Chicago Executive Lawyer Blog
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The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is a state agency which, among other things, investigates wage claims.  An employee who failed to receive proper pay for the hours they worked may make a report to the IDOL, who will then investigate the claim and issue a finding.  Unfortunately, IDOL has been having trouble keeping up with the complaints that are coming in.  According to an investigation by NBC Chicago, the IDOL has just a 32% success rate in recovering wages owed to employees, that too, after months of waiting for most employees.

Although the prospect of collecting owed wages through the IDOL appears grim, employees do have other options.  Employees may retain a knowledgeable attorney to assist them in filing suit against their employer to collect compensation owed.  What’s more, is employees may also recover their attorneys’ fees and costs to file suit.  Claims for wages most commonly fall under the he Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the Illinois Minimum Wage Law (“IMWL”) or the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (“IWPCA”), which all provide that a successful employee may also be awarded their attorneys’ fees and costs, in addition to the compensation owed and applicable penalties.

If you believe you employer has not paid you what you are owed, speak to a knowledgeable attorney to better understand your rights and options.


Photo Credit: 401(k) 2012 via Flickr Creative Commons

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gavelLet’s be honest here . . . non-competes are great for attorneys.  We get paid to draft them, but we can’t really be held responsible if the agreement we draft is unenforceable. The law as to whether a non-compete is enforceable is ever evolving, fact specific and never clear cut.  Regardless of enforceability, when a non-compete is violated, we get paid to pursue the violation, defend the former employee or represent the new employer.  And, whether we are drafting, prosecuting or defending a non-compete, the work is almost always time intensive.  They are expensive for all sides and, typically, none of the parties are really happy with the outcome or the cost of achieving that outcome.

Which is why the majority of non-compete cases settle.

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In late 2011, the Freeport Standard Journal in Freeport, Illinois published an article online concerning a local politician’s (Bill Hadley) decision to seek election to the Stephenson County, Illinois board.  As with much online content, the article contained a section allowing users to post comments.

One such user, who identified himself as “Fuboy,” posted a series of negative (non sequitur) statements about Hadley, among other things, likening Hadley to Jerry Sandusky (the Penn State coach charged with sexual abuse of several boys) stating that Hadley was a “Sandusky waiting to be exposed,” and describing an alleged previous suicide attempt by Hadley.

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Need a new job?  Looking to grow your business?  Most people will give you the same advice to achieving these goals – Network.  But what if you have tried networking and you hate it?  It just doesn’t work for you.

Personally, networking did not come naturally to me.  I had always been taught that if I do well in my work, that’s all that matters.  I followed that mantra for most of my life, until I entered the legal profession and learned that’s only half true.   In the beginning, I hated going to networking events.  I just didn’t understand the point, and it all felt fake.  Fortunately, by the end of law school, I learned how to network efficiently, and actually enjoy myself.

Here are my tips on how to network when you hate networking:

  1. Adjust your attitude. First, take some comfort in knowing that the majority of people have some social anxiety.  One great way to overcome this anxiety is to change your approach to networking events.  Don’t go into a networking event focused on what you need and who can help you.  Instead, go into an event thinking about how you can help others.  A really great way to network is to actually connect people who can help each other.  It’s also easier to reach out to others if you are doing so for someone else, instead of yourself.
  1. Have fallback questions. The issue most people have with networking is what to talk about.  Everyone dreads those awkward silences.  One great way to avoid this is to have at least three fallback questions prepared and in mind.  Think of some open-ended questions that could get a conversation going.  For example, “What’s a really difficult issue you are dealing with these days?” or “Are you going on a trip anytime soon?” or even “What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?”
  1. Take notes. When you get a business card, jot down the date and event at which you met.  If anything personal came up, note that as well.  You might forget these facts, but they are helpful when you follow-up.    For example, if the person mentioned an upcoming trip, you can ask how things went in your follow-up email.
  1. Follow-up. The real key to networking is not making small talk with someone at a large event and exchanging business cards, it’s the follow-up.  Schedule a lunch or coffee with the people you meet and take the time to really get to know them.  You’ll not only expand your network, you may even make a good friend or two.

What if you are just not into going to “networking events.”  How can you expand your network?

  1. Join a cause you care about. Networking really just means getting your name out there, so people think of you when they need your help.  One great way to meet new people, without having to go through the dreaded “networking event,” is to join a cause.  By getting involved with an organization you care about, you will come to meet many diverse people, and you’ll already have something in common with them!  Great options include non-profits, professional organizations, and even meetups.
  1. Use LinkedIn. You probably don’t even realize how vast your network already is.  Between childhood friends, fellow alum, to past co-workers, you probably already have a few hundred contacts.  Start reconnecting with these people.  One great way to figure out who you already know is to use linked in.  With linked in, you can connect with those individuals who come to the forefront of your mind, and then you can start to explore and find connections with people you forgot about.  Once you have a strong network, start sending personal messages to individuals for lunch or coffee.  You never know who from your past may help you in the future.


