July 2019 • Volume 107 • Number 7
Meet new ISBA President David Sosin, if you can keep up with him.
New ISBA President David Sosin sees many needles to move during the 2019-20 bar year. Included among his top priorities are: attorney wellness, law firm succession planning, bar association leadership, and health insurance for lawyers and firms.
Sosin, partner of the Orland Park firm of Sosin, Arnold & Schoenbeck, practices real estate, land use, and zoning law. He also serves as attorney for the Village of Crestwood just east of Orland Park. He has a long history of bar leadership, including stints as president of the Southwest Suburban Bar Association and the Illinois Bar Foundation prior to entering the leadership track at the ISBA, where his wife, Janet, recently retired as director of bar services after more than 30 years of service.
“Throughout his long and successful career, David has been committed to improving the quality of the Illinois bar,” says Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Lloyd Karmeier, who has known David and Janet for many years. “The experience and insights he has gained as a practicing lawyer and as a leader of lawyers through his service to the ISBA make him particularly well-suited to assume the presidency of the organization. I am confident he will do an outstanding job.”
Inspired by a distant cousin
Sosin was born on the West Side of Chicago and spent his teenage years on the far North Side. After graduating from Von Steuben High School, he attended the University of Illinois, where he earned a degree in finance. He considered working for Merrill Lynch; instead, he took the LSAT and was accepted by Northwestern School of Law.
“I did not know at that time whether I really planned to practice,” Sosin says. “But I’ve practiced my whole life since. I never did anything else.” One inspiration to attend law school was a childhood trip to Washington, D.C., where he met one of his parents’ distant cousins who worked as an attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “He took us around, and it was very enlightening,” he says. “It probably planted a seed in my mind that later germinated.”
After law school, Sosin worked as an attorney for Nat Ozmon, whom Sosin describes as a “hard taskmaster, but a great teacher and a terrific mentor.” After a couple years, Sosin left to form his own firm with a couple of other young lawyers. He’s been running his own firm ever since, along with a varying cast of partners.
Current partners George Arnold and George Schoenbeck have been with Sosin for 25 and 12 years, respectively. Sosin’s office manager, Luann Meyer, has been with the firm for 43.
Seeing things through
Arnold began working with Sosin three years after getting his law license and became his partner five years later. “He’s a fantastic business partner—honest, fair-minded, no ego that influences his decisions,” Arnold says. “He’s a lawyer’s lawyer. His number one concern is always, ‘What’s in the client’s best interest?’ and everything else will take care of itself. He’s an intuitively honest person, which goes a long way in our profession. And he’s energetic.”
Meyer says Sosin is honest, generous, fair, and hard-working. “If there’s a problem, he works hard to find the right solution for the client,” she says. “If he finds that he’s not compatible with the client—if there’s a little bit of tension or something like that—he will come right out and tell them. But for the most part, he gets along with everybody.”
In the beginning of his career, Sosin maintained a general practice. After he became village attorney in southwest suburban Oak Lawn, he discovered he enjoyed land-use and zoning law. “I’ve just always enjoyed working on projects and seeing them come to fruition—watching subdivisions go up, and withstanding all the challenges and problems that come up,” he says. “It’s the same thing with commercial developments. All that has been very much fun.”
Sosin began working for the Village of Crestwood 25 years ago, when the then-village attorney left. “I knew the mayor, and he called me and asked if I would work for the village on an interim basis until they found a new attorney,” he says. “That was two mayors and 25 years ago.”
It’s kept him busy. “It depends on how large the village is, and how much development. Crestwood has a lot of development going on—a lot of projects—so I spend a significant amount of time there,” Sosin says. He’s also represented private clients in zoning and land-use acquisition with an emphasis on auto dealerships.
A fair, honest problem solver
Current Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta says Sosin has legal and business smarts and an honest demeanor. “When he says he doesn’t know something, he checks it out and makes sure he gives us the right advice,” Presta says. “He keeps us out of trouble.”
Retired Judge Dennis Burke, who now works as an arbitrator, met Sosin at an Orland Park board meeting when they were representing different clients involved in a zoning issue. “He came up to me and said, ‘Look, we could be at odds here, but let’s see if we can work together,” says Burke, who golfs with Sosin two or three times a month. “Everything worked out.”
