Monthly Archives: August 2008

The MDA telethon

Each week Chicago Lawyer will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

For the past several years, Morici, Figlioli & Associates has been an active supporter of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, which is Monday.

The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is a voluntary health agency working to defeat neuromuscular diseases through worldwide research, services and professional and public health education, according to the organization.

The first telethon was in June 1955 at Carnegie Hall in New York, and it raised $600,000 for MDA. Today about 40 million viewers in North America watch the telethon each year.

To celebrate the firm’s 10th anniversary, it will be a matching pledge sponsor, and donate up to $20,000 – with the potential of raising as much as $40,000.

Dave Figlioli, a founding partner of the firm, said the firm wanted to use the money it would have spent on an anniversary party or dinner for a charitable cause.

“It’s kind of in lockstep with what the philosophy is of the firm,” Figlioli said. “We handle personal injury workers compensation, and we handle a lot of tradespeople who are seriously injured. We are here to help these people during a time that is very difficult for them … If they are seriously injured, hopefully we will make a good recovery so they are taken care of for the rest of their lives.”

The firm supports the MDA because it shares a similar mission of helping those in need, he said.

He said his hope is that clients and family members will donate during the firm’s designated time in the telethon so it can match those donations. Figlioli said the firm is not sure of that exact designated time, but it is supposed to be some time between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.

For more information about MDA and the telethon visit http://www.mda.org.

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The Democratic convention

Each week Chicago Lawyer will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Many local lawyers dedicated their week to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Anita Ponder, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath, attended the convention because she wanted to support Barack Obama. And as a member of her firm’s government and regulatory group, and head of its government contract team, she wanted to connect with some of her clients who also attended the event.

And she also attended the convention as a member of Women Impacting Public Policy’s Democratic Presidential Power Team/Business Women for Obama. The team tries to help frame ideas, recommendations, business solutions, and policy targets for Obama.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “Everyone is energized, and united toward a common goal and purpose. It’s just been very uplifting, and it’s just been a very exhilarating experience.”

Most know Obama as the presidential candidate, but others have known him before he decided to run for U.S. president.

Alan King, another partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath, grew up with Obama’s wife Michelle and her brother, Craig Robinson. He’s known them since he was about age 10 or 11.

He met Barack about 10 years ago on the basketball court, and plays regularly with the candidate in his now-famous basketball games.

King is part of the Illinois delegation and spent the week in Denver at the Democratic Convention. He plays a variety of roles in the campaign, but he said his most important role is being a supportive friend to the Obama family.

“They’re both wonderful people, and they’re really about family first and foremost and they are very loyal to each other, obviously, and their children,” King said. “But to their friends, for those of us who have known him before they became ‘Barack and Michelle’ all in caps, they are very much still the same people. And we’re just hopeful that the country will not miss this opportunity to really benefit from his leadership and the vision I think he has for the country.”

King described the convention atmosphere has very supportive, with people of all different ages and ethnicities showing their support. He said having two Chicago lawyers take this path to the White House is important for the city and the legal community.

“It can only reflect positively on the Chicago legal community when one of our own is on the verge of reaching the ultimate height,” he said.

Jesse Ruiz, a Drinker Biddle & Reath partner and chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, is a member of the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee.

Ruiz met Obama in 1992 when he was a University of Chicago law student and Obama was a professor at the school. For the past 10 years they’ve tried to have annual lunches or breakfasts to catch up.

When Obama’s first book came out in 1995 Ruiz remembers joking with him that he better sign his copy because Obama could be famous someday.

He also remembered a conversation they had during one lunch where Obama talked about how he was considering going into politics and thought he might someday run for Chicago mayor. But Ruiz suggested that he better set his sights on another position, because that job was already taken.

When Obama entered the political world, Ruiz would volunteer on his campaigns, and host modest $20-a-head fundraisers for his professor.

Ruiz said it can sometimes be difficult to believe that “somebody you know, somebody you interacted with in the classroom, somebody you shared meals with who had a dream and a passion” is where he is today.

Ruiz has spent his time at the convention supporting Obama, and attending various events and committee meetings. He’s also part of a group of Latino leaders trying to bring in Latino voters and raise funds for Obama.

“This is what can come from lawyers,” Ruiz said about Obama’s run. “Lawyers have a distinct role in society in that they are always civically active. They believe not only in justice in court, but justice in communities and making sure everybody has equal opportunities and access …

“It’s really nice to see one of us is going to hopefully lead the nation forward for the next eight years. I think it’s an honor for the entire legal community that two Illinois lawyers will soon occupy the White House, and represent not only the state and city but also the profession.”

John Marshall’s veteran’s clinic

Each week Chicago Lawyer will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

The John Marshall Law School’s Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic (VLSC), which began in January, is one of the nation’s first law school clinics dedicated solely to addressing the legal needs of veterans seeking their benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA).

