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Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a senior associate in an eight-attorney elder law firm in Miami. There is one owner (founder) and seven associates including myself. The owner has approached me with a proposal to over time buy out his interests. I am the only senior associate in the firm and the only associate that he has approached concerning selling his interests. Specifically his proposal is as follows:

  1. Pay him $825,000 for the practice over five years.
  2. After five years I will own 100% of the shares.
  3. My compensation arrangement will remain the same (salary plus formula percentage incentive bonus based upon my responsible attorney collections) until I have acquired 100 percent interest of the firm.
  4. The owner wants to work in the firm indefinitely after his interest are acquired as an employee or Of Counsel.

I don't know how to respond to this proposal and would appreciate your thoughts? Is it fair? Does it make sense?

A. It makes sense for him. Seriously, you are going to need much more information than this proposal.To get started you need to ask for and review the following:

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis announced on Wednesday an application process for a vacancy in the Sixth Judicial Subcircuit of Cook County.

The vacancy was created by the retirement of Circuit Judge Leida J. Gonzalez Santiago. Judge Santiago had served as a judge since 1992, when she became the first Hispanic woman elected to the judiciary in Illinois. Her retirement takes effect July 2, 2015.
Under the Illinois Constitution, judicial vacancies are filled on an interim basis by Supreme Court appointment until the next General Election. Justice Theis will make a recommendation to the Supreme Court after applicants for the position undergo a screening and evaluation process.

The Illinois State Bar Association issued two ethics opinions today:

  • Ethics Opinion 15-01: An in-house lawyer, admitted to the bar of a state other than Illinois but with a permanent office in Illinois, may practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office on behalf of his or her employer without a limited license under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 716. Such a lawyer’s practice is restricted to those activities that are authorized by 37 C.F.R. 11.5(b).
  • Ethics Opinion 15-02: A lawyer may deposit his own funds into a client trust account to pay bank service charges on that account, and should pay himself back such funds when they are no longer necessary for that purpose. Unidentified funds contained in a client trust account must, after one (1) year from the discovery of the unidentified funds, be remitted to the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois. Unclaimed funds contained in a client trust account should, after five (5) years, be remitted to the State as abandoned property.

View our full database of ethics questions on our ethics page at

By Judge Barb Crowder, Edwardsville

There is now a book entirely of “selfies” (photographs one takes of oneself). The concept has been around since the 1800s, yet has taken over as a new term that everyone understands. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet). William Shakespeare may have been among those who first pointed out that the names of things do not affect what they are but even he recognized that a turn of phrase can make a concept instantly understandable.  The court system, though perhaps not in the forefront of trends, continues try to keep up by adopting terminology and policies to better help court patrons (f/k/a ‘the public’) mired in the labyrinth of unfamiliar legal procedures. In April 2015, the court adopted the Illinois Supreme Court Policy on Assistance to Court Patrons by Circuit Clerks, Court Staff, Law Librarians, and Court Volunteers to add consistency to court programs and hopefully make the court system more ‘user-friendly’. Re-naming users of court may not change their role, but it may make the court experience more understandable.

First and foremost, the purpose of the new policy is to clarify to non-lawyers what services can actually be given to help people who come to the courthouse. No clerk or librarian enjoys frustrating an already upset individual by parroting the phrase:  “I am sorry but I am not a lawyer and cannot answer that question/help you know what to write/what to file”. Not to mention when the irate and frustrated individual begins to scream at the staff person, no one is satisfied.

David Sosin
David Sosin
Sonni Choi Williams
Sonni Choi Williams
The Illinois State Bar Association's Board of Governors elected a new secretary and treasurer at its meeting June 20 in Lake Geneva. For the first time in many years, President Umberto S. Davi held the Board's organizational meeting in conjunction with the Annual Meeting.

David Sosin, of Orland Park, was named treasurer. He is the founding partner in the Orland Park firm of Sosin & Arnold, Ltd. He has served on the Board of Governors since 2013 and is a past president of the Illinois Bar Foundation. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company. Sosin has been honored as a 2011 Laureate of the ISBA Academy of Illinois Lawyers and has received an ISBA Board of Governors Award.

Sonni Choi Williams, of Peoria, will serve as secretary. She is Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City of Peoria. Williams has served on the Board of Governors since 2012 and the Assembly since 2004. She received the ISBA Diversity Leadership Award in 2015.

The Board welcomed new members Dennis J. Orsey of Granite City, Daniel R. Saeddi of Chicago, Kent A. Gaertner of Wheaton and Rory T. Weiler of St. Charles.

