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Illinois Bar Journal

Divorcing clients have a range of estate planning needs, but some issues arise for nearly everyone whose marriage is ending, notes Chicago lawyer and ISBA member Lauren Evans DeJong. So be prepared to counsel your divorcing client about the following five estate-planning tasks.

Changing beneficiary designations. These include removing the soon-to-be ex as beneficiary "of [the client's] life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, land trusts, and annuities," DeJong writes. Also review "transfer on death or payable on death bank or brokerage accounts, land conveyed by transfer on death deeds, and employee benefits."

Controlling access to online accounts. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, 755 ILCS 70/1 et seq., which took effect last year, "provides a priority system for individuals to specifically control disclosure of digital assets and content of electronic communications" on social media, email, and the like.

"Many clients will not want their…ex to have access to their e-mails, Facebook or Instagram accounts, financial or banking information, diaries, or other personal information," DeJong writes.

"Individuals can use online tools established by providers [e.g., Google's Inactive Account Manager and Facebook's Legacy Contact] to direct disclosure of digital assets," she writes. "[A]n online tool…takes precedence over any other method of directing disclosure." Another option is to draft a statement directing disclosure, which can be included in a client's will, trust, or POA.


Most home purchases, unless they are cash deals, involve a mortgage loan. Since the real estate market crashed in 2008, a lesser-used path towards home ownership has been on the rise - owner financing. Also known as an installment contract, owner financing allows a buyer to live in a home while paying the seller the purchase price over time.

However, the practice is ripe for abuse because the purchaser doesn't actually own the home until the balance is paid in full. That means the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law - and its protections for homeowners - doesn't apply in the event of a default. A simple eviction action is all it takes to divest the would-be purchaser of what may be a significant financial investment. On August 25, 2017, Governor Rauner approved Public Act 100-0416, also known as the Installment Sales Contract Act, which is designed to provide protection for purchasers.

According to a March 2017 report by The Chicago Reader (http://bit.ly/2ulgc2X), installment sales contracts are seeing a resurgence in Cook County, particularly in poorer communities that were hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. According to the Reader, Illinois law doesn't require that these contracts be recorded or otherwise registered with the state, which makes it difficult to know just how many exist.


It may come as a surprise to more than a few lawyers, but as of July 1, 2017, faxing documents is no longer a proper method for serving them. What's more, attorneys must include an email address at which they can be served with documents on their appearances and pleadings.

Why? Because the Illinois Supreme Court revised Illinois Supreme Court Rule 11 to mandate email service of documents filed with the court. It also eliminates facsimile service entirely. The changes were announced June 22.

The effective date of the rule amendments coincides with the day the supreme and appellate court were required to switch to the new e-filing system (circuit courts make the switch on January 1). The supreme court has made its intention clear - modernizing Illinois' court system is a priority.

According to new Rule 11(c), documents must be served via email unless certain exceptions apply. Documents may be attached to the email, or the serving party can include a link in the body of the email that will allow the recipient to download documents from a reliable service provider. If an email is rejected or otherwise returned as undelivered, the emailing party is responsible for ensuring that the document is actually delivered.


It's not unusual to hear judges and lawyers - mostly judges - talk about how many pro se litigants they encounter these days. And the eye-popping statistics more than bear out the anecdotal evidence.

Data from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts ("AOIC") show that in 2015, nearly two-thirds of total civil cases outside Cook County - 65.2 percent - had at least one self-represented litigant. For certain types of cases, this figure rises as high as 80 percent. In addition, the court system is facing the facts that one out of five Illinois residents speaks a language other than English at home according to U.S. Census data, the number of Illinois residents below the poverty line has grown, and the number of pro bono attorneys has not kept pace.

"People are self-represented for a whole host of reasons," says Danielle Hirsch, assistant director of the AOIC's Civil Justice Division. "Some can't afford representation, some don't know where to find it, and some are do-it-yourselfers who want the sport of trying it on their own. It would be hard to treat them as a monolith." Hirsch adds that in practice areas like small claims or family, "the default is self-representation." And defendants overall are about two-thirds pro se, she says.

In June, three New Jersey Supreme Court committees jointly barred the state's lawyers from using Avvo's client-linking service. State regulators found that the "marketing fee" taken by Avvo from the payment consumers make to lawyers for flat-fee services via its referral system is improper fee-splitting with nonlawyers and an unethical lawyer-referral payment (Avvo argues that it does not violate ethical rules (http://bit.ly/2i2xgsK)). New Jersey regulators also found that LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer operate legal service plans that were not registered with the State of New Jersey. (Both entities have since registered.)

