Monthly Archives: July 2009

Going for green

By Josh Wolff

A recently constructed lease document hopes to resolve some of the issues stunting the progress of buildings becoming more environmentally friendly.

The Model Green Lease, which was created by a task force of corporate tenants, landlords, attorneys, real estate brokers, and “green” building consultants, began as a blank document, starting from scratch, rather being a revision of an existing document.

Jenner & Block Of Counsel Ronald B. Grais served on the task force and contributed mainly as an editor of the new lease document. He said the array of experts on the task force enhances the document’s functionality.

“The goal was to create a balanced document that can be used by as many people as possible,” Grais said. “To get that balance, you need as many people as possible working on it. To get a document workable for both sides requires a lot of input.”

The document has three primary objectives: encouraging green office buildings, maximizing the return on investment of the green buildings, and providing a healthy and more productive workplace.

However, the biggest issue that remains in preventing more environmentally-friendly buildings is the “split incentive.” Property renters don’t want to invest in property they don’t own while property owners don’t want to make “green” investments unless they can get a return on their investment.

The Model Green Lease task force hopes it solved this problem by introducing its modified gross lease where the landlord agrees to pay the utilities up to a certain point and after that point, the tenant becomes responsible for the payment. It provides an incentive for both parties to make investments and more responsible choices.

The new lease document is consistent with the various green rating systems, including LEED, Energy Star, and Green Globes. It also touches on many of the other issues facing buildings, such as carbon credits, recycling, insurance, and IAQ.

While the green movement has become more prominent in the United States the past few years, many buildings still haven’t become green. Grais has a simple explanation for this phenomenon.

“The bulk of buildings are existing buildings, not new ones,” he said. “Most were built at a time when energy was cheap.”

While it is easier for new buildings to be more environmentally friendly, older buildings aren’t precluded from taking small, but meaningful steps to become green.

Many buildings have vacant space that uses the same amount of energy to cool and warm the vacant rooms, as does occupied space. Grais recommends as a no-cost fix that in the summer, vacant buildings blinds should be closed to prevent overheating and in the winter, the blinds should be open to warm the room. Simply paying more attention to the management and operation of a building can have great results, he said.

He also said when plumbing fixtures wear out and leak in old buildings, it’s an optimal time to install low-flow fixtures, which reduce water consumption. Adding proximity switches to lights is another inexpensive step to becoming more environmentally friendly.

When an office building becomes green, the environment isn’t solely affected; both workers and landlords reap the benefits.

“There is pretty clear evidence that occupants are more productive when green measures are taken,” Grais said. “Task lighting that is properly coordinated so more natural light is captured into a room is pretty simple and highly desirable for workers. It can make a big difference in the way people feel about their workplace.

“And for landlords, buildings tend to lease faster and at higher rates if they are green.”

The Model Green Lease is available on CD or downloadable on the Internet at http://www.squarefootage.net

Revamped rules

By Josh Wolff

For the first time since 1990, the Illinois Supreme Court has adopted completely revised rules of professional conduct for lawyers. After more than six years of deliberation, the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct of 2010 were approved by the Court in its May term. The new rules will be effective on Jan. 1, 2010.

The new rules are an attempt of the Illinois legal community to match its standards for lawyers with the American Bar Association’s Model Rules, which were adopted in 2002 and 2003.

“It’s important to know that Illinois has come into compliance with the ABA Model Rules even more tightly than we have before,” said Thomas P. McGarry, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson who is an expert of professional ethics.

One of the more significant changes between the current rules and the new rules is the commentary, which is designed to demonstrate the practicality of the rules. Although the commentary adds more pages of text, McGarry said, lawyers shouldn’t be afraid of the 120-page document.

“The reaction in the past seems that lawyers are more comfortable with a smaller book, and when you add the comments, you are going to add a burden to the new set of rules, but that’s not the case,” he said.

McGarry said the addition of the commentary, which will be published online without copyright issues, will benefit all lawyers by supplying better working explanations.

