Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pssst!!!! Got a Contract With Your Lawyer? Be Sure You Understand It!

Has Your Lawyer Given You a Contract or Retainer Agreement?  Check it before you wreck it!

Hello and happy holidays from Alisa Levin at Levin Law, Ltd.!  I had an interesting thing happen recently and it reminded me that sometimes clients may not fully understand how to hire an attorney, what it means to the lawyer, and what they are traditionally paying for.  So, in many cases, when an attorney is hired, they will prepare a contract or even a letter that is given to the client and the client is expected to sign it. Those terms, within that document, form at least some (if not all) of the basic terms between the lawyer and the client.  Here, I'd like to review, certain terms commonly found in a retainer agreement, and what they traditionally mean.

Rate:  Lawyers by and large, charge hourly.  As such, a "rate" that is offered to a client in most cases is an hourly rate.  The retainer agreement should specify, how the lawyer charges, and whether or not the increments are tenths of an hour, quarter hour, half hour increments, or minimum hourly rates.  One thing however, that a retainer is used for, and the client must understand, is that a retainer is not a flat fee.  Once the retainer is used, then the lawyer will charge hourly for all work performed.  That usually means, all emails, calls, meetings, court appearances, drafting, reviewing the file, researching or talking about the file, is billable.

Also, be sure you understand that credit card payments taken by the lawyer, if they are agreed to in the retainer, are lawful and appropriate, and your card will be charged pursuant to the retainer contract.  Be sure you get that.  It's illegal to dispute a credit card charge that was authorized, and competent lawyers are sure to get that signature up front allowing those charges.  Be sure you get that.

Retainer agreements come in all shapes and sizes, but there is no need to rush your signature - even highly pressing matters can wait a day.  It would be no excuse for you to fail to read it and then claim an agreement is unfair, so be sure you read everything and know and understand the terms.  Lawyers draft the documents, so they can definitely explain them.

I use a retainer for all litigation matters in my practice, and I have to reference that language at least every few files when clients go rogue and pretend they don't understand the deal.  But in reality, both parties should understand the deal long before the bill comes.  You don't?  Well, read your contract.

Got questions?  See us at for more!


If You Don't Want an Attorney to Do Things For You, Then Do Not Hire One!

Hi All!

Happy almost-summer in the Chicagosphere, I hope you are all well.  I have an interesting situation to write about today - so I thought I would share in my usual fashion, as news you can use... so let's go!  Recently, a former client came back to ask me to assist with a commercial real estate transaction.  He had purchased a distressed building in Chicago previously and he asked me to attend the closing since he lived out of town.  The transaction was mostly smooth, so when it came time to purchase another property, he contacted me.  However, this time, the deal was put together from scratch and I essentially worked on the contract at the beginning stages, so instead of just showing up for closing, I had a lot more work to do.

Now, during the entire "due diligence" or what some people call the "escrow period" a number of interesting things have been happening - much to my surprise.  My client has not used a realtor or broker, and he has been basically going around me on every aspect of the transaction, even so far as to contact the title company and negotiate tax re-prorations with the seller and counsel, all without telling me about it.  I have been finding out from the seller's broker and the seller's lawyer wha tis going on - and my client never calls me ahead of time.  He just goes ahead and does everything himself.

So, what is the problem you ask? Well, A) he's doing my job - which I was hired to do and will be likely blamed later if something is not done right - so it's important that I not only know what is going on, if it's my job to do it and I should be paid to do it and you asked me to do it, then let me.  Otherwise, it's an embarrassing situation, and the entire transaction (at least for how most parties do things in Illinois) looks very unorthodox - and it puts all of the professionals in a very uncomfortable position (i.e. they don't know who they should work with).  Also, the B part) is that it's unprofessional to hire someone to do something and then take away everything they have to do, but still keep an expectation that the lawyer is there to do a job.  If the client is going to do everything and make all the calls and do all the negotiating - then what is the lawyer hired for? It creates animosity, confusion and certainly makes the lawyer want to run for the hills.

Here are my tips to avoid this scenario:

  1. if your matter is transactional and most parties in the state hire lawyers, then you should too - it's commonplace for a reason
  2. just because you are smart, doesn't mean  you have the appropriate training and knowledge to handle things yourself - please do not overestimate your skills and underestimate those of the lawyer.  It's insulting to the attorney
  3. if you hire someone to do a job, stop micromanaging and let the professional do their job. You don't get down on your hands and knees and interrupt someone who is laying tile in a bathroom - why do it with a lawyer?  It smells bad, and ruins the attorney-client relationship - and is quite embarrassing for the lawyer when it looks like their client is out of control.
  4. lawyers get paid either flat fee or by the hour.  Most lawyers across the country charge hourly - especially for commercial matters.  Stop being cheap.  there is always a lawyer who charges less - you are free to find them but trying to take over a file just to save money means really only that you will screw yourself, screw up the deal, and have to pay me more to fix what you messed up.  It would have been cheaper to let the lawyer just do her job from the get-go.

