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Practice News


We recently launched our new member benefit, Practice HQ. Organized by the lifecycle of a law practice, this one-stop microsite houses together high-quality practice information in one place.

Once you've opened your firm, developed a marketing and retention strategy to build your client base, learned the ins and outs of managing and protecting, the final stage of your firm's lifecycle is to ethically wind down. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to succession planning because practices close for many different reasons; sometimes it is planned while other times the circumstances are outside of our control. As a result, the Practice HQ resources geared toward winding down your practice are valuable to members at all stages of their career, whether you're nearing retirement or simply want to prepare for the future. After all, the planning for eventual succession takes place long before any transactions.


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I serve on the management committee of our 16-lawyer firm in Columbus, Ohio. We do not currently have a strategic plan and have been discussing whether we should spend the time developing one. However, we are not sure what a strategic plan would do for us or why it is worth the investment. We appreciate any thoughts that you might have.

A. One of the major problems facing law firms is focus. Research indicates that three of the biggest challenges facing professionals today are: time pressures, financial pressures, and the struggle to maintain a healthy balance between work and home. Billable time, non-billable time or the firm’s investment time, and personal time must be well managed, targeted, and focused. Your time must be managed as well.

Today well-focused specialists are winning the marketplace wars. Trying to be all things to all people is not a good strategy. Such full-service strategies only lead to lack of identity and reputation. For most small firms, it is not feasible to specialize in more than two or three core practice areas.

Based upon our experience from client engagements, we have concluded that lack of focus and accountability is one of the major problems facing law firms. Often the problem is too many ideas, alternatives, and options. The result often is no action at all or actions that fail to distinguish firms from their competitors and provide them with a sustained competitive advantage. Ideas, recommendations, suggestions, etc. are of no value unless implemented.


Kerry Bryson reviews People v. Holmes, handed down Thursday, August 3. 

Round v. Lamb

By Kerry Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Petitioner Danny Round brought a complaint for habeas corpus, or, in the alternative, for an order of mandamus. Round’s present incarceration is the result of his serving his mandatory supervised release (MSR) term in custody because an acceptable electronic monitoring host site could not be identified. In the instant proceeding, Round sought immediate release, arguing that the sentencing order in his case did not include the 4-year MSR term on which he is presently being held; that even if that 4-year MSR term applies, it started to run when he completed his term of imprisonment on the count with which it is associated and not when he completed a longer, concurrent term of imprisonment; and that his sentence should have been amended to be no more than seven years total. because that was the maximum term he expected at the time of his plea.

It would be difficult to provide a more clear and succinct summary of the court’s analysis of each of Round’s contentions than that provided by Justice Garman, writing for the Court, at the conclusion of the opinion (¶¶ 28-30):


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am the owner of a five-attorney estate planning practice in Denver. I have four associate attorneys. Three have been with the firm for over 12 years. Last year, an associate that had been with me for many years left the firm and started his own practice. I thought I was paying him well by virtue of a competitive salary and a discretionary bonus in addition to other benefits. I do not want to lose other seasoned attorneys. What should I do to provide more incentives for associates to stay with the firm?

A. Experience and research by our firm and others has demonstrated that the following, in priority order, are the key drivers of associate attorney job satisfaction:

  1. Satisfaction with immediate manager or supervisor
  2. Opportunities for training
  3. Satisfaction with team and coworkers
  4. Opportunities for career growth
  5. Compensation
  6. Opportunities for promotion

While compensation often is considered the primary factor related to associate satisfaction, I often find that opportunities for career growth and promotion play a significant role. Associates do take pay cuts for career growth and promotion opportunities in other firms — or, in some cases, starting their own firm.

A recent court order (http://bit.ly/2rkz8A6), which amends the court's January 22, 2016 mandatory e-filing order, requires circuits with existing e-filing programs to switch to the statewide eFileIL system by July 1, 2018. The original order had not set a specific date, but said that one would be announced in the future.

Another change wrought by the amendment is that all courts must make their case documents and information available to a new statewide remote access system known as re:SearchIL. However, this does not mean that attorneys and the public will have immediate access to the new system. The high court has stated that implementation and access will progress at a pace that it sets.

Initial access will only be provided to judges, clerks, and court officials. The amended order says that attorneys and the public will ultimately gain access -- re:SearchIL "is designed to serve as an online remote access system similar to Pacer in the federal courts."

