Week 8: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

April 8th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

I was supposed to leave halfway into the completion of this week, but I stayed on to help with the motion filings which I’m proud to say, we won very quickly. The website is still incomplete, but a basic infrastructure has been set up for it and as the more important decisions are made, it will hopefully come alive.

During my stay in Chicago, I had many opportunities to network with people from all different backgrounds and have made numerous connections that I can refer to. I’ve made friends, business connections, and most importantly a host of private lawyers that I can call up any time for any kind of representation!

My Cornell Fellowship has helped me understand the real working world much better and given me a realistic sense of the work and effort and rewards involved. I am very content in finishing up my college life with such a remarkable experience. I have also been invited to come back by my internship site and work in managing the business side of the law practice after graduation. As I leave Chicago and return to Cornell for my last class before my graduation, I want to sincerely thank Cornell for an amazing opportunity at real life experience in the job market and my site mentor for giving me all the practical knowledge and experience I got which is going to help me set myself apart from the competition.

Week 7: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

April 1st, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

In trying to figure out what kind of structure would best fit the firm in terms of associates and partners, the business plan is still incomplete. This is almost my last week and the website is still under construction because of decisions that will still take time to make given the different taxation options levied on partners, associates, and sole proprietorship.

The past week involved going to courthouses all over the city to sign more clients and to get appearance dates for each one of them. The referrals are a blessing as they increase revenues, improve relations with other attorneys who in turn either refer us or are referred by us thus completing the circle of improved relations and increased revenues.

We have also worked on filing a motion for retrial of the case we had lost in the third week of my internship having uncovered new evidence thus making the previous trial rather unfair. This is very interesting to me as I get to witness the law, delving in a lot deeper than what I actually grew up watching in movies. It has remained cold all throughout my internship and I am hoping for better weather as my last week is coming up.

A rare sunny day!

A rare sunny day!

Week 6: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

March 25th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

The past week has been a breeze! We went to court on three separate occasions to sign three different attorney referred clients. In addition to that, we ourselves have referred a client to another attorney that handles civil cases. The charm of the week has continued as one of the clients we signed at Juvenile Court, has referred a few other people of his acquaintance to us! I hadn’t expected to shuffle so many clients so quick and all at the same time, and I cannot help but gloat! The revenue stream is firm and we are getting many referrals and many clients.

As the associates joining the firm are taking their bar exams this August and entering the firm, an inundation of more cases than we can handle is a welcome relief. We have also been looking at innovative office leasing options in the downtown area which provides a personal secretary too! Visiting office sites has opened my eyes to the real estate opportunities present and how with innovative ideas, there is no limit to what one can create and market.

My site mentor, in an effort to include some culture in my internship took me along to the Chicago Symphony, conducted and directed by the world famous Ricardo Muti. It was night of Schubert and Schumann and it was indeed wonderful. It is a good feeling to be rewarded for the hard work and dedication put in.

World famous conductor, Ricardo Muti conducting the Chicago Symphony

Week 5: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

March 18th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

I learned firsthand last week that smaller private firms are better off creating lasting impressions on previous clients and other attorneys that they come in contact with to build a more profitable relationship. Referrals work in two ways:

  1. Attorney referrals: Attorneys that get a case which is not in their practice or if they are inundated by work already, can refer the client to some other attorney that they know in return for a 1/3rd share in their cut in the earnings of the referred attorney.
  2. Client referrals: If an attorney has worked with a client and left a favorable impression, then that impression and word of mouth preference gets other new clients (that the previous clients knew and who might also have directed them to the attorney in question). Having been referred to by a client lets the attorney keep all the revenue from that new client without having to split a third with a referring attorney.

Taking all this into mind, we have created a referrals side of the business where we refer clients out to other attorneys and vice versa for increased revenue. The main focus however is to improve client referrals which are much more profitable than the former. This further means that the firm is going to have to create a system where we evaluate what percentage of referred clients come from attorneys and what portion come from private clients and who comes in through networking and handing out business cards, just so we have a clearer picture of what is driving the business.

All of my strategies in managing time and effort in the ‘Block Plan’ are being put to the test. My project is laid out on a vast field and I am trying to sift through everything to see what best fits the firm without wasting any time. I also have an increased fascination in business administration given the work and projects I am involved with.

Week 4: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

March 11th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

The past week had ended with a partial success on one of the trials. Believe me, preparing and going to one is very nerve-wreaking. This past week however, has been less rushed and has given me more time to focus on improving marketing strategies given our size and limitations. I have begun working with Kurt Brna, a potential associate with the firm come August, and we have been bouncing off ideas in marketing the firm through various channels, be it the internet, reaching out via phone calls, mailing information to old and prospective new clients, and designing and distributing a new business card innovatively to attract the card holder’s attention if it ever comes to that.

I also attended a three-hour long class on Business-in-Law at the John Marshall Law School which is located downtown. I was invited by one of the potential associates and his professor to come and listen to a successful lawyer with his own practice talk about his strategies and his experience as a whole in building a successful law firm in the north side of the city. This session has sparked ideas for successful marketing strategies in my head. I had looked on our development from a macroeconomic perspective taking into account the entire market. That surely had appealed me in the beginning. But after talking to the professor and the visiting lawyer, I have chosen to look at improving marketing from a microeconomic standpoint where our entire focus is on improving market presence without taking into account the entire intimidating market. The visiting lawyer, through his personal experience had mentioned that the advertising market in Chicago for lawyers had been saturated by big names and firms and that trying to expose a small firm to such a strategy would be futile and reward-less. The best form of marketing for a new up-and-coming firm is to rely on referrals and if we correspond with enough people, the referrals will help grow the business immensely; at no egregious cost of advertising!

