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Solo In Chicago

...empowering the Second City's entrepreneurial legal community

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A "meaningful specific"

Heard this little nugget from Zig Ziglar, "you must become a meaningful specific rather than a wandering generality." Sort of applicable to many small firm lawyers no (including the author at times)?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's not a sale unless you get paid...

Good piece about client billing and collections here from the Trib. Some good reminder nuggets:

--"Soft touch" collections...not going to outside collection agencies too quickly;

--Rookie mistake of not having a collection policy;

--Get money up front;

--Evaluate specific relationships...maybe a client is worth a short delay in payment; many companies have periodic cash-flow problems;

--And, it's not a sale/client unless you get paid!!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

What do you do?

Rjon over at How to make it rain posts an interesting e-mail exchange discussing how lawyers should answer the question, so, what do you do?

Who's blog is this...

Practical Lawyering?

Lawyer etiquette...

I've had a rash of opposing lawyers lately who have just been horrible in their treatment...primarily causing me to waste time sitting in courtrooms waiting for them. Very annoying. What good purpose does this serve? I'm just trying to figure out these lawyers' motives...don't they know that other lawyers are always your best referral source? Don't they want to have a good relationship with the attorney on the case to get their client a better and more efficient result?

Apparently not. I think it's typically associates in larger Chicago law firms who essentially don't have an incentive to produce business nor do they have a motive for an efficient client result. Plus I think so many Chicago lawyers just think we're in this big city with all these lawyers and they're not going to see me again. Very short-sighted I think.

Paperless cont...

Thanks for the great comments on paperless offices. I'll tell ya what's keeping us from being 100% paperless...it's because our two administrative staff persons are both offsite. I don't have anyone onsite to scan stuff that comes in via snail mail. So if things come in via e-mail or fax, then they stay digital, but if they come in as paper then it's up to me to scan them in and it's not always feasible for me to spend my time in that fasion.

Chicago lawyer jailed

Saw this piece about a young lawyer sentenced to 14 days in jail for contempt of court. Anyone know more about it? I see the Judge is Pamela Hill Veal in Cook Municipal One. So it's the Daley Center arbitration call or collections or forcible entry and detainer maybe? Well, she got out after a day so at least her/lawyer's Memorial Day weekend wasn't impacted.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Power of Attorney litigation

Thought I'd pass on an interesting comment from Cook probate Judge James G. Riley from a recent CBA seminar. He said POA litigation has quadrupled in the last two to three years. Maybe a growth area to get into? This is likely the tip of the iceberg with our aging population, right?

Mostly removal of POA agent issues.

Is she a lawyer?

Check them out...http://www.ishereallyalawyer.com/.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Attorneys directing clients to go behind opposing counsel's back

I just wanted to share a question and some responses that I saw on the ISBA list serve. This one is fairly common and I've read ARDC troubles for lawyers on this issue. A fairly well-known lawyer in the northwest 'burbs go nailed on this recently.


I found a letter and draft judgment slipped under the door to my office – marked hand delivered on Friday. However, the letter indicated that counsel had sent a copy of the proposed draft to his client with instructions to show it to my client. While counsel did not directly communicate with my client, I wonder what other feel about this practice.


The consensus was exactly what I thought: Violation of RPC 4.2. While our clients may share information, documents, correspondence, etc. with their prospective ex spouses, attorneys should never direct their clients to do that behind the other attorney's back, and worse yet, tell counsel s/he did just that.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

10 things he didn't learn in law school

Very good piece from ISBA's The Counselor newsletter about "10 things they did not teach me in law school."

Small Business 101

Great overview from the NYTimes regarding the stark realities but also some helpful resources for small business start-ups.

More first-hand testimony on going paperless...

Saw another good blurb from Technolawyer about a lawyer's experience and "how to" of going paperless. Can you afford NOT to be paperless?

TechnoLawyer publisher Neil Squillante asks:"Is it possible to go paperless without adding anyone to your payroll? Who does the scanning and how much more time does it take than the old method of filing paper?"

Enrico Schaefer responded:"Yes, going digital allows you to be more efficient. But it also allows you to handle more clients in a day, drastically reduce turn-around time and improve overall quality. You will find that, if done properly, paperless offers market opportunities which justify adding staff."

After reading Mr. Schaefer's comments about a paperless workflow, I note that my experience regarding staff requirements has been significantly different than his. I've been practicing law for more than twenty years, with experience as a government trial lawyer, head of the litigation department in a medium-size law firm with a full complement of associates, paralegals, and legal secretaries, and for the last four plus years as a solo practitioner/small firm lawyer with a very active litigation practice. Adopting a paperless operation has enabled me to maintain and expand my practice with far less staff support than would ever be possible in a typical law office.

In a paper driven practice, a large part of a legal secretary's day is spent in file organization and maintenance. The documents come in, are delivered to the attorney, retrieved from the attorney, and filed for the attorney. If more than one attorney wants to review the documents, numerous trees are sacrificed at the alter of the photocopier. Pleadings and discovery are received, reviewed, retrieved, indexed, and filed. The same documents are often retrieved, reviewed, and refiled on multiple occasions. The same is true for correspondence, bills, invoices, etc., etc. The bane of a legal secretary's existence is filing β€” I never knew a secretary who didn't hate it. In addition to all of this, of course, is the inevitable misfiling of documents and the numerous search operations required to find the file that just isn't where it is supposed to be, or that is buried on someone's desk.