It can take some trial and error to figure out what approach and means of networking will work best for you.  Remember not to give up or shy away from initial discomfort you may face. Sometimes, you just have to get thrown into the deep end of the pool before you can learn to really swim.

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I love reading about leadership and business strategy and I am constantly amazed by how the same ideas can be re-branded hundreds of times over.  Work-life balance is now passé.  Integration is the latest aspiration.  Work and personal lives are expected to be fluid and intertwined.  And nothing will ever get 100% attention.

Worklife balance

As a working mother, I understand the desire for flexibility in the workplace.  I agree that the goal should be to find a way to be productive at work and present with your friends and family.  But integration is just as much of a fallacy as balance.  Work deadlines and family emergencies don’t occur in balance.  And being singularly focused on a work project or a friend’s event doesn’t allow for checking email or social media at the same time.

Not every business owner wants the same size business.  Not every parent wants the same career with the same demands that I may be willing or unwilling to take on.  Building a life that accounts for what is important to an individual is dependent on the individual.  Terms like work-life balance and integration imply that there is a particular goal we all should be achieving when in fact life does not always accommodate these aspirations.

The thing that particularly bugs me about the term “integration” is the idea that we should have our attention focused in multiple directions at the same time.  A few months ago I attended an event to hear a CEO from a Fortune 500 company speak on the issues of leadership and implicit bias.  At the end of her presentation, a man from the audience inquired whether she had ever worked for anyone who demonstrated the leadership skills she described.  She responded that she had worked for someone who embodied the leadership qualities she strives for and who valued work-life “balance.”  The CEO she described came into work each day at 8:30 am and left each day at 5:00 pm.  There were no smart phones and there was no internet at that time.  Off duty business was rarely required and, when it was, it was over the phone or in person.  That same CEO led a long established organization through its highest period of growth and profitability in its history.  Since that CEO resigned, none of his successors have achieved the same growth or profitability levels.

Being intrigued by this example of leadership, I asked the CEO standing before us how she demonstrates that level of work-life “balance” for her employees in this day and age of 24 hour connectivity.  She responded that she doesn’t strive for work-life balance, but instead focuses on “integration.”  The example she gave was disheartening.  She said “If you and your husband are out to dinner and you need to respond to work emails, it would be rude to just take out your phone.  But, if you ask him if he has some work he needs to do and you both take out your phones; that is integration.”

To me, that just sounds depressing.  Call me crazy, but I want to enjoy spending time with whomever I am with.  And, if there is a true emergency at work or at home, I hope I get a phone call.


Photo Credit: Matthew G via Flickr Creative Commons 

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If you are a consultant or independent contractor, you may have wondered whether or not you should incorporate.  There are many advantages to incorporating, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right thing to do for everyone.

Business planning

Here are some of the pros of incorporating:

1. Liability Protection.

The most important legal reason for incorporating is to protect your personal assets from potential liability.  If there is a lawsuit related to the services you provide or your work, you will be able to protect your home, car, and other personal assets by incorporating and adhering to corporate formalities.

2. Tax Savings

As an incorporated entity, you will be able to enjoy many tax savings that are not available to sole proprietors.   For example, with a S-Corp, you can classify payments as distributions instead of wages, which are taxed at a lower rate.  In addition, there may be a number of tax credits and deductions which you can take as an incorporated entity.

 3. Expanding Your Business

Incorporating can help set you up for growth in the future.  If demand for your services increases, you can easily begin to hire employees and expand if your business is incorporated.    You also have more options for raising capital as an incorporated entity.  Sole proprietors generally have to take personal loans if they are in need of funding.

4. Increase Credibility

Simply by having an “INC.” or “LLC” after your name, you have increased your credibility.  Incorporating will make it clear to clients that you take your work serious, and aren’t just consulting as a way to make some money in between gigs.


On the flip-side, incorporating does create more paperwork.  Aside from the initial filings that are required, you will have to file annually with your state and make required payments with those filings.  Costs are also an important point to think about.  Start-up costs for sole proprietorships are almost nothing compared to incorporating.    Further, incorporating may not be advantageous from a tax standpoint in all circumstances.  A knowledgeable attorney can help access your specific situation and determine if incorporating is the best route for you.


Photo Credit: abductit via Flickr Creative Commons 

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Bill Simmons is a sports personality that had his own podcasts (the “BS Report” and “Bill Don’t Lie”), was the former Editor-in-Chief of (a sports and pop culture website), is one of the creators of the Emmy winning “30 for 30” series, is a New York Times bestselling author, and has more Twitter followers than the NHL, Hilary Clinton, the Daily Show, Martha Stewart, or Coca Cola.