He also said it’s imperative to understand the new rules because lawyers’ licenses are at stake. To become adequately informed with the rules, he recommends a simple reading assignment.

“Anyone who wants to get familiar with the new rules needs to read the preamble to just get familiar with the goals [of the new rules],” he said. “The definitions are also important and very helpful too, but many lawyers forget to read them.”

The new rules cover many issues, including the sale of law firms, scope of representation and allocation of authority between the client and lawyer, and confidentiality of information.

McGarry said in the past when lawyers sought the advice of other lawyers, they had to use vague hypothetical situations because of confidentiality concerns, but now lawyers can be as descriptive so “as there is no reasonable likelihood that the listener will be able to ascertain the identity of the client or the situation involved,” states Rule 1.6: Confidentiality of Information.

As well, the new rules also put more responsibility on lawyers to report instances of corporate wrongdoing and misconduct. McGarry said the new rules are a step forward in reinforcing public trust in the legal profession.

“I am not critical of how the [current] rules are, but an awful lot of thought went into these [new rules], and ethical responsibility lawyers wanted to improve the legal profession,” he said. “Rather than criticize the old rules, we’ve now brought ourselves more current.”

Job search strategy: Following through with networking

Dana Hill is a large law firm attorney who is transitioning to an alternative legal career.  Dana has practiced for 10 years and has been in transition since early 2009.

Early on in my job search I applied for an attorney position with the federal government.  A friend of mine also applied.  Through her networking, she met a friend of the open position’s supervisor.  The supervisor reported that the same position had been posted in 2008 and 300 people applied.  In 2009, 1,600 people applied.

How do you get a job with an applicant pool that large?  Using networking and informational interviews to meet the people who can tell you about jobs when they open up, recommend you for positions, or are actually doing the hiring is key.  Even so, with people who have jobs getting multiple requests for help from job seekers (a federal government attorney friend of mine said she’s met with six different informational interviewers so far), how do you stand out?

One strategy I’ve used is after the meeting to send a handwritten thank you card.  I ordered personalized note cards from an on-line stationary store.  Each person who helps me with my search receives a handwritten note, usually including my personal business card.  People rarely receive these kinds of notes anymore, especially through the mail, so it stands out.  If the person doesn’t already have my resume, I also sent that via email.

My job coach suggested sending a small gift, like a CD or book.  Early on, I sent a thank you card with a Starbucks gift card to someone who bought me lunch (I invited him to lunch, yet he paid).  I quickly realized this would get expensive.  Now I generally try to meet people for coffee, which eliminates the “who pays?” issue.

Another strategy is to stay in contact after you meet.  You can do this by following up with them with information, which might be useful to them, such as forwarding a news story or connecting them with someone else.  For example, I matched two non-profit organizations that I thought could help each other.

I have been keeping a list of all of the people I have met though networking.  I include notes on what I learned from them, how we met and other personal data.  I also use it to confirm that I’ve sent thank you notes.  In reviewing this list each time I update it, I think about how I can re-connect with people I haven’t talked to recently.

It’s a lot of work making a new contact – getting an introduction, setting up a meeting, and conducting an interview.  And the work doesn’t end with your meeting.

Q & A with Lynn Gordon

Lynn Gordon, a partner at Ungaretti & Harris, is trained in health law and has been practicing in this area for 13 years.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

I find the constant development of health care rules and regulations at both the state and federal level very interesting — challenging, but interesting.  Working with for-profit clients on how best to comply with the complex interplay of these rules while at the same time trying to run a profitable business, or not-for-profit tax exempt clients trying to maintain a sufficient margin so as to stay operational and to have adequate net revenue to continue to maintain quality facilities and competitive services, is always an interesting endeavor.

What makes a good lawyer?

I believe that the key to being a good lawyer is being able to clearly identify client goals, maintaining an up-to-date and comprehensive understanding of your practice area, and knowing the business of your client base.

