What do you find rewarding about being a Fellow of the AAML?
Studying for the admissions test made me take a deeper dive into the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. I didn’t take family law in law school; I went into general practice and then started concentrating on family law. So the test, and the subsequent CLE seminars, really gave me a whole different view of family law.
What area of family law do you find most interesting?
I’m trying to find alternatives to down-and-dirty custody litigation, trying to look at things like collaborative parenting and other mediation. I’m not afraid to go to court; I’ll go to court any day. But at this point in my career, I place a lot more focus on the alternatives.
What’s the first tip you have for a client?
Gather information. I think no one really looks at the big picture things—“Where do we spend our money? What does our retirement look like?”—until they complete a comprehensive financial affidavit. That’s going to help guide the case, from the standpoint of both finances and family dynamics.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
First, take short, frequent vacations. In family law, you have to get out of your own head and out of your clients’ way; even a long weekend will make you a better practitioner. The second piece of advice was to trust myself, and not simply assume that other people know more than I know.
Lisa M. Nyuli, partner at Ariano, Hardy, Ritt, Nyuli, Richmond, Lytle & Goettel, P.C., with offices in South Elgin and Huntley, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 847-695-2400.
How long have you practiced family law?
I joined the AAML in 1978, but actually, my first divorce case was a lawsuit. I was at Northwestern Law School when they opened a legal clinic in the summer of 1969. We drew straws and I got the first case—a 16-year-old mother with her baby, both with welts inflicted by her 18-year-old husband using an electrical cord. At the time, Northwestern did not have a family law class. So we sort of invented the wheel and got an injunction. This was way before the Domestic Violence Act.
Why did you join the AAML?
A judge I respected told me I should. But also, becoming a Fellow showed me that I had arrived, and that I was being recognized as one of the very fine divorce lawyers in Illinois.
What is the number one tip you have for clients?
Be realistic. Nobody gets everything and nobody gets nothing. Somewhere between “I get it all” and “You get it all” is the reality. So start by assuming each side gets half, and then let’s take it from there.
What are you looking forward to professionally in the coming year?
Years ago in Lake County, where I live and work, we met with judges about local court rules. But that changed over time. One judge told me at a seminar, “We’re not here to listen to how you want to do things. We’re here to tell you how it’s going to be done.” I would like to get back to the collegiality that we once had.
Gary L. Schlesinger, senior partner at Schlesinger & Strauss, LLC in Libertyville, can be reached at email@example.com and 847-680-4970..
What do you find most rewarding about being an AAML Fellow?
I’ve really enjoyed helping develop the Illinois chapter’s Continuing Legal Education programs that elevate our profession. In 2005, I chaired our first CLE Columbus Day seminar, now called the Indigenous People’s Day Seminar. It is one of the best such programs in the nation.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
First tackle the tough stuff. And be a continuous learner and reader for life: it will make you a better person and a better lawyer.
My entire career, starting in the 1980s, has been in family law. I established my own firm in 2002.
What are you most looking forward to in the year ahead?
I’m eager to get back to the basics of my family law practice, after finally completing my comprehensive revision of Gitlin on Divorce: A Guide to Illinois Family Law. And I’m looking forward to serving as the next president of the Illinois Chapter of the AAML.
And what do you look forward to outside of work?
Recently I’ve started riding trail horses, and this summer we are taking the horses out to the Black Hills in South Dakota.
Gunnar J. Gitlin, principal of The Gitlin Law Firm, P.C. in McHenry County, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 815-338-9401.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
When I was hired at my previous firm, my mentor, Alan Toback, said, “You get two weeks of vacation. Take it. You’ll need it.” And he was absolutely right. The practice of family law can be all-consuming; it’s important to take time to relax and recharge.
It’s been 22 years. Before that, I practiced general law—criminal law, bankruptcy, immigration—running from courthouse to courthouse. I quickly learned you can’t know everything about everything. So I focused on family law.
What led you to become an AAML Fellow?
I attended Academy seminars and I was impressed by the caliber of attorneys and their expertise. I felt that becoming a Fellow was a way to take my practice to the next level. I also enjoyed, and still enjoy, the opportunity to interact with attorneys and judges outside the courtroom, at social events like the annual gala—and now I’m co-chairing that event for this year.
Outside the office, how do you spend your time?
I’m taking violin lessons after a long break. I started about 12 years ago, when my son was studying violin and I thought it would be fun to learn with him. Then life got in the way. But before COVID-19, I found a new teacher, so I’ve started again. I really love Irish jigs and classical music as well—just anything that’s lively. It’s nice to focus my brain on something other than work.
