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Mid-sized firms work connections

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Chicago attorney Jay Frank had a client with a major problem very far away a couple of decades ago. The client needed legal help in California and turned to Frank for assistance.

Frank checked Martindale-Hubbell to look for qualified attorneys in the jurisdiction where the matter occurred, and he referred his client to someone he thought would be a good match.

“The case went south,” Frank recalled. As a result, the displeased client severed ties not just with the firm that Frank had referred, but also with Frank’s firm.

frank Frank

“I decided there had to be a better way of doing this,” said Frank, a member of the 44-lawyer Chicago firm Aronberg Goldgehn Davis & Garmisa, and president and founding member of the Legal Netlink Alliance.

In the early 1990s, a handful of lawyers from mid-sized firms who knew one another and had referred work among themselves sat down to come up with a solution to problems like the one Frank described. Ed Volk, a partner at Newby Lewis Kaminski & Jones LLP in LaPorte, was one of them.

“It was an effort to solve a problem every lawyer has had over the years,” Volk recalled. “What do you do when you have a good client with a big problem halfway across the country?”

Larger firms with offices and networks around the country had the resources to easily make those sorts of referrals, but firms such as Volk’s – now with 13 lawyers – were at a disadvantage.

Volk recalled that the seven attorneys who came together for that first meeting at the Standard Club in Chicago agreed to each come back with one more new member they knew and trusted.

“These are firms we have relationships with,” he said.

And that’s the difference that members of Legal Netlink Alliance point out when comparing the affiliation to other similar legal networking organizations.

Since it was founded more than 20 years ago, Legal Netlink Alliance has grown from a handful of firms to about 150 across the country and in 41 nations.

“It really does level the playing field,” said managing partner Marc Fine of Rudolph Fine Porter & Johnson LLP, which has offices in Evansville and Crawfordsville, and has been affiliated with the network for many years.

Firms must meet a few key criteria: they must be small or mid-sized firms in their markets with a range of practice capabilities, must have attorneys with AV ratings from Martindale-Hubbell, and must come from the recommendation of an alliance member who’s had good business dealings with the firm.

“You don’t just fill out an application and join this organization,” Volk said. It remains very much a word-of-mouth system of referral.

Frank said that’s important, too, because it makes firms answering inquiries more responsive. He said his office prioritizes matters referred through the alliance, and he believes other firms do, too.

volk Volk

It’s who you know

Volk said the alliance is a nonprofit and manages to keep its dues minimal compared with other networks. But it also asks a bit more of its member firms than other networking organizations might.

“The important thing is members of firms attend meetings on a semi-regular basis so they get to know each other,” he said. “That’s important. … That personal aspect is very high on our priority list.”

“What this allows us to do is a couple of things,” said Arend Abel, a partner at Cohen & Malad LLP in Indianapolis who’s on the alliance’s executive committee. “It allows us to help out our clients whenever they have a problem in another jurisdiction, and it allows us to know they will be placed in good hands with firms we know.”

Abel gave a quick overview of the kinds of client assistance Cohen & Malad has provided that’s been facilitated through the alliance. The firm had clients with matters in Kentucky with respect to estate planning and family law, and commercial litigation. The firm has used an Ohio firm with respect to some health care matters and used the alliance on behalf of clients in Michigan on a banking matter.

Locally, the firm has assisted alliance members from Minnesota and California, among others.

“It happens at least several times a year,” he said. “I even had occasion to assist a firm in the UK with respect to a matter where they needed service on an Indiana resident.”

Abel said a key for membership in the alliance is firms need to show an ability to handle transactional work and business litigation well, which allows the mid-sized members to compete with larger firms.

abel Abel

“We look for firms that are responsive and responsible,” he said.

Volk said when the founding partners sat down to discuss what is now the alliance, the idea was to build a national network. As time passed and practices went global, so did the vision for the alliance.

“We’ve had situations literally all over the world,” Volk said. “I’ve talked to people in Beijing, Romania, Germany.”

But an examination of the alliance’s member firms shows very little overlap in geographic regions. “That’s by design,” said Volk, who like Abel also is a member of the executive committee. “We’re looking for a good firm that can handle the work when it’s there.”

Indiana is representative of that, he said. Just three Hoosier firms are members – Cohen & Malad, Newby Lewis, and Rudolph Fine.

Side benefits

Frank and other attorneys said the alliance has produced some unanticipated results.

He chatted at a recent alliance conference with an attorney from Turkey, and they got to know each other over a drink and swapped stories about their families. “I know if I call him, he’s going to be there for me and take care of my clients,” Frank said.

There won’t be a referral fee, nor would there be for the Turkish lawyer if he needed Frank’s help with something in Chicago. “We run kind of a low-key organization, and economics doesn’t play a role in what we do,” Frank said.

“But we have the ability to refer our clients anywhere in the world, and to my clients, that makes me look like a hero,” he said.

fine Fine

“They literally treat our clients as their own clients,” Fine said, “putting them in line as if they were their best clientele.” That kind of treatment ensures reciprocal treatment when other matters arise from member firms, he said.

“When you are welcomed it really does create a nice feeling for the referring lawyer, and I think the client experience is enhanced,” Fine said.

Members of the executive committee teleconference monthly, and the alliance hosts twice-annual conferences in the spring and winter that Volk and others said are well-attended.

“The opportunity to establish really fine, personal relationships with good people has been an unexpected byproduct but a very welcome one with this organization,” Volk said.

“Back when we started this, there weren’t a lot of legal networks around,” Frank recalled. “We grew not just to make sure we had someone in Tulsa, Okla., but a very good firm in Tulsa, Okla.

“We have some darned fine lawyers involved in this organization, and it’s sort of morphed into this situation where we’re not only professional colleagues but personal friends,” he said.•
 

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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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