The bottom line here, is that for a variety of reasons, if you are unsure about whether or not you need counsel - stick to custom and practice for the area.  In Illinois, it's customary to use lawyers for real estate.  Any competent real estate lawyer will tell you that in other states where they do not use lawyers, it's because they are too unskilled and unprofessional to k now that it's totally ridiculous to not have a lawyer, and not using one in real estate is just like operating on one's own foot.  It's rarely done and the guy who does probably only has one foot as a result.  Second, if you are going to hire someone - let them do their job.  Too much toe-stepping is a recipe for a breakup, and a quick one.  

Visit for more information and news you can use, and feel free to visit us on / Levinlawltd to see how Chicago loves Levin Law!  Happy Summer!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Stop Arguing With Pigeons! How Dealing With Self-Represented or Being Self Represented Can be Disaster

Hi All!  Happy Late-Winter (or just not snowing) as they say in Chicago!  I've missed you and been so busy that I haven't had much time to write.  However, what has been plaguing me is something I decided to write about today.  That is:  the bain of the self-represented person and how people refusing to hire competent counsel to help them, even when they think it's simple, can really drive up costs, cause ethical complaints, and in general, just raise the difficulty and complexity of any matter.

So in my usual form, here are some good rules of thumb to follow in relation to legal or real estate problems, in no particular order, as news you can use!

  1. Do NOT ATTEMPT to Represent Yourself!  When you are confronted with an issue, it's usually best that you get a sounding board, the advice of someone you trust, and who has some experience and specialized knowledge.  While we may all be able to relate to family issues, matters of the heart or mutual fear of the IRS, what is truly unwise is to take on the legal system yourself if you are not a trained lawyer, and sometimes, even if you are.    When someone is involved in a legal dispute, quite simply their minds go nuts.  They cannot focus, they lose the ability to read, rationally process simple concepts, and their penchant for anger and emotional outbursts are dramatically increased.  In order to preserve your mind, your wallet and your position, just hire a lawyer.  I am working on a case against a lawyer who claims he has been practicing for 15 years, and his filings are so bad, even the judge wrote on a post-it note that this was the "worst complaint ever."  Now, that is significant.  When it's important, get help.
  2. Do Not Attempt to Try to Talk Out The Issue With the Other Side.  Normally it's good for parties to talk, to try to work things out.  But when one side is Pro Se (self-represented) there is too great a chance that things can get misconstrued.  The best bet is to keep things in writing, and if at all possible through an intermediary, like the court.  While administrative matters are important to work out - talking about the law or the facts can result in fiery tempers, or worse.  The best bet is to keep quiet and let the middle-man work it out.  That is why you are in court, after all (to  get an unbiased decision).
  3. Keep good records.  People who are not lawyers may not understand the nuances of what is proper behavior, what make up appropriate court filings and actions, and what is required under the law vs common practice.  If someone files something in court that does not necessarily "trigger a court date" and often it is the case that unrepresented people think that just getting a file-stamp from a circuit court means more than what it is.  Adding something to a court record does not necessarily get that issue or paper before the judge.  Moreover, just filing something and sending that filing to the other side doesn't mean that the court has the power to act on that filing.  When you have competent help, then you can understand the import of every action, and the corresponding reaction.  It's best to be sure.   You need to keep excellent records, including every email, every filing, every letter and post-it.  You simply never know when you will need it.
  4. Refusing to Hire Counsel Doesn't Make Things Easier or Cheaper in the Long Run.  One thing that is important to recognize and may not be obvious is that when one represents themselves, not only might they have a fool for a client (thank you Abraham Lincoln), but if they are not trained in the law, then their non-sensical filings and misunderstanding about legal analysis and how to connect the dots for a court, may end up not only costing the case, but they usually result in more fees.  This is because when something frivolous or baseless is filed in a court, the judge can actually penalize the litigant and make them pay the fees of the other side.  This can mount to many thousands of dollars.  As such, it not only may not save one in costs, but depending on the cost of the other lawyer, one may end up deeply in debt without ever having hired counsel.  The big picture?  If your case is good, there will be a competent and affordable lawyer to take it and to help.  If your case is good, then there will be a theory that fits and a court than can hear it, and your claim can be proven and believed.  IF you proceed on your own, all of those things are in question, as well as your judgment.  And, once a Court doubts your judgment, it will no doubt, doubt your position and argument.  Best to leave the bad juju at home.
Overall, while each case and situation must be evaluated on its own, I can tell you clearly and honestly that for every case that I've had where any of the players represented themselves (even my clients before or after they worked with me), have all had a rough time in getting where they wanted to go on their own.  Also, when I oppose someone who is self-represented, not only is it a more frustrating experience, it's more expensive for my clients.  Competent counsel know how to resolve cases and make appropriate filings. 

In some areas, it's simply  best not to mess with time-tested models.  The law is no place to start gambling!  

For News You Can Use, and other Musings, follow me on Facebook at Levin Law, Ltd. check out my website at, or see what people on Yelp are saying in Chicago (at Levin Law Ltd).  I look forward to seeing you around - and as always, welcome your comments!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fight The Collection Lawyers - When On Defense Remember Some Offense!

Hello Bloggers - Welcome to Fall in the City!  What a beautiful day. 