Before that can happen, "a remote access policy needs to be fully vetted and approved by the supreme court," Madison County Chief Circuit Judge David Hylla says. The high court's e-Business Policy Advisory Board, of which Hylla is chair, is working to recommend a policy, he says. He expects that re:SearchIL will be "available to the bar and the public soon after all or nearly all courts are integrated with the central [Electronic Filing Manager.]"

There will be a predetermined document access fee (much like Pacer). The amended order says that the fee will be paid in full to the circuit court owning the case documents-so long as the court has migrated to eFileIL.


Asked and Answered

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

Q. I am a solo practitioner in upstate New York. I am 66-years-old, looking to retire, and trying to figure out what to do with my practice. My practice is a general practice and there is just me and one secretary. I welcome your suggestions.


Kerry Bryson reviews People v. Holmes, handed down Thursday, July 20.

People v. Holmes

By Kerry Bryson, Office of the State Appellate Defender

Prior to the Illinois Supreme Court’s issuing its decision in Aguilar, David Holmes was arrested at a Chicago beach when officers observed a revolver sticking out of his waistband. After his arrest, the police learned that he did not have a FOID card. He was charged with two counts of AUUW for carrying an uncased, loaded, and immediately accessible firearm and two counts of AUUW for carrying a firearm without a valid FOID card.

Those first two counts were nolle prossed by the state after Aguilar was decided. Prosecution of the no-FOID counts continued.

Holmes filed a motion to suppress arguing that the police lacked probable cause to believe he was committing a crime because the AUUW statute upon which his arrest was based was later held unconstitutional and thus was void ab initio (or, as if it had never existed). Holmes further argued that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply where the police were enforcing an unconstitutional statute. The trial court allowed the motion to suppress, noting that it was “unfortunate” because the officer’s actions were not improper at the time. The appellate court affirmed, concluding that the void ab initio doctrine precluded application of the good faith exception.

The July 2017 bar exam is fast approaching, and this season’s test-takers are no doubt feeling the anxiety and stress that comes with it. We asked our members and followers on Twitter to share with us their best tips for tackling the final days leading up to the bar exam. Below is some of our favorite advice:

Corporate America has taken steps to create a more diverse workforce at all levels. Companies like Microsoft have executives who focus on developing and fostering a diverse environment. Women and people of color are increasingly seen in managerial and executive-level roles.

And yet the legal profession has lagged behind. Professor William Henderson of Indiana University's Maurer School of Law has looked at how to improve diversity in the profession and the benefits of doing so.

Henderson published the results of his research in a 2016 paper entitled "Solving the Legal Profession's Diversity Problem" (http://bit.ly/2rVJpm6). Henderson, who recently spoke at the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism's The Future Is Now: Legal Services 2.017 conference in Chicago, suggests that the profession's lack of diversity is a system failure rather than a lack of moral resolve.

Henderson's research indicates that law firms have put a disproportionate emphasis on academic credentials. He cites research and his own experience with internal law firm studies for the proposition that "attendance at an elite law school is seldom a marker of future success and often a slight negative predictor."

A better indicator for success than which law school attorneys attend is whether they had access to mentoring and feedback at the beginning of their career, he says. Find out more in the July Illinois Bar Journal.


Asked and Answered 

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

Q. I am the owner of a six-attorney elder law firm in Dallas. I manage the firm and practice law. I am finding it more and more difficult to do both. I would like to shift my time totally to managing the practice. I would appreciate your thoughts.       

A. You are not alone. This is a common problem in law and other professional service firms. I have similar problems in my own firm — it is very difficult to serve two masters — serving your clients and managing your firm. Eventually you have to pick one — client service (doing legal work) or managing and running your business — as the area that receives your primary focus. This is not to say that you should not do both — but you select the primary area that you are going to focus on and get help with the other area.

A question that I typically ask my new law firm clients is, “What do you want to be: A business person or a lawyer?” The answer to the question often provides a hint to how you should structure your firm. If you want to be more of a business person, hire legal talent to help with serving clients and performing legal work and spend more time working on your firm rather than in it. If you want to be a lawyer and do legal work and serve clients, hire a legal administrator or business manager (this is more than an office manager) to manage and run your firm.