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Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the sole owner of a two-attorney firm in Atlanta. I have been in practice for 13 years. I have one associate who has been with me for one year, one full-time paralegal, and two part-time assistants. I have a general practice. Revenues have stagnated and I need to identify strategies for getting to the next level. My practice is struggling. I have been thinking about narrowing my practice and focusing on five or six practice areas. I am ready to invest in marketing. I would appreciate your thoughts.

A. This is the age of specialization – less often results in more. Many attorneys in small general practice firms are afraid to specialize and focus on three areas of practice or fewer. The concern is that by specializing, there simply will not be enough business of keep the attorneys busy generating sufficient revenues.

I have worked with several firms that have shifted their practices from general practices to practices limited to estate planning and elder law and they have performed far better as specialized practices than they did as general practices. I suggest that you consider focusing your practice on on no more than two or three key practice areas in which you can differentiate yourself.

Here are a few thoughts:



Learn how outpatient mental health commitment orders are being developed and implemented in Cook County and around Illinois with this informative half-day seminar in Chicago or via live webcast on May 17, 2017. Discover how to get a person the mental health treatment they need in the community, while gaining the perspective of both the mental health provider and the patient regarding outpatient mental health commitments.

The program is presented by the ISBA Mental Health Law Section and qualifies for 3.0 hours MCLE credit.

Click here for more information and to register.



Don't throw away your shot! Register today.

You've listened (obsessively) to the musical soundtrack, now explore the life of Hamilton: An American Lawyer. Join us Tuesday, May 23 from 10-11AM for this free live webcast — including 1 MCLE | 1* PMCLE — for the first 1,000 registrants (ISBA members only).

Learn about the law practice of Alexander Hamilton, founding father extraordinaire and practicing lawyer in the early days of American jurisprudence. Recollections of his legal cases, letters, publications, and stories — as well as their historical context — are provided by John Lupton, executive director at the Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.

The program concludes with our panel presenters discussing how these issues would be addressed in the 21st century practice and how some of Hamilton's characteristics are applicable to a successful practitioner today.

Topics include competency, zealous advocacy, representing the unpopular cause, civility, succession planning, and more!

Program 'Singing' Moderator:
John T. D. Bathke, Attorney at Law, Peoria and Chicago



Your challenge for today is to dim the lights in your office, sit (in lotus position) on your newly decluttered desk, close your eyes, and hum for the next 30 minutes.


Just kidding! Sort of anyway.

Today we're learning how to incorporate a few minutes of mindfulness into our professional lives to help us cope with work-related stress and push the reset button on our mind.

What is mindfulness? While it sounds new-agey, mindfulness has been practiced by people for thousands of years. At its core, it is being in a state of awareness.

Why is it so popular? Most of us are flying on autopilot throughout the day. Our frantic lives leave us on edge, stressed, and wondering where the day went. Mindfulness is a way to counteract those tendencies by connecting with what's going on around us and within us. Short of going on a tech-detox or taking a mental health day, it's one one of the best - and easiest - things you can do for yourself to improve your day.

Like monotasking, mindfulness also improves productivity, which helps explain why the practice of mindfulness has made its way into the corporate culture at numerous companies, like Google, Target and General Mills.



What is monotasking? Simply put, it's the art of carrying out one task at a time.

Why everyone should be doing it... The antithesis of multitasking, monotasking helps improve your memory, cut down on errors, and increase your productivity. And if that isn't enough to convince you, monotasking can also make your work feel more enjoyable.  

...Except for these people. Like Mensa, only 2% of the population are true multitaskers, or 'supertaskers.' For these lucky few, their performance doesn't suffer when they do different things simultaneously - it sometimes gets better. For most of us though, our brain can't handle the overload. Take the test to find out where you stand.

5 Steps to Monotasking


Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court will administer the attorney’s oath to 476 new attorneys on Thursday, May 4, at five separate locations across the state.

The largest group, 327, will be admitted in the First Judicial District during three ceremonies at the James R. Thompson Center Assembly Hall, located at 100 W. Randolph St., in Chicago. The ceremonies will be at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 2:30 p.m. Media coverage is invited.