A number of organizations and studies have highlighted the unavailability of competent legal representation for our veterans, according to the law school. The purpose of the VLSC is to assist veterans filing VA benefit claims as well as to provide representation for veterans during the appeals process through the statewide network of pro bono attorneys.

Since the clinic has opened, it has taken over 300 calls from veterans and currently has about 70 active cases, said Brian Morris, staff attorney at the clinic. About 16 law students participate in the clinic, and about 120 Illinois lawyers offer to take on these cases on a pro bono basis.

“The focus of the clinic is to try and help veterans of all generations navigate that [military law] system,” Morris said. “We train law students to take phone calls from veterans. Under my supervision, we review the claims for disability or compensation, and where we can help them directly we do.”

The law school’s Veterans Advocacy Course includes the study of federal, state, and local laws pertaining to veterans’ advocacy. Through examining the historical origins of veterans’ advocacy law and the procedural and substantive texts used by the courts and attorneys, students learn federal agency litigation practice, sharpen their analytic skills and become confident in their ability to deal with clients, federal agencies and the courts, according to the law school.

In addition to dealing with the theoretical legal problems presented by veteran status, the Clinical Program emphasizes the practical aspects of handling Veteran Benefits Administration claims from the initial factual intake to the technical aspects of representation at the appellate level.

“People sometimes forget that liberty comes at a cost,” Morris said. “Families that sacrificed to various degrees are promised that ‘if you are injured in the line of duty, our government in our country will take care of you.’ Sometimes to get that promise fulfilled, it takes some advocacy. That is why we are there — to guide those veterans through the process.”

The clinic is working on creating a continuing education book that would serve as a practical guide to military law, and how that law impacts veterans, Morris said. The clinic is also working with the University of Southern Illinois as they start a similar program.

“I’m a veteran. For me it’s personally rewarding. I know firsthand about the frustration that comes with having to prove you were injured in the line of duty,” said Morris, who has spent 18 years in the Army and Army Reserves. He is currently a major in the Army Reserve who was deployed in 2003, 2004, and 2005 to such places as Bosnia and Iraq.

“The VA system is complicated for a reason. It’s a huge bureaucracy with a lot of red tape. The system is designed to thwart people that want a quick solution or a quick answer to a claim. It takes determination to persevere in this process.”

Q & A with Marta Stein

Each week we will pose these three questions to different lawyers in the legal community.

This week we talk with Marta A. Stein, a partner and co-chair of the banking litigation group at McGuireWoods. She’s in both the business & securities litigation group, and the financial services group; and has been practicing for 20 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?
The fact that I have the ability to combine being both a litigator and outside general counsel to corporations. I find it fascinating to learn about a client’s business and to be able to partner with their executives and/or in-house counsel to find beneficial business solutions for them, whether that be in court or drafting contracts to keep them out of court.

What makes a good lawyer?
It’s a combination of elements. First, as a threshold matter, you must start with intelligence and excellent legal skills. Next, you must combine the same with an understanding of and a true caring for the client and their business. It’s not enough that a lawyer can analyze a legal issue in a vacuum. You must be able to bring either the case or the contract from point A to point B in a cost-effective manner while meeting the business goals of the client.

What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact?

The biggest legal news is what’s happening in the banking industry. While defaults on subprime loans get the majority of attention, the situation goes well beyond subprime.  The banks themselves are faced with losses from both consumer and commercial loan defaults, leading banks to tighten their credit lines to many of their consumer and commercial customers. The banks themselves are affected, but so too are the businesses that rely on those banks for financing and the employees who work for them. These realities then have legal implications along multiple practice lines as well as for the economy as a whole.

Q & A with Marta Stein

Each week we will pose these three questions to different lawyers in the legal community.

This week we talk with Marta A. Stein, a partner and co-chair of the banking litigation group at McGuireWoods. She’s in both the business & securities litigation group, and the financial services group; and has been practicing for 20 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?
The fact that I have the ability to combine being both a litigator and outside general counsel to corporations. I find it fascinating to learn about a client’s business and to be able to partner with their executives and/or in-house counsel to find beneficial business solutions for them, whether that be in court or drafting contracts to keep them out of court.

What makes a good lawyer?
It’s a combination of elements. First, as a threshold matter, you must start with intelligence and excellent legal skills. Next, you must combine the same with an understanding of and a true caring for the client and their business. It’s not enough that a lawyer can analyze a legal issue in a vacuum. You must be able to bring either the case or the contract from point A to point B in a cost-effective manner while meeting the business goals of the client.

What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact?

The biggest legal news is what’s happening in the banking industry. While defaults on subprime loans get the majority of attention, the situation goes well beyond subprime.  The banks themselves are faced with losses from both consumer and commercial loan defaults, leading banks to tighten their credit lines to many of their consumer and commercial customers. The banks themselves are affected, but so too are the businesses that rely on those banks for financing and the employees who work for them. These realities then have legal implications along multiple practice lines as well as for the economy as a whole.

