Lawyers who practice solo or in small firms -- the majority in the US legal profession -- often lack the built-in referral sources found in larger firms and feel isolated without an office full of colleagues who can act as sounding boards. The resolution found by some Chicago lawyers is to create their own communities, which help them generate business, better serve their clients, and forge strong personal bonds -- all without wearing a nametag and making small talk at a breakfast or seminar.
Chicago lawyer Michael Fakaros, a solo who primarily handles real estate and probate matters, has experienced the limits of more formal professional networking. “Relationships based on business alone are not normally as strong,” he said.
Fakaros prefers the more organic connections he’s been able to make at Amata’s 225 West Washington Street location, where he has practiced for more than 10 years.
In Chicago’s only legal-centric work environment, it’s inevitable that lawyers talk to each other. Stopping by another attorney’s office with a legal question or to ask for a second pair of eyes to review a brief is common, even if the subject is outside the other lawyer’s practice area. “The constant interaction is very important for small firms and solos who don’t have other partners or associates to bounce ideas off of,” said Fakaros.
Through these interactions, lawyers across practice areas get to know each other as people not just professionals, which helps make them more comfortable referring cases to each other. “These are attorneys I like and trust,” said Fakaros. “I know where they work—they aren’t going to hide from me when I call.”
When his past or current probate clients have needed additional assistance he consults with Amata colleague Stephanie Sexauer, who does similar probate and guardianship work. They discuss decedent’s estates, disabled adult estates, and minor’s estates, as well as updates in those areas of law or procedures in the probate court.
Fakaros has functioned almost as co-counsel - as a resource on personal injury matters that have a probate component - including probate court approval of settlements obtained in cases with personal injury lawyer, Steve Monroe of Marc J. Bern & Partners. The two occasionally refer cases to one another.
What can be good for lawyers, also benefits clients. Their full range of legal needs can be addressed by attorneys within the Amata community who become trusted advisors to make referrals once additional legal needs are made known by clients.
With more than 700 lawyers in seven downtown Chicago locations, representing 27 practice areas, Amata lawyers and their clients are fully supported, not just through the Amata legal service offerings but in more abstract ways, like having a range of expert choices for counsel and representation right next door.