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Practice News

When patients get a life-changing medical diagnosis, they often seek a second opinion. When clients have questions about the direction that their legal counsel takes, they may think they have nowhere to turn.

In fact, attorneys can provide clients with second opinions, although most do not advertise them as a service. Valorem Law Group in Chicago is one of the first law firms to feature second opinions as part of its practice. Valorem, also known for its alternative fee agreements (see the October 2014 IBJ cover story), has been providing legal second opinions to individuals and companies for the past two years.

Nicole Auerbach, one of Valorem's founding partners, says that clients can "save a lot of money and angst" by seeking second opinions. Clients seeking second opinions can ask a wide range of questions. Some want to know if a proposed settlement is acceptable. Others want to get a second opinion about the direction their counsel is taking in a specific matter. Some want a reality check on what they're being billed and what they're told it will cost to complete a representation. Auerbach says that "there is really no topic that doesn't lend itself well to a second opinion."

Find out more in the July Illinois Bar Journal.


Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I’m a second-generation attorney with about five years of experience at a small liability defense firm in Southern California. My father is the managing partner and we have three total attorneys. My father and his partner probably have five to seven years left practicing. We only do California workers’ compensation defense. I’m planning on taking over the practice but am concerned about trends in the industry that will affect profitability, such as more stringent billing guidelines/bill audits, cuts to travel time, etc. What are the characteristics of a successful liability defense firm that I should strive towards?

Chief Judge Kathryn E. Creswell announced that the Court is accepting applications to fill a vacancy for the Office of Associate Judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois, DuPage County.  This vacancy is the result of the retirement of Associate Judge Bruce R. Kelsey effective July 7, 2017. Applications are now being accepted for this vacancy which will be filled by vote of the circuit judges of the 18th Judicial Circuit.

Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 39, any attorney, who is a U.S. citizen, is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois, and is a resident of the 18th Judicial Circuit may apply by electronically filing a signed application with the Director of the Administrative Office of Illiinois Courts on the form prescribed and furnished by the Director.  The instructions for submitting an application electronically are available on the supreme court's website.

If unable to submit an application electronically, an applicant must submit two (2) signed originals of the prescribed application with the Director of the Administrative Office of Illinois Courts at the address listed below:

Michael J. Tardy, Director
Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts
3101 Old Jacksonville Rd.
Springfield, IL  62704-6488

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis has begun an application process for a judicial vacancy in the Fifth Judicial Subcircuit of Cook County. The vacancy is created by the retirement of the Hon. Edward Washington, II.

Under the Illinois Constitution, judicial vacancies are filled on an interim basis by supreme court appointment. Justice Theis will make recommendations to the supreme court after applicants undergo a screening and evaluation process.

That process will include an evaluation by the Alliance of Bar Associations, which is made up of 11 bar groups in the Cook County area, and the Chicago Bar Association. Further review will be conducted by a special judicial screening committee that Justice Theis established in 2013 and is co-chaired by retired U.S. District Court Judge Wayne R. Andersen and retired Illinois Appellate Court Judge Michael J. Gallagher.

To be eligible for consideration for appointment, the applicant must be a lawyer in good standing licensed to practice law in Illinois and a resident of the Fifth Subcircuit.

The deadline for submission of applications is 4 p.m. on Monday, July 17, 2017.

Notice of the vacancy and details of the application process are posted on the Illinois Supreme Court's website. From there, follow the instructions on the "Latest News" scroller announcing the Fifth Subcircuit vacancy.


Leading appellate attorneys review the Illinois Supreme Court opinions handed down on Thursday, June 15. The cases are People v. Alexander and People v. Nelson

People v. Alexander

By Jay Wiegman, Office of the State Appellate Defender

In 2011, the Occupy Chicago movement demonstrated in Chicago’s financial district. About three weeks into the protest, the demonstrators were directed to an area known as Congress Plaza in Grant Park, but were then told they would have to leave at 11:00 p.m., pursuant to an ordinance that closes the park overnight, so that park employees could clean and maintain the park, and for safety concerns. Protesters who remained in the park at 1:00 a.m. were arrested for refusing to leave the park.

The circuit court dismissed the charges, finding that the ordinance was unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the defendants, in part because the Chicago Police Department occasionally permitted after-hours assemblage, including President Obama’s election night rally in 2008.

The appellate court, First District, reversed, holding that the ordinance did not violate the defendants’ right to assemble under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Illinois Supreme Court entered a supervisory order, which directed the appellate court to consider whether the Park District Ordinance violated the Illinois Constitution. The appellate court again reversed the circuit court’s judgment.

