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If you do any estate-planning work and have at least one client of means – a small-business owner, say, or a farmer or other landowner – you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Senate Bill 2115, Illinois’ spanking new QTIP legislation. “[The Illinois QTIP law] allows married couples with estates of more than $2 million to set up a QTIP trust (“qualified terminable-interest property trust”) to use marital tax deductions to defer estate taxes until both spouses are deceased,” writes ISBA Director of Legislative Affairs Jim Covington in the upcoming (August) issue of the Illinois Bar Journal. The law, which will take effect as soon as the governor signs it, started life as HB 255 only to end up as a senate bill. It’s a response to the "decoupling" of the federal and Illinois inheritance tax. The federal and Illinois tax used to kick in at the same dollar amount, but last January the federal exclusion went up to $3.5 million while the Illinois tax continues to apply to estates of $2 million or more.
As Helen Gunnarsson will report in more detail in the August Illinois Bar Journal, a fresh burden for lawyers is on the horizon, and the ABA, ISBA, and other bar associations are objecting on their members’ behalf. Effective August 1, a new FTC rule will oblige most lawyers to develop written protocols to detect and address the “red flags” of identity theft. As the ABA says in its statement about the rule, applying it to lawyers “would impose an undue burden on law firms, especially solo practitioners, and would accomplish very little.” Rockford lawyer J. Joseph McCoy summarizes the rule and its implications for lawyers nicely in his article “FACTA’s ‘Red Flags’ Rule May Apply To Law Firms,” which appears in the June 2009 issue of the ABA’s GP/Solo Technology eReport. The general FTC site has a helpful page consolidating its Red Flags Rule resources.
In part because of the steadfast efforts of Sen. Richard J. Durbin, $10 million was included in the Senate CJS Appropriations bill for the John R. Justice Prosecutor and Defender Incentive Act. This loan forgiveness program requires balance in awards between prosecutors and public defenders and equitable distribution across the states. This is less than the full $25 million authorized, but it's unusual for a new program to get full funding. It now goes to a joint House-Senate conference committee for final markup.
As Helen Gunnarsson reports in the July Ilinois Bar Journal, "lawyers with file drawers or boxes of original wills for long-lost clients may rejoice: there’s finally a way to get them out of the office. Assuming a new bill is signed into law, the Illinois Secretary of State will take them off lawyers’ hands – for a small fee, of course." The law was drafted by ISBA Trusts and Estates Section Council member Ray Koenig.
Last week the Supreme Court of Illinois issued new Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct to take effect Jan. 1, 2010. New Rule 3.9 has created quite a buzz among the lawyer-lobbyists as to what it means. It may have broader applicability than those of us who lobby in Springfield to include appearances before other governmental bodies. The Rule states that “A lawyer representing a client before a legislative body or administrative agency in a nonadjudicative proceeding shall disclose that the appearance is in a representative capacity and shall conform to the provisions of Rules 3.3(a) through (c), 3.4(a) through (c), and 3.5.” The incorporation of Rule 3.5 creates the buzz. Rule 3.5 prohibits ex parte communication with an official during the proceeding. Can this be construed to prohibit all lobbying by a lawyer-lobbyist unless it is part of a scheduled public hearing? In other words, is all I can do to lobby is testify in committee? No position papers to elected members of the General Assembly? No one-on-one individual lobbying? I can’t imagine that was the intent. Rule 3.5’s title is “Impartiality and Decorum of the Tribunal.” Key word is “tribunal.” It is defined in Rule 1.0(m) as follows: “Tribunal” denotes a court, an arbitrator in a binding arbitration proceeding or a legislative body, administrative agency or other body acting in an adjudicative capacity.
Illinois State Bar Association General Counsel Charles Northrup highlights two of what he thinks are the most important changes from today's Illinois Supreme Court adoption of the New Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers:
  • "One of the most significant, if not the most significant, aspect of the adopted Rules is that they contain official comments. The comments give attorneys a readily accessible interpretation and explanation of the intent of the Rules. It will be an additional and important guide for lawyers when they are determining what their ethical obligations are."
  • "Another important aspect of the new Rules is the treatment of the Dowling case and the issue of flat or fixed fees. Many practioners were concerned about the treatment of these types of fees under Dowling and whether they fell within the definition of 'advanced payment retainers.' The new Rules clarify that flat or fixed fees are not advanced payment retainers, a position that was advocated by the ISBA."
More highlights from the Supreme Court's New Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers Announcement for the New Rules of Professional Conduct
A press release from the Illinois Supreme Court highlights some of the most important changes wrought by the new Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. For example, the new rules "clarif[y] the earlier law and eliminate certain restrictions on the reasons for sale" of a law practice, "prohibit a lawyer from having sexual relations with a client unless a prior sexual relationship existed," and "[f]or the first time ... explicitly govern electronic [lawyer advertising] communications such as e-mail and websites." Here are the full highlights from the Illinois Supreme Court: 1. New Rules The Supreme Court of Illinois has adopted a number of ethics rules that have not appeared in any previously enacted conduct code. The new rules include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • a) New Rule 1.18. Describes important duties that lawyers owe to a prospective client arising from preliminary discussions before the creation of a formal lawyer-client relationship;
  • b) New Rule 2.4. Defines the duties of a lawyer who serves as a third-party neutral, such as a mediator or arbitrator;
  • c) New Rule 3.9. Articulates the duties of an advocate in a nonadjudicative proceeding, such as before a legislative body or an administrative agency;
  • d) New Rule 4.4(b). Addresses how a lawyer should respond when the lawyer receives a document that was inadvertently submitted to the lawyer;
2. Comments to the New Rules The new ethics rules contain comments that attempt to explain the rules, refer to court decisions relating to the rules and assist the lawyer in complying with the rules. The rules are authoritative; the comments serve as a guide.
Big, big news: the Illinois Supreme Court just announced new Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct that take effect next January. This is huge, and we'll have analysis for you as soon as we can pull it together, and for weeks -- and months and probably years -- to come.
Good question, according to the New York Times. "[M]any legal experts said that instead of setting forth clear new rules, the court’s decision left things as muddled as ever for the nation’s employers," Steven Greenhouse reports. Speaking of the Grey Lady, Times national legal correspondent Adam Liptak reviews the 2008 Supreme Court term on today's edition of NPR's Fresh Air. If you miss today's broadcast you can listen to the archived version in a day or two.

IBF Grants Committee Member Ann Hatch of Belleville presents a $15,000 grant to Kathleen O’Keefe, attorney for the Neighborhood Law Office.
IBF Grants Committee Member Ann Hatch of Belleville presents a $15,000 grant to Kathleen O’Keefe, attorney for the Neighborhood Law Office.
The Illinois Bar Foundation Board of Directors is pleased to announce a $15,000 grant to Catholic Urban Program's Neighborhood Law Office in East St. Louis, one of 32 grants awarded this year totaling $304,995. The Neighborhood Law Office works with residents of East St. Louis to create healthy, safe and strong neighborhoods to stabilize and revitalize a decaying city. NLO brings about demolition of unsafe, abandoned structures, pressures local government for prompt and universal property code enforcement, and saves homes from foreclosure under predatory bond-for-deed home loan practices. Since 1996, NLO has helped bring about the demolition of more than 1600 dangerous, vacant buildings and removal of illegally dumped trash from over 280 lots. As the charitable affiliate of the Illinois State Bar Association, the Illinois Bar Foundation's mission is to ensure meaningful access to the justice system, especially for those with limited means, and to assist lawyers who can no longer support themselves due to incapacity. This past year, through the support of ISBA members, IBF distributed more than $425,000 to support these efforts.