I have spent the week fighting some pretty nasty fights.  When at one time I could have easily called myself a Plaintiff's lawyer, most of my work this week has been playing D-E-F-E-N-S-E!  And wow, am I tired.  Tired of dealing with nasty attorneys from big firms who have NO idea how to play by the rules.  Tired of protecting clients from would-be-experts who bribe judges, play games at their campaign parties, and spend more time kissing judges asses than they do practicing law.  Why, I even got a call from a lawyer's boss twice this past two weeks, and presumably she was not going to agree with me when I gave him a piece of my mind.  So what did I do?  I told her to fly a kite in many many words, and now I am here to remind you, my flock, of various strategies you can do, when the collection snakes are at your door.  A few bits of News You Can Use, from the Trenches. 

When Things Are Looking Down at Trial:  Be Sure You Have a Court Reporter and Obtain Transcripts
I cannot explain to lay people how important a transcript is.  You have to hire court reporters for your cases.  The judges, the written documents, are NEVER (I repeat - NEVER!) enough to show an appellate court what happened.  Remember this if nothing else:  Court-Reporter-Must-Do.  When the case is over, if there is any appeal (and remember time limits are sensitive for these things), the Appellate Court must have a transcript of the trial.  Must. Do. That.

In Collections, State Law Provides for Exemptions - Not Everything is Up For Grabs
If you are a Defendant/Debtor -and a collection firm, lawyer or court is chasing you down, do not forget that you may have some very simple things you can do to protect some assets.   Most states provide for a personal exemption.  In Illinois it's known as the "wild card" exemption and you can claim $4000 of value - of anything - to protect in the face of a creditor claim.  There are also claims like pensions, IRAs, funds allocated for child-support or dependent support, and others.   Check your state - but know this:  You have some options.  Never let a creditor take your last dime, even if you owe them.  You have rights - exercise them.

If You Can Get a Bond, Insurance Policy or Put Up Collateral As Security to Stay Enforcement During Appeal - Do That
In most circuit courts and state Appellate Rules, there are provisions that can help stop dead in their tracks, a collection case, while something is pending in court.  This is called a "stay."  A "stay" simply put, just means a stop-order.  A court, a person, a law firm must stop, and wait.  As such, stays are important tools in the Debtor's arsenal - but they have rules, and state to state, they must be respected.  In many jurisdictions, to get a stay, you need to put up security.  This is money you put up, or security, so that the creditor is protected during appeal and it prevents the Debtor from getting rid of assets.  A good idea, but hard to do sometimes.   Any time you are in litigation, and especially if you are in a bad situation that might not go your way, you must anticipate the appeals process, and in so doing that, you need to know that you can stop enforcement, garnishing of wages, freezing bank accounts, repossession, etc - but you need to use the state rules to do so.  Time limits are sensitive, and courts have to approve a stay.  When indoubt, ask and get legal counsel.  It's important enough to appeal?  Then it's important enough to try to get a bond.  The term you need to research is "Appeal Bond" or "Supersedeas Bond".  

Overall - you need legal help any time you are not familiar with collections rules, courts and legal terminology.  Hire competent counsel in your area, and do not forget, these are just a FEW IDEAS you can use.  Your state may have additional methods to stop creditor action (and to be sure, this list does not include bankruptcy - even though that does work to stop creditors!).  You have options.  Be sure to explore them.  

Levin Law, Ltd. is a full service appellate, plaintiff-defense-everything-for-justice kind of law firm and we help individuals, businesses, and all-around good people, fight the fight, in Chicago.  We serve many kinds of clients and we do national trial consulting and we aim to serve law firms around the country with seasoned litigation consulting, trial consulting and second-chair trial assistance and we do guest lecturing, speech writing and public speaking.  We even have a tv-show in Chicago called Chicago BarTalk.  Come check us out! or see us on Yelp under Levin Law Ltd in Chicago.

Happy Day!
- Alisa 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yelp is Making Me Famous! Wahoo!!!

Hello to the faithful and welcome to Fall in Chicago! Ready for the brisk weather?  I am and so is Yelp.  I wanted so share some wonderful comments about my practice so that in case you are not familiar with my work, you soon will be:

  • 9/23/2015
    As you've may have read from other reviews below... my story is the same. Alisa has been helping me with tenant/landlord issues for well over 2 months right now (even without a retainer). When I first reached out to her, she was very prompt with communicating (she had been on vacation and still managed to help me out during some of the tough parts of the process).Through communication, you can tell Alisa knows her stuff. She is very knowledgable, professional and puts you at ease (these things can be very stressful). The experience has been as good as it can get with legal problems, I cannot recommend her enough.

  • 8/18/2015
    Highly recommend Alisa Levin. She is extremely knowledgeable of real estate law. Her integrity, abilities, professionalism, advice are surpassed by none. She has always been willing to give advice at a moments notice many times not even charging for her valuable expertise. Her advice has been extremely effective and allowed me to move forward with my real estate needs in the most competent and efficient manner. Alisa will take care of your needs and surpass your expectations. Do not hesitate to contact her.

