Monthly Archives: December 2008

The lessons learned on the ice

Associate Kevin Magnuson says he’s very proud of his father, and the legacy he created.

In November, the Chicago Blackhawks retired defenseman Keith Magnuson’s jersey, a number he shared with former player Pierre Pilote. Keith played for the Blackhawks for 11 seasons, was a captain of the team and later coached for two years. He died in an automobile accident in 2003, at age 56.

“It was an unbelievably emotional experience for the family,” Kevin said about the November event for his father. “Just the outpouring of support that night and in the previous five years has truly been unbelievable. It made our lives that much easier. It is not easy, but it’s easier.”

Kevin, who practices corporate and real estate law at Henderson & Lyman, said he too played hockey in college at the University of Michigan, and won a national championship there his sophomore year.

Hockey provided him with a special bond to his father, he said.

“It’s really given our family everything that we have,” Kevin said about hockey. “Through different social circles it allowed my sister, and myself, and my mother to be exposed to so many great people and great opportunities. Hockey paid for my education, and paid for my dad’s education.”

He said his father was a “very hard-nosed” player. He worked hard on the ice and would sacrifice his body to win at all costs. He demonstrated constant teamwork, and was recognized for his defensive play. He would constantly stand up for his teammates, he said.

“Contrasting that with how he was off the ice, you couldn’t have met a nicer gentleman,” Kevin said. “He made everyone feel like he was their friend, and was heavily involved in charity work throughout the Chicagoland area. I was so lucky to have him as a dad and mentor.”

Kevin said he learned many lessons on the ice, which he applies to his legal practice.

“When you go into games you are going to face a lot of adversity, and on-the-spot problem-solving,” he said. “In the practice of law, in my first two years, I’m faced with new problems everyday and am talking them through with my teammates, otherwise known as co-workers or colleagues. We don’t solve problems in a physical nature, but mentally we talk it through.”

He and several family members plan to attend the Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings game at Wrigley Field on New Year’s Day.

“The team couldn’t be playing any better, which makes it that much more exciting,” he said. “I am really looking forward to it.”

Q & A with Andrea C. Okun

Today we talk with Andrea C. Okun, a partner in litigation at Seyfarth Shaw, who has been practicing for 13 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

Taking all of the various aspects of the litigation process – the facts learned during discovery, the legal precedents from research — and turning them into a cohesive and compelling legal argument, be it for a brief, an argument, or a trial.

What makes a good lawyer?

A good lawyer must understand the role we play in our clients’ overall business objectives and be committed to helping the client achieve those objectives.  No client ever wants to be involved in litigation — it takes away from whatever the actual business does.  So, for every matter that comes in the door, the first question you have to ask yourself is “what is the most efficient way to resolve this in the best interests of the client?”  To answer this, you need to have a strong knowledge of both the relevant legal issues and the client’s needs.

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

Depending upon how you define “biggest legal news,” it’s a close race between the complaint against Governor Blagojevich and the economic downturn. In terms of water cooler conversation, everyone is talking about the Governor and fallout related to Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation and complaint against him — it has created some very interesting legal issues. There are obvious pressing issues facing our country that Congress, in particular, needs to address and Illinois is underrepresented and looks to be so for the foreseeable future.

We have no means to appoint a senator to replace President-elect Obama. We have no processes in place to deal with a public official who, while not physically or mentally disabled, cannot effectively perform his job but refuses to resign.  It is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the question of whether Illinois should convene a Constitutional Convention was on our November ballot and the electorate voted against the Convention. One of the main arguments that proponents of the Convention made related to the difficulty of removing a sitting governor.  I do wonder whether the results of that ballot measure would be different if the election happened today.

While the problems of our Governor are pressing and of deep concern to people, they do not have the impact on how people and businesses run their daily lives that the economy does.  Our clients face the same problems as everyone else: how can they achieve their business goals in this economic climate when they cannot get the financing they need, or when revenues are down, or when they have to reduce their staffs?  We see it every day and the way we can best serve our clients is to recognize these issues and help prevent our clients from falling into pitfalls that they might not foresee.  Litigation typically sees an increase in activity during economic downtimes, but it’s also during downtimes that litigation is toughest on businesses.  As lawyers, we can never forget that our focus cannot just be on the particular piece of litigation we are handling; rather, we need to address our clients’ overall business needs.

Q & A with Andrea C. Okun

Today we talk with Andrea C. Okun, a partner in litigation at Seyfarth Shaw, who has been practicing for 13 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

Taking all of the various aspects of the litigation process – the facts learned during discovery, the legal precedents from research — and turning them into a cohesive and compelling legal argument, be it for a brief, an argument, or a trial.

What makes a good lawyer?

A good lawyer must understand the role we play in our clients’ overall business objectives and be committed to helping the client achieve those objectives.  No client ever wants to be involved in litigation — it takes away from whatever the actual business does.  So, for every matter that comes in the door, the first question you have to ask yourself is “what is the most efficient way to resolve this in the best interests of the client?”  To answer this, you need to have a strong knowledge of both the relevant legal issues and the client’s needs.

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

Depending upon how you define “biggest legal news,” it’s a close race between the complaint against Governor Blagojevich and the economic downturn. In terms of water cooler conversation, everyone is talking about the Governor and fallout related to Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation and complaint against him — it has created some very interesting legal issues. There are obvious pressing issues facing our country that Congress, in particular, needs to address and Illinois is underrepresented and looks to be so for the foreseeable future.

