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Asked and Answered

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

Q. We are a 15 attorney estate planning firm just outside of New York City. Ten years ago we had 37 lawyers in the firm. We have had several defections due to internal management problems pertaining to structure and compensation. We have operated more as a group of solo practitioners than as a true law firm. Recently we have considered the option of merging with a larger firm. What are your thought regarding the pros and cons of doing this?

A. Research indicates that 1/3 to 1/2 of all mergers fail to meet expectations due to cultural misalignment and personnel problems. Don't try to use a merger or acquisition as a life raft, for the wrong reasons and as your sole strategy. Successful mergers are based upon a sound integrated business strategy that creates synergy and a combined firm that produces greater client value than either firm can produced alone. Right reasons for merging might include:

  1. Improve the firm's competitive position. Increase specialization - obtain additional expertise.
  2. Expand into other geographic regions.
  3. Add new practice areas.
  4. Increase or decrease client base.
  5. Improve and/or solidify client relationships.

I would start by thinking about your reasons for wanting to merge and your objectives. Ask yourself the following questions?


Breach of Trust by David D. Ellis. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York 2011; 417 pages
Breach of Trust by David D. Ellis. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York 2011; 417 pages
By Michael S. Jordan, Retired Judge – Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

David Ellis, the author of Breach of Trust, is a lawyer on the staff of the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Michael Madigan. He was the chief impeachment prosecutor on behalf of the Illinois House pursuing the impeachment of Governor Rod Blagojevich at the Illinois State Senate where the governor was convicted and removed from office. Ellis’ real life experience and the knowledge he acquired proved invaluable and fantastic as research and background to write this realistic, timely, and riveting novel.

Breach of Trust is a fast paced political thriller with murder, violence, and continual suspense as fictional hero, Jason Kolarich, a former prosecutor and acclaimed defense attorney, goes underground to settle a score. In the process Ellis has Kolarich pursue this saga with several of Ellis’ characters from his other works of fiction. Ellis cleverly unveils the levels of deceit, corruption, and intrigue in the politics of Illinois government.


Chief Judge Stephen J. Culliton, Chief Judge Elect John T. Elsner and MICAP Programs Judge Jane H. Mitton and State's Attorney Robert B. Berlin announced recently that a Veteran's Track is being initiated as a cooperative effort between the 18th Judicial Circuit of Illinois Drug Court and Mental Illiness Court Alternative Programs (MICAP) and the Veteran's Administration.

The mission of the Veteran's Track is to reduce the number of incidence crimes committed by verteran with substance abuse, traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and/or mental health issues as a results of their military service. This will be achieved by the operation of a highly structured judicial intervention process for these veterans that brings together Veteran Administraiton treatment services and intesnsive judicial monitoring through Drug Court or MICAP.

Participants will consist of those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and who have received an honorable or general discharge from the military. For further information, please contact Jim Wojtas, Drug Court/MICAP Program Manager at (630) 407-8846 or james.wojtas@dupageco.org. The start date is Jan. 1, 2012.


You see it all the time. Mom and Dad don't decide by the close of their divorce -- i.e., by the time the decree is issued -- who will pay how much for Junior's college education. They reserve that one for later.

Later finally arrives, as it is wont to do. And Mom comes to court waving Junior's tuition bill, which she has already paid, seeking an order for what she thinks is a reasonable contribution from Dad.

Unfortunately, she's too late, according to the Illinois Supreme Court's September 2011 decision in In re the Marriage of Petersen. Read Cecilia Hynes Griffin's and Scott P. Kramer's analysis of the case in the latest ISBA Family Law newsletter.


Nearly 2,200 new attorneys were admitted to practice in Illinois on Thursday, November 10 with Justices of the Illinois Supreme Court presiding and administering the attorney’s oath at five separate locations.

All of the candidates have passed the Illinois state bar examination and an ethics examination, and have been certified by the Committee on Character and Fitness.

The largest group, 1,600, were admitted in the First Judicial District during ceremonies starting at the McCormick Place West Skyline Ballroom. Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Freeman presided over the ceremony, with Justices Anne M. Burke and Mary Jane Theis participating.

Justice Freeman introduced Cook County Associate Judge Frank B. Castiglione, who made the motion to admit the class.

The Hon. Joseph N. Casciato, retired associate judge, seconded the motion to admit the class.

Illinois State Bar Association President John G. Locallo was one of two bar association presidents to address the class.

The 2,155 men and women were certified as candidates and  were sworn in as Illinois attorneys Thursday at ceremonies in the five Supreme Court judicial districts.

The new attorneys will bring the total number of licensed attorneys in Illinois to approximately 90,200.