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

Health care law is in a state of unprecedented evolution — the national health care plan being developed in Washington will likely result in some significant changes in the way health care operates in this country.  While it is still unclear at this point exactly what will work its way into any final federal legislation, we have seen and can continue to expect more pressure on tax exempt organizations to cover the needs of indigent and uninsured patients.  We have also seen and expect further developments in Medicaid eligibility requirements — extending coverage to a greater number of patients. The same will be true for Medicare and other federally funded health care programs. At the same time, the government is continuing its downward pressure on reimbursement rates for services, which unfortunately for some services (with Medicaid in particular) fail to cover costs.  In reaction to this, we are seeing more and more private practices opting out of Medicaid and even Medicare programs, and hospitals and other providers struggling to reconcile such shortfalls through added pressure on commercial insurers to pay higher rates.

These and other changes will impact the commercial health insurance industry as the government dictates further beneficiary protections against uninsurability based on pre-existing conditions and the like.  So far, the insurance industry is receptive to certain proposed changes in anticipation of the greater number of insureds driven by other more pro-insurer changes (e.g., employer incentives to provide health insurance).

Finally, as part of the overall effort to control costs, the government is continuing to tighten up rules and regulations governing fraud and abuse and physician self-referrals, and to engage in significant enforcement activity in this area.  We fully expect this to continue as part of the plan to address health care on a national level.

Another speaker at our upcoming event

Billie Watkins, a division director for Robert Half Legal. She will discuss at our next Attorneys in Transition event how to leverage your real estate experience to find that next career opportunity. She took some time to answer our questions.

— What do you hope to discuss at the Attorneys in Transition event?

Overall career management ideas for real estate attorneys considering a transition. We’ll discuss how they can leverage their experience and backgrounds in ways that position them for in-demand opportunities, despite the economic climate.  Additionally, I’d like to share information about the current hiring outlook. Although there may be shortages in traditional real estate work, there can be opportunities to transition skills so that job seekers remain competitive.

— What are the biggest challenges for real estate lawyers these days?

Significant shortages in work traditionally generated by real estate transactions.  Additionally, many real estate attorneys may have to face the reality of transitioning their careers in order to move ahead.

These decisions can be life-changing and extremely challenging. Although moving in a different direction can sometimes be viewed as a move “backward,” it may be just what it takes to reinvigorate a professional agenda and career.

— How can they turn those challenges into positives and maintain good careers?

Start by taking the reins of your career. Whether you’ve reached a crisis stage or you’re relatively satisfied but want to take advantage of new opportunities to move into a new role, you’ll need a strategy to help you make a successful transition. This means having a plan, zeroing in on preferences, identifying priorities, choosing your direction, accessing and/or diversifying your skills and last, but certainly not least, taking action.

A political asylum case

By JoshWolff

Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione attorneys Jon H. Beaupré and Hermine Valizadeh both wanted to work on a political asylum case, but for different reasons.

“I was looking for a long-term pro bono case,” said Beaupré, an associate at Brinks. “I wanted a case with a lot of client interaction, something that I could take from start to finish and gain a lot of experience from.”

Valizadeh, who was born in Iran, wanted a case that hit close to home. As a child, a relative of hers suffered political persecution in Iran and her relative’s story still influences Valizadeh to this day.

“I expressed an interest in doing a political asylum case because I’m interested in them on personal level,” said Valizadeh, an associate at Brinks and current president of the Chicago Chapter of the Iranian American Bar Association. “[In Iran], there is a lot going on with political asylum…so I was interested in a case to get someone access to America that had suffered from past persecutions of their political beliefs.”

In the spring of 2005, a woman escaping political persecution in Togo, a small country in West Africa, fled into the neighboring country of Benin. She remained there briefly before flying to Chicago during the summer where she had family.

After arriving in the United States, the woman applied for asylum with U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, but was denied. She eventually became a part of the National Immigration Justice Center’s list of available cases, but now had to wait for legal aid.