  • 7/19/2015
    I can't say enough about Alisa Levin. Professional, straightforward, honest, and extremely capable. She recently helped me with a tenant/landlord situation and not only did she give me incredibly helpful advice before I even had her on retainer, she won my case and achieved the best possible outcome for me, AND she even charged me less than I originally thought and agreed to because she was so honest about the actual time she needed to win my case for me.
    I will definitely retain Alisa for any legal needs I have in the future and I would recommend her to anyone in need of a competent lawyer.

  • 6/26/2015
    I'm a Chicago landlord looking to evict one of my tenants for taking in a roommate without my consent.  Alisa Levin reviewed the lease and pointed out that it was non-compliant with the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance (CRLTO) and my lease had several flaws that can make it more costly and take longer to evict a tenant in Chicago.  Alisa suggested some options and I decided to allow my tenant to terminate the current lease and sign a new lease adding the roommate with an agree rent increase.  She provided me a copy of the CRLTO and a sample Chicago compliant lease to use with my Chicago tenants.  Alisa places her clients' interest first.  She could have gone forward with the eviction and made a lot of money in the eviction process.  But Alisa did what was best for me (not to mention saving me a lot of money by talking me out of the eviction).  Her honesty and integrity will keep me coming back whenever I need an attorney or legal advice.

  • 5/6/2015
    Alissa Levin handled a few legal problem related to construction that I had. She well versed in construction litigation. By the time I was done in her office I walked out with a feeling of security.  All my questions and concerns were answered.  My legal issues were resolve with swift action.  She packs a punch and make sure whomever she is representing she will go extra mile.  I would recommend her to anyone and she wi stand by your side all the way to end.

  • 12/21/2014
    Wonderful experience!!!  I knew I made the right choice to have Ms.Alisa Levin on my side. Very knowledge in her field of law! Alias takes the time out to make you understand every aspect of your concern, she makes sure you recognize what's going on, and thoroughly explain your possible outcomes. Ms. Levin is and forever will be recommended to friends and family. I will always contact Alisa for all my legal assistance!

  • 11/17/2014
    Alisa is one of the best attorney's that I have ever had the pleasure to work with.  Her mix of industry expertise, professional courtesy, honesty and sense of humor make her great to deal with.  I have worked with her on various occasions over the course of five years and I can honestly say that I have never had a bad experience or outcome. She displays an impressive knowledge of real estate laws and has the ability to successfully negotiate, and if needed litigate, on your behalf.  She is efficient in how she conducts business, responsive to inquiries and demonstrates the ability to hold others accountable.  To top it all off, she has strong interpersonal or soft skills that allow her to communicate complex concepts or courses of action in a manner that is easy to understand and makes you feel comfortable.   Alisa has worked diligently to secure my condo association a property lien against a seriously delinquent owner, she litigated a personal property case for me and she was able to successfully re-negotiate a credit for my home purchase after my real estate agent had pre-maturely negotiated a deal that was not in my favor.  I found Alisa through a search engine like Yelp and she's been my attorney ever since (boy did I hit the jackpot!).  I consider her to be a friend and I'd recommend her to anyone seeking legal assistance.

  • 9/24/2014
    We highly recommend Levin Law, Ltd!  Alisa's law practice exemplifies the comfort one hopes for when having to engage an attorney. Alisa has the talent for sniffing out details, making people accountable, recognizing options, and overall just making you feel like you made the best choice when it comes to seeking out legal support. I also believe her fees are very fair.. We will be working with Alisa again very soon to establish estate will's.

  • 3/12/2014
    Alisa was wonderful to work with. She took the time to learn about my issues and we came up with a plan to resolve the matter. She's efficient, authoritative and knowledgable. I recommend her services to anyone looking for real estate law, litigation or business matters.

  • 4/26/2011
    I have nothing but great things to say about Alisa.  She helped me through some contractor nightmares to push for what I needed to be fixed.  Not only did she help me understand the situation better and what my rights were, she also coached me through multiple options.  I'd refer Alisa to anyone as she is very knowledgeable, trust worthy, and a great listener.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Chicago BarTalk - A New Chicago Show

Good morning blogosphere!  I am excited to show you all some recent footage of our new show, Chicago BarTalk, with me, Alisa Levin, and my co-cohosts Ish Orkar and Dana Zivkovich.

We get together and chat about legal news you can use, current events, hot topics, recent cases, and interesting trends in the law affecting you, Chicago, and the nation.

Check us out!  Our website and social media accounts are in production!  Let me know what you thin, what you want to talk about, and how we can connect with you!

Happy Fall!

-- Alisa

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hello Blogosphere!  Long time no post!  Well, we have settled into our new-new office on Chicago Avenue and are pleased to announce that one of our cases... er a somewhat high profile case, has gotten some press - which we think is great.

Check out this story which was published by Crain's Chicago Business yesterday.

We are interested to know what you think - what you would do if this were you or someone you know, and what ideas you have.

See you around!

Alisa Levin

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Levin Law has a new West Town Chicago Location!

News Bulletin!  Levin Law, Ltd. has moved to 2138 W. Chicago Ave, Chicago 60622!  We are accepting clients in the following areas:
  • Real Estate / Transactions & Litigation / Evictions - Landlord/Tenant
  • Construction
  • Collections / Litigation
  • Appeals
  • Child-Support/Visitation
  • General Litigation / Commercial Disputes
Please keep us in mind - we are a better and more valuable resource in Chicago than most larger firms - with the same experience!  Results matter.  Trust Levin Law. 
Levin Law, Ltd.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

West Town Chicago - We Have Moved! Levin Law Version 4.0!