While at the Daley Center, I was talking to Mr. Tim Dever, the head of the department of Vital Records, trying to understand the necessary filings required to form an LLC. In conversation, I was introduced to his sister who works for the Mayor just upstairs and she showed me around the Mayoral chambers! Working this fellowship has helped me improve my networking skills immensely and to enjoy all kinds of people and interactions that have made my internship so far very worthwhile!

Mr. Tim Dever (Head of the Department of Vital Records)

Mr. Tim Dever (Head of the Department of Vital Records)

Week 3: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

March 4th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

Over the past week, I have begun to see how economics plays a direct role in how we perform. It was a beguiling epiphany as in that I now see how the market in this area works in terms of hiring attorneys and how we as a small private start-up firm, fit into the market as a whole. In a macroeconomic approach, advertising for us seems a futile marketing trick and a waste of much needed effort and resources. There must be a more efficient way/system to get our name out there sufficiently so as to garner more business. And I’m on it!

As I had mentioned in my earlier post, I had a stint with private investigation on Friday. I went down to the south side of Chicago and tried to find the exact addresses presented by the police in their reports. I couldn’t find it. In trying to ask locals around for exact directions, they told me that there was no such street. I am baffled at this as I cannot understand why the police would make such a mistake. I anyway took several pictures of the area I was in and the immediately surrounding area (which was close to the beach), and made my way back to the office. Very interesting!PI Duty


On Monday, we went to trial on the case for which I had gone out to investigate over the weekend. It was held in the Juvenile court building and the judge allowed me to sit with the attorneys in the courthouse during the trial. Of the cases that an average lawyer handles, roughly 8% of them actually go to trial on average. It was quite an experience on the whole. Of the 5 counts that were charged, our client was exonerated of one while the rest are still in question. Apart from just business, economics, law, and the like, I have had a chance to be exposed to reality created by the present socioeconomic backgrounds of the various neighborhoods of Chicago.

Week 2: Christopher J Swanson, Attorney at Law

February 25th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

The past week has been very exciting indeed. As my site mentor is an advisor to Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley, we were invited to a breakfast get together and political discussion with him, his crew, and various other lawyers from the city. The event was hosted by a big law firm, Jenner and Block in the penthouse of their downtown office! This is a great way to network, especially for me as I have to meet various lawyers and law firms in Chicago to research and find out the various management practices they apply to their practice. I got two appointments with two private firms for the coming week!

Apart from networking, I also dove into researching the creation of an LLC. I have been introduced to some resourceful lawyers and law students, and have gathered quite a bit of literature on forming partnerships, LLCs, and the various ways they are taxed depending upon the number of partners, number of associates, owners, etc. All the information is riveting and gives me a clearer view of the procedures required to form a private company. Apart from research and networking, I have also begun putting together a new business plan that I can incorporate into the infrastructure of the new website that I am trying to create for the firm.

I also went to court in Skokie, IL to job shadow my site mentor twice this past week. We have a trial coming up next week and I have the task to investigate the police report against our clients and to take pictures of the places the police report talks about but that don’t apparently exist. It’s hardly the second week and things have moved swiftly with a lot to be exposed to and even more to reason and experience.

Week 1: Christopher J. Swanson, Attorney at Law–Chicago, Ill.

February 18th, 2014

Pradeep Swar ’14, Dimmitt Fellow in Entrepreneurship

I left Cornell on Valentine’s Day to set out on a four-hour bus ride to Chicago to begin my fellowship. The past few days have been very different from my normal days at Cornell as I got settled into my rental apartment in the West Loop of the city over the weekend. A friend studying at the University of Chicago had directed me to a website where people rent their places from a duration of a day to a few months! And it is very affordable in an otherwise expensive real estate market. I arrived after dark and went to my rental apartment located at West Kinzie St and was rather pleased that I was going to be living on the 15th floor of a new tower right on the outskirts of downtown Chicago. The views are amazing and I have fallen in love with the beautiful Chicago skyline, glimmering as darkness falls.

The View from my 15th storey apartment!

The View from my 15th story apartment!

I was in Chicago with Professor Christopher Conrad for a week-long financial seminar class last spring where we got to visit the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and got an overview of their functions as well as a chance to visit the trading floors in both places. A couple of days after I returned to Cornell at the end of my financial seminar class, I went back to Chicago with Professor A’amer Farooqi on a Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Distinctive Service (LEADS) trip where we networked with professionals in different fields in the city and learned how they reached where they are. This time, I’m back in Chicago for almost 2 months interning for a private law firm and helping with the business side of the practice. Each time I come here, it is a whole new facade and experience and I am so very excited as to what I’m going to learn through my internship and what I can contribute to my work site.

Having been to Chicago numerous times, I can navigate around the city using public transportation pretty easily. I rested and familiarized myself with the place again over the weekend and had a welcome meeting with my site mentor and supervisor. On Monday, I went into the office for the first time in the Loop and went over the objectives of my work and what was expected of me with my site mentor. My biggest objective is to market a new law firm in the city and network with other lawyers and private practices to see how they are structured so as to find a way to tailor a management system that would yield best results for the firm as new associates are hired. I am to meet the new associates up for hire this coming week and am excited to talk to them about some of the approaches we can take to market the firm in an innovative manner. I cannot wait to get started and go full swing with my work as it allows leeway for creativity and challenges me to come up with exciting new ideas for marketing. As for the research bit, I again, cannot wait to meet many other lawyers and private firms and find the best match for my site!

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