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Practice News


Asked and Answered

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

Q. We are an Oklahoma City law firm of 17 attorneys, 10 of whom are partners. Our firm does a little of everything. We have a three-member management committee of which I am a member. The firm was founded by four of the present partners 22 years ago. For many years, the firm was very successful; however, for the last five years, we have been financially hard-pressed and stagnant. We have been discussing what to do about the situation. One of our partners suggested marketing and another suggested that we needed a new strategy. We do not have a marketing plan and I didn’t know we have a strategy in place. I would appreciate your thoughts.

Anisa Jordan of the Jordan Law Firm talks about the petition to rescind a statutory summary of suspension when a client is arrested for a DUI.


Mandatory e-filing goes into effect across Illinois on January 1 (you knew that, right?), and one task that belongs at the top of every law firm's to-do list is choosing from among the "electronic filing service providers" who are the pathways to the e-filing system. No service provider, no e-filing. It is not a DIY project.

The service providers, also known as EFSPs, offer a myriad of features that lawyers will need to compare and contrast in making their decision: prices and payment options, support features like call center hours and web browsers served, and additional services like document conversion, extended document storage, detailed or simpler reporting, and proof of service to other parties.

By mid-September, the vast majority of those in Illinois who had signed up, about 93 percent, had chosen Odyssey eFileIL, a free service provided by Tyler Technologies, the vendor hired by the Illinois courts to implement e-filing statewide.That sign-up pattern is typical of other states in which Tyler Technologies has worked, at least at the outset, says Terry Derrick, senior director of e-solutions for the Texas-based company. He notes that in Texas, where Tyler has provided services for a few years, 79 percent of filers currently use Odyssey.

"The majority of the filing community will start with a free solution to see if that will meet their needs," he says. "If it doesn't…they will venture out and look at value-added services offered by the other EFSPs."


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am an equity partner in a 36-attorney firm in Miami. We have seven equity partners, eight non-equity partners, and 21 associates. Our practice is limited to civil litigation defense and our clients are institutional clients consisting of business firms, governmental agencies, and insurance companies. The ages of our equity-partners are: 64 62, 60, 58, 54, 48, and 44. The firm does not have a succession plan for the senior partners and has not discussed the matter. I am not sure what the partnership agreement provides. I am concerned about our future if we don’t start addressing this. I would appreciate your thoughts.

To help Illinois lawyers prepare for mandatory e‐filing, the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois has published an online Guide to E‐Filing and IOLTA. Developed in collaboration with the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, the guide provides lawyers with practical information about making electronic payments from client funds held in IOLTA and other client trust accounts.

By order of the Illinois Supreme Court, e‐filing in all Illinois civil cases will become mandatory on January 1, 2018. The e‐filing system, eFileIL, will accept payments for filing fees and other costs only through electronic payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards, and e‐checks. The Guide to E‐Filing and IOLTA anticipates questions and ethics considerations some lawyers may have as they adapt their trust accounting
practices to accommodate electronic payments.

E‐filing does not fundamentally change how lawyers should manage client funds held in IOLTA accounts. Electronic payments are permissible under the safekeeping of property rule (Rule of Professional Conduct 1.15), and lawyers’ duties under the rule remain the same. But for some lawyers, these new payment methods may raise questions about how to properly make electronic payments.

The guide seeks to clarify how and when the electronic payment methods are permitted under Rule 1.15, and offers additional tips for lawyers about using these methods in connection with their IOLTA accounts.

The Guide to E‐Filing and IOLTA is published online. Lawyers are urged to consult the guide. If they have questions they are encouraged to contact LTF.


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.