Two Great ISBA Member Benefits Sponsored by
A Value of $1,344, Included with Membership

Illinois Bar Journal

When patients get a life-changing medical diagnosis, they often seek a second opinion. When clients have questions about the direction that their legal counsel takes, they may think they have nowhere to turn.

In fact, attorneys can provide clients with second opinions, although most do not advertise them as a service. Valorem Law Group in Chicago is one of the first law firms to feature second opinions as part of its practice. Valorem, also known for its alternative fee agreements (see the October 2014 IBJ cover story), has been providing legal second opinions to individuals and companies for the past two years.

Nicole Auerbach, one of Valorem's founding partners, says that clients can "save a lot of money and angst" by seeking second opinions. Clients seeking second opinions can ask a wide range of questions. Some want to know if a proposed settlement is acceptable. Others want to get a second opinion about the direction their counsel is taking in a specific matter. Some want a reality check on what they're being billed and what they're told it will cost to complete a representation. Auerbach says that "there is really no topic that doesn't lend itself well to a second opinion."

Find out more in the July Illinois Bar Journal.

People love their pets. However, sometimes things go wrong. In particular, dogs bite people, causing significant injuries.

In Illinois, and nationwide, dog-bite claims are on the rise. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites and dog-related injuries accounted for more than one third of homeowner insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2015 (http://bit.ly/21OVQJQ). In Illinois, this is due, in part, to the Animal Control Act (510 ILCS 5/1, et seq.).

In some jurisdictions, there is the "one free bite rule" - a dog owner may not be liable for damages caused by a dog bite if the dog has never bitten a person before. Not so in Illinois. The Act creates heightened liability for dog owners. It provides that if a dog or other animal attacks, attempts to attack, or injures a person without provocation, then the owner is liable for the full amount of any injuries sustained (510 ILCS 5/16.5). This heightened liability is designed to "encourage tight control of animals in order to protect the public from harm." Hayes v. Adams, 2013 IL App (2d) 120681, ¶ 12.

This heightened liability naturally leads to more dog-bite claims. According to State Farm, it paid out $14 million across 323 dog-related claims in Illinois in 2016 (http://bit.ly/2qweL3l). Illinois ranked second only to California on the company's Top 10 list for dog-bite claims.

Find out more, including what the "reasonable dog" standard is, in the June Illinois Bar Journal.

On July 1, 2017, a major change for calculating child support obligations takes effect. Last year, Public Act 99-764 was enacted. The legislation amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act to replace the percentage guideline formula with the income shares model for calculating child support. This is a significant change that brings Illinois in line with 39 other states and the District of Columbia, which already use the income shares model.

Since 1984, Illinois has used the percentage guideline formula to determine child support. It arrives at the child support obligation by multiplying the payor's net income by a statutorily set percentage, which increases based on the number of children. This model is now considered outdated "because it does not reflect actual child rearing costs or allocate those costs between the parents." (Find out more more in the December 2016 IBJ at http://bit.ly/2qYq8Rr). Rather, the old formula required payors to simply pay a percentage of their net income regardless of the actual child rearing costs. Oak Brook attorney Margaret A. Bennett believes the old model often caused acrimony between divorcing parents because it is not always perceived as equitable and accurate.


E-Day is approaching for the Illinois court system. The deadline days for statewide mandatory e-filing, that is.

Attorneys filing civil cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Courts will be required to do so electronically as of July 1, and the circuit courts across the state will follow on Jan. 1, 2018, pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Order M.R. 18368 issued on Jan. 22, 2016. This comes 15 years after the court first launched an e-filing pilot program in September 2002.

"This is a crucial shift in policy and practice for the Illinois courts," says Mike Tardy, director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts (AOIC). "It represents a fundamental cultural change in moving our system of justice into the use of digital technology. This will have access benefits, efficiency benefits, and ultimately, there will be cost savings."

The AOIC and Texas-based vendor Tyler Technologies, which has set up e-filing in part or all of 20 states, are working assiduously to ensure that the centralized electronic filing manager system, known as eFileIL, will be all-systems-go when the date arrives; in fact, it was already live in 59 out of the state's 102 counties by mid-April.

It's Sunday afternoon and the neighbor kid's drone comes buzzing over your yard, maybe 50 feet overhead. Like any good lawyer you ask yourself, "Is this drone flight violating my airspace?" (If you're a really good lawyer, you refer to "airspace" as "vertical curtilage.")

The short answer is yes, writes Elizabeth Austermuehle in the April ISBA Real Property newsletter. "[I]n the absence of federal or state regulations granting drones the right to fly over private property without the property owner's permission, drones do not have the right to do so," she writes. Though Illinois has passed legislation ordering up a task-force report on drone regulation (due July 2017), state law does not currently regulate drone use.