Click here to view pictures from the 1st District Admission Ceremony


Asked and Answered

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

Q. Our firm is a personal injury plaintiff law firm located in Austin, Texas. We have 4 attorneys in the firm and all are partners who have been practicing for over 25 years. One hundred percent of our practice is PI plaintiff. We have been extremely successful over the years and handled some very large cases, have had some big wins, and handled several class action cases. Our current challenge is cash flow. The cases we are involved with seem to be bigger and more complex with fewer smaller cases that can be resolved quickly and contribute to cash flow. We are getting in deeper to our line of credit. Of late we have been discussing pros and cons of diversifying the practice and adding a non-PI practice area to our practice. What are your thoughts? Have you seen PI plaintiff firms do this successfully?

A. More and more of our PI plaintiff law firm clients have been raising this question during the past year. While a lot can be said about specialization - a firm can also sometimes be too specialized. I have seen many hybrid firms over the past 20+ years that have successfully combined a plaintiff personal injury practice with a transactional practice.

As one firm told me "we transactional folks bill the hours and pay the bills while we turn the PI folks loose to go after the big hits." Firms that operate the firm as a "firm-first" firm tend to be more successful with such a practice mix than do firms that are "lone ranger" firms operating as a collection of individual practitioners.



This comprehensive, must-have practice handbook produced by the Illinois State Bar Association covers nearly everything for general practitioners who handle family law matters.

Written by 36 authors who concentrate in the field and edited by John Marshall Professor Cynthia D. Bond, the handbook is a complete update of an ISBA bestseller from the mid-90s.

Topics include jurisdiction, pre-marital agreements, settlement agreements, modification of judgments, mediation, custody and visitation, assisted reproductive technology, grandparent visitation, guardians ad litem, property, support and finances, maintenance, child support, civil unions, immigration law, discovery, appeals, insurance matters, property valuation, adoption, paternity and much more.

Includes some forms, a detailed table of contents, and an alphabetical list of cases with page numbers at the end of each chapter. Add it to your collection today!

Pricing

Printed Book (Includes tax and shipping.)

  • Member Advantage: $60.00
  • Non-Members: $90.00

FastBook (Available for download now.)

  • Member Advantage: $57.50
  • Non-Members: $87.50

Learn more and purchase the book athttp://www.isba.org/store/books/familylawhandbook


At the December 10, 2011 meeting of the ISBA Assembly, two “under 35" delegates to the ABA House of Delegates will be elected, one from Cook County and one from the area outside Cook County.  The nominees for these positions must be members of the ISBA in good standing from the appropriate area and under the age of 35 as of August 10, 2012.  The elected delegates will serve for two-year terms commencing June, 2012 and will join the ISBA delegation at the ABA meeting in Chicago in August, 2012.

The current incumbents are Kelly Gandurski, of Chicago, who is eligible for re-election and Jean Kenol of Joliet, who is not eligible for re-election.

Nominations must be made in writing by at least 20 ISBA members in good standing from the appropriate area.  Nominations must be filed with the office of the Executive Director no later than Monday, November 21, 2011.  Further information and nominating petitions are available from the office of the Executive Director, Illinois State Bar Association, 424 S. Second Street, Springfield, IL 62701 or by contacting Kim Weaver at (800) 252-8908 or kweaver@isba.org.


The Illinois State Bar Association’s Lawyer Finder Service provides referrals to local lawyers Mondays through Fridays.  The Servicemakes referrals in a number of areas of law.  For the month of October 2011, ISBA helped people in need of legal services find lawyers in the following areas:


The Supreme Court of Illinois announced Thursday the appointment of Jefferson County State's Attorney Nicole L. Villani as a Circuit Judge in the Second Judicial Circuit.

Ms. Villani was appointed to fill the resident Circuit Court seat which will become vacant upon the December 31, 2011 retirement of Circuit Judge Terry H. Gamber.

The appointment is effective January 1, 2012 and will expire December 3, 2012, when the position will be filled by the winner of the 2012 General Election.

Prior to serving as Jefferson County state's attorney, Ms. Villani, 41, practiced in family law, civil litigation and criminal defense with the Mt. Vernon law firm of Villani and Villani for six years. From 1998-2004, she worked as first assistant state's attorney in Jefferson County. For two years, Ms. Villani served as assistant state's attorney for Franklin County.

Ms. Villani received a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois in 1992. She received her juris doctor degree from Southern Illinois University School of Law in l995.

She was admitted to practice law in Illinois in l995, and has also been admitted to practice in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois and is certified as lead counsel by the Illi-nois Supreme Court to handle death penalty cases.
Ms. Villani is member of the Illinois State and Jefferson County Bar Associations. A member of several local civic organizations, Ms. Villani was appointed board member of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (C.A.S.A) of Jefferson County from 2006-2009.