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Practice News


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the managing partner of a 16-attorney insurance defense firm in Kansas City. Several of our insurance company clients have advised us that they are willing to send us cases in Texas. We have decided that we would like to establish an office in Texas. Our plan is to hire three lateral attorneys with seven to 12 years of experience with Texas-based insurance defense firms. We are not certain as to the best city to establish this office. We are thinking it should be a central location. We would appreciate your thoughts.

A. Unlike many states that have one or two major cities, Texas has several, including Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Ft. Worth, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and others. Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston are all desirable locations for branch offices. Austin is more centrally located if your goal is to service the entire state.

Jonathan Chatham, with consulting firm Network It Easy, Inc., talks about Microsoft Office 365, the collaboration and productivity software suite from Microsoft. 


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the managing partner of a 12-attorney firm in Toledo, Ohio. Our firm is evaluating new billing software and we are looking into some of the cloud-based solutions. We are currently using a desktop program that we have been using for 15 years. The program handles our billing as well as our accounting. We have kept up with the updates to the program and the software has worked well for us. Several of our younger attorneys have used a couple of cloud-based billing programs in other firms and are trying to convince the firm to change over to one of these programs. They believe it is easier to enter time sheets and the software is easier to work with. What are your thoughts?

A. I agree that the subscription cloud-based billing programs are easier to learn and use. In part this is due to limited function and capabilities. However, user simplicity is only part of the equation. The bigger question is whether the software will meet your needs. Many of the cloud-based programs were designed for solo practitioners or very small firms with limited reporting requirements. While these programs are getting better and inheriting more features they are still not up to par with the older desktop programs. Limitations include:

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."

John J. Castaneda, owner of Castaneda Law Office, discusses how utilization review pertains to medical care or work-related injuries.

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.

Before 4:30PM on Thursday, May 4, please take a moment to do the following:

1.  Visit isba.org and ensure the information in your ISBA account is accurate.

  • To do so, simply login to isba.org by clicking on "ISBA Member Login" in the upper-right-hand corner of your screen (if you're already logged in, click on "My Account" in the same location).
  • Please pay particular attention to the information under the "Your Addresses" and "About You" sections because this information will become publicly available.

2. While on your ISBA account page, choose your "Online Public Directory Settings."


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the sole owner of a two-attorney firm in Atlanta. I have been in practice for 13 years. I have one associate who has been with me for one year, one full-time paralegal, and two part-time assistants. I have a general practice. Revenues have stagnated and I need to identify strategies for getting to the next level. My practice is struggling. I have been thinking about narrowing my practice and focusing on five or six practice areas. I am ready to invest in marketing. I would appreciate your thoughts.

A. This is the age of specialization – less often results in more. Many attorneys in small general practice firms are afraid to specialize and focus on three areas of practice or fewer. The concern is that by specializing, there simply will not be enough business of keep the attorneys busy generating sufficient revenues.

I have worked with several firms that have shifted their practices from general practices to practices limited to estate planning and elder law and they have performed far better as specialized practices than they did as general practices. I suggest that you consider focusing your practice on on no more than two or three key practice areas in which you can differentiate yourself.

Here are a few thoughts:


The Illinois Supreme Court has adopted a statewide policy statement for pretrial services. The statewide policy statement is a continuation of the advancement of pretrial services in Illinois.

"This policy statement seeks to serve as a guide for all of our trial courts," Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said. "The goal of pretrial services is to reduce the pretrial incarceration rate while ensuring that defendants comply with approved pretrial release. This process includes the application of a validated pretrial risk assessment tool which aids judges in making research-based decisions about whether defendants should be detained or released prior to their criminal trials.”

The statement is as follows:

J. Timothy Eaton, partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, discusses when and whether you should appeal.