Hello All in the Blogosphere!  Welcome to springtime in Chicago, where it's glorious, the flowers are blooming, and we are announcing that we have moved to 819 N. Damen Avenue.  We have triple the space, 100x more pizazz, and we are ready to serve Chicagoland with all of your individual and business needs.

Levin Law serves in many of the following ways:

  • Litigation - Disputes
  • Construction - Mechanic's Liens
  • Real Estate Transactions (Commercial & Residential)
  • Appeals
  • City of Chicago - Administrative Law Issues - Building Court
  • Illinois Dept. of Human Rights - State level cases only
  • Housing Authority of Cook County Appeals
  • Illinois Dept. of Economic Security Appeals
  • Condominium Law
  • General Counsel 
  • Collections
  • Child Support / Visitation

Please share and spread the word - we are accepting clients now and offering Springtime Deals!


Levin Law, Ltd.
819 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago IL 60622

Credit Cards Accepted / Payment Plans Available

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Legal Research - Don't Be Fooled By Westlaw Or Lexis - You Will Love Again

Hello Chicago Law Sourcers, we are excited to be in full swing into 2015 and rocking and rolling our way through the days.  Today's post is about legal research.  Just a short one, to remind you that your so-called "tried and true" research engines known as trusty Westlaw and Lexis might not be the only way to go.

First, they are E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E!!!  Second, are they the best?  We know from being in law school that they are very popular.  But we also know from high school that being popular doesn't mean you get asked to the dance.  So, for this foray into the legal world, let me suggest that you consider breaking up with your one main squeeze and check out some sites I just found.  Now that I myself and my firm Levin Law Ltd are free from the big-guys, we are itching to try them out.  I welcome your comments on this!

I have found out about the following sites, and I think they are all worthy of a spin:

  •  (Lois Law)
  •  (National Law Library)
  •  (The Law . Net)
  • Jenkins law library (gives you access to fast case)
So for any and all legal friends out there, I can tell you that I am looking at all of these, but they offer lower monthly costs, one-time search pricing, and most state and federal resources.  

Check it out!

As usual, I welcome your suggestions and comments and hope to hear from you all in 2015!! 

Like us on Facebook!  (Levin Law Ltd) or check out on the web at

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Breaking Up With Counsel... Oh So Hard To Do! But Why?

Hello Chicago Law Sourcers!  Happy January 2015.  Can you believe it's already almost February?  Boy, how time flies when you are having fun.  Well, today, I'd like to talk about what happens when you have a bad attorney, and how that translates for someone like me at Levin Law, Ltd. who might inherit a hurt client.  Now, relationships with client and lawyer is not always easy. I, along with every other bar-carded counsel in the land will have to agree.  However, there is a reason that lawyers are always having to defend their reputation as vicious animals, and for this post, I'd like to talk about how we can deal with that.  So, for some news you can use, on how to deal with lawyers who have wronged you and how you can work with a new lawyer to improve your case, here are some tips from the trenches:

We have all heard some horror stories and the news and media has reported on some doozies of attorney-client mishaps.  However, for the average person, it can be hard to determine when to part ways.  Here is a short list that may be useful in determining when to break up with your counsel, in no particular order:
  1.  When the Trust is Lost Because of Differing Opinions on the Case.  When you and your lawyer no longer see eye to eye about the end-game and the potential to get there, it is best that one of you breaks it off.  More often than not, it's the attorney who identifies this mile-stone and initiates the tough conversation about "where is this going in your mind" kind of similar to the 6-month mark in a new relationship.  We, as human beings, always want to be sure that our "people" are on the same page.  Lawyers are humans too!  We don't want to have trust issues, and we don't want to feel as if you can't be trusted, or that you do not trust us.  If you feel that the trust is lost because you and your lawyer do not agree, then parting ways amicably is often the best outcome.  Do not fear - this doesn't always mean a burning bridge.  While generally the client should direct outcome and the lawyer should be the navigator, if it is the case that the parties cannot agree, splitting up while still on good terms is the best, for both parties.
  2. When the Trust is Lost Because of Untrustworthy Behavior or Lack of Communication.  Quite simply, your lawyer owes you as a client, some ethical obligations.  They are: honesty, loyalty, candor, communication and best efforts in a competent manner.  If you cannot get those things from your lawyer, it's time to break up.  While communication can be a subjective thing, the main concept is that you should not wonder for long how your case is going, or what is happening.  Not every client wants a weekly update or letter, and not every client cares unless something is happening.  Clients should communicate their expectations and desires for communication and good lawyering demands that the attorney explain their usual methods and then agree with the client on how they will work together.  I accept texts, emails and calls.  Not everyone is on that same page, and it's totally up to the parties.  However, even though I don't send monthly status letters, I do return all calls and I do email.  If ANY client of mine wants to know what is going on, it's my highest priority to tell them.  My goal is to tell you before you ask, so that you are always up to date.  Regardless, the takeaway here is that you must communicate, and any lawyer who does not communicate cannot earn the client's trust.  Second, for ANY untrustworthy behavior, including failure to show up, failure to account for client money or failure to do what is promised, the client must break up with counsel in writing, and move on.  Your case is your case - and it's important that you retain control. 
  3. When the Attorney Continually Loses Motions and Advances Bad Arguments.  Most lawyers try to make good arguments. Most lawyers do their research.  However, when a filing is continuously attacked by the other side, a diligent client should start to wonder if it's their attorney who is not doing such a good job.  It's sort of standard protocol to attack the other side's filings. However, a good and reputable attorney will know that not everything can be attacked, and it's poor form and a waste of client money to attack that which is sound, legally speaking.  Therefore, at a certain point, when a file is on it's 3rd Amended "this or that" it may be time to examine whether or not your counsel is doing it right.  After all, it's your dime!  You get what you pay for... and if you are not getting filings that have traction in court, your lawyer ought to be able to explain why.  
These are just a few things to consider when dealing with a bad attorney, or one that leaves less than a good impression.  Next,  clients must remember that not only do they have the power to stop working with an attorney, they have the right to complain and escalate matters when there is poor behavior that borders on unethical.  Just yesterday a potential client called me, complaining about a fellow lawyer whom I know of to be abusive, unethical and generally bad-bad-bad, and so I encouraged that person to file a complaint with the disciplinary commission.  It's always good to remember that lawyers are subject to the highest of obligations, and one of those obligations is that it's wrong to try to extort money from people when you aren't doing your job!  I was so glad this person called me, but it leaves me wondering where these lawyers find these poor unsuspecting clients.

