2019-20 Program

Meet Our 2019-20 Participants

The 2019-20 class of SSPI participants started in February 2019. Fifteen participants were selected through an application process that required detailed business plans.

2019-20 Participants
SSPI participants in the 2019-20 cohort.
Ravi Anand Henderson Banks
Aidan Butler Michael Cosgrove
Jason Garcia Carolina Garza-Gongora
Michael Johnson Kate Levine
Randall Manoyan Daniel Sanders
Sharon Shi Robert Windon
Mark Wolff Omar Younis
Adam Farag


How Professional Success Hinges on Your Mindset

January 15, 2020

On January 15, 2020, Dawn Young, director of SSPI, discussed the concept of mindset and how it influences the way we learn and how we respond to successes and challenges at work.  The concept, developed from an extensive body of educational psychology research by Stanford professor Carol Dweck, focuses on how success can be dramatically influenced by how we perceive our most basic qualities, such as our abilities or talent.  Ms. Young delved into the two mindsets from Dweck's findings by discussing the underlying beliefs about intelligence that can impact career success as lawyers.  She also offered strategies to cultivate a growth mindset in the workplace, as well as other areas in life.

Director Dawn Young explains Stanford professor Carol Dweck's research on the mindset psychological trait.
Dawn Young
Lively discussion on the mindset in the legal profession.

Navigating the Courthouse

December 12, 2019

Navigating the courthouse can be challenging. The unwritten rules of the courthouse and courtroom practice vary from circuit to circuit, from courthouse to courthouse, and from courtroom to courtroom. What can new lawyers with cases to handle in court do to feel more comfortable navigating it all? Ljubica D. Popovic ('98), founding partner of Caputo & Popovic, P.C., demystified the courthouse maze by providing advice to SSPI participants in navigating courthouse customs at the Daley Center, as well as the collar counties.

Ljubica Popovic ('98) discusses the unwritten rules of courthouse practice.
Ljubica Popovic ('98) discusses the unwritten rules of courthouse practice.

Blockchain Technology 

November 21, 2019

Nelson Rosario ('14), principal at Smolinski Rosario Law P.C. shared his knowledge and expertise in the emerging area of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. The discussion focused on the fundamentals of these new technologies and their importance in modern law practice.

Nelson Rosario ('14) explains blockchain diagram.
Participants learning about emerging technologies.

Brainstorm Roundtable

October 29, 2019

On October 29, 2019, Coleman Foundation Clinical Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at IIT Stuart School of Business, Nik Rokop, provided SSPI participants with sales strategies to drive their firms' bottom-line growth.  Participants learned the importance of knowing their customer base, developing niche markets, and honing their value propositions. The workshop ended with participants sharing what’s working and what’s not in their practices, as well as a "brainstorm" on various marketing strategies.

Nik Rokop
Professor Nik Rokop shares sales techniques for lawyers.

Negotiation Strategies

September 19, 2019

On September 19, 2019, Jordan Powell ('07), partner at Passen & Powell, led a discussion on effective negotiation strategies for lawyers.  SSPI participants learned how to create a systematic framework for handling disputes through the negotiation process.  They also learned how to approach negotiations with a strategic and tactical mindset to communicate persuasively with the other side and achieve the very best outcomes for their clients.

Jordan Powell
Jordan Powell ('07) discusses strategy when negotiating with opposing counsel.

Accounting & Tax Basics for Lawyers

August 6, 2019

Sound financial administration is one of the most critical components of a successful law practice. This is especially true for lawyers who run their own firms. On August 6, 2019, Andrew Gordon (’12), an attorney and CPA from the Gordon Law Group, provided participants with helpful tips on choosing the best type of entity and tax classification for a new business. He also discussed bookkeeping strategies, including tips on recording income and expenses, reconciling transactions, and choosing an effective bookkeeping cloud-based platform. Lastly, Mr. Gordon discussed the importance of establishing a timeline of duties (periodically, quarterly, annually) when preparing your business tax returns.

Andrew Gordon ('12) discusses best practices for accounting and tax.
Andrew Gordon ('12) provides best practices when preparing for the filing of business tax returns.

Creating Symbiotic Relationships with Large Firms

July 18, 2019

How can I best position my practice to generate business from larger firms?  Brent Ray, partner at King & Spalding, provided participants with strategies in creating symbiotic relationships with larger firms to generate opportunities. 

Brent Ray
Brent Ray provides insight into creating relationships with large firms to increase business opportunities.


SSPI Coffee Social

July 11, 2019

Heather L. Blaise, founding partner at Blaise & Nitschke, P.C., hosted a coffee social for SSPI.  Current and past incubator participants mingled over coffee and pastries, and had a wonderful time of networking with colleagues and friends. 

