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Solo In Chicago

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

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Don't Be Too Judge Reliant

I'm making a little confession here about a stupid thing I did recently to save you a future hassle.
I over-relied on a particular judge's idiosyncrasies to the detriment of what I wanted done. Nothing major or particularly fatal longer-term but I had a less than perfectly productive court date. Because, "our" judge wasn't on the bench for our court date.

I have this case that's been going on for 5+ years and we're now at the post-appeals stage (If you want a primer on the Illinois Partition Act just ask...that's this case). Well, we've had this same trial judge for all that time and he knows the case well. And he has this thing that he literally does NOT look at pleadings. So over five years I've probably filed 50ish motions/petitions and he's likely never looked at one of them and he shuns even your attempt to hand documents to the bench when you're before him.

And wouldn't ya know it this week he wasn't there, and his replacement actually wanted a written motion in order to do what we wanted done. And this BAD, BAD lawyer didn't have one.

That Bothers Me!

Well lets see here, there are golf driving ranges that charge more for hitting off grass than off mats; loud music played in public places; and, people who have more than one hand on the table while eating. Yep, those three things bother me!

But keeping it in lawyerland here, how 'bout judges that hold-up their courtrooms for 5-10 minutes per case by drafting court orders for pro se litigants. I had a morning over a 32 W. Randolph this week and the phenomena is prevalent over there. The issue is that there are many, many cases there (parentage court) where neither party is represented by counsel. But is it really the best use of your time (and the public's dollar/time) to be spending 5-10 minutes once every say 4 cases or so to be drafting a court order while a room of 25 other litigants waits?

There are always several lawyers in the room...how 'bout asking for a "friend of the court"? I'm there for ya.

When Possible, Do the Work Pre-Court...it Saves Everyone

Why do so many lawyers have this affinity for doing everything at the last minute? Even when it's not at all necessary and often hurtful.

Let me explain, earlier this week I had a status hearing on a domestic relations case. A temporary visitation schedule had run out and we hadn't quite come to a final case settlement. So, there wasn't much disagreement about setting out some additional, short-term visitation at this court date.

Why not spend a little time on the case 2-3 days before hand, negotiate an Agreed Order outside of court, and then at the court date no clients and likely only one attorney is needed. It saves time and money & you eliminate mistakes. I'm pretty darn detail-oriented but mistakes are inevitable and there chances are greatly increased when you're negotiating out in the courtroom hallway and then drafting fairly complex, multi-page orders by hand.

Looking ahead a few days on your calendar and then shooting over an e-mail or fax to your opposing counsel really is the better way to handle the above.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Looking for Work on Facebook

A nice overview about how various professionals are building business and getting jobs on Facebook.

Another LegalMatch Comment

Don't mean to pile on poor old LegalMatch. I've written about our firms experience with them in the past. But I did see another comment pop-up about another firms experience with them so I thought I'd post it:

LegalMatch is a nightmare. Sure, you eventually earn more than you pay, but not without significant pain. We responded to over 550 family law cases in a year and secured a whopping 10 clients. Oh yes...pre-screening....thanks LegalMatch. Pity the fool that tries to weed through the mess. Unfortunately, it's a numbers game. You have to respond to everything until you make your fee back. Great site for seeking pro bono work though. We get 5 times the referrals for no out of pocket cost (albeit a discount on fees) through Consolidated Legal Services and those clients are working and don't have the issues with funds that the majority of LegalMatch clients do.

I continue this conversation not to beat a dead horse but frankly because I still see consistent questions from lawyers on list serves about LegalMatch and I continue to get lawyer questions on the subject.

Friday, May 09, 2008

3 Years + $150k = Commencement with Jerry Springer

Check him out a week from today over at 357 East Chicago Avenue (NU Law School). He'll head straight over from NBC Tower and naked cousins fighting about incest to the austere Northwestern Law School who's graduates include current Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Lawyer Civility

I must admit that I kind of chuckle when I constantly read about various bar leaders and supreme court judges constantly harping on the subject of lawyer civility. Not because I don't think it's a legitimate concern for bar leaders to have, but it often seems like it's something these folks who are a long way from the front lines of our court systems like to talk about without actually experiencing the day-to-day grind of say traffic or domestic relations court on a regular basis. Personally I think lawyer civility is important because what's really far more important is representing your client's best interests. And if you're a total jerk to opposing counsel you're generally impeding your client's best interests and likely costing her far more $$$.