As for federal law, the FAA has long permitted flights over private property in "navigable airspace," which generally applies to the space 500 feet and higher above ground, Austermuehle writes. But it hasn't had much to say about drones - at least not until June 2016, when the agency "released its first operational rules for routine use of small [unmanned aircraft systems]," she writes. "The rules offer safety regulations for UAS weighing less than 55 pounds conducting non-hobbyist operations. Among other things, the rules require drone operators to keep the drones within their visual line of sight and prohibit flights over unprotected people on the ground who are not directly participating in the UAS operation."

All attorneys have opinions about judges. Those opinions are sometimes negative and are often shared around the office, or when talking shop with a colleague.

But lawyers should beware of voicing those opinions in a more public forum. Rule 8.2 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct prohibits attorneys from knowingly making false statements concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge.

So when do opinions become lies? The First Amendment protects people who are stating opinions. It doesn't protect defamatory speech. And the issue gets even more complicated when that speech is part of a document filed with the court.

Some years back, the seventh circuit considered the nexus between the First Amendment and ethical rules in In re Palmisano70 F.3d 483 (7th Cir. 1995). There, the court reviewed a rule to show cause why an attorney who had been disbarred in Illinois should not be disbarred by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois as well.


Twenty years ago, law firm document management revolved around meticulously organized manila files, metal drawers, and bankers boxes, with instructions not to fold, spindle, or mutilate them as they were being physically transported to another attorney or a courtroom.

While those physical manifestations still remain to varying degrees in law offices, document management today is more likely to focus on electronic files that need to be created and managed on a server or in the cloud, with instructions to ensure they're adequately encrypted before being electronically transported to one of the aforementioned destinations.

Paul Unger, a partner with Affinity Consulting Group who works with attorneys and law firms, recommends that legal offices use a top-shelf, sophisticated electronic document management system to handle the creation and storage of most types of documents.

"If we're talking about transactional attorneys - or even if it's litigation, but it's your own work product, your own correspondence and responses - anything we would draft ourselves, pleadings, motions, I would recommend in today's age that a firm have a document management system," he says. Unger recommends four primary choices: Worldox, NetDocuments, iManage (formerly Interwoven Worksite), and Open Text (formerly Hummingbird). Find out more in the May IBJ.


"If you think that most malpractice claims come from administrative errors like the failure to file documents, think again," writes Karen Erger in the April Illinois Bar Journal.

"[Consistently, the ABA's quadrennial study of malpractice claims has] found that substantive errors are the largest category of errors alleged in legal malpractice claims, Erger writes in her IBJ Loss Prevention column, sponsored by the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company. "In the 2016 study, for the first time since the 1999 study, substantive errors account for more than half of alleged errors. And the single most common error is a substantive error, namely 'Failure to Know/Properly Apply the Law,' which accounts for 15.38 percent of claims in the 2016 study. This validates the risk management maxim that dabbling in unfamiliar areas of practice is risky business, and underscores the importance of concentrating your practice on a few areas of law so that you can stay competent and capable in those areas," she writes.

In fact, administrative errors have fallen "from 30.13 percent of claims in the 2011 study to 23.15 percent in the 2016 study," Erger writes. "The study's authors suggest that '[b]etter computer calendaring systems, e-filing, electronic record keeping, and multiple modes of communication with clients appear to have assisted attorneys in managing their law practice.'"


"This past January, many newspapers carried stories of lawyers at airports, including O'Hare, offering assistance to immigrants and their families in light of the January 17 Presidential Executive Order on immigration," ISBA General Counsel Charles Northrup writes in the April Illinois Bar Journal. "The stories were often accompanied by photos of lawyers holding up hand-written signs saying things like 'Need a Lawyer?' or 'Lawyers Here to Help.'"

As Northrup puts it, he is "burdened to view the world through the lens of legal ethics," and his first thought was, "Isn't this improper in-person solicitation?"

Northrup explains that Illinois Rule of Professional Conduct 7.3, which governs in-person solicitation of clients, provides in subsection (a) that "a lawyer shall not by in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic contact solicit professional employment when a significant motive for the lawyer's doing so is the lawyer's pecuniary gain…."

When it comes to optimizing your practice, do you trust your gut? Don't. If you aren't using data to measure what works and what doesn't, you can't be sure you're winning, says Jeffrey S. Krause, a partner at law-office management consulting firm Affinity.

The movie Moneyball features a scene during which a group of scouts for the Oakland Athletics sit around a table babbling about which players they think have the most potential for their team, citing characteristics like "he's got a strong jaw" and "he's got an ugly girlfriend, which means he lacks confidence."

The team's general manager, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt), admonishes the grizzled assemblage about the inherent imprecision of their old-school metrics and turns instead to a young whiz-kid well versed in computers, who can tell him statistics like which players get on base the most, and thus score the most runs and help the team win. The team ends up riding a late-season 20-game winning streak to a playoff berth, despite having a lost three star players during the offseason.

Krause believes that attorneys can make similar use of metrics to score the most clients and overall work and help their firms win. "When you're looking at a baseball player, saying that somebody has potential, well have they realized that potential?" Krause says. "He seems to have speed; well, if that speed isn't translating into an extra base here or there, what good is that speed?