What does this opinion mean for Illinois attorneys? As a preliminary matter, not very much. New Jersey regulates its attorneys, just like Illinois regulates its own, says Tim Moran, the chair of the ISBA's Standing Committee on the Future of Legal Services and immediate past chair of the ISBA Unauthorized Practice of Law Task Force. The New Jersey rulings don't have any effect on Illinois attorneys. However, the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct also prohibit fee-sharing with nonlawyers. And ISBA General Counsel Charles Northrup notes that ethics opinions in South Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have also found the Avvo marketing fee to constitute improper fee-sharing and referral fees.

Find out more in the September Illinois Bar Journal.


It is well known that law is a stressful career path. What isn't as well known is that a significant number of attorneys suffer from addiction and other mental health issues.

There has been surprisingly little research done on this topic. In 2016, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs conducted a study of addiction and mental health issues in the legal community (http://bit.ly/2fvjAFS). The study, available at http://bit.ly/1V72V50, indicates a large-scale problem. Recently, a lively thread on the ISBA's litigation discussion group was kicked off with a link to a widely read New York Times article about an addicted lawyer's death and what the author describes as a "web of drug abuse" in the legal profession (http://nyti.ms/2v3K4kW).

So how big of a problem does the profession have? The ABA/Betty Ford study surveyed 12,825 licensed, employed attorneys. Those attorneys completed surveys where they self-assessed their alcohol use, drug use, and symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. A whopping 20.6 percent of lawyers screened positive for potentially alcohol-dependent drinking. The study also showed high levels of depression (28 percent), anxiety (19 percent), and stress (23 percent). Find out more in the September Illinois Bar Journal.

In the August Illinois Bar Journal, ISBA Director of Legislative Affairs Jim Covington summarizes legislation of particular interest to lawyers. In the weeks since the article first appeared, most of the bills described there have been acted on by Governor Rauner. Which did he sign? Which did he veto? Read the updated version, which includes links to the public acts and veto statements.


When the Trump Administration published its executive orders regarding immigrants and refugees in January, attorneys became first responders, fanning out to the nation's airports to triage the legal needs of those ensnared in the travel ban. Shortly thereafter, the American Bar Association set up the website www.immigrationjustice.us to help coordinate pro bono service offers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Enterprising attorneys built www.airportlawyer.org, a site that tracks and registers immigrants' travel information and connects them with volunteer attorneys at their local airport if need be.

"These types of efforts are great examples of what lawyers can do with technology," said Chase Hertel, director of business development & partnerships at Chicago-based Road to Status (www.roadtostatus.com), a website that provides document-assembly-style federal forms and attorney referrals for immigrants. "Technology can be used to triage the legal needs of clients, connect with clients where they are - at the airport, or on the internet - deliver services in unique ways, and, most importantly, bridge the legal services gap."

The Illinois Bar Journal recently covered what happens when attorneys baselessly accuse judges of improper conduct (http://bit.ly/2u4L5LU). But what about when a judge truly does something improper? Is there an obligation to report?

The simple answer is yes. An attorney's duty to report attorney misconduct under Rule of Professional Conduct 8.3 extends to judges as well (http://bit.ly/2u50X19). Rule 8.3(b) states, "A lawyer who knows that a judge has committed a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct that raises a substantial question as to the judge's fitness for office shall inform the appropriate authority." Note, however, that Comment [3] to the Rule provides that a "measure of judgment" is required when a lawyer seeks to comply with the reporting requirement and that not all violations may trigger it.

Find out more in the August Illinois Bar Journal.

A recent court order (http://bit.ly/2rkz8A6), which amends the court's January 22, 2016 mandatory e-filing order, requires circuits with existing e-filing programs to switch to the statewide eFileIL system by July 1, 2018. The original order had not set a specific date, but said that one would be announced in the future.

Another change wrought by the amendment is that all courts must make their case documents and information available to a new statewide remote access system known as re:SearchIL. However, this does not mean that attorneys and the public will have immediate access to the new system. The high court has stated that implementation and access will progress at a pace that it sets.

Initial access will only be provided to judges, clerks, and court officials. The amended order says that attorneys and the public will ultimately gain access -- re:SearchIL "is designed to serve as an online remote access system similar to Pacer in the federal courts."

Before that can happen, "a remote access policy needs to be fully vetted and approved by the supreme court," Madison County Chief Circuit Judge David Hylla says. The high court's e-Business Policy Advisory Board, of which Hylla is chair, is working to recommend a policy, he says. He expects that re:SearchIL will be "available to the bar and the public soon after all or nearly all courts are integrated with the central [Electronic Filing Manager.]"

There will be a predetermined document access fee (much like Pacer). The amended order says that the fee will be paid in full to the circuit court owning the case documents-so long as the court has migrated to eFileIL.