We have no means to appoint a senator to replace President-elect Obama. We have no processes in place to deal with a public official who, while not physically or mentally disabled, cannot effectively perform his job but refuses to resign.  It is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the question of whether Illinois should convene a Constitutional Convention was on our November ballot and the electorate voted against the Convention. One of the main arguments that proponents of the Convention made related to the difficulty of removing a sitting governor.  I do wonder whether the results of that ballot measure would be different if the election happened today.

While the problems of our Governor are pressing and of deep concern to people, they do not have the impact on how people and businesses run their daily lives that the economy does.  Our clients face the same problems as everyone else: how can they achieve their business goals in this economic climate when they cannot get the financing they need, or when revenues are down, or when they have to reduce their staffs?  We see it every day and the way we can best serve our clients is to recognize these issues and help prevent our clients from falling into pitfalls that they might not foresee.  Litigation typically sees an increase in activity during economic downtimes, but it’s also during downtimes that litigation is toughest on businesses.  As lawyers, we can never forget that our focus cannot just be on the particular piece of litigation we are handling; rather, we need to address our clients’ overall business needs.

The spirit of giving

The attorneys and staff in the five U.S. offices of Katten Muchin Rosenman are ringing in the holiday season by supporting the communities in which they live and work.

In Katten’s Chicago office, the firm’s annual Letters to Santa program with Direct Effect took place. Children from Chicago’s neediest schools, ranging from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, write letters to Santa, which attorneys and staff from Katten answer by purchasing items from the children’s wish lists.

“I send out an email to the firm to gage everyone’s interest, and it’s great to get an email from so many people around the firm,” said Cathleen Booth, a partner in the corporate group. “It is just a great feeling. I always have them come and get me right before we take the gifts away because I like to see all the gifts that are donated …

“Most people take two or three [letters]. We get a lot of participation and people really look forward to it.  I was a little concerned with the economy down that people wouldn’t want to participate as much, but I don’t feel that we’ve lost any participation at all.”

Additionally, the Chicago office holds a book drive, for the sixth year in a row, for students at Philo-Carpenter Elementary School. Each student receives a book of his or her choosing to take home. The firm supports the school throughout the year with its reading, tutoring and Lawyers in the Classroom programs.

This year the firm provided over 300 books, Booth said.

Many people like to participate because they like providing a learning tool, she said.

“It’s exciting to see the children so excited for a book,” she said. “A lot of these children do not have books at home or do not come from homes with big readers. They are excited to have a book of their own.”

Q & A with Steve Phillips

Today we talk with Steve Phillips, managing partner of Phillips Law Office. He practices general plaintiff’s personal injury and professional negligence, construction negligence. He has been practicing for 23 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

The challenge of putting together a case, taking the wind out of the sails of the opposing witnesses.

What makes a good lawyer?

Persistence, Persistence, Persistence. The attitude that “you never give up.”

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

By far [Gov.] Blagojevich and his dilemma. This will take on an entire new life of its own, with regard to lobbying and the cynical nature of lobbyists in general.

Q & A with Steve Phillips

Today we talk with Steve Phillips, managing partner of Phillips Law Office. He practices general plaintiff’s personal injury and professional negligence, construction negligence. He has been practicing for 23 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

The challenge of putting together a case, taking the wind out of the sails of the opposing witnesses.

What makes a good lawyer?

Persistence, Persistence, Persistence. The attitude that “you never give up.”

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

By far [Gov.] Blagojevich and his dilemma. This will take on an entire new life of its own, with regard to lobbying and the cynical nature of lobbyists in general.

Carrying on The John Marshall Law School tradition

John R. Lee recently became president of The John Marshall Law School Foundation.

But this is not his first connection to the law school. He and his family have a long history of representing and supporting the school.

Lee’s grandfather, Edward T. Lee, was one of the founders of the school in 1898, and served as dean for 33 years.

Upon his death, Lee’s uncle Noble W. Lee succeeded the grandfather and was dean for about 34 years. In addition, his grandmother graduated from the law school in 1906, and was a founder of the Illinois League of Women Voters.

Lee’s father graduated from John Marshall in 1937, and he graduated from there in 1973.

“There’s somewhat of a legacy,” Lee said. “I think growing up I was obviously intimately familiar with the school’s mission and traditions, primarily of access and opportunity. My grandfather was a strong believer that people from all walks of life should have the opportunity to study law and to contribute to the legal fabric of our country.

“That was the principle the school was founded on, and my uncle carried that forward when he was dean … I’ve undertaken to see that those traditions [are maintained] as well.”

Lee has served on John Marshall’s board of trustees for the past five years, and planned to resign his position when he became president of the foundation.

As president of the foundation he will not only lead the fundraising efforts, but will also undertake a major grant request program to raise funds for a variety of programs, and also for constructing a new building.

This building, while a long-term project, would house all the school’s needs, such as, classrooms, meeting areas, offices, libraries, conference space.

In the short-term, he will help raise money for the various law school programs, he said.

Prior to accepting this position, he spent 29 years in the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission as assistant director of the Chicago office. He has also served as a captain in the U.S. Army, Defense Appellate Division of the Judge Advocate General’s Corp from 1975 to 1979. Lee retired from the U.S. Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel.