Robinson Stewart Montgomery & Doppke, LLC

For over 25 years, we have been involved in every aspect of lawyer ethics issues. We’ve advised, taught, practiced and developed law in the field. We are dedicated to helping Illinois attorneys who seek experienced guidance on ethical matters.

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“Tea Leaves,” Manu Sankerms (CC-BY-SA 2.0) The ARDC recently released its 2019 Annual Report. The tale it tells is a familiar one – declines in investigations and prosecutions, the latter down to 44. (For some reason, my search of the ARDC’s website only brings up 42.) The Illinois Supreme Court entered 96 sanctions limiting or removing Illinois lawyers’ right to practice. That number is higher than the complaints filed partly because the cases ARDC files can be litigated for a year or more before reaching the Court, and partly because some matters are filed directly with the…
It’s been a hard and confusing time for so many, in so many ways, that it almost seems like folly to write a blog post sorting out the ethics of the difficulties of practicing law. We’re all trying to survive out here, not really thinking about Rule 3.2. Not even ethics lawyers; your correspondent has been quite honestly grappling with a kind of analysis paralysis, trying to figure out the best way to contribute to the life of a profession on lockdown. For starters, it makes sense to look at the Illinois regulatory environment right now. Getting a…
“Closed,” Steve Snodgrass (CC-BY-2.0) by Jim Doppke Sometimes when I read about ever-accelerating innovations in legal tech, I come across articles about apps and programs dating from a few years ago. Not every one of them took off, of course, or even got up and running. I recently came across an article about an app that would have connected lawyers to other lawyers. The creators said that they would determine whether the lawyers involved were “being investigated” by the ARDC. I don’t know what ultimately happened to that app, but I know one thing: it could never…
RSMD’s Jim Doppke addressed first-year law students at Loyola University School of Law on Monday, January 27, 2020, concerning civility in the legal profession — and what it means in the character and fitness process. Jim has represented and advised many applicants to the Illinois Bar, and he was pleased to bring his experience to bear at his alma mater. He looks forward to making a similar presentation to Loyola’s evening and weekend students on Saturday, February 1.…
The new year is well underway, and lawyers are already looking ahead, planning and executing and looking to grow. One thing our firm always does at this time of year is look around at the regulatory environment. We analyze what we’ve seen and heard, what our experiences have been, and what data – especially the data representing we know about ARDC’s enforcement efforts over the past year – can tell us. It can be hard to tell exactly when we know the number of formal disciplinary complaints that the Administrator of the ARDC has filed during a given calendar year.…
RSMD’s Jim Doppke will address the Chicago Bar Association Professional Responsibility Committee at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 16. He’ll discuss limited scope representation agreements, which the Illinois Supreme Court formally introduced as part of its 2013 amendment of Rule 13. But what’s the state of the law now? Jim will examine current views on the benefits and pitfalls of limited scope, and he’ll provide thoughts about best limited scope practices for 2020 and beyond.…
On November 20, Mary Robinson and Sari Montgomery gave presentations to the Chicago Bar Association’s Unauthorized Practice and Multidisciplinary Practice Committee. Sari addressed the rules and pitfalls of cross-border practice, in particular reviewing scenarios involving states bordering Illinois. Mary addressed the operation of law-related businesses, including tax and immigration consulting services, heir finder and genealogical businesses, and foreclosure surplus fund distribution entities. RSMD’s lawyers are always pleased to give presentations to groups of all sizes, and to help raise awareness of developing professionalism issues. If your organization has a need for an in-depth ethics discussion, please contact the firm to…
“Garden Fence,” George Tan by Jim Doppke Since my earlier post relating to Rule 5.4 and the several new proposals that call for its modification, a new one has arisen: the October 4, 2019 report of the Arizona Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services, which suggests (among many other things) that Rule 5.4 be eliminated entirely. I previously focused on the question of how we have been enforcing the Rule in recent years; the Arizona report, fascinatingly, reaches back to the origins of Rule 5.4 as part of its analysis of whether the Rule should continue to…
Sari Montgomery was pleased to participate in a panel discussion, “Liar, Liar: Managing Truth and Lies in Law Firms,” at Holland & Knight’s General Counsel Summit on September 27. Also on the panel were CNA’s Tracy Kepler, Holland & Knight’s Colin Smith, and certified forensic analyst Andy Jacobs. The summit, and Sari’s panel, provided practical insights into risk management at firms employing up to 250 lawyers. Sari also recently moderated a presentation to the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL) on dishonesty in the practice of law. In Illinois, most of the disciplinary complaints that the ARDC files each year…
“No Admittance,” Eva Critescu (CC-BY-2.0) by Jim Doppke A recent blog post by Brian Faughnan concerning potential changes to Tennessee’s disciplinary system highlighted disbarment and reinstatement – what they mean, and whether and how lawyers can return to practice after discipline. Faughnan discusses a proposal to create permanent disbarment in his state, and to lengthen times within which certain lawyers can seek reinstatement. Thankfully, no such proposal appears to be on the horizon here, meaning that even lawyers receiving the ultimate penalty of disbarment can petition to be reinstated after five years have elapsed from the effective date…
by Jim Doppke In my last post, I wrote about In re Karavidas, the ways in which it changed attorney regulation in Illinois, and how it can be seen as the foundation for future reform efforts. The profession – in Illinois and elsewhere – is beginning the discussion of “re-regulation,” and asking how we can change regulation in the future to best meet the needs of an innovating landscape while also protecting the public from ethical violations. I’ll have some viewpoints on that in coming posts; but for now I’d like to focus on the present
“Change,” Ben Chun (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Jim Doppke As I prepare to attend the #MAKELAWBETTER conference tomorrow, I reflect on the all the talk of innovation in law – talk we sorely need. The ethics and professional responsibility realm should be, and often is, at the forefront of the discussion. As we ponder changes in methods, we should also ponder changes in norms and standards. The Illinois ethical landscape should change with the changing times, too. We have the fifth-largest active attorney population in the United States, and as Prof. Daniel B. Rodriguez pointed out at…
“Inquiry,” Naotake Murayama, licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0 by Jim Doppke Because many ARDC procedures are subject to the confidentiality requirements of Supreme Court Rule 766, the structures that support those procedures often seem opaque. Many Illinois lawyers don’t know exactly how a confidential investigation becomes a formal, and public, disciplinary complaint. This post will examine the body that authorizes the filing of formal cases: the Inquiry Board. Like a Grand Jury Supreme Court Rule 753(a), which authorizes the creation of the Inquiry Board, provides that “[t]he Board shall inquire into and investigate matters referred to it by the Administrator,” and…
On June 27, the Lawyers Trust Fund honored Sari W. Montgomery with its pro bono service award. The award recognizes Sari’s pro bono work with LTF, and with the Lawyers’​ Committee for Better Housing, on a project geared toward increasing access to justice for Illinois tenants in our state. Sari’s work and dedication illuminates the ways in which legal ethics lawyers can contribute to the profession and to society, and RSMD is most proud of Sari’s accomplishment.…
Sari Montgomery was a featured presenter at the ABA’s June 6, 2019 Young Professionals Event. She participated in a panel discussion on the professional responsibility implications of evolving technologies. Sari was pleased to be among other distinguished speakers, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and to help provide professional guidance to young practitioners.…
by Jim Doppke In this post, we’ll take a look at two orders recently entered by the Supreme Court that affect the ARDC and its operations. One of the orders also affects lawyers who are being or have already been prosecuted, and the other affects lawyers who may be at risk of becoming the subject of an investigation. Amendments to Supreme Court Rules 767 and 773 In its May 23, 2019 order, the Court amended Rules 767 and 773 to increase the amounts that disciplined lawyers are be required to pay in two contexts. Rule 767 pertains to reinstatement…