Now back to the real world (the hearing rooms at 32 W. Randolph), I don't know if people were on edge because of the rain this morning or what. But my opposing IDHFS lawyer was VERY uncivil. Just incredibly so. And it was an appearance by me not to oppose what was being done (a child support extension beyond a child's 18th birthday since the child hasn't graduated high school). I was there just to see proof that the child was still enrolled in school and then I'd be willing to have an Agreed Order entered. Yet this lawyer wouldn't give me a copy of the letter from the school (without conflict), she got upset when I wanted to review the Order that she drafted before it got entered, and she asked me why I stayed in the hearing room after our case was over. Frankly I think her problem she was a newbie attorney who's lawyer image was based more on television than reality and she's with IDHFS so she's accountable to no one. Happy Wednesday!

At Least You Got What You Needed Mr. Connected Lawyer!

There's another rant over at The Connected Lawyer about antiquated court filing systems in various Illinois counties. I feel his pain and have written about the issue in this space previously. This was my experience this morning...

So I've been appointed by the court to represent a Respondent in some post-decree (post-divorce) litigation. I got appointed in March and the procedure is that when I'm appointed the judge's clerk faxes me a copy of the order appointing me. But beyond that it's up to me to meet with my now client and sort of figure out the case status. Part of that review usually means a trip to room 802 at Daley to review my client's case file. Fine...I'd rather be doing this on the Internet in my home office but that's for a past and likely future post. Here's the critical problem: I was appointed on March 24th and another substantive order was entered that day. The substantive order that was entered on March 24th is NOT IN THE COURT'S FILE; today is May 7th. What is that some 53 days? I ask the court's clerk and she gave me some explanation about "it's on its way to the warehouse" and it would take an hour to look into it (not necessarily find it). And this case is in court on May 9th. Now it's beyond a hassle to becoming a real detriment towards my ability to competently represent a client.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Emergency Motion Strategy

Do you ever file these? Frankly I think a lot like Orders of Protection there's a tendency for them to be abused, but, when done right they can give you a big tactical advantage. By definition, an Emergency Motion is a motion that's presented in court without the normal requisite 5 business days notice. The Cook local rule allows these to be presented ex parte but typically you are going to give notice to your opposition by fax, just with less than 5 days notice.

I brought one in court last week with a degree of effectiveness. Your first hurdle frankly is totally subjective, will your judge say the issue you're raising is an emergency or something that should be set based on the normal notice provisions. In the courtrooms I'm frequenting I'd say that less then 50% of the time are judges allowing these emergency motions to proceed when initially presented. But, if you clear that hurdle you have a chance to get some things done. Interestingly, a big reason is often that since your opponent doesn't have much notice, she can't get her client into court and in a sense the judge is getting only your side of the story. Also, if you're dealing with a small firm on the other side oftentimes there can be lawyer conflicts that won't let the lawyer get to court.

Name Change, Change

So as you can tell I had a little fun at the old courthouse Friday. Among my pleasures was filing a new Name Change case. I'd just had one of these finished up in February so I thought I knew the procedures so you can imagine my surprise when I went to file the new case in the Chancery Division and was told, Name Change cases are now within the County Division. No sweat I suppose other than having to re-draft my documents and pay the county for copies I'd previously made at our office.

And how 'bout a $319 filing fee for a name change? I think the above was my first new case filing in a couple months and a new $25 fee increase came down the pipe March 1st. But how 'bout the equity of a $319 filing fee for a name change. All the county needs to do is open a file and then a judge sees me for 10 minutes in 2 months. And that's the same filing fee as the 5 year divorce with 50 court appearances and a 3 day trial.

28 N. Clark "No Fee" Filing Box GONE!

Probably not the end of the world but just don't be like me on Friday running a bit late to court over at 32 W. Randolph and wanting to avoid having to get through security and wait for an elevator over at Daley, I scooted up to the second floor at 28 N. Clark and I couldn't file what I needed to file.