Monthly Archives: May 2009

Retired judge writes about Pracademics

JAMS Neutral Hon. John W. Cooley wrote the book, “Pracademics: Creative Problem Solving in Negotiation and Mediation,” which explores problem-solving techniques across various disciplines, and serves as a guide for practicing negotiators and mediators, experienced lawyers, students and teachers alike.

A nationally recognized author, Judge Cooley is based in the Chicago Resolution Center of JAMS.

Pracademics is a discipline that centers on collaboration between practitioners and academics to create improved problem-solving methods via the sharing of insights and experience from laboratory and field settings. Applicable to the study of negotiation and mediation, Pracademics encourages an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving, drawing upon the expertise of one discipline to enhance the problem solving effectiveness in another.

In his book, Judge Cooley details how to successfully apply this concept to resolve disputes, and  will donate all royalties from the sales of the book to the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago.
Prior to joining JAMS, Judge Cooley served as a U.S. magistrate, an assistant United States attorney, a senior staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a litigation partner in a Chicago law firm. He has been mediating in government and private practice since 1977.

Cooley talks in the book about the relationship between mediation and negotiation and other areas, like joke design and mathematics.

For example, in the book he wrote: “Mediation is a joke … Seriously, the process of mediation is very closely related, conceptually, to the process of humor. Mediators, particularly those who use creative techniques to achieve super-optimum solutions, have the capacity to help disputants reframe their perceptions of a dispute situation to achieve satisfaction much in the same way that a joke-teller frames and reframes a factual situation to achieve laughter.”

When asked what he thinks about his book being published, he said, “It makes me feel like I accomplished something — something very good.”

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A unique volunteer opportunity

LeeAnn Webster spent a week in Costa Rico in August 2007 working side-by-side with members of a village painting a community center and digging irrigation ditches.

She ate lunch and dinner with the village residents, and learned first-hand about their culture.

In 2008 she volunteered in an orphanage in Peru. Families living in the nearby mountains used the orphanage as a place for their children to live during the week so they could attend school. She also helped build clay stoves for those families.

These trips were possible because of her involvement in Globe Aware, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) develops short-term volunteer programs in international environments that encourage people to immerse themselves in a unique way of giving back.

Every activity is intended to promote cultural awareness and/or promote sustainability, according to globeaware.org. Chosen projects meet several criteria: safe, culturally interesting, genuinely beneficial to a needy community, and involve significant interaction with the host community.

The organization has no political or religious affiliation, and volunteers help to empower the host communities in creating renewable, sustainable programs, according to the site.

Webster, assistant director of marketing and business development at Mayer Brown, said each trip really changed her and how she lives her life. She typically spends one week working with Globe Aware, and a second week traveling on her own.

Most programs, she said, cost about $1,100 a week, and that includes accommodations and food for the week. But those who participate must also pay for airfare, but it’s tax-deductible.

She said Globe Aware really strives to put the money it receives back into community the volunteers are working in. She plans to go this year back to Costa Rico, but this time will work with a coastal program involving sea turtles. And she will bring her nephew, who just graduated from high school.

Globe Aware could be an option for those lawyers in-between jobs.

“It’s going to give them a unique experience, especially if they’ve never traveled somewhere like that, and an understanding of how these people live, how a different government structure or different supply structure can affect what you’re able to do,” she said.

“As a new attorney you suddenly get on [your firm’s] timetable … Your life really becomes usurped by the firm. This is their last opportunity to do something totally for them to help them gain a different perspective, and I think give them a different view of the world at really unique time. It’s hard to break away after you start practicing.

“And in the jungles of Costa Rico your BlackBerry doesn’t work. That is another reason I like these trips. You can really get away.”

Chicago-Kent teaches Thai judges

Under the terms of an agreement with the Office of the Judiciary, four members of the Chicago-Kent College of Law faculty recently went to Thailand and taught a four-course, graduate-level program for Thai judges.

The judges took the following classes: Introduction to Legal Research and Writing, Introduction to the American Legal System, Business Contracts, and International Commercial Arbitration.

Chicago-Kent faculty members taught each course in English over a two-week period, with three to four hours of intensive study per day. Upon successful completion of the program, the judges are eligible to earn a Master of Laws  (LL.M.) degree in International and Comparative Law degree from Chicago-Kent by completing an additional semester of course work in the U.S.