What’s remarkable is that none of his job titles include that he is also an ESPN employee.  Well, former employee as ESPN first announced it would not renew his contract when it ends in September.  The two sides then agreed that Simmons will no longer keep working for ESPN, but will receive the reminder of his salary.

Bill Simmons has done an excellent job of building his own brand.  When Simmons moves to a new company in the fall, his Twitter audience of more than 4 million people will follow him.  He has consistently promoted his own name and content, despite being an ESPN employee for the last 14 years.  For example, even prior to ESPN announcing that it would not renew his contract, Simmons’s Twitter bio did not mention ESPN, only his projects and accomplishments.  His self-branding will create several options for Simmons as he looks for a new job.

From ESPN’s perspective, it was profitable for the company to hire Simmons as he brought in engaged viewers, and had creative ideas.  However, Simmons became too much of a problem as he routinely criticized the commissioner of ESPN’s largest client – the NFL.  He also took shots at other ESPN personalities, creating internal conflicts.  In his recent negotiations with ESPN, Simmons also apparently demanded $6 million per year.

Executives and professionals can learn from Simmons.

  • Promote Yourself. When you’re introducing yourself to a prospective client, or at a networking event, focus on yourself.  Instead of being “John Smith, Vice President” of a major company, you’re “John Smith, Vice President.”

While it’s hard to admit, performance isn’t always as important to success at a company as customer demand.  There are qualified people who can do that medical procedure, or put together a business proposal.  But it is rare to be someone that customers seek. When patients come to a medical practice because of a specific physician, it helps the physician’s bottom line.  If you have a large following, your employer will be happy as it makes more money.  If you employment does end, you will be able to leave with a huge book of business.

Simmons, for example, was wrong in a lot of his sports predictions, and the quality of his writing decreased recently.  Yet, he continued to have a strong following.  While ESPN decided to end its relationship with Simmons, ESPN made that decision because Simmons sought more power and influence, and after he reportedly made $3–5 million for talking and writing about sports.  When he moves on to his next job, he will continue to make a substantial amount of money due to his brand.

  • Use Social Media. It is incredibly easy to reach a broad spectrum of people through Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  Use these social outlets to create your own brand.

Use social media to shape a public persona.  How do you want prospective clients to perceive you?  For example, reading through Simmons’s tweets, he comes across as huge Boston sports fan.  He seems like a guy you might see at a bar passionately talking about the Boston Celtics.  Not surprisingly, he works in sports journalism.  His tweets also make him seem like a good boss as he routinely promotes his employees’ articles and work.  It would hard to guess from his tweets that some of Simmons’s co-workers at ESPN might not like him.

Learn from Simmons and the last 14 years of his career.  He went from being a bartender in Boston, to starting a blog on AOL in the 90s, to having millions of people following him on Twitter.  While ESPN will continue to profit, so will Simmons.  And it’s in large part because Simmons consistently focused on promoting himself.  He started planning his exit strategy from ESPN before his job even began.



Photo Credit: Ross Cidlowski via Flickr Creative Commons 

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“ I’m not qualified for that job.” 

“A client like that would never hire me.”

“What will people think if I fail?”


How often do these sorts of thoughts cross your mind?  If you are like most people, probably pretty often.  It’s thoughts like these that hold us back from achieving all that we are capable of.

I see too many professionals, executives, and all around smart people afraid to take risks because they feel that they are not “good enough” or are afraid of failing.  There’s a name for this, and it’s referred to by psychologists as self-handicapping.  Studies show that individuals who self-handicap are actually more likely to fail.

If you fall into this category, it is imperative for your success and happiness that you break this bad habit and change your attitude.  Ask yourself – if you don’t believe in yourself, why should someone else believe if you?

Women, in particular, are afraid to apply for jobs unless they believe they are 100% qualified.  But the fact is that most job descriptions are not always well thought out and duties are really fluid.  Having experience with every bullet point in a job description isn’t what will get you the job, it’s your aptitude and attitude.

When these self-handicapping thoughts enter my mind, I pause for a second and think, “why am I telling myself no?  Let them tell me no.”  This mantra has served me well and allowed me to partake in fantastic experiences that never would have happened unless I took a chance.

Many of us have it ingrained in our psyches that we have to get all the answers right.  Because of this, it’s difficult to make a decision or try something we are not fully confident in.  We have to actively work at being optimistic and overcoming these fears.  So take a chance and pitch your idea to that client that is a reach, apply for that job you’ve been dreaming of, or take a chance and start something of your own.  Remember, if you don’t even try, you’ve already failed.

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There’s so much buzz recently about work-life balance from “leaning in” to commentaries on how there is no such thing as work-life balance.  What does this all mean?

At the core of all this sensationalism is one basic premise, we all want to have quality meaningful time with our loved ones while at the same time being able to achieve success in our chosen profession.