Chicago area immigration attorneys have reportedly seen an uptick in both demand for their services and immigration scams (http://bit.ly/2pw699g). Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued a press release warning immigrant communities about potential fraud (http://bit.ly/2qzEDev). Her office recently sued southwest suburb-based Norma Bonilla, who is accused of immigration fraud (http://cbsloc.al/2r18JYe). Bonilla has allegedly defrauded at least four people who were seeking immigration law services. Bonilla is not an attorney.

How do people fall prey to these scams? In some cases, their misunderstanding based on the legal conventions of their native cultures may lead them to fall victim to the unauthorized practice of law.

In some countries, for example, notaries ("notarios") are authorized to provide some basic legal services, while in the U.S. they are merely authorized to witness signatures. As such, it is understandable that some immigrants may assume that a notary can assist them with legal services, including immigration services. According to an FAQ published by the ISBA Task Force on Unauthorized Practice of Law, in addition to licensed attorneys, not-for-profit entities registered with the Board of Immigration Appeals can provide immigration law services (http://bit.ly/2ps85mA).

Find out more in the June Illinois Bar Journal.


The Illinois Supreme Court Clerk's Office will join the eFileIL community on Thursday, June 15. Filers for the state's highest court will need to access the eFileIL filing platform at efile.illinoiscourts.gov and become a registered user through one of the authorized service providers. Supreme Court filers will no longer be able to use the i2File platform as of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14.

On January 22, 2016, the Illinois Supreme Court entered Order M.R. 18368 announcing mandatory e-filing for civil cases in the Illinois Supreme, Appellate and Circuit Courts. Consistent with the amendment to this order, entered on May 30, 2017, permissive e-filing may continue in people cases on the Supreme Court's general docket and all cases on the Court's miscellaneous record ("MR") docket. The Supreme Court Order requires e-filing through a single, centralized electronic filing manager (EFM), which will be integrated with each court's case management system. The supreme and appellate courts have a July 1, 2017, deadline to join eFileIL. The Second Appellate District became the first reviewing court to join on May 18.

The Supreme Court Clerk's Office has been e-filing since 2012 on a pilot basis that was expanded to all cases in 2013. In 2016, approximately 48 percent of pleadings filed on the Court's general docket were e-filed and approximately 75 percent of the pleadings on the MR dockets were e-filed.

ISBA Director of Legislative Affairs Jim Covington reviews legislation of interest to ISBA members. This week, he summarizes some of the more important bills that have been sent to the governor, or will be sent this summer. Once he receives it from the General Assembly, he has 60 days to sign, veto, or amendatorily veto it. If he takes no action, it becomes law as a “pocket signature.”

For context, please note that the House introduced 4,063 bills, and the Senate introduced 2,212 bills. The number of bills passing both chambers was 296 House Bills and 194 Senate bills.

More information on each bill is available below the video.


Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am the managing partner of a nine-attorney general practice firm in the Chicago suburbs. We practice in the areas of estate planning/administration and family law. While our estate planning and uncontested family law work is done on a flat-fee basis, our estate administration and contested family law work is billed by time. We collect initial retainers for these matters, but we fail to ensure that the retainers are replenished. We are having accounts receivable collection problems as a result. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Kerry Bryson reviews People v. Sebby, handed down by the court Friday, June 2.

People v. Sebby

By Kerry Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

On October 27, 2011, LaSalle County Sheriff's Deputies went to the Sebby residence to serve a custody order. They were looking for the defendant's mother, Bonnie, who they believed had current physical custody of the defendant's niece (L.S.). L.S.'s mother, Casey, was the defendant's sister. Casey died in a car accident a month prior, and the custody order directed law enforcement to assist L.S.'s biological father in obtaining custody of her.

Deputies had gone to the Sebby residence on two occasions during the week prior to October 27, but had been unsuccessful in serving Bonnie with the custody order. On the 27th, deputies arrived at 6 a.m., knocked on the door, and were met by a young woman who did not live at the home. The events that followed were recounted by both the deputies and the defendant and his family and friends, with each side giving a version which differed from the other, and with each version being plausible. The encounter ended with the defendant's arrest for resisting.

Ultimately, the case proceeded to jury trial. During jury selection, there were defects in the Rule 431(b) admonishments provided by the court (commonly known as the Zehr admonishments). Defense counsel, however, did not object to the defective admonishments. On appeal, the defendant relied on the plain error doctrine to challenge the unpreserved 431(b) error.