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Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am a member of the executive committee of a 75-attorney firm in Houston, Texas. We are a first-generation firm. Several of our founders are in their 60s and we have recently begun discussing succession planning and how clients and management duties will be transitioned. We would appreciate your thoughts in these areas.

A. In larger firms, clients are more likely to be large, sophisticated clients, possibly Fortune 500 companies, which refer many matters to the firm during the course of a year. Often such clients may be both a blessing and a curse for the firm. A blessing in that their business provides the firm with huge legal fees during the course of a year. A curse in that their business represents a large percent of the firm’s annual fee collections and a significant business risk if the firm were to lose the client. An effective client transition is critical, takes time, and must be well planned.

Successful client transition – moving clients from one generation to the next – is a major challenge for larger firms. Shifting clients is not an individual responsibility but a firm responsibility. To effectively transition clients, the individual lawyer, with clients, must work together with the firm to insure the clients receive quality legal services throughout the transition process. Both the individual lawyer and the firm must be committed to keeping clients in the firm when the senior attorneys retire. Potential obstacles include:


"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…."

By Sandra Crawford, JD, Mediator, Collaborative Process Professional, Trained Circle Keeper

No matter where on this planet our ancestors hailed from, it is safe to say that at some point in history all of them sat around a fire either for heat, nourishment, storytelling, entertainment, community, support, and most likely to do some problem solving. From these ancient beginnings has grown what is now generally known as the Circle Process — a problem resolving or peacemaking model that can be used in a variety of settings for a variety of purposes. “The philosophy of Circle acknowledges that we are all in need of help and that helping others helps us at the same time." The Little Book of Circle Processes by Kay Pranis, page 6. (Hereinafter "the Little Book").

There are various types of circles. All share key elements and draw on indigenous tribal traditions mixed with contemporary concepts of democracy, inclusiveness, and multi-cultural integration. The shared key elements of all circles are: Ceremony, Guidelines, Talking Piece, Keeping/Facilitation, and Consensus/Decision Making. Briefly, the different types are:

ISBA Director of Legislative Affairs Jim Covington reviews legislation in Springfield of interest to ISBA members. This week he covers the Nursing Home Act and attorney fees, the Collaborative Process Act, child support law technical corrections, a bill affecting objections to jurisdiction, mandated child abuse or neglect reporters, an omnibus condo bill, and a bill amending the Condominium Property Act.

More information on each bill is available below the video.


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a partner in a 45-lawyer firm in Memphis and a member on the firm’s executive committee. We are planning on having a two-day planning retreat in June of this year. We have had these retreats every year for the past six years. Past retreats have only included attorneys. This year we are considering including staff members. We would appreciate your thoughts as to whether this is a good idea.

A. A firm invites all key staff to a retreat when they can play a major role in identifying problems and developing solutions. A firm retreat is an excellent forum if the partners or management have determined that individuals at different levels within the firm are having communication problems – for example – where communication is inadequate between:

  • Equity partners and non-equity partners
  • Partners and associates
  • Attorneys and staff

Having these individuals participate in solving their own communication problems at the retreat usually produces better results than those obtained when the partners hand down orders that may not deal with the real issues. Staff participation can help identify problems, involve more firm members after the retreat in the implementation of solutions, and improve buy in.    


On April 3, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court approved Supreme Court Rule 293, which requires trial courts to commence a jury trial if requested by a respondent in an involuntary admissions proceeding under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code within 30 days of the request effective immediately.

The decision to approve this rule stems from years of confusion and debate. Recognizing the serious rights at stake in cases such as In re James W., 2014 IL 114483, and In re Rita P., 2014 IL 115798, the Court asked its Special Advisory Committee for Justice and Mental Health Planning to study the matter and recommend solutions. Rule 293 was proposed by the Committee to clarify and make mandatory the time limit trial courts have to convene juries in mental health involuntary commitment hearings. 

The importance of creating one uniform rule for the state cannot be understated. It recognizes the importance of fundamental liberty interests; provides one consistent standard for judges to make clear, concise, and complete findings of fact; and provides guidelines to  judges who lack experience in these types of case. Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier explained, "The Court is confident that the new rule will provide much needed guidance to the courts and officials charged with enforcing the orders and, in so doing, ensure full and proper protection of the fundamental liberty interests of citizens facing involuntary admission or treatment for mental health issues.”

On April 3, 2017, the Illinois Supreme Court announced changes to a rule impacting the requirements for continuing legal education (CLE) in Illinois. The rule change will go into effect on July 1, 2017, and begins with attorneys with the two-year reporting period ending June 30, 2019.

Pursuant to Amended Supreme Court Rule 794(d), Illinois lawyers will be required to complete one hour of diversity and inclusion CLE and one hour of mental health and substance abuse CLE as part of the Professional Responsibility CLE requirement. 

Studies show that the legal field falls short in the areas of diversity and wellness as compared to other fields. Promoting education on these issues helps address two of the profession's greatest challenges, and positions Illinois as one of the first states to require such programming. Illinois is one of seven states that allows diversity and inclusion to qualify for ethics/professionalism credit. With the amendment of Rule 794(d), it became the fourth state to require diversity-related CLE, and it is one of only three states that will require mental health and substance abuse education. As a result, Illinois is one of only two states that requires both diversity and inclusion and mental health and substance abuse education for continuing legal education. 

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the managing partner of a six-lawyer general practice firm in Chicago. We have four partners and two associates and have been in practice for 20 years. While we are holding our own financially we would like to do better. The partners have never earned more than $175,000 – some years not even that. What can we do to improve profitability?

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?

Chicago attorney David B. Menchetti discusses AMA impairment ratings in workers' compensation cases.