Anyway, for today's message, what I'd like to impart, is that lawyering, like any kind of professional thing, is a moldable, movable relationship that has parts, good and bad.  When you come across some of the bad parts, you have options.   You can always report bad conduct, ask another attorney for a consultation to review options and to meet with your counsel to reevaluate.  I always recommend good communication on both sides, but no matter what, you have the right to break up whenever you want!

So, for your news you can use, be sure to check out Levin Law's website at and find our articles on SSRN, and our reviews on Yelp and Avvo. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bed Bugs! Chicago Ordinance Rules To Help Prevent Critter Cramps!

Happy Holidays from Levin Law, Ltd!  We are busy at work preparing for 2015 and want to talk bugs.  Bugs?  Yes.  Bugs.  Specifically, bed bugs, and how they can affect even the cleanest, spic-and-span-cleanest-homes, from Detroit to L.A.  Here in Chicago, we hear sometimes about rental issues and the pesky critters, but what is often not clear is how to deal with them, who can do what, and what who should do!  (Yes, I said that.)

What we mean is:  Everyone is responsible to avoid and treat and get rid of bed bugs.  There is no clear language in any law that makes the landlord or the tenant, or the city, or your mother, responsible for bed bugs.  They come in from anywhere, everywhere and somewhere.  Therefore, anyone and everyone and specifically someone is responsible for getting them out-out-out.  That means me, you and THEM!  

Here in the city of Chicago, the Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance requires that landlords now provide Bedbug Pamphlets, notifying tenants of specific rules to follow, prevention tips and infestation suggestions to assist with bedbug issues.  Both landlords and tenants have rules to follow, and the landlord is charged with the obligation of extermination.  However, if the tenants don't follow all rules, then anything the landlord does may not work.  Big picture?  Everyone to work together, together. 

Some main ideas and rules I'm sharing today are as follows, courtesy of the City of Chicago!

Bed bugs are small, flat, wingless insects.  They feed on blood and can be a nuisance for individuals. They are named for their tendency to live on mattresses or other parts of a bed.  They can be found in homes, condominiums, apartments, hotels, schools, dormitories, shelters, offices and many other places.  In 2013, the City Council passed an ordinance to help address the problem of bed bugs.  That ordinance is available here. The requirements established by this ordinance follow:
Rental Housing
The ordinance established several requirements for both landlords and tenants.  Among these is a requirement that landlords must provide a brochure on bed bugs to tenants when signing a new or renewing an existing lease or other rental agreement (note this does not apply to owner-occupied buildings containing six units or less).  
Condominium and Cooperative Buildings
All governing associations need to have a written plan to address bed bugs.  A sample plan was created to assist associations in developing their plans.  
Other Requirements
    • Requires every business licensed by the City of Chicago to provide pest control services when a bed bug problem occurs on their premises.
    • Prohibits hotels or other establishments that provide sleeping accommodations from renting rooms with a bed bug problem.
    • Prohibits the disposal of any bed bug infested item except when the item is totally enclosed in a plastic bag and labeled as being infested with bed bugs.
    • Prohibits the recycling of any bed bug infested item.
    • Requires sellers of secondhand bedding to provide notices to consumers that the bedding is made in whole or part from secondhand material or has been previously owned or used.
    • Requires sellers of new and secondhand bedding to inspect it and if found to be soiled, malodorous or infested with pests, prohibits them from selling it and requires it to be properly disposed.
All in all folks.... be sure to keep it clean!  Wash your belongings on HIGH HEAT, and do not bring in trash and used furniture or mattresses from sources you do not know.  Anything can be infested. 

