CBA Record January-February 2020
50 Years in Practice; Five Decades of Change
BY RICHARD F. FRIEDMAN
R emarkable changes have taken place in the law and legal practice in the 50 years since I started as a lawyer. To name a few, Illinois adopted a new constitution, effective my first year in prac- tice; recodified the civil practice statutes; required continuing legal education; and adopted a code of evidence. But I want to relate some personal observations about how the practice of law has changed for me, emphasizing social and technological differences. One of the most striking features of my law school and early practice years was the lack of diversity. No African American or other minority students were in my law school class, and none were among our faculty. A few women were in our class, and only one woman was among our profes- sors. Thinking back, I was aware of the lack of minority and women’s participation, was uncomfortable with it, but also accepted it as “the way things are.” At the Chicago Civic Center—now the Daley Center—female judges were rare. In fact, women lawyers were somewhat of a novelty. I occasionally heard judges address women, saying, “What is the nature of your motion, Little Lady,” or “Let’s hear from the lady lawyer.” None of this is altogether surprising in an era in which women were not admitted to the “Men’s Bar” at the Berghoff Restaurant, and downtown athletic and social clubs maintained separate women’s entrances. Many other things now seem strange. We had no continuing legal education responsibilities; ethics was rarely taught as a course in law school; there were few trial practice courses, either. And the Chicago Bar Association maintained charts of mini- mum suggested fees for some legal services.
who often held the stub of an unlit cigar firmly in their mouths. When I handed a document across the counter, the clerk usually addressed me as “counselor.” “Have a good day, counselor.” They identified me as an attorney because I wore a suit. Just out of law school, no one had yet sought my professional advice. And each time I was addressed as “counselor,” I couldn’t believe that someone thought that I was a counselor. In the Corporation Counsel Appeals Division, where I was assigned, you could prepare your briefs by using a dictating machine about the size of today’s cable box. Your speech was recorded on a mag- netic loop belt, looking something like a three-inch wide rubber band. The secretary would then type out your draft as she lis- tened to the belt on her own transcribing set. The dictation machine only let you change the words most recently dictated. You could also compose on a yellow pad, fromwhich the secretary typed a draft. Scissors and tape were useful drafting tools, allowing you to rearrange parts of your document or incorporate paragraphs from other documents. For quotes from court opinions or passages copied from previous documents, you would snip out the desired passage and tape it onto the yellow page. This resulted in colorful pasted-together sheets several feet in length. Final documents were made with carbon copies. Each successive carbon copy became less legible, until the bottom carbon, usually with smudges, had weakly defined letters and was barely legible. For the inevitable typing mistake, the secretary had to stop typing to correct the error, on all four pages, with an ink eraser or white correction fluid. There was no delete key. All of this encouraged accurate typing and discouraged last-minute editing. During this time, I dreamt of machines that would make writing easier by allowing us to insert or remove words, or even move passages. I didn’t imagine that a machine could check your spelling. And a machine
Richard Friedman in 1969.
that would turn spoken words into print— well, that was beyond dreaming about. Briefs in the state and federal appellate courts were typeset. We sent the handwrit- ten or typed draft to a printer (printer in the sense of a company providing typeset- ting and letterpress services, not a desk-top laser or ink-jet printer) to prepare a galley proof. When I say “sent,” I mean we would telephone the printer, who would have its messenger hurry over to City Hall to pick up the draft. I marveled at how fast the printer worked. If we sent our draft in the evening, we would have proofs in the morning. We frequently went through many sets of galley proofs, performing editing that would have been more economically done on our drafts. But it was easier to edit and catch errors on the neat typeset page than on a handwritten yellow pad. At this time, filing formats varied from court to court. The Circuit Court no longer required pleadings to be bluebacked and had transitioned from legal-to letter- size pages. But the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts still required bluebacked and legal-size motions. The federal courts were also changing formats, and this led to one of my early “victories” in court. Early one day, the Corporation Counsel directed me to defend aTROmotion being brought that morning before Judge George Leighton in the United States District Court. I had no time to learn the facts or analyze the city’s defenses. When the case was called, I had only the vaguest idea of what to say. I need not have worried. Judge
Early Years – and a Victory – with the Corporation Counsel’s Office
In the Corporation Counsel’s office, where I started, we filed pleadings ourselves at the Civic Center. The Clerk’s office had a staff of old-time employees, mostly male,
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