Caesar Tabet, managing attorney at Tabet, DiVito and Rothstein in Chicago, first met Sosin about 25 years ago while working on a case. They developed a friendship and have worked together on numerous matters since then. Their practices have proved complementary since Sosin handles transactional matters and Tabet does business litigation.
“When we’ve called him into a very complicated litigation matter, he’s quick to find a solution that’s fair for everybody and achievable,” Tabet says. “And vice-versa: In the rare circumstance where he’s involved in a matter that results in litigation, he stays involved to make sure it gets resolved fairly and quickly. In my experience, he has really outstanding judgment, at all times is fair-minded, and has boundless energy.”
Past ISBA President Leonard Amari of Chicago-based Amari & Locallo also has exchanged business back and forth with Sosin. “Sosin’s a solid guy, highly respected,” Amari says. “He’s very professional, detail-oriented, and well-liked. And he never comes to a meeting without dressing to the nines—a Brooks Brothers suit with a beautifully matching tie and shirt.”
Irene Bahr, also a past ISBA president, of Wheaton-based Bahr Anderson Law Group, has encountered Sosin in his village attorney role while handling clients in her liquor-licensing practice.
“David is somebody you can always count on to do 1,000 percent of whatever he is doing,” she says. “He is kind, respectful, and easy to get along with. He never causes unnecessary problems as I’m working on the opposite side or working with him. He’s very prompt, he’s very attentive, and he represents his client without being obstreperous. He’s honest and gives you information you want. He’s the type of opponent, or cocounsel, you would want to have.”
An association that keeps giving
Sosin became involved with the Southwest Suburban Bar Association in the early 1980s when he started practicing in the area. “I needed to meet some people and make some contacts,” he says. “I became active and really enjoyed it. Then I became an officer and worked my way up.” Eventually, he became president.
The ISBA came calling and he accepted the opportunity. He has given a lot of time to a variety of ISBA committees, including chairing the Insurance Committee, Bar Services Committee, and Minority and Women’s Participation Committee. Sosin also has been involved with the ISBA Mutual Insurance Company from its inception and currently serves on its board.
Sosin also joined the Illinois Bar Foundation board and worked his way up to its leadership, serving as board president about 12 years ago. Along the way, he has received an ISBA Board of Governors’ Award for distinguished service. In 2011, he was named a Laureate by the ISBA Academy of Lawyers, which recognizes long-standing ISBA members who have “demonstrated a commitment to the highest principles of the legal profession through a pervasive record of service to the law, the profession, and the public.”
Sosin says he has learned a great deal about the profession and his colleagues from ISBA publications and by participating in substantive Association committees and ISBA’s continuing legal education programs.
“I’ve always felt that lawyers who get involved in the bar benefit a lot more than what they give,” he says. “It’s a very important part of a lawyer’s career—not just giving back, but also meeting other lawyers and the collegiality that goes with it.”
A full slate
For a while, Sosin has been caucusing with other officers of the ISBA and planning a full slate of activities for his bar year. He also will support the continuation of programs instituted by his predecessors, especially initiatives bolstering attorney well-being and law-firm succession planning.
“We know that some lawyers struggle with substance abuse and mental health,” he says. “We’re trying to give them some motivation to use the existing resources we have within the bar to address that—and also with private health providers.” He would like to invite speakers to Association events who can “give our lawyers, first of all, a bit of education on how to better take care of themselves, and also how to think about the future, their health, and their families.”
As for succession planning, Sosin says it’s general knowledge that some firms, including many smaller ones, have no plans in place.
“They don’t know what they’re going to do when they retire,” he says. “They don’t know what they’re going to do with their practice. And what needs to be done is daunting—not just for the lawyers and their families but also the clients, who suffer the most when a lawyer’s practice is unexpectedly curtailed. It has major repercussions for cases. We want lawyers to have a plan in place, have a person picked to continue their representations, and be able to hand off cases to other lawyers in a preplanned—rather than an ad-hoc, last-minute—fashion.”