Robert N. Carpenter, then working as an in-house counsel for a Brinks client, wanted to work on a Togolese refugee case ever since his wife went on a mission trip there. In the fall of 2006, Carpenter contacted Brinks’ pro bono coordinator Bradley G. Lane to help assemble a group to work on a potential asylum case.

Lane asked for volunteers and Beaupré jumped in; shortly there after, Valizadeh joined. After the group was assembled, Carpenter’s search began and through an e-mail newsletter from the NIJC, he found a Togolese refugee and the group began her representation.

This past June, the group successfully established to an immigration judge that the woman had suffered past persecution on the basis of political beliefs, Beaupré said. The woman, because of her involvement with an opposing political party in Togo, was beaten and her husband killed.

Once past persecution was proven, the government had to rebut the presumption of future persecution if the woman returned to Togo, which it failed to do, Beaupré said. The government also waived its right to an appeal.

After winning the case for their client, both Beaupré and the refugee became teary eyed, realizing the trials and tribulations she conquered on her road to political asylum in the United States.

“It felt great,” Valizadeh said. “After hearing that verdict, when Jon looked at her and said she won, it was such a charge of energy.”

Brinks shareholder Charles M. McMahon, who played an advisory role in the case, was proud of the collaborative effort.

“I had two reactions,” he said. “I shared the joy that Jon and Hermine described, but I also had a certain amount of pride seeing how well the team had worked together. It was impressive to see all of their hard work culminate in a powerful way for the client.”

After the case was completed and asylum granted, the woman came by the Brinks offices to pick up some papers. There was a palpable difference in her personality, Beaupré said. Every previous meeting, he could tell the woman had a good sense of humor, but that it was always hidden underneath many layers of abuse, grief, and worry.

At their most recent meeting, he said the woman could not stop smiling. Beaupré said her asylum case has been one of the most rewarding of his career.

“It was a very emotional moment for us,” he said. “It was probably the last time I will hug a client at the client table with tears in my eyes.”

Senior support

By Josh Wolff

Despite the rigors of their own work, about 30 Kirkland & Ellis  associates, summer associates, and partners dedicated an afternoon to help low-income seniors.

On July 1, the Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL) hosted its largest-ever Senior Center Initiative. About 50 low-income seniors attended the event  at the 7th District Police Station.

Kirkland attorneys were matched up with seniors and they conducted basic interviews to assess each senior’s needs. Once the needs were determined, the attorneys assisted in the documentation process, including powers of attorney for healthcare and property, as well as living wills.

To be eligible for CDEL’s services, the attendees met three criteria. First, they were at least 60 years old or living with a permanent disability. Second, they reside in Cook County, and lastly, they must have reported a “household income less than or equal to 150 percent of federal poverty guidelines,” the CDEL website states.

Terrence J. Dee, a litigation partner at Kirkland who also manages its pro bono program in Chicago, said these events are tremendous because of the convenience for both the attorneys and seniors. The assistance is completed within an afternoon, but the work has long-lasting results, he said.

“It’s vital to help these senior citizens,” he said. “Our work gives them protection against people who might want to take advantage of them. It gives them peace of mind.”

Kirkland has participated in several similar events with CDEL since October 2008, and about 100 Kirkland attorneys have been involved.

“It’s been enormously successful and extremely rewarding for the attorneys,” Dee said. “It’s added a personal touch to their practice, and our work provides a valuable service to vulnerable low-income seniors.”

Dee said he hopes to continue building on the successful partnership between CDEL and Kirkland by involving more attorneys. He said the strongest recruiting tool is simple word of mouth. Dee said he is confident that more people will continue donating their time to pro bono work after hearing about the experiences of other attorneys.

“[Our attorneys’] responses has been very positive; they find the work extraordinarily satisfying,” he said. “The seniors are very grateful for the assistance we provide them. Each of the attorneys recognizes the impact they have had on these peoples’ lives. It’s a very simple act that has enormous results.”