For more news on landlord/tenant laws and news you can use, check out our website at, or find us on Yelp at Levin Law, Ltd!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Not Fraud Just Because You Don't Like It!

Good afternoon Blogosphere!  Happy Fall from Levin Law Ltd. presenting you with News You Can Use, about all things real estate.  Here is one from my phone logs... just in today:

I get a call from a guy... we'll call him Steve.  Steve and his wife purchased a home more than 6 years ago through an estate sale.  Two women had inherited the home when their parents passed, and Steve and Co. were interested to purchase it.  He conducted an inspection, all looked fine, so they completed the sale.

Fast forward to 2014, and a City of Chicago building code inspector dropped by with his clipboard, and all of a sudden Steve finds himself facing a code violation for a "dormer" issue that he was previously unaware of.  What does he do?  He commences some kind of investigation involving the realtors, seller, his old lawyer and eventually calls me - new counsel - to try to see who he can sue for fraud, because he was never told the dormers were installed without a permit.

What?  Sounds simple, right?  Someone must have lied.  Someone must have conveniently forgotten to tell him during his escrow period that work was done and that the original owners never had a permit to do it.  Someone must pay.  Right?

Well... Maybe Not So Simple.

See, what I had to explain to Steve was that when he purchased a home, and he hired an inspector, a lawyer and a realtor - that NONE of their jobs includes asking the question of whether a permit was obtained for an addition in 1960-whatever.  IT simply isn't part of our jobs.  I explained that realtors introduce buyers and sellers.  End of story.  I explained that inspectors find current broken items.  End of Story.  I explained that for the meager money the real estate lawyer makes on the deal, their job is to examine the contract, examine the financial papers, and make sure title is good.  End of Story.  Steve was listening.

I went on to explain that regardless of a consumer's belief that a real estate lawyer should inform themselves and investigate every potential scenario in a real estate transaction - they aren't actually paid to do that - nor are they paid enough to agree to that.  He was like... "uh what?"  Yep.  What is right.

Specifically - a real estate lawyer does NOT investigate the construction history of a parcel of real estate from the  beginning of time to today, JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE BUYING IT.  What a real estate lawyer does, is to open a file and monitor deadlines, they review and negotiate the contract, they review and negotiate inspection items, and they oversee the financing documents to ensure that what you are agreeing to pay the bank is what the paperwork provides.  They are expected to ensure that the buyer receives good and merchantable title and that the seller sells the property.  What they ARE NOT DOING is to go back into the seller's history to be sure that every construction project ever done was done right, done with a permit, or done under the then-current building code.  The paperwork simply doesn't call for it.

Steve was pretty irked.  Like... who can I blame for my problems, irked.  After I suggested to Steve that sometimes building inspectors show up and find things - mostly because they are looking and where the prior owner's failure to obtain a permit in the 1960s is discovered, there are a few options, not the least of which is simply obtaining the old permit for the old work - or doing whatever the city requires.  What I had to explain is that, especially in an estate sale context, where people are simply looking to sell and buyers are simply looking to buy, what happened in the distant past is honestly never going to come up - which means that by virtue of a later discovery that something was amiss, that does not make the entire sale a "fraud case" just because the buyer wasn't told.

So what can anyone do to avoid these problems?  Well.... Not much, except to research themselves with the seller any work performed by the owner with whatever public records are available, hire an inspector and general contractor who can state whether everything is up to code (and I mean EVERYTHING) and to access city records.  These tasks are not the job of the attorney, realtor, inspector or mortgage broker.  Any homeowner or purchaser that wants a full history has some work to do.  It can be done... but all in all, the lesson here is that a fraud case is not made simply because a buyer finds out something that he thinks the older owners should have said.  Sometimes that works out - but more often than not - there is no fraud where the sellers didn't know it was a problem.

Big picture:  Do Your Homework in Real Estate.  

For more news you can use - check out or call Alisa Levin at 312.720.0082 in Chicago, Illinois.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DISCOVERY and Your Lawyer: Necessary Steps In Successful Litigation

Hello All in the Blogosphere!  Coming right to you from the wonder and beauty that is Chicago in the Summer, I would like to bring you some news you can use on the subject of tracking your attorney and staying on top of your case, as a client.  Direct from the trenches of a pretty "ugly" case I am involved in, it highlighted the need for me to share with you the ins and outs of stay on on top of your hired guns.

Well.. let me first start out by saying that it is important that those hiring attorneys have a general sense of what should be happening, so that at least by virtue of some key buzzwords and phrases, both lawyer and client can have a somewhat meaningful discussion.  Yes, you will probably be billed for it - just get over it.  Time = money.  So, with some help from a "friend" you can minimize the time spent on talking and pay more for doing that which ought to be done.  I am helping you to ... help yourself.

In the first place, once a case is filed, at least in the civil realm, the parties engage in a process known as DISCOVERY.  That is the time when each side learns of each other's witness, facts they intend to rely on, documents to be shown in court, and to ascertain the other sides' true theory of the case.  One of the most important things to be done though is not just the process itself - which can take months if not years, depending on the case - but to do it EARLY and COMPLETELY in the first instance.  What do I mean?

