On the 25th Anniversary of my being sworn in as a Lawyer

25 years ago today, I was officially sworn in as an attorney. At the time, I was told that the practice of law is not a job, it is a profession. I took that to heart and have tried to live up to that every day.

A few thoughts:

First of all, I love being a trial attorney and being able to get good results for my clients. Two weeks ago, I won a difficult case and afterwards, in the hallway, I received a big hug from my client. The day before, I won a suspension hearing for another client, a fellow attorney. Representing an attorney is a lot of added pressure but that also means extra satisfaction if you win. You don’t get these types of thrills writing a well-designed estate plan.

Still, I get as much if not more fulfillment from my other professional duties and volunteer work. This week I judged a collegiate moot court competition at Loyola (Last month, I judged a similar competition at the University of Chicago). I am always amazed at the skill and ability of these young advocates. I also trained 50 new investigators who have volunteered with the Chicago Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Committee. Currently, I am co-chair of its Investigation Division. So far this year we have evaluated approximately 200 judicial candidates or judges seeking retention, and we are about to begin work on the rest of the field who did not seek early Cook County Democratic Party slating. Each year, members of our committee volunteer thousands of hours to investigate candidates in order to provide the voters with fair, unbiased and thorough ratings.  I am proud to say that the CBA ratings are widely considered to be the paragon of judicial ratings.

Finally, being an attorney means being part of a community. This week, one attorney took me out to lunch to “pick my brain” about how to handle a Motion to Suppress. Another attorney, who used to be a fierce adversary when he was a State’s Attorney, called me up for advice about Daley Center procedures and I ended up stepping up for him in court.

This is not one-sided. I ask for, and get, help and advice too. Last week, an attorney in Springfield helped me with a client who had a Secretary of State issue, and two Chicago attorneys helped me navigate a personal injury settlement that became complicated when my client suddenly passed away, post-settlement, without having signed a release.

So in summary, I would say to young attorneys:  be a zealous advocate, but also civil and cordial, and be active in our legal community.  You will find it rewarding.


I received a recommendation on Alignable

I am not that familiar with a new website called Alignable, but I do have a listing there and I just received this wonderful recommendation from Chicago attorney Drew Balac.  Excuse my immodesty, but I wanted to share this:

Balace review

I have known Drew for 20 years, and I am more than willing to return the compliment.  No one will ever out-work her on a case.  She is very detail oriented and a strong litigator.

Harold Wallin ranked as one of Chicago’s Top 20 Criminal Defense Attorneys


The analysts at Expertise.com rated over 250 attorneys to come up with their list of the 20 best criminal defense attorneys in Chicago.  Yours truly made the list.

From their site:

Why These Criminal Defense Lawyers?

Our goal is to connect people with the best local experts. To do so, we analyzed and scored criminal defense lawyers on more than 25 variables across six categories to give you a hand-picked list of the best criminal defense lawyers in Chicago, IL.

Our Criteria:

  • 1. Reputation

    A history of delighted customers as a signal of outstanding service.

  • 2. Credibility

    Building customer confidence with licensing, industry accreditations, and awards.

  • 3. Experience

    Masters of their craft, based on years of practical experience and education.

  • 4. Availability

    Consistently approachable and responsive, so customers never feel ignored.

  • 5. Professionalism

    Providing customers a seamless experience both online and off.

  • 6. Engagement

    Actively engaged with their customers across a number of platforms.

Thank you, Expertise.com!

South Elgin Cop refers his softball lawyer buddy to Defendant

*Updated in a separate blog post, click here to read the update.

The Daily Herald reported on an interesting situation from Kane County:  a 22 year old man, Travis Eubanks, was arrested for DUI last year by a South Elgin police officer, Bryan Kmieciak.  When Eubanks’ mother arrived at the station, the officer allegedly gave her a pen imprinted with the name and information of attorney Todd Cohen.  The officer told her that he recommended Cohen.  When the mother stated that the family usually used another attorney, Garrett Malcolm, the officer tried to dissuade her, claiming that Malcolm was “rude and unprofessional.”

Eubanks claims that when he went to meet Cohen, the attorney said that he was good buddies with Officer Kmieciak, and that they played on the same softball team.  Eubanks felt uncomfortable and retained Malcolm anyway.  On his first court date, Eubanks was very nervous and was afraid of retribution for hiring the “wrong” attorney, so he decided to accept a plea deal (which included a requirement that he wear a SCRAM bracelet for 100 days) in return for a rescission of his license suspension.  Malcolm had not read the police reports or seen the arrest DVD before Eubanks entered into this agreement.