About 20 Thai judges took the classes in Thailand, and now between five and 10 will be coming to the U.S. to continue their work toward LLM degrees, said Dean Harold Krent.

“The reason I think it’s so important is, as most of your readers know, Thailand is going through a tumultuous political time,” Krent said. “The judiciary is playing an important role in stabilizing the country. The more that judges can earn confidence in the public eye the better it will be for the country, and we all hope the political situation will stabilize.”

Krent said those law school professors who taught in Thailand learned how the country’s civil law system and developing economy differ from what is found in the U.S. At the same time they enjoyed experiencing Bangkok.

He said all law schools need to become more international. Everything has become more international, from business to world health to capital markets. International issues influence all aspects of the legal curriculum, he said.

The agreement with the Office of the Judiciary extends Chicago-Kent’s activities in Thailand. For the past three years, the law school has offered a similar program in collaboration with Sripatum University in Bangkok. In addition, nearly two dozen Chicago-Kent alumni currently live in Thailand.

Katten and Center work together to help Jimenez

Thaddeus “T.J.” Jimenez, who was arrested in 1993 at age 13 and later wrongfully convicted for a murder he did not commit, was released from the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections on May 1, after 16 years, 2 months, and 27 days of wrongful confinement, according to Katten Muchin Rosenman.

Jimenez, who is now 30 years old, is believed to be the youngest person in Illinois history convicted of a crime he did not commit, who was later fully exonerated.

Jimenez’s exoneration and release came after the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and Jimenez’s defense attorneys filed a joint motion seeking to vacate his conviction and sentence, and release him from custody. Cook County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Claps entered the release order on May 1. At the same time, the state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges. The case against Jimenez has been dismissed in its entirety.

Jimenez is represented by Steve A. Drizin, Alison R. Flaum, and Joshua A. Tepfer of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law; and Stuart J. Chanen, Rachel M. Vorbeck, Patrick C. Harrigan, and Aaron M. Chandler of Katten Muchin Rosenman. Katten’s four-year participation in this case has been on a pro bono basis.

On the evening of Feb. 3, 1993, the victim, 18-year-old Eric Morro, was walking eastbound on the 3100 block of Belmont Avenue on Chicago’s North Side with his friend, Larry Tueffel, then 14. As Morro and Tueffel walked down Belmont, two other boys – 12-year-old Victor and 14-year-old Carlos approached Morro and Tueffel from behind. After a brief altercation between the four boys on the sidewalk, Carlos pulled a handgun from his jacket, put the gun directly to Morro’s chest, and pulled the trigger. Morro died at the scene.

None of the eyewitnesses identified Jimenez at the scene, although several of them knew him from the neighborhood, including Tueffel, who was standing next to Morro when he was shot. One of the eyewitnesses, however, called police later that night and stated that Jimenez (whom he had not mentioned to police when first interviewed) was the shooter. Police then drove to Tueffel’s home, dragged him out of bed, and took him back to the station, where, without his parents present, they interrogated him for several hours until he also identified Jimenez as the shooter. Jimenez was then arrested and charged in the early morning hours following the murder.

Although the police focused their investigation on Jimenez, there was substantial evidence at the time that suggested that Carlos, not Jimenez, was the shooter, according to the firm’s press release.

Victor, Carlos’s accomplice, told the police that he did not know Jimenez and identified Carlos as the shooter. The police were given a taped confession from Carlos, which Victor’s father, Ezequiel R., had secretly recorded at a meeting with Carlos shortly after the murder. Carlos is heard on the tape stating, “I had to shoot him.” and “after I shot him, I ran.” Carlos also expressed relief on the tape that authorities had already “pinned the blame” on another young man.

Chanen, from Katten, said the center receives thousands of letters from people who claim their innocence, but Jimenz’s letter described a great injustice. He said his firm collectively performed in excess of  1,200 pro bono hours throughout its participation in this case.

“First and foremost we are just thrilled for TJ,” Chanen said. “He is such a good person. He endured this with such class and grace. He could have become so angry and bitter, and instead he’s really kept a calm and peaceful demeanor. And he’s always had confidence in his own innocence. And he’s always had a very supportive family. They knew he is innocent and they stood behind him.

