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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. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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