August 28, 2018 Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Jim Schwartz

Tell us a little bit about your career.

After graduating from law school, I started my career at the City of Philadelphia's corporation counsel’s office.  I became assistant to the Chief of the Litigation Department and got involved in many exciting and interesting cases.  Desiring a more specialized form of litigation, I left the City of Philadelphia and became an attorney for the Enforcement Division for the Commodity Futures, Trading Commission—the federal agency which regulates the commodity futures and commodity options markets.  Ultimately landing in Chicago, I was involved in prosecuting persons and firms accused of violating the Commodity Exchange Act.  I remained there for several years.

After leaving the federal government, I opened a small boutique firm with one other attorney, concentrating the firm in securities, commodities, real estate, tax, general corporate and discrimination-based matters—both transactional and litigation.  My basic practice areas have continued to the present, and I remain in the active practice of law.

Is it what you had planned when you started law school?

I have always had an interest in the practice areas that I have concentrated my practice on.

What has been the highlight of your career?

I believe that an attorney should get involved in pro bono areas and provide legal assistance to those who are unable to pay.  In that regard, I was on the Board of the Aids Legal Council of Chicago.  In the early 90s, I was referred a case where a man was refused medical treatment by a physician in the Chicago area because he was HIV Positive.  I filed an action on the man’s behalf in the federal court in Chicago seeking an injunction against the physician to prevent the physician from continuing his discriminatory practices.  After hearing, the District Court found in my client’s favor and entered an injunction which prohibited the physician from refusing treatment to my client.  This was the first case in the United States which prohibited a physician from refusing medical treatment to an HIV positive man.

I have also been active in several ABA publications for more than fifteen years, including GP Solo Magazine, GP Solo Law Trends, and GP Solo E-Newsletter; currently, I am the 2018-2019 Chair of the Voice of Experience Editorial Board. 

I was also a member of the ABA House of Delegates for 5 years, a member of GP Solo’s Council for 5 years, and an incoming member of the Senior Lawyers Division's Council.  Also, I was Chair of the National Lesbian and Gay Bar Association for two years and the first Chair of the Illinois State Bar Association’s (ISBA) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee.  I have also served on numerous other ABA and ISBA committees.

If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?

I have always had an interest in the political process.  If I had to do it all over again, I would explore other opportunities for attorneys as part of the political process to determine my interests.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school today?

As someone who has mentored many, many persons considering going to law school, I always try to do a reality check of him or her to determine their interest in this profession.  The daily “grind” can be difficult, but the rewards are truly wonderful.  

What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?

In my opinion, civility by attorneys toward other attorneys is at an all-time low.  There is no question that an attorney should be an effective advocate for their client.  To me, part of being an “effective advocate” includes being courteous to opposing counsel.  A case can often be settled on more favorable terms to your client when you work with opposing counsel rather than when hostility exists at every turn.  So, before saying "NO" to a request for additional time to file a response to a Motion, determine where your client is harmed or prejudiced by agreeing to the extension. Also, your request down the road to an extension will be more easily agreed to.

When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?

I did not get involved with any bar association until after my kids were in high school.  I decided to join when I determined that I should give back to the profession some of the tools it had provided to me.


James L. Schwartz

Founder, James L. Schwartz & Associates P.C

James L. Schwartz is the founder of James L. Schwartz & Associates P.C. in Chicago and concentrates on securities, commodities, and real estate law. Jim is currently the Chair of the Voice of Experience Editorial Board, a Senior Lawyers Division (SLD) Council Member, member of the SLD Book Board and Experience Magazine Board, and is the Liaison from SLD to the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Jim is also actively involved in the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division (GPSolo).