Laura Ashmore, managing partner of Davis Friedman, with offices in Chicago and Deerfield, can be reached at email@example.com and 312-782-2220.
What brought you to family law?
I love people, and in divorce law, you’re not only a lawyer, you become a friend to your clients as they go through the most difficult time in their life.
And if that doesn’t work, my advice is: Let’s get through this as quickly and efficiently as possible. Pick your battles.
What aspect of family law do you find most intriguing?
I love the financial issues. I have an economics degree from University of Pennsylvania, and numbers always have been my strength. I really enjoy coming up with creative ways to settle financial challenges for cases.
How has being an Illinois Fellow benefited you?
In addition to the prestige, the chance to meet Fellows from all 50 states has widened the scope of my practice. I’ve had the opportunity to attend and present seminars, and some lawyers I met through the Academy invited me to teach each year at the National Family Law Trial Institute in Houston. All of that helps build my reputation.
Outside the office, what do you do for fun?
I’m sort of an audiophile: I like having really a cool stereo at home, with the old vacuum tube amplifiers and turntables and vinyl. And I also enjoy driving classic automobiles. I have a 1971 BMW that I enter in car shows. There’s a lot of camaraderie when you find people who like the same thing.
Robert D. Segal, second vice-president of the Illinois Chapter of the AAML, is a partner of Davis Friedman with offices in Chicago and Deerfield, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 312-782-2220.
What led you to become a Fellow in the Academy?
Early in my career I looked up to attorneys who were Illinois Fellows. I practiced with an attorney who brought me to Academy seminars, so I was exposed to the work of the Academy, and I had the opportunity to learn from some of them. I saw they were practicing at a higher level than others, and I wanted to be one of them.
What area of family law interests you the most?
I like to guide people through complex financial circumstances. I try to simplify things. For spouses who are disadvantaged by having less information about the couple’s finances, I make time to educate them about their own estates. And I tell a more financially advantaged spouse, “Be generous and be done.”
What are you looking forward to as the year unfolds?
I hope for a return to some semblance of our pre-COVID-19, in-person proceedings, even if they’re not 100 percent back to where they were. As a community and as a profession, we have lost some of our civility and collegiality. I think that keeping Zoom court proceedings makes sense for some situations and not for others. I’m very much looking forward to seeing people in person again.
What do you do for fun outside the office?
I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old, and they keep me moving—or exhausted—all the time. And they’re a lot of fun.
Adam C. Kibort, partner at Grund & Leavitt, P.C. with offices in Chicago and Highland Park, can be reached at email@example.com and 312-640-0500.
What led you to become an Academy Fellow?
I’ve been practicing divorce law since 1984, and I always wanted to be part of the Academy. When my partner and I established our own firm in 2007, one of my first actions was to apply. I already had a lot of respect for the Academy. Any time I’ve had a case against a Fellow, it was at a different level. They were more professional, more knowledgeable and better prepared, and I wanted to be part of that organization.
What area of family law do you focus on?
I like complex financial litigation—anything from business valuations to prenuptial agreements. I enjoy those so much more than custody and child support cases. With financial issues, I tell clients, “Give us the facts and I can pretty much tell you what’s going to happen within a certain range. It doesn’t make sense to try to resolve this by fighting.”
What do you do outside the office?
I enjoy exercising to stay healthy, and I have become pretty proficient at yoga. I enjoy spending time with my wife, and prior to COVID-19, we enjoyed traveling. I’d like to resume that; our last trip was in 2019, to Barcelona, and it was awesome.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t let anyone say you can’t do something. When people say you can’t do something, it’s because they can’t do it.
Stephen R. Botti is a principal in the Law Firm of Botti Marinaccio, LTD with offices in Oak Brook and Delray Beach, FL. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 630-575-8585.
I handle mostly domestic relations cases, not for families who are super rich with $10 million houses, but for everyday people with a nice living, a nice house. We keep our fees reasonable to represent people who don’t think they can afford our quality of work. I find this more rewarding, and they are really appreciative.
What do you find most valuable about being in the Illinois Chapter?
It’s a source for professionals in areas of law in which I’m not an expert, where I know I will get the correct answer and helpful guidance. And I really, really love the seminars that we produce; they’re incredible learning experiences.