“A very, very important part of this story is the state’s attorney’s office in this case really stepped up big to do the right thing. They also could have looked the other way. Sixteen years had passed, two juries convicted this individual, a three-judge appellate court affirmed the conviction,” he said. “They took on the investigation that was done before, the evidentiary issues and reinvestigated it from scratch … It is the way a prosecutor is supposed to act, and it’s just fabulous to see.”

The Total Practice Management Association Scholarships Help Legal Professionals in “Transition”

Here’s something that may be helpful to Attorneys in Transition:

In response to news of continued layoffs at medium- and large-sized law firms, the Total Practice Management Association (Total PMA) is announcing a scholarship program for unemployed attorneys to attend the Get a Life.™ Conference on May 27-28 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. The Get a Life Conference is a two-day, hands-on workshop being led by experts on marketing and practice management, social networking and law firm strategy in a highly interactive format. Topics include client relations; legal marketing & ethics; staff support & outsourcing; technology enabled services; and office infrastructure and expansion. The scholarship program provides full tuition to 10 unemployed but actively job seeking law firm associates looking to gain insight and advice on running their own firm. Candidates can read the eligibility requirements and download the application at the Total Attorneys Web site. Total PMA will accept applications now through May 22nd at 5:00pm CST and announce the recipients via email and on its Get a Life Conference site by May 26th, 2009 at 5:00pm CST.

To further support the legal community and specifically help law students struggling to find summer internships and employment, Total PMA is also offering 2nd and 3rd year law students a “Get a Life Student Discount package” for $400, a deep discount off the standard cost of tuition. This special offer is being made available to 30 students on a first come, first serve basis and is being actively promoted by Chicago area law schools, related legal news groups, and list serves. For more information, email Total Attorneys.

The upcoming May 26 event

Billie Watkins, a division director for Robert Half Legal, will be the presenter at the May 26 networking and informational event. The event is from 9 to 11 a.m. at The John Marshall Law School. If you are interested in attending, e-mail jobs@lbc.com to register.

Billie has been in the legal profession since 1993, which includes 10 years as a practicing attorney, and three years as a legal recruiter. She answered a few questions about her upcoming event:

1. What are your top three pieces of advice for a lawyer looking for his or her next job?

Be flexible – Explore available opportunities through a variety of avenues, such as online job postings and professional staffing firms, and remain open to contract opportunities to keep your skills sharp as well as develop new skills.

Network – Use a variety of networking tools, from online resources (i.e., LinkedIn) to professional organizations.

Treat your job search like a full-time job – Be committed in every way to your search; you are your own best advocate.

2. How should lawyers keep busy while they look for a job?

Lawyers can remain on top of their game through networking, conducting informational interviews, skills training, and continuing education.

3. What do you hope those who attend your event will take away from or learn from it?

An informed view of the current hiring environment and effective search techniques, considering the challenging hiring landscape. My goal is to provide information that will better equip job seekers to navigate a more competitive legal job market.

Q & A with David Solomon

David Solomon, a partner in the corporate practice group and the leader of the ESOP services group at Levenfeld Pearlstein, has been practicing law for almost 11 years after spending four years working in the banking industry, primarily as a trustee for employee stock ownership plans. 

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

I like the fact that, on a daily basis, I have an opportunity to work with a variety of companies, helping their owners and executives solve their business problems through the legal process.  By spending so much time with the people who run these businesses, I have been able to gain an appreciation of how difficult it is to manage the day-to-day challenges involved in keeping a company running smoothly.

What makes a good lawyer?

The best thing that a lawyer can offer his or her clients is the willingness to spend the extra time that it takes to understand their business and get to know the people that run the organization.  By taking the extra time to know the people that run a business and not just the law that applies to a particular problem, the attorney can truly add value to a business relationship by delivering sound legal advice that is aligned with the client’s long-term objectives.

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

There has been a significant uptick in government regulation of private business activities in the last six to nine months. The challenge for attorneys will be to keep up with all of these new developments to make sure business clients can take advantage of opportunities presented by these new government initiatives, as well as meet any additional compliance obligations which result from this increase in governmental oversight of their operations.