Representing clients throughout Northern Illinois, my primary practice area is criminal defense, especially DUI and license reinstatement. I also handle personal injury cases. I have tried hundreds of contested hearings, arbitrations, administrative hearings, pre-trial motions or trials to verdict. I have tried felony and misdemeanor criminal and traffic cases, as well as civil cases in the Law, Municipal and Chancery Divisions, and administrative hearings.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
My practice has been pretty stable over the past five years. One area of foreseeable change in the criminal law is marijuana reform, including the pending bill to decriminalize of small amounts of marijuana and the establishment of a “legal limit” for driving under the influence of cannabis, as opposed to our current “zero tolerance” law which makes it illegal to drive with any amount of cannabis or other drug in one’s blood system.
I also predict that there will be more emphasis on rehabilitation over incarceration, including a greater understanding of treatment alternatives and a liberalization of the expungement laws, to enable people to get a fresh start in life.
The justice system has been very slow to adapt to evolving technology, but there is a strong push to equip police officers with body cameras, and to get the different branches of the criminal justice system online together through unified electronic court orders, so for example, the sheriff will get updated bond information quickly and correctly.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
I would have to stress collegiality. Of course we all must zealously represent our clients. But whenever possible, be courteous and don’t “go to the mat” over trivial issues, like objecting to an opponent’s request to reschedule a deposition because of a family emergency. Gamesmanship like that is unprofessional. Besides, it rarely gains you a strategic advantage and just makes you look bad before the Court and your fellow attorneys. Keep in mind that one day the shoe will be on the other foot.
What’s one technological device, application or tool you could not function without?
I spend a good portion of each day in court or depositions, often far from my office, so I am absolutely dependent on my smartphone. On it I have every clients’ contact information on it, so I can phone, text or email them. I have my calendar. I have apps for legal research and CLE. I get emails including the ISBA listserv, which has come to my rescue on a couple of occasions in the midst of trial when an unexpected legal question arose. And I can listen to podcasts as I drive from one courthouse to another.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
I have been both the beneficiary and provider of help when either I, a family member or another attorney has had to deal with health issues or other problems. For example, a few years ago, there was a fire on the first floor of my high rise office building, and for about a month I had limited access to my suite due to smoke damage. Howard Wise, who was once a former opposing counsel as an Assistant State’s Attorney before he moved into private practice, contacted me as soon as he heard about my situation to offer me the use of his office so that I could meet clients.
I always try to help other attorneys when they have conflicts or health issues. Not too long ago, a criminal defense attorney that I knew had a health emergency and myself and several other attorneys helped to cover her cases until she was able to resume her practice. That is what the legal community is all about.
What do you do for fun?
My wife and I have two young children and any time with them is a gift. Besides that, I am a classic film buff, especially films from the silent era.
Harold Wallin is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Washington University School of Law. He has been licensed to practice law in Illinois since 1994. He is a member of the Federal Trial Bar of the Northern District of Illinois. In 2016, Mr. Wallin was chosen by Expertise.com as one of “Chicago’s Top Criminal Defense Attorneys”.