A well designed document management system in a paperless environment eliminates all of this. In my current practice, one secretary serves three attorneys. When the mail arrives, she scans it in to the appropriate location on the network, then delivers the paper mail to the appropriate attorney. After the mail is read, it is thrown away, not returned to the secretary and not placed in a paper file. All outgoing documents are saved as pdf's β€” no photocopies are made or maintained (we do keep originals of some documents, such as affidavits and verification pages on interrogatory responses). We do not have file cabinets full of documents, do not need storage units for closed files, and we spend almost no time searching for misplaced paper.

Though the secretary spends time scanning the documents into the document management system, she spends no time on filing or managing paper files.Though I admittedly have not done an empirical study of the differences in staff support required by a paperless operation versus the standard way of practicing, my prior experience tells me that the paperless operation has reduced the administrative support requirement in my practice by better than fifty percent. This might be different in a transactional practice, but in a litigation environment where paper flies like snow in the arctic, a paperless practice allows me to compete with much larger firms and keep my administrative overhead to a minimum.

David N. Ventker
Ventker & Warman, PLLC
101 West Main Street, Suite 810
Norfolk, VA 23510
E: dventker@ventkerlaw.com

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Welcome "dirty lawyer"

Not sure of the "age" of the blog but saw this new-to-me blog, The Dirty Lawyer's Blog. Plus he's commented here. Looks like a good commercial real estate entry into the blogsphere.

Welcome David.

David G. Stejkowski
Stejkowski & Zaffere LLC
The Powerhouse Building
211 North Clinton StreetChicago, Illinois 60661

Chicago divorce lawyer ad

A racy ad for a Chicago divorce lawyer got a ton of publicity...here and here.

The city of Chicago has taken down a racy billboard that proclaimed "Life is short. Get a divorce." The billboard featured photos of a scantily clad woman and a shirtless man and was an ad for Chicago divorce attorney Corri Fetman.

As someone who practices a good bit of family law, I've never seen nor heard of Ms. Fetman. Sadly I see this perspective as the majority view of family law practitioners. I disagree with it personally. I'm in the field because I think family break-up is tragic and also because it places people and their children in a very vulnerable position. I think I can bring some effective advocacy and a little light to these dark situations. My $.02.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Staffless Lawyers

Here's a duplicate posting from another one of my blogs...I was torn, sort of real estate and sort of law firm management...what's the ettiquette here?

Isn't it annoying to work with lawyers without any administrative support staff? Now this is more of a law firm management issue, but I post here because I find it most common with lawyers who work primarily in residential real estate. I've had a good number of transactions of late with these sort of offices and to be honest these people aren't giving good service to their client, real estate agents (if applicable) or their opposing counsel. Agree? And yet it seems like some of these people are getting tons of referrals from agents.

I would mention a couple things...first, at a broad level a lawyer is very much in a general customer service business. It's a service business of giving consultive advice to people. The basics of getting phone calls answered and returned, ect. are critical. Second, and more directly related to residential real estate transactions, obviously this varies by the transaction but a residential real estate deal is what, 50/50 legal work vs. "massaging logistics". The staffless lawyer can certainly handle the 50% of legal work, BUT, he/she does very poorly on the 50% "massaging logistics." I've had 2-3 deals over the last couple months where closings were threatened/delayed because of these types of laywers. Just my $.02 to be aware of and my very frank advice of lawyers you should be avoiding!!

Whatever happened too...

The Practice?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Don't let the clerk give you legal advice!

Kind of an interesting holding below...why don't the Circuit Clerk's ever follow the little signs ("We shall not give legal advice")?

Civil - Probate/ Will Contests / Limitations 5th Dist. In re: Estate of Howell, No. 5-06-0224 (April 26, 2007) Washington County (Welch) Reversed and remanded Trial court erred when it dismissed timely filed petition challenging the validity of a will, which the petitioner attempted to file in probate case; but which clerk insisted on filing as chancery matter; for failure to serve the executor within the 6 month time limit of Section 8-1. Although time limit for filing will contest is jurisdictional, there is no specific jurisdiction time limit for service on executor.

Side income from selling legal forms

Does anyone out there use Lawguru.com? I mention it for a couple reasons. It's one of these 'Net-based sites where the public can post questions and me as lawyer can post responses. Then with my response my name/contact info. is included. It's led to some decent business.

Today I got this e-mail and thought I'd pass it on for what it's worth...don't know much about it by another potential source of non-legal fees income:

Dear LawGuru Members:

Don't forget that you can make money with your legal forms through our Attorney Form Market Program - the program where you submit legal forms to us, we sell them and give you a commission. Many of our providers are making hundreds of dollars each month in commissions, a few even thousands. This could be you.

Although we are always interested in any legal form you wish to submit, we are currently seeking to expand our litigation and attorney forms section. We are looking for any litigation form, from any jurisdiction, including: Petitions, Answers, Motions, Discovery, Judgments, Jury Instructions, etc...

Remember, the more of your forms we sell, the more money you make. This is a great way for you to make additional income. And the best part is that you have already done the work!
The submission process is easy. Simply send me an email with a list of the forms that you're thinking of selling. Then we'll get back to you letting you know whether the forms are right for us. At that point you can send your forms to us or upload them yourself onto our system. It’s as easy as that!

If you would like to get more information about the Attorney Form Market Program or would like to send us a list of forms, please send an email to contact_lawguru@lawguru.com <mailto:contact_lawguru@lawguru.com>.

Thanks for your time. We look forward to hearing from you.
Yours Truly,
Troy Tureau
Content Administration
LawGuru Forms