Let me explain.  I just took over a case that was filed in 2011 on behalf of Defendants.  Their lawyer, for whatever reason (not throwing stones) did not get any discovery done.  By the time I took over, opposing counsel suggested and got to the court to agree, that I had very little opportunity to do discovery.  Also, when they wanted to take a deposition of  my client, the other side refused to agree to submit their person because they said that prior counsel failed to do anything and it was too late.  Now, while I and any other lawyer in my shoes would in many cases be able to save the day - the important lesson is that we'd never have to have that discussion if discovery was done early.

So that is the RULE TO KNOW?  DISCOVER EARLY and COMPLETELY.  In the legal form, a client should understand that there is written discovery (like things called "interrogatories" and "requests for production") which really should be submitted in the early months of the case.  After that is done, then "oral fact discovery" is done, which is often known as "depositions."  These terms are important to talk to your attorney about.  Again, knowing what to expect, and understanding what your lawyer would need to get your case ready for trial, is very important - and truthfully saves you money over the long run.  A winning case can only win if it's well prepared.

Next tip?  As much as it hurts, try to give your lawyer ALL of the documents that pertain to your case early and completely.  What?   Yes.  Give your attorney COPIES of everything that is important to the case, and deliver that early.  It may sit on a desk or in a file for a while, but it's best to get that out of the way so your counsel doesn't have to fight you for it later.  Working with a disinterested or lazy client is hard, and worse, expensive.  Just do it.

Finally, provide information on EVERYONE who knows anything about the case who could be meaningful and help.  You and your lawyer will decide who does what, if anything.  Getting all of the important information is key to trial success.  What else can you do as a client to help your attorney?  Well, for starters, be sure you provide a full and complete chronology of events, provide all relevant information and identification of people that are informed about the situation, and be sure to provide all of the documents.  Once you are up to speed on those, schedule a time to chat with your counsel to be sure you have a discovery plan, and that plan is in place EARLY.  You, no matter what, must avoid having your cases' hands tied by a court - and the failure to act early and efficiently is one sure fire way to make that happen.

What is our bottom line folks?  PREPARE WELL, EARLY AND COMPLETELY!

Good luck to you all and certainly keep your eyes out for News You Can Use, from Levin Law, Ltd.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Blurb From Chicago Agent Magazine!

Helloooooo!!!  What a beautiful day in Chicago!  At Levin Law, Ltd. we are especially proud to have partnered recently with Chicago Agent Magazine to work on their "Short List" series.  Here is the link!

Happy Summer in the City!

Alisa Levin
Levin Law, Ltd.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pro Se? Translation: Pro Pay. Better Get Your Wallet Out!

Good afternoon Blogosphere!  I'm rekindling an old article from a different forum on Chicago Law Source, for some good old fashioned news you can use, 2014-style.

Have you ever thought that for a legal matter it would be simpler and cheaper to forego hiring an attorney and to represent yourself?  You have probably heard many horror stories of legal bills and cases gone "awry" what with us lawyers charging so much for our services.  Well, even in hard economic times, it really makes more sense than not to still hire an attorney, rather than venturing off on your own.  

Even if you think you know how to present your case, here are Five Reasons why you should not do it!
                  1)        You don't know the Code of Civil Procedure in your state and there are very technical rules in all courts that mandate how you file things, how you present your facts, and timelines for filing documents.
                  2)        The judge is not permitted to help you and they cannot give you advice and it is expected that pro se parties conduct themselves as skillfully as attorneys.
                  3)        You will not EVER be able to objectively review your case against the other side's case, because you are biased and you can't think clearly on your own issue.
                  4)       You will take much longer to handle your own case because you will do at least some things wrong, so it's more efficient (and thus less stressful) to hire an attorney.
                  5)        You haven't been trained to analyze facts vs. law so you won't know what to argue and when and you may get hung up on trying to present factual arguments when the issue is legal, etc.  
When considering whether to hire an attorney, you must evaluate your case objectively, and an attorney's job is to tell you whether you have a case.  Nine times out of ten, what the client thinks is important is not as important as it was believed to be.  

Additionally, when pro se parties represent themselves, because they so often do things incorrectly, the whole system gets clogged and the process slows, because the judge has to deal with a cog in the wheel.  Have you ever seen a traffic jam on a highway because of an accident?  You bet!  Well that happened because someone made a mistake, and the rest of us have to wait for it to be cleaned up so traffic can move.  A courtroom functions in the same way, and when you are there arguing how you know what you are doing and how you should get special treatment because you don't have or can't afford an attorney, that is just as much of a traffic jam as it would be if we were in the car.  Moreover, when I as an attorney have to wait in a courtroom for a pro se party to finish their speech, my clients (i.e. you who may be reading this) must pay for my time to sit there!  

Translation:  pro se parties cost everyone more!

As a result, before you think you should go to court on your own, it's highly advisable to at least get a few opinions from attorneys to evaluate your case.  If you can handle it on your own, someone will definitely tell you.  For more information, please email me or call me at 312-720-0082 or visit for information about our practice.