President Davi appointed Williams and Chantelle Porter to the Board of the Illinois Bar Foundation.

Umberto S. Davi
Umberto S. Davi
Initiatives on law school debt, solo and small-firm CLE, and programs to provide legal forms to attorneys and civics education to non-attorneys will top the agenda of incoming ISBA President Umberto Davi, a solo matrimonial and real estate practitioner in Western Springs who took the helm on June 19.

Davi also would like to explore the possibility of extending to the private sector the 711 license that currently allows third-year law students to practice in court but only under the supervision of public sector legal offices like state's attorneys and public defenders. It's a move he figures might help to address the debt issue in addition to providing practical experience for young lawyers.

It's an "ambitious plate," he says. But ambitious plates are nothing new for Umberto Davi, whose accomplishments in law and life defy easy description for many who have known him. Davi arrived in Illinois from Sicily at age 14 with a recently widowed mother, two younger brothers, no knowledge of the English language, and little more than the clothing he wore and the change in his pocket. Find out more in the July Illinois Bar Journal.

Read Jan Davi's biographical tribute at

Q. I know I can’t take a proprietary interest in the subject matter of litigation but does that prevent me from using a lien to secure my fees?

A. IRPC 1.8(i)(1) states that a lawyer “shall not acquire a proprietary interest in the cause of action or subject matter of litigation the lawyer is conducting for a client, except that the lawyer may: acquire a lien authorized by law to secure the lawyer’s fee or expenses.”  Comment [16] to that rule reminds a lawyer to check which liens are authorized by law in their jurisdiction. 

ISBA members can browse past ISBA Ethics Opinions, access our Ethics Hotline, and other resources on the ISBA Ethics Page.

[Disclaimer. These questions are representative of calls received on the ISBA’s ethics hotline. The information provided below is meant as an educational tool to highlight potentially applicable Illinois RPC or other ethics resources that might help the lawyer answer the question posed. The information provided isn’t legal advice. Because every situation is different, often complex, and the law is constantly evolving, you shouldn’t rely upon this general information without conducting your own research.]

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a new law firm administrator for a 16-attorney firm in Chicago. This is my first law firm and after attending a few partner meetings I am concerned about how and where to start getting some ideas and projects implemented. I have a lot of ideas and would appreciate your suggestions.

A. Lack of focus and accountability is one of the major problems facing law firms. Many times, the problem is having too many ideas, alternatives and options. The result, often, is no decision or action at all. Ideas, recommendations, suggestions, etc., are of no value unless implemented.

Look for ways to insure that all time spent on management is spent wisely. At first identify a few (maybe three) management initiatives that you can move forward fairly quickly and get implemented. Then build upon these successes.

Don’t hide behind strategy, planning, and endless debate. Attorneys love to postpone implementation. Find ways to focus the firm and foster accountability from all.

  • Keep strategy and planning simple.
  • Undertake a few projects at a time that can be realistically accomplished.
  • Delegate tasks across the firm.
  • Build upon initial successes and move to more complex strategies, which will require more difficult degrees of change.
  • Adopt management structures that enable the firm to act decisively and quickly. Replace structures that do not support such a culture.

Don't attempt to initially, in the short term, take on management projects that the firm is unwilling or unable to implement.

Three judges have been appointed to terms on the Judicial Conference of Illinois Committee on Education.

  • Circuit Judge Robert J. Anderson of DuPage County, a member of the Judicial Conference, was reappointed to the Committee on Education for a term expiring June 30, 2021 or until he is no longer a member of the Judicial Conference.
  • Circuit Judge Colleen F. Sheehan of Cook County was appointed as an advisor of the Committee on Education for a term expiring June 30, 2022.
  • Chief Circuit Judge Craig H. DeArmond of Cumberland County was reappointed as an advisor of the Committee on Education for a term expiring June 30, 2022.

ISBA Mutual Insurance Company provided tote bags as part of a giveaway during ISBA Member Appreciation Month. The winners are:

  • Gina Fabian, Law Office of Gina Fabian, Chicago
  • Tammy Paquette, Hennessy & Roach PC, Chicago 
  • Deborah Schaefer, Law Office of Deborah L. Schaefer, Elmhurst
  • Thomas Carlisle, Ostling & Associates, New Berlin
  • Daniel Janowski, Shaw & Martin, P.C., Mount Vernon  
  • Michael Logan, Michael J. Logan, Springfield 

Thank you to everyone who participated!