In years past, being able to have a successful family and career life was not as big of an issue as fewer women were part of the work force, and gender roles were entrenched within society.  As women continue to excel in their careers, and men take an active role at home, the issue of how to manage home while still giving it your all at work has come quite a perplexing question.

Part of the answer lies with organizations to provide their employees with more flexibility and options.  Millennials, in particular, identify work-life balance as a priority which even surpasses compensation.  If businesses want to retain top talent, they’d be wise to take steps to ensure that work place policies are supportive of flexible work arrangements.

The other side of the answer lies within you.

As a young mother, I have worked through this myself and have found some strategies so that my home life and work life aren’t always competing with each other.

Write down your goals.  What do you want to achieve at work?  Perhaps it’s becoming a manager within the next 2 years.  What do you want to achieve at home?  Perhaps you want teach your child to swim this summer.  The first step to successfully balancing work and home is to know, specifically, what you want to achieve at work and home.  Once you identify these goals, you can then break them down into smaller steps and block off time on your calendar to work towards these goals.  Make these hard appointments that you do not cancel or move.

Outsource and Incorporate.  If there are things that are sucking up your time, try to figure out a way to outsource this work or incorporate it into your family or work time.  If you have laundry to fold, get your kids to help and use the time to connect by sharing stories about your week.  If you have a long commute to work, try to work from home a couple days a week so that you can use that time towards other tasks.

Be Present. Imagine trying to make a grocery list while playing tennis.  This just doesn’t work.  You have to be present and focus on the task at hand.  When at work, focus on work.  Don’t worry about chores, or appointments, or that the dishwasher needs to be repaired.  When at home, focus on home.  Do not be a slave to your cell phone and let it take you away from important conversations about Legos with your children.

Plan things out, but be ready for chaos. Planning out your time each day, week and month makes it much easier to accomplish your goals.  But, especially if you have kids, always be prepared for the unexpected.  You can’t let yourself get overly stressed when things don’t go accordingly to plan.  You have to be prepared to wing it a little and go with the flow, for the sake of your own sanity.

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Is your boss a micro-manager?  A narcissist?  Maybe you are dealing with someone who’s extremely moody, hot one minute and cold the next?

How do you handle a difficult boss?  My suggestion would be run and never look back!

But in all seriousness, a bad boss is a situation you want to try to get out of as soon as possible.  A bad boss not only hurts your morale, which can hinder your performance, but can also cause your career to become stagnant.   A boss who you work well with will support you and even help propel you forward.

However, changing jobs is not always easy, so you need to figure out how to manage until you have an opportunity to leave.

Here are some strategies to help you deal with a bad boss:

1. Take a look in the mirror. First, you should evaluate your own performance.  Your boss may not have tact or the best communication style, but there could be something behind their behavior.  Do some soul-searching. 

 Are you really doing what you enjoy?  Are you giving it your all?  Has your performance changed?  Despite dealing with a poor boss, you should work extra hard to ensure your performance does not drop.

2. Get to really know your boss. Since you have to work with your boss, try to figure out what impresses your boss and what his peeves are.

Is your boss a stickler for punctuality? Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early, every single day.

Does your boss prefer face-to-face communication over email?  Try to schedule daily face-to-face meetings to confer with your boss.  Then, send a follow-up email just to document your conversation.

Is your boss a morning person?  Approach your boss with new ideas and initiatives in the morning for the best chances of support.  The better you understand your boss, the easier it will be to work with him. Who knows, you may even start to like the guy!

3. Office gossip travels fast. Someone somewhere thought your boss would make a great leader and gave him his position.  Trying to undermine your boss and sharing tales of his poor management will not get you very far, and may even hurt you. 

Badmouthing your boss can backfire and make you look like the one who doesn’t play well in the sandbox.  Worse, your boss may discover what you are doing, and you are still stuck working for him.

4. Speak up. Sometimes your boss may not intend to be a bad boss.  It may be worth sitting down and offering some calm constructive feedback.  You may be surprised to find that your boss may even welcome your feedback. 

But I caution you, delivery is very important.  No one wants to be barraged with a list of all the things they are doing wrong.  Focus on ways your boss can solve his flaws.  Be clear with your boss on exactly what you need from him to do your job better and meet expectations.

5. Do not leave in a “blaze of glory.” Although you many get to a point where you just want to tell your boss off and walk out (perhaps daily), resist the urge to do so. 

There’s been a trend of YouTube videos showing employees quitting in creative ways, including: having a marching band announce their departure, pulling an emergency slide on a plane and making a grand exist, and dancing around the office.

While these methods of quitting make for some good entertainment, they are not helpful for an employee’s future career prospects.  It may even land you in legal trouble.  Do your best to tough things out, and if you do decide to quit, do so in a calm professional manner.