SSPI social
Heather Blaise, Kate Levine, and Dawn Young 


sspi social
Mark Wolff, Omar Younis, and Robert Windon 

Solo/Small Firm Administration: Tricks & Trappings

June 26, 2019

The profitability of a solo/small firm is a product of a number of variables, including obtaining billable work. However, a large factor in a firm's overall profitability depends on how efficiently attorneys can handle the day-to-day operations and administrative tasks that consume their time.  Nick Bartzen, founder of Altus Legal, walked SSPI participants through a “suite” of software solutions that are now available to solo and small firm lawyers. In this workshop, he provided them with tricks to keep their admin burden low, so that they can spend more time on marketing, networking, and actually doing the work to help solve their clients’ legal problems.

Nick Bartzen
Nick Bartzen ('15) explains how tech can help lower an attorney's administrative burden, so that more time can be spent on billable work.

Real Estate Transactions Basics

May 15, 2019

Kathleen Robson, founding partner of Robson & Lopez LLC, provided a substantive workshop on how to competently represent a client in residential real estate transactions. SSPI participants learned about current procedural guidelines and the tools necessary to handle purchase and sale transactions from contract to closing, including tips on negotiating the contract, conducting a title search, and preparing for the closing.

Kathleen Robson
Kathleen Robson ('09) explains the closing process to participants.

Best Practices to Increase the Success of Your Marketing/Business Development Activities

April 17, 2019

Nancy Linder, Director of Marketing at Chapman & Cutler LLP, led an interactive workshop on strategies, processes, and techniques to build and grow a law practice on April 17, 2019. Ms. Linder discussed how successful law firms market legal services, the importance of marketplace identity (your brand), and creating client communication and service standards that focus on client needs and expectations. Participants had the opportunity to give their law firm “pitch” (lawyer introduction or elevator speech) with practical feedback.

Adam Farag, SSPI participant.
Nancy Linder discusses marketplace identity.
Nancy Linder provides feedback on pitches.
Robert Windon, SSPI participant.

Tech on the Ground Floor

March 21, 2019

On March 21, 2019, Chicago-Kent's technology librarian Debbie Ginsberg and Technology Training & Marketing Librarian Emily Barney provided SSPI participants with their top five tech essentials for solo practitioners. Participants learned about various hardware, software, on-the-go technology, and management tools to help lawyers increase productivity and efficiency for their firms. They also learned about online marketing tools as well as strategies on security best practices.

Debbie Ginsberg
Debbie Ginsberg discusses her top five tech essentials for lawyers.

Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring

February 28 and March 1, 2019

On February 28, 2019 and March 1, 2019, SSPI participants and their mentors attended a mentoring 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.

SSPI Participants and Mentors:

SSPI Participants and Mentors
Henderson Banks and Michael O'Connell
SSPI Participants and Mentors
Kathleen Robson and Adrian Butler
SSPI Participants and Mentors
Omar Younis and Laurie Silvestri
SSPI Participants and Mentors
Daniel Sanders and Scott Weisman
SSPI Participants and Mentors
Heather Blaise and Adam Farag
SSPI Participants and Mentors
Mariana Karampalas and Carolina Garza-Gongora 

Full Day Training Boot Camp

February 22, 2019

On February 22, 2019, SSPI participants attended an all-day boot camp that provided essential information on getting a successful law practice up and running. Dean and Professor of Law, Harold J. Krent, welcomed the new lawyers to the program and Dawn Young, director of Institutional Projects, moderated the training, which included presentations from seasoned IIT Chicago-Kent alumni and business professionals in the community.

Patrick Wartan and Alex Pappas
Alexander Pappas ('09) and Patrick Wartan ('10) discuss developing niche practices.
Laurie Silvestri
Laurie Silvestri ('86) shares solo practice management tips.
Melissa Grisel
Melissa Grisel ('16), former SSPI participant, shares pointers on starting a law firm.
  • You’ve Got the Client, Now What? A discussion on billing, retainers, initial client contact – Presenter: Michael O’Connell (‘79), Attorney, Law Office of Michael S. O'Connell
  • Building Your Business Development Foundation - Presenter: Brie Leung, Principal Consultant, GrowthPlay
  • Entity Formation; Developing Niche Practices - Presenters: Patrick Wartan (’10) and Alexander Pappas ('09), Attorneys, Food and Beverage Group, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
  • How to Ethically Start a Practice: ARDC Procedures and IOLTA Accounts - Presenter: Melissa Smart, Litigation Group Manager and Senior Counsel, Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) of the Supreme Court of Illinois
  • How to Obtain and Retain Clients - Presenter: Robert C. Milla (’06), Attorney, Milla & Associates, LLC
  • Malpractice Insurance - What are you Buying? What are Carriers Selling? - Presenters: Andrew Murray, Director of Sales; Janet Rapp, Managing Director of Underwriting, ISBA Mutual
  • The Short List for Starting Your Firm - Presenter: Mellisa Grisel ('16), Attorney, Atlas Legal Services, LLC
  • Solo Practice Management Tips (including other tips learned over 30 years in practice!) - Presenter: Laurie A. Silvestri ('86), Principal, Law Offices of Laurie A. Silvestri
  • Welcome and Introduction to Amata Law Office Suites - Presenter: Ron Bockstahler, Co-Founder and CEO, Amata Holdings, LLC