The dating world for lawyers

You’ve got your law degree, a snappy new condo, and a relatively new position at the law firm of your dreams doing the type of law that keeps you busy and happy.

What’s left?

It seems that with all the time and effort you put into building your legal career, you’ve neglected to put any time into finding a significant other. There’s just no time for dating, especially with the hours you keep during the week and sometimes on weekends.

PJ Osgood, director of It’s Just Lunch, a specialized dating service for professionals, said attorneys make up one of the largest groups the service sees.

Unlike other professionals who may be busy during certain points in their career, such as during a big project, attorneys tend to be busy all the time because of the billable hour, Osgood said.

About half the lawyers she works with do not mind dating another lawyer, and the other half absolutely do not want to date someone who also practices law, she said. But lawyers face an interesting situation because they are around lawyers all the time, and they definitely cannot date their clients, she said. Meeting people can be tough.

“People don’t get married out of college anymore,” Osgood said. “They leave law school and start at bigger firms, work a ton of hours, and dating is the very last thing they even look at.”

About 12 years ago, her lawyer clients used to be older, and came to the dating service after making partner, she said.

“What I’m seeing is a lot more attorneys are coming to me in their 20s and 30s because they realize that [life] is not so much about work, work, work. They do want to have a balance,” Osgood said.

Osgood advises her clients to look at dating like working out, the time must be built into a professional’s schedules. Even one hour a week can make a difference.

She encourages them to expand their social circle, and make sure they go into a date or social event with the right frame of mind. Look at it as an enjoyable situation, and not a task that must be completed. It helps to join groups that combine interests you already have, such as a running club.

“Don’t put so much pressure on yourself,” Osgood said.

Lawyers tend to make the mistake of quickly assessing and making a decision about a date right away as opposed to giving the person a little time, she said.

When one attorney goes on a date with another attorney, the conversation should not be entirely about the practice of law. Some clients have said that situation makes them feel like they were still at work, she said.

Also be open-minded and don’t treat a date as a deposition, she said.

“I really do find that when people take this proactive approach to dating life, just like their professional life, you are going to be happier all around,” she said. “There is enough time to date.”

It’s Just Lunch, which started in Chicago 17 years ago, arranges casual dates over lunch, brunch or drinks after work for busy professionals.

According to the dating service’s statistics, the number of single friends the average 27 year old has is 11; it typically takes 15 minutes for a man to determine whether or not he wants to see a woman again; 43 percent of singles have Googled someone on the Internet before their date; and Wednesday is typically the best day for a first date according to 41 percent of singles.

For more information about It’s Just Lunch visit //itsjustlunch.com/.

Photographer Paul M. Lurie

Each week Chicago Lawyer will highlight a different case or legal happening, and solicit your thoughts on the impact of it in the legal community.

Schiff Hardin partner Paul M. Lurie will host a photography exhibition titled, “The Glories of the Door County Landscape,” from Sept. 6 to Oct. 13 at The Francis Hardy Center for the Arts in Ephraim, Wis.

Lurie has been business and legal counsel for major owners, developers, design, and construction firms for more than 40 years.

He said he’s been involved with cameras since high school, when he spent time on the yearbook and newspaper. In the last 10 years he’s become more serious about fine art photography, he said.

As a frequent Door County visitor for the last 25 years, he has become concerned about the preservation of the area’s buildings. That concern led to the creation of this exhibit, which he hopes will increase awareness of the importance of preserving the landscape.

“What I’m trying to do is tell people that the things you take for granted are significant parts of why you enjoy Door County,” he said. “Unless we do something to preserve those landscapes, then they are going to disappear over time.”

Lurie said he came across his photo subjects while driving, walking, and biking around the area. He wants those who view his photos to see how beautiful, yet fragile, the buildings and overall landscape can be.

“As a fine art photographer, I think I’m doing God’s work here,” he said. “I’m trying to make a point.”

Throughout his life he’s been involved in preservation. He is one of the founders of the Chicago Architectural Foundation, but his preservation efforts have most often involved urban buildings. Rural preservation is not always as obvious, he said.

His photography can be found throughout the Chicago area on display in such locations as hospitals and universities.

“I like the sharing aspect,” Lurie said about his photography. “I see something and I think it’s really beautiful and I can capture that beauty, more or less, and I can share it with others. And I enjoy that.”

The exhibit can be found at the Francis Hardy Center for the Arts, which is on the Anderson Dock at 9998 Pioneer Lane in downtown Ephraim, Wis. For more information on Lurie’s photography visit www.luriephoto.com. For more information about the gallery, visit http://www.thehardy.org or call (920) 854-2210.

— Olivia Clarke