Best legal advice given—From a colleague, senior lawyer or layperson

On February 23 and 24, 2016, another set of hopefuls” will sit for the Illinois Bar Exam. If all goes well, their registration number will be listed on April 1, 2016. I recall having checked the website and seeing my number appear. My next thought was—NOW WHAT? As a newbie, I needed sound, legal advice on how to get this thing started. I sought out ISBA members in the area that I intended to practice. The advice given to me was priceless—and I still remember (and practice) most of it a decade later. A few years back, I invited ISBA members to share with me some of the best legal advice they received from either a colleague, senior lawyer or layperson. Every response received was and is valuable for those who will be embarking on a new career come April 1st. While this list is not exhaustive, it is insightful for the new and less seasoned lawyer. Enjoy.

Mark Palmer, Champaign—Know the “gatekeepers”—Get to know and be friendly with the clerks, court reporters, bailiffs (or court security officers), etc. Learn their names, ask them about their family, and so on. It can really come back to help you at times and, most importantly, it makes our job and theirs more fun.

Joe Mirabella, Wheaton—The clients are going to come and go. We will be together for a long time. Your reputation is dependent upon your relationship with other lawyers.

Bill Scott, Rantoul—At least once a year, fire a client. If every time you flinch when you see their number on your caller ID or when you touch their file...that is the one to fire, just because. It is a service to you and to your client.

Brigid A. Duffield, Wheaton—Trust your gut...You will make mistakes ...we all do. But trust and choose to do what makes the most sense for you. Take risks are a risk taker, you wouldn’t be a lawyer if you weren‘t.

Melissa Maye, Yorkville—There are no good writers. There are only good re-writers AND if it isn’t worth it to the client to give up half a work-day, then it isn’t worth it for you to give up your weekends or evenings.

Deidre Baumann, ChicagoIf you feel you can’t do anything, do something.

Thomas Bruno, Urbana—Return all of your phone calls promptly and acknowledge all of your emails promptly. Be civil and humble. Be honest to your clients, to the court, to other lawyers and to everyone else you encounter in your legal practice.

Michelle Preiksaitis, Bethany —Never judge a book or client by its/their cover. The worst dressed clients can be the best return-mail bill payers you’ll have. Good character doesn’t always wear fancy suits.

Ted Birndorf, Chicago by way of Jack Klepak—There is nothing more important to a lawyer than his reputation.

Cynthia Loos, Pinckneyville—Get your money up front. You can’t care more about your client’s case than he/she does.

James Ahlberg Rochelle—A client is stuck with the facts he brings into your office. We can emphasize some and suggest others are insignificant. We can argue that the law applies this way or that. But if the case is going to be won or lost on the facts, your client is still stuck with what he came with.

Jim Foley, Westmont by way of Richard Giangiorgi—With regard to billing, never let the hook tum. Don’t ever get in a position where clients owe you so much money, you need them more than they need you.

Paul Storment, Belleville -Clients look at their criminal cases in two ways: either they get convicted-which is your fault; or they got a great deal (or acquitted) which because they didn’t do anything wrong in the first place, you as their lawyer did nothing!

Justin Raver, Kewanee—“The client will never compliment you on how brilliant you are, but time and time again they will compliment you for being fast.”

Suzanne Wells, Monticello—Vou never learn anything in court without getting a bloody nose now and then.

Carl Draper, Springfield —Confront your problems. Even if your depression or your risk of addiction is based on genetic factors, take responsibility for your own problems by getting the help you need. Check out help on the Lawyers Assistance Program. There is confidential help available.

Carl Draper by way of Richard Thies—A lawyer is only as good as his staff sometimes. Hire and train good staff because even a small clerical error can be serious.

Karl Winkler, Rockford—Know your story. At the most, you only have one thing going for you m every case. Do not lose sight of it no matter what the other side does or brings up. Tell your story.

Christine Rhode, Chicago—If I had had more time, it would have been shorter.

Ronald Runkle, Grayslake —As for office management , I suggest a lawyer use colored files. Easier to locate a missing file: green is for wills, blue is for trusts, red is a real estate sale, yellow is a real estate buy, brown is misc.

Richard F. Sarna, Elmhurst—Retain us—yes, use us—never.

Ronald Wiesenthal, St. Louis, Mo. A lawyer is not a city bus. Just because someone is standing on the corner and waves at you, you do not have to stop and pick them up.

Laura Kern, Elmhurst – You eat the elephant one bite at a time.

Bob Downs, Chicago—Opening files is easy. More important is closing them.

Gary Schlesinger, Libertyville by way of Stephen Katz -Clients are like Dobermans, you can raise them, feed them, be nice to them, but one day they will turn on you.

Daniel Deneen, Bloomington—Principle is a word attorneys love to hear. It means their clients really want to do what is right. However, your principle won’t pay my bills, so I must have a retainer before I can proceed on your case.

Elizabeth Factor, LaGrange —Always be on time, and always be prepared.

Janice Pea, Champaign-In most disputes, both things are true. If you can see the truth in your position (or your client’s) but still acknowledge the truth of the other side, you can solve a lot of problems. It is the rare situation when one side of an issue has a monopoly on truth.

Richard Zuckerman, Peoria —No good deed goes unpunished.

Paul Prybylo, Oak Park—The courtroom is yours. Treat it as such.

Member Comments (1)

don't take your office problems, including client stuff, home. that will only adversely affect your household relationships, which are a lot more important than any client or case.

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April 2016Volume 59Number 10PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)