Health insurance for members
Sosin plans to thoroughly investigate options for an ISBA-sponsored health insurance plan for members. Sosin says the Association once had such a plan, but it struggled to attract enough younger and healthier attorneys, which rendered it unsustainable. But recent rule changes enabling nonprofit organizations to pool their members into a single plan may present an opportunity to revisit the idea, Sosin says. Bar associations in other states, such as Indiana and Nebraska, are also examining this. The goal would be service-oriented rather than profit-motivated, Sosin says.
“There are several new vehicles we’ve identified. The key is to attract lawyers by offering good coverage at reasonable rates—but in a way that carries minimal financial risk for the Association,” Sosin says. “The idea is to get a program with enough lawyers and firms in it to make it attractive, provide good coverage and fair prices for those firms, and then build on that.”
Sosin also plans to pursue the creation of the ISBA Leadership Academy, which would train future bar leaders. Second Vice-President Anna Krolikowska is already heading up the effort, Sosin says.
“We’d like to identify 15 to 20 young lawyers with three to 10 years of experience who will commit to a six-session program that consists of mentorship from senior lawyers, judges, and civic leaders,” he says. “Mentors will encourage the participants’ leadership aspirations and deepen their leadership skills, which they can use to serve the ISBA, other bar associations, and their communities.”
Attorneys are educated to practice law, but not necessarily to lead, Sosin says. “There are additional skills that will be helpful for them to develop as future leaders in the bar,” he says. “It’s a program similar to one other states have used. We are starting this and will be doing it on a continuing basis for years to come.”
‘Right leader at the right time’
Sosin will serve the organization well as president, Bahr predicts. “He’s very cognizant of making sure that we provide things to the entire spectrum of the bar—seasoned members, the new members, the middle members, and always keeping that balance,” she says. “He’s a lawyer for lawyers. And he’s a good human being—he’s always asking about your family and how people are. It’s not all business. He’s well rounded. And that’s very important for the leadership of the bar.”
Another past ISBA president, Mt. Vernon-based personal injury attorney Mark Hassakis of Hassakis & Hassakis, remembers meeting Sosin at an annual meeting in Lake Geneva. Hassakis said he and his wife knew literally no one.
“He was one of the people who welcomed us and totally embraced us,” Hassakis recalls. “He has a heart of gold. He really cares, and he shows it every day. He’s going to make a great bar president because of that. He’s a very generous, caring, heartfelt lawyer with good common sense. And he’s very smart. You don’t often find all of that in the same person.”
“He’ll make it a point to do the best he can to resolve issues facing lawyers today. He’s the type of person who’s inclusive. He’ll try to get people active and involved,” Burke says.
“He’s the right guy at the right time for the leadership of the state bar association,” Amari says.
“Our profession is undergoing a period of rapid and unprecedented change, confronting new technological and economic challenges, and raising fundamental questions regarding how legal services can be best provided to those who need them the most,” Chief Justice Karmeier says. “Addressing these issues effectively will require insight, innovation, and plain hard work. David stands ready to contribute all three. And, of course, he can always count on Janet if he ever needs advice or assistance on how to keep the organization and its members moving forward.”
When not immersed in the world of law, the Sosins might be found visiting their three children and one grandchild, all of whom live out of state. The Sosins thoroughly enjoy golfing together at courses all over the world. Among the courses they’ve played are, in the United States, Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits, Muirfield Village, Firestone, and Pinehurst; in Ireland: Old Head, Royal Portmarnock, Tralee, Ballybunion, Lahinch, Waterville, Adair Manor, Galway Bay, and County Louth. They have also played the La Beau course in Provence, France; the Golf Club Fiugii in Italy; and at Royal County Down and Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
The Sosins also have traveled with ISBA members to England, Ireland, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Russia, South Africa, China, and New Zealand. This September, Sosin will take about 60 bar members, significant others, and friends to Italy for the “president’s trip.” “We have a wonderful trip planned,” Sosin says. “It’ll be a pretty busy year.”
Here’s to keeping up with him.
Ed Finkel is an Evanston-based freelance writer.