What do you do for fun
I do a lot of Pilates. And I do a lot of listening to old rock-and-roll. My daughter took me to an Eagles concert and I almost lost my mind, it was so great.
What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
It’s sort of the reverse of advice. I wanted to be a lawyer when I was very young. My father was a lawyer, and he would talk about the few women who were lawyers back then—and not in a positive frame. He made them sound awful. I wanted to show him that women could bring a great wealth of knowledge and ability to the job.
A. Marcy Newman, senior partner at A. Marcy Newman, P.C. in Chicago, can be reached at email@example.com and 312-606-9000.
I’m a financial guy. I’m an attorney and a CPA, also an Accredited Senior appraiser for business valuations, and Certified Fraud Examiner. I have conducted many forensic accounting investigations and testify regularly as a financial expert in divorce cases across the country; I’m also retained as a mediator in complex financial cases.
What do you find most rewarding about being in the Illinois Chapter?
As a Fellow, I get to sit at the table when laws are being drafted. If I have a question about a case in another state, I can call a Fellow in that state, and I can also be a reference for them regarding Illinois law. I’ve developed connections with Fellows throughout the country. The most valuable benefit for me is that thanks to the Academy I’ve made lifelong friends.
Pay attention to detail. Practice paranoid.
What do you do for fun?
I love playing with my grandkids. And I play pickleball. This May, I’m competing in the National Senior Olympics for pickleball. I had to qualify among the top four in the state. My dad’s going with me. He’s 88 and still playing.
Jeffrey W. Brend, founding shareholder of Levin & Brend, P.C. in Chicago, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 312-726-4440.
What area of family law interests you most?
Mediation. I stopped being a litigator at the end of 2020 and started my own firm to help separated families as they navigate co-parenting, which is a new space for them. I think that’s where I really shine.
What is the main message that you have for couples coming to see you?
“You picked the right path.” I truly believe that dispute resolution is the best choice for most families because it puts the parents in the driver’s seat. This approach allows them to solve their issues without relying on the court.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
One of my mentors told me never to compromise my morals. In a practice, there are days when you think, “I could lose this client if I don’t do what the person asks.” But if it isn’t the right way to go, I stand firm and hold on to who I am.
What keeps you busy outside the office?
I’m a sports mom; I’m all in when it comes to my kids’ sports and activities. But when I’m not with my family, you can find me in any kind of thrift shop or antique store. I’m all in on that, too.
Kimberly A. Cook, founder of Dovetail Conflict Resolution in Chicago, can be reached at KCook@dovetailcr.com and 312-487-1594.
What key piece of advice do you have for couples who come to you?
Stay married. The first thing I say is, “My job isn’t to tell you to get divorced.” Then I ask them if they have done everything possible to save their marriage. Counseling? Advice of clergy? Gone on retreats?
How did you get into family law?
After law school, I worked at a law firm where a partner was preparing a full-service legal benefits plan but didn’t have anyone who handled divorces. So he approached me and said, “You want to be our divorce guy?” It was never something I’d thought about. Until then, I only wanted to be a trial lawyer; I wanted to fight for people
But once I started in family law, I realized it was a great fit. I’ve always enjoyed interpersonal relationships not only with clients but also other lawyers and judges.
What do you find rewarding about being an Academy Fellow?
There’s a sharing of ideas. We all want to be the best of the best. So when Fellows collaborate with each other, it elevates all of us. It’s made me a better lawyer.
James M. Quigley is an equity partner of Beermann LLP, with offices in Chicago and Bannockburn. Reach him at email@example.com and 312-621-1225
What do you find most rewarding about family law?
My satisfaction comes from looking out for the child’s best interests. I dedicate 98% of my practice to serving as a child representative or guardian ad litem in highly contentious divorce cases.
Is there one piece of advice you have for parents when they divorce?
Put your children first. Do not include them when you fight with each other. Focus on how your words, actions and decisions affect your kids. I ask parents this question: Do you hate your former spouse more than you love your children?
I cycle. And I collect baseball cards, specializing in old Cubs cards. I still have all the cards I had as a kid. One of my sons is really into card collecting too, so we go to shows together.
How did you get into family law in the first place?
My father was a divorce attorney, and I went to work with him straight out of law school. He was among the first Fellows when the Academy started in Chicago in 1962. I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Stuart G. Gelfman, first vice-president of the Illinois Chapter of the AAML, is a member, Birnbaum, Haddon, Gelfman & Arnoux LLC, with offices in Cook, Kane and Lake Counties. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and 312-863-2800.