate attorneys review Thursday's Illinois Supreme Court opinions in the family law case O'Brien v. O'Brien and criminal case People v. White.


O’Brien v. O’Brien

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

This family law case actually involves the much broader issue of the proper standard to be used in deciding whether to substitute a judge “for cause.” 

Lisa O’Brien filed domestic battery charges against her estranged husband, John O’Brien. Judge Joseph Waldeck presided over an evidentiary hearing in that matter and made certain evidentiary rulings. Judge Waldeck subsequently presided over the couple’s marital dissolution proceedings. About one year after the dissolution case was pending, John sought a substitution of judge pursuant to Illinois Code of Civil Procedure section 2-1001(a)(3), which provides for substitution “for cause.” Another judge considered the matter and denied substitution. From the final judgment, John appealed and the case reached the Illinois Supreme Court on a certificate of importance.

ISBA Statehouse Review for the week of August 4

Posted on August 4, 2011 by Chris Bonjean
ISBA Director of Legislative Affairs Jim Covington discusses bills in Springfield of interest to ISBA members. This week he covers new laws that make a number of changes to the Home Repair and Remodeling Act (PA 97-235) and PA 97-236, which covers lessees and criminal activity.

Illinois Supreme Court makes electronic record accessible in DuPage, Ogle appellate cases

Posted on August 3, 2011 by Chris Bonjean

Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride and the Illinois Supreme Court announced Wednesday another step forward in doing court business through electronic means.

The Court approved a pilot project in the Second Judicial District Appellate Court that will allow attorneys, parties and appellate justices to electronically view, access and work from the official record of cases on appeal from DuPage and Ogle counties. However, the paper record will continue to be the official record on appeal pursuant to Supreme Court rule and will be available to parties who would rather use a paper record.

“It sounds like a small step but this should prove to be a big benefit for both attorneys and justices working on appeals,” said Chief Justice Kilbride. “With an electronic record accessible to those involved in appeals, attorneys and justices can view the record and work contemporaneously on a case.

“It is another step forward in developing and implementing e-business applications in the court system with an eye toward making it friendly, efficient and cost-effective.”

The Second District pilot project follows in the wake of an initiative announced in June by the Chief Justice and the Court to move Illinois courts forward in the electronic age with the formation of a special Supreme Court committee to propose new ways of doing court business to achieve efficiency and economy in the court system.