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A proposed bill that is an initiative of the ISBA's International and Immigration Law Section Council would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to improve compliance with a current law that requires judges to notify defendants of the immigration consequences of guilty pleas. The current law, found at 725 ILCS 5/113-8, requires judges to advise defendants that a misdemeanor or felony conviction may result in deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization. However, since the law's adoption in 2004, it has been unevenly applied across Illinois courts.

In some cases, the required admonition is simply posted in courtrooms. In others, it may be contained in written agreements in court orders. It has not been uniformly given from the bench.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Illinois found that the statute was directory, not mandatory. See People v. Del Villar (2009). The court reasoned that because the law does not provide a consequence for non-compliance, it is not truly mandatory.

The proposed legislation will add a consequence for non-compliance to make the law mandatory under the Del Villar standard. A defendant who is not given the admonition and who would risk deportation, exclusion, or denial of naturalization as a result of a guilty plea would be entitled to move to vacate the judgment, withdraw the guilty plea, and instead enter a plea of not guilty. Find out more about this and other ISBA-backed legislative proposals in the February Illinois Bar Journal.

Chicago lawyer and ISBA Construction Law Section Council member Margery Newman discusses the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act. For the definitive resource on mechanics lien practice, see Turner on Illinois Mechanics Liens.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We have a 25-attorney firm based in San Antonio, Texas. We have 15 equity partners. We are equal partners and have equal ownership interests. Our partners are paid based upon ownership shares. Thus, each is paid the same. The system has worked well for us for many years and has supported our team-based collaborative culture. However, we are having issues with non-productive partners, and some of the productive partners feel that the compensation system is no longer fair. Some of the partners have suggested that we move to a formulaic system. Other partners in the firm feel that such a system would destroy the collaborative culture we have built. We appreciate your thoughts.

The Illinois Bar Foundation is joining the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, the Chicago Bar Foundation, and the Public Interest Law Initiative in inviting Illinois attorneys to participate in a statewide survey of pro bono activity.

The survey was emailed this week to all registered Illinois lawyers, who are encouraged to fill it out whether or not they regularly do pro bono work. It is open through March 10 and available here,  Responses are anonymous and only reported in the aggregate. Those who complete it are eligible to win a $500 gift certificate.

"The Illinois Supreme Court has a strong commitment to supporting pro bono as a professional responsibility and as a way to meet the legal needs of the poor. In order to address the justice gap, the Illinois Supreme Court ATJ Commission and others need to review how and why attorneys provide pro bono service and what can be done differently to expand services," said Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas L. Kilbride, ATJ Commission liaison for the court. "We invite attorneys from all four corners of the State to join us and participate in this survey."

Asked and Answered

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

Q. We have a 12-attorney business litigation firm in Springfield. I am part of our three-member management committee and have been charged with helping the firm find and hire our first legal administrator. While we have a bookkeeper who handles our billing and accounting, the rest of the firm's management matters are handled by the management committee. We believe we have reached a size where we need help with managing day-to-day operations. What sort of skill set and type of person should we be looking for?

The Illinois Supreme Court announced rule amendments today that make Illinois the first state to adopt so-called “proactive management-based regulation” (PMBR), a system designed to prevent ethical missteps by requiring lawyers without malpractice insurance to review their operations. For the text of the changes, see Amended Rule 756(e).  

Beginning in 2018, Illinois attorneys in private practice who do not have malpractice insurance must complete a four-hour interactive, online self-assessment regarding the operation of their law firm. This self-assessment will require lawyers to demonstrate that they have reviewed the operations of their firm based upon both lawyer ethics rules and best business practices. The program will be administered by the ARDC.

Following a lawyer’s self-assessment, the ARDC will provide him or her with a list of resources to address issues identified during the self-assessment process, according to a supreme court press release. All information gathered in a lawyer’s online self-assessment is confidential, although the ARDC may report data in the aggregate.

Lawyers who do not maintain malpractice insurance are required to complete a self-assessment every two years. Other lawyers are encouraged to self-assess. Lawyers who participate in the PMBR self-assessment will earn free MCLE credits.

Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the owner of a personal injury plaintiff practice in downtown Chicago. I am the only attorney in the firm. I have two legal assistants. I am 66 years old and am starting to think about retirement and how to exit my practice. I would like to sell the practice to another law firm or practitioner. Does my practice have any value and can it even be sold?

Woodstock attorney Michael Cortina offers tips for documenting commercial construction loans.

 

Consumers go online to rate restaurants, hotels, retail businesses, and home services. Specialized sites have sprung up to rate teachers, professors, doctors, and other professionals. So why should lawyers be an exception?

In fact they're not, and for that reason they need to promote - and defend - their reputation online much as they do in physical space, although the specific concerns and methods may differ. To begin with, attorneys need to claim and populate their page on the legal website Avvo, while promoting themselves elsewhere on other social media, says Stephen Fairley, CEO of The Rainmaker Institute.

"It's better to play offense than defense," he says. "It is not a matter of if you will get a negative review, it is a matter of when. Eventually, someone is not going to like what you did. It's better to take a proactive approach. We are in the consumer review economy. You can't get away from it. It is what it is. Let's deal with it." Find out how to respond to negative reviews in the February Illinois Bar Journal.