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Practice News


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a partner in a 12-attorney firm in Rockville, Maryland. We are a first-generation corporate transactional and litigation firm. The firm was founded by the four equity partners twelve years ago. We have been very successful over the years and this is borne out by our excellent financial performance. While we have done well in our core practice areas, we are considering diversifying our practice into government sector work due to our proximity to Washington, D.C. We are considering merging with a six-attorney (three partner) firm in D.C. that is totally focused on such work. Can you share with us any pitfalls that we should look out for?

The accepted wisdom is that a civil defendant's conviction (e.g., for a traffic offense in a case based on a car wreck) is not a binding admission of wrongdoing — and thus is not admissible in the civil trial — if the defendant merely "stipulated" that the underlying facts are true and did not admit guilt.

But in the August Trial Briefs, Winnebago County Circuit Judge Eugene G. Doherty points to a 35-year-old appellate case, Batterton v. Thurman105 Ill. App. 3d 798434 N.E.2d 1174 (3d Dist. 1982), that indicates otherwise. (Trial Briefs is the newsletter of ISBA's Civil Practice Section.) In Batterton, the court found that the defendant's stipulation to the underlying facts in a criminal proceeding constituted a binding admission and was admissible in the subsequent civil trial.

In early 2017, the Illinois Bar Foundation joined the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, the Chicago Bar Foundation, and the Public Interest Law Initiative in releasing a statewide survey to hear directly from attorneys about their experiences with pro bono.

The Pro Bono Survey Project is part of a national effort spearheaded by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service to study broader pro bono trends across the country. Nearly 6,000 attorneys in every judicial circuit, county, and practice setting in the state responded to the survey. The thousands of responses reflect the diversity of both our state’s attorneys and their experiences with pro bono. 

This month, as we celebrate Pro Bono Week, we would like to share some survey highlights and helpful websites to learn more about pro bono.

Ngozi C. Okorafor, policy advisor with the Office of Governor Bruce Rauner, discusses retaliation and whistleblowing in the workplace, and outlines eight steps to prevent them.


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a partner in a firm in Los Angeles. We have nine attorneys: four partners and five associates. We are a young firm in that we have only been in business for four years. The four partners started the firm together, and we are equal partners who split the profits equally. When we started the firm, we each made equal capital contributions. We do not have a partnership agreement. We are thinking about bringing in two associates as equity partners and are trying to think through the mechanics. One of our questions is whether there should be a buy-in and, if so, how should we determine it. We would appreciate your thoughts.

Divorcing clients have a range of estate planning needs, but some issues arise for nearly everyone whose marriage is ending, notes Chicago lawyer and ISBA member Lauren Evans DeJong. So be prepared to counsel your divorcing client about the following five estate-planning tasks.

Changing beneficiary designations. These include removing the soon-to-be ex as beneficiary "of [the client's] life insurance policies, individual retirement accounts, land trusts, and annuities," DeJong writes. Also review "transfer on death or payable on death bank or brokerage accounts, land conveyed by transfer on death deeds, and employee benefits."

Controlling access to online accounts. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, 755 ILCS 70/1 et seq., which took effect last year, "provides a priority system for individuals to specifically control disclosure of digital assets and content of electronic communications" on social media, email, and the like.

"Many clients will not want their…ex to have access to their e-mails, Facebook or Instagram accounts, financial or banking information, diaries, or other personal information," DeJong writes.

"Individuals can use online tools established by providers [e.g., Google's Inactive Account Manager and Facebook's Legacy Contact] to direct disclosure of digital assets," she writes. "[A]n online tool…takes precedence over any other method of directing disclosure." Another option is to draft a statement directing disclosure, which can be included in a client's will, trust, or POA.

The State of Illinois seeks a public service administrator at the Northern Receiving Correctional Center in Crest Hill to plan, organize, direct, and evaluate the operations of the Preliminary Hearing Program Unit; serve as supervising hearing officer, traveling statewide to attend and/or conduct preliminary and complex hearings; provide technical assistance to the chief legal counsel; serve as a resource to government officials; provide legal opinions, interpretations, and advice; and serve as a full line supervisor.

To be eligible for this position, the applicant must be a graduate of a recognized law school. Requires prior experience equivalent to three years of progressively responsible administrative experience in a public or private legal organization, preferably in the areas of criminal justice or administrative law. Requires the ability to successfully apply learned knowledge and techniques to working environment. Requires working of the agency's program operations and policies. Requires the possession of a license to practice law in Illinois. Applicants must be in, and maintain, good standing with the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.

The application deadline is 5 p.m. CT on Wednesday, October 11. 

Kerry Bryson of the Office of the State Appellate Defender reviews the Illinois Supreme Court ruling in the criminal case People v. Bailey.

People v. Bailey

In 2005, Dennis Bailey was convicted of residential burglary and disarming a peace officer. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal and post-conviction petition, Bailey sought leave to file a successive post-conviction petition. The State filed a written objection, and Bailey field a written response.

The court held a hearing on the motion for leave to file; Bailey was not present and was not represented by counsel. At that hearing, the prosecutor argued that the pleadings did not satisfy the cause-and-prejudice test for filing a successive petition. The court acknowledged Bailey’s written response and denied leave to file.

Bailey challenged the State’s participation at the motion-for-leave-to-file stage of the proceedings, noting that the Post-Conviction Hearing Act does not expressly allow the State to file a responsive pleading or provide input on the court’s decision. The State argued that the Act is considered civil in nature, and parties are generally permitted to respond to motions for leave to file.

Alen Takhsh of Takhsh Law, P.C. discusses the implications of traveling abroad for Green Card holders.

Asked and Answered


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

Q. I am a partner in a four-attorney plaintiff-side personal injury firm in Illinois. Three of us are partners and we have one associate attorney. We handle run of the mill slip and fall, vehicle, and premises accidents; products liability cases; and workers’ compensation cases. We have a very aggressive advertising and marketing program. We are having issues with reduced case flow and dwindling and diminishing profits and earnings. For the past year the partners have been living off our credit line. We believe that we need to be thinking about doing something different and are not sure as to what that should be. However, we have agreed to start doing some long-term planning. We would appreciate your thoughts.