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2016-17 Program

Meet Our 2016-17 Participants

The 2016-17 class of SSPI participants started in December 2016.  Eleven participants were selected through an application process that required detailed business plans.

Claudia Bertacchi Sharon Moran Philip Musolf Alberto Gonzales
Adrian Murati David Simon Manny Trejo Kendra Spearman
Brittany Hubbard Amber Liu Vinny Khosla

Participants in the 2016-17 Program with Director Dawn Young

Past Events

Real Estate Transaction Basics

On June 27, 2016, Seth A. Kaplan ('06), a partner at Rudolph Kaplan, provided SSPI participants with a comprehensive overview of a residential real estate transaction in Illinois.  Participants were given step by step guidance on the homebuying and closing process, including attorney review, inspections, and credits; the mortgage process; and the closing. Mr. Kaplan also provided insight into the client engagement letter and pertinent provisions in the Multi-Board Residential Real Estate Contract.

Seth Kaplan ('06) speaking to SSPI participants

Achieving Work/Life Balance

When running your own practice, you may feel as though the business has become your life. Practicing law can be stressful, and it is especially so when you may be handling all the other aspects of running the firm. You may find it challenging to "check out" of your law practice to "check in" to friends and family. You may feel like it's difficult to take a break (even on weekends) when you are the only one running your practice. But, balance is critical. Recognizing the need to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life, and taking actions in achieving it can be helpful for your professional and personal success. On May 2, 2017, Jennifer Lavin ('12), principal attorney at Jennifer L. Lavin, P.C. shared ways in which solos can set boundaries and expectations with clients, colleagues, and opposing counsel that honor personal limit and needs. Ms. Lavin also provided strategies for solos to build more efficiency in running a law office, so that time spent working is productive and profitable.

Jennifer Lavin ('12) discussing worklife/balance.

Lessons Learned from a Combined 55 Years of Practice Building

On March 24, 2017, David E. Rapoport ('81), founding and managing partner at Rapoport Law Offices, and Ursula Henninger, a partner at King & Spalding, shared lessons learned from the many years they have practiced law.  Current adversaries on trial in a complex federal case, Mr. Rapoport and Ms. Henninger shared the importance of civility and professionalism in the legal arena and showed SSPI participants that even opposing counsel can have collegial relationships while advocating zealously for their respective clients.  One take away from the workshop: "Chances are you'll deal with the same lawyers over and over again. We're human and there is a way to get along.  You might be working with the same lawyers your entire career."  Additional advice included setting clear revenue goals and noticing and acting upon chance opportunities.

Sharon Moran (far left) with Ursula Henninger and David E. Rapoport ('81)

Strategies to Build Your Law Firm Brand

In today's legal market, more than ever, it is crucial for lawyers to understand the keys to stand out among competitors.  On February 17, 2017, James J. Morici, Jr. ('79), a partner at Morici, Figlioli & Associates, shared innovative strategies and techniques to grow a law practice.  Mr. Morici spoke about creating an online presence, producing quality content in a firm website (written word and if possible, video content), and using social media tools.  In addition, Mr. Morici stressed the importance of developing a personal brand.  His tips included: becoming a thought leader and industry expert in your chosen practice area, building your digital identity, increasing your name recognition for successful cases, and nurturing personal and professional relationships.

James J. Morici, Jr. ('79) showing participants written and video content in a firm website.

Technology on the Ground Floor 

January 17, 2017

According to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers have an ethical requirement of competence and competent representation.  This includes keeping abreast of relevant technology.  On January 17, 2017, Chicago-Kent's Education Technology Librarian Debbie Ginsberg provided SSPI participants with an informative technology session covering the top 5 essentials for the solo/small firm practitioner.  Participants learned about various hardware (Windows, Mac, anti-virus software), software (Word, Excel, cloud computing), on-the-go technology (smart phones, tablets, lawyer apps), and management tools (e-mail, task management apps) to help provide increased productivity and efficiency for their firms.  Technology Development and Training Librarian Emily Barney discussed using online marketing tools (firm websites, social media).  Lastly, Ms. Ginsberg provided participants with strategies on security best practices.

Debbie Ginsberg, Chicago-Kent's Education Technology Librarian, shares her tech essentials

Orientation Day and Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring

December 8, 2016

On December 8, 2016, both SSPI participants and their mentors attended an orientation session presented by Dawn Young, director of Institutional Projects.  The orientation provided an overview of the mentoring component of the program, including its purpose and goals.  Mentoring pairs then participated in break-out sessions to develop and create structured mentoring plans to customize and chart the progress of their learning experience.  Professor Jonathan Decatorsmith welcomed the mentoring pairs to the orientation, and Mark C. Palmer, Professionalism Counsel from the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism, provided some words of encouragement and support.

Ariana Monroe and Sue Jadin from the Office of Administration and Finance provided participants with information on administrative, building, and housekeeping procedures.  The day concluded with the distribution of keys to the participants' shared office spaces. 

SSPI Participants and Mentors:

Matthew Kriezelman (left) with his mentee Alberto Gonzales Professor Laurie Leader (left) with her mentee Brittany Hubbard
Leo P. Dombrowski (left) with his mentee Philip Musolf Michael S. O'Connell (left) with his mentee Sharon T. Moran
Katrice M. Matthews (left) with her mentee Manny Trejo Patrick Wartan (left) with his mentee Vinny Khosla
Kendra Spearman (left) with her mentor Professor Richard Gonzalez Mark C. Palmer, Professional Counsel from the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism
Adrian Murati (left) with his mentor Edward M. Burnes David Simon (left) with his mentor Laurie Silvestri
Claudia Bertacchi (left) with her mentor Alexander Pappas Professor Jonathan Decatorsmith providing words of encouragement

Lead Generation

December 8, 2016

Suvro Goswami speaking to SSPI participants on lead generation

In order to effectively grow and sustain a viable practice, attorneys must consistently generate new case lead opportunities and retain existing clients.  On December 8, 2016, Suvro Goswami, Founder and CEO of Get20, provided SSPI participants with insights from the client perspective on finding attorneys, and then provided them with an overview of various strategies effective attorneys use in obtaining quality leads to get their businesses off the ground.

Solo/Small Practice Full Day Training

December 1, 2016

On December 1, 2016, SSPI participants attended a full day "boot camp" training which provided practical advice and guidance from a variety of subject matter experts on launching and managing their future law firms.  Professor Laurie E. Leader welcomed the new lawyers to the program and provided some brief remarks about her experience in SSPI as a clinical-faculty mentor.  She also shared reflections on the things she did that helped build her practice.  Dawn Young, director of Institutional Projects, moderated the training, which included presentations from seasoned IIT Chicago-Kent alumni and business professionals in the community.

  • Solo and Small Firm Start-Up Tips - Presenter:  Elizabeth Katzman ('08), President, Elizabeth Katzman, P.C.
  • Budgeting and Tax Basics - Presenter:  Timothy A. King, Senior Tax Manager, Tighe, Kress & Orr
  • Marketing and Business Development Basics - Presenter:  Patrick Wartan ('10), Partner, Axia Law, LLC
Ronald A. Stearney, Jr. ('98) shares the realities of practicing law as a solo with SSPI participants Elizabeth Katzman ('08) shares law firm start-up tips
Eugene K. Hollander ('86) provides advice on retainer agreements