All of the candidates set to be sworn in have passed the Illinois State Bar Examination and a required ethics examination and were certified by the Supreme Court Committee on Character and Fitness. They will bring the total number of licensed attorneys in Illinois to approximately 96,700.

Appellate Justice Margaret S. McBride will preside over the 9 a.m. ceremony.

Guests of the morning ceremony will include Natalie Howse, president of the Cook County Bar Association; and Hariklia Karis, president of the Hellenic Bar Association.

Sharon Strickland will move for admission of the class.

Justice Charles E. Freeman and Appellate Justice Cynthia Y. Cobbs will preside over the 11:30 a.m. ceremony.

Guests of the second First District ceremony will include Hon. Russell Hartigan, president-elect of the Illinois State Bar Association; and Claudia Castro, president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association. Justice Cobbs will move for admission of the class.

Justice Mary Jane Theis will preside over the 2:30 p.m. ceremony.


The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), the administrative agency that regulates licensed Illinois lawyers, has filed its year 2016 Annual Report with the Supreme Court of Illinois. The report was released to the public this morning when a copy was posted on the ARDC website.

A summary of the annual report is available at Highlights of the 2016 Annual Report

The ARDC annually evaluates the effectiveness of the disciplinary system.  Complete and comprehensive statistics concerning the disciplinary caseload are submitted to the Illinois Supreme Court and are published in the Annual Report. Few professions account for their regulatory activity in such detail.

In its Annual Report, the ARDC accounts to the Supreme Court for money received and spent. No tax money is used to fund the agency. All operating funds are taken from an annual registration fee paid by Illinois attorneys. By Supreme Court rule, lawyers pay an annual fee of $385. Of that amount, $95 is remitted to the Lawyers Trust Fund to fund legal services for the poor; $10 is sent to the Lawyers’ Assistance Program, an organization that helps lawyers, judges, law students, and their families with alcohol abuse, drug dependency, or mental health problems; $25 is submitted to the Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism; $25 funds the Client Protection Program to indemnify victims of lawyer misconduct; and the balance of the registration fee is used by the ARDC to pay for lawyer regulation.



The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a statewide policy statement for pretrial services. The statewide policy statement is a continuation of the advancement of pretrial services in Illinois.

"This policy statement seeks to serve as a guide for all of our trial courts," Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said. "The goal of pretrial services is to reduce the pretrial incarceration rate while ensuring that defendants comply with approved pretrial release. This process includes the application of a validated pretrial risk assessment tool which aids judges in making research-based decisions about whether defendants should be detained or released prior to their criminal trials.”

The statement is as follows:



This week we're tackling the clutter — physical, electronic and mental — that weighs us down at work. So without further ado, let the desk transformation begin...

Purge with a purpose. When deciding what to get rid of, Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo recommends asking yourself...'Does this spark joy?' If the answer is no, get rid of it. Tell it 'thanks' on the way out. #goodkarma

But be smart about it. Work-related items require more consideration. So before you pitch that client file that doesn't make you happy, also ask...'Is this something I need for work?' If no, say 'thanks' and send it on its way. If yes...

Go green if you can. Scan it, e-file it, back it up electronically. Need more guidance on client file (and information) retention requirements? Refer to ISBA Professional Conduct Advisory Opinion No.17-02.

Repeat for every item on your desk. If you've got time, also go through your desk drawers and shelves until only the items that spark joy or are required for work remain.



We've partnered with ISBA Mutual Insurance Company to bring back pro photographer Kari Bedford for 3 days of free business portrait sittings for 242 lucky members.

Enter to win a free sitting by completing the online form by midnight tonight.

Only 1 entry per member will be accepted.

  • Our Springfield session will run Friday, May 12 from 10AM-5PM at the newly renovated ISBA Springfield Office.
  • Our downtown Chicago session will run on Wednesday, May 17 from 10AM-5PM and Thursday, May 18 from 8AM-2PM at the ISBA Mutual office.

Portrait sittings are each 5 minutes in length; winners will be booked in half-hour intervals.