Eubanks filed a motion to vacate the plea.  *The story did not state when the motion was filed, but since the plea was entered in October of last year, it is very likely that it was filed after the 30 day period to file such a motion.  After 30 days, a person must file a Petition to Vacate Judgment pursuant to 735 ILCS Section 2-1401.  “To be entitled to relief under section 2-1401, a petitioner must set forth allegations supporting: (1) the existence of a meritorious claim or defense; (2) due diligence in presenting the claim or defense to the circuit court in the original action; and (3) due diligence in filing the section 2-1401 petition for relief.”  People v. Coleman, 206 Ill.2d 261, 288-89. (2002).

According to the Herald, the judge denied the motion to vacate, so the plea stands.  The judge’s reasons were not fully reported, *but it would appear that Eubanks lacked a meritorious defense (he was twice the legal limit to drive) and was not diligent in moving to vacate his plea.  (Again, this is all guesswork on my part since I have not reviewed the court file or read the transcripts of the hearing).

What could Eubanks have done differently?  He could have reported Kmieciak’s actions to the police department, or state’s attorney, for investigation.   Kmieciak’s actions, if true, violated the South Elgin Police Department’s policies. Instead, he kept quiet, accepted a deal that was beneficial to him (his six month license suspension was recscinded even though he blew over twice the legal limit) and then attempted to get a do-over well after the fact.

Still, as one of the commenters to the the Daily Herald story asks, there are other questions that the public deserves to know.  How many times has Cohen represented defendants retained by Kmieciak?  Is there some sort of deal between the two?  Have these defendants obtained any unusual breaks when they have hired Cohen?  Has this officer told other people to stay away from Malcolm?

What do you think?

Attorneys, don’t do this

Today I saw something that irked me.  It was a little thing, but it bothered me, even after I worked out good pleas for two clients, then got a not guilty on a DUI (including all the moving violations too) for a very nice client, and walked out of the courthouse on a Friday afternoon to warm weather, buds on the trees and a perfect blue sky, and the hope that spring had finally arrived.

Yet, this one thing really bugged me.  And what is the point of having a blog if you can’t kvetch now and then?

Before I get started, a disclaimer.  This post is for the attorneys who read this blog.  I know there are quite a few.  The general public probably won’t be too interested.

Anyway, here it is: I was watching the end of a trial today.  It had begun the other day and all I saw was a Motion for a Directed Finding which became closing arguments.  Essentially, the police had charged a woman with concealing evidence of a homicide.

The judge began to state his findings.  All in all, he spoke for about eight or nine minutes.  After about three, it was pretty obvious that he was going to find the defendant not guilty.

When I say “obvious,” I mean that it would be obvious to any experienced attorney that the judge was explaining that the evidence was not sufficient to prove the charge alleged.  It probably wouldn’t be so obvious to the average person, let alone the nervous defendant sitting in court with her future on the line.

So, at this very moment that it became obvious that the judge was going to find his client “not guilty,” the defense attorney turned to his client, with a big grin, and handed her a CBR form and a pen.

(To those not in the know, a “CBR” is a “cash bond refund to attorney” form which means that the defendant is agreeing to have the balance of his or her bond sent to his or her attorney.)

Did I mention that the judge was not done explaining what he was going to do?  Or that he would not say the magic words “not guilty” for another five minutes or so?

So why did this irk me?

Here is this attorney’s client, worried about what will happen to her, and listening intently to everything the judge is saying, while her attorney is thinking about getting paid.  It is not a professional way to present oneself.

Possibly, the attorney realized that the case was about to be over, and there would be no more continuances for post trial motions or sentencing, so the time was ripe to take care of the bond refund.  He could not contain himself and wait a few minutes until the judge had made his ruling official and his client could breathe a sigh of relief.

It also made me wonder whether the attorney had an arrangement to get a bonus if there was a not guilty.  Contingency fees are not allowed in criminal cases by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct. 1.5(d)(2).  I hope this was not the case, but when you do something like that, it makes people think.  Why wouldn’t the attorney have the client sign the CBR form at the beginning of the representation, instead of at the end?  It is simple business sense to have the client sign the form at the beginning of the representation, when the client is eager to be represented and is looking for a way to pay for an attorney’s services, rather than to wait until the case is over, all the work has been done and the client has less of an incentive to tender over his or her bond money.  It is also ethically responsible to make sure that the client understands and consents to the fee at the beginning of the representation.

Even if this was totally above-board, it was just tacky.