I’ve focused on appeals and critical motions throughout my entire career in the private practice, after having first served as a judicial clerk in the General Chancery Division of the Cook County Circuit Court and then on the Illinois Appellate Court, First District.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
As I’ve grown from associate to partner, I’ve naturally taken on more responsibility in our appeals, both in terms of handling case strategy, arguments, and client relationships. I greatly enjoy the added responsibility, but then I enjoy every aspect of appellate practice. I consider it a privilege to work regularly with some of the best trial lawyers in the state and region—on both sides of the bar—to secure the outcomes they seek while helping to move the law in a positive direction.
In terms of what comes next, I can only hope for more of the same. Being brought into interesting cases and thereby playing a small part in how the law evolves is a privilege and passion. I hope those opportunities continue to present themselves.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Find a good mentor. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the best of mentors give me their advice and support throughout my career, including J. Timothy Eaton, Justice James R. Epstein (Ret.), Justice Michael B. Hyman, and my father, Joseph D. Amarilio, among others. I’ve also had good friends within the appellate bar, including Mike Reagan and Mike Rathsack, among others, serve as additional real-world examples of the finest aspects of the appellate tradition. I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be practicing today had I not had these examples to guide me.
What are you most hopeful for about the future of the legal profession?
I’m hopeful about the continuing sense of continuity that the law and the legal profession provides in our nation’s communities. In a tumultuous and unpredictable time, the law is proving to be a bulwark of important norms, dependability, and decency in our society, and that’s because of the truly exceptional men and women who serve in the legal profession as lawyers and judges. I’m hopeful that we will all continue to play our part.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Civility makes the practice of law more fulfilling. It’s really that simple. Civility is more than just a professional aspiration, it’s a best and necessary practice. I’ve found in my own experience that when lawyers treat each other as brother or sister counsel, rather than as enemies to be vanquished at all costs, cases may be contentious but productive—and hopefully satisfying—to counsel and clients. However, the opposite is true as well. When lawyers are uncivil, cases are unnecessarily stressful and ultimately a detriment to the clients on both sides. There is a difference between zealous advocacy and incivility and, in my observation, incivility tends to lead to poor outcomes for all involved.
The appellate bar is fairly small and close and, as a result, I’ll often have friends on the other side of a case. This happened recently in a case in which we sought to integrate audio clips from the trial into our appellate brief—a first in Illinois practice. A friend was on the other side and fought our effort to do this vigorously but fairly. I would occasionally tease him about this effort because I knew that outside the confines of this case, he loves this kind of innovation in briefing, and he would shoot the jokes right back at me. Sometimes I think of this when searching for an example of how you can vigorously represent your client while maintaining friendships, not just professionalism, with the other side.
What do you do for fun?
I’m a constant, albeit amateur, student of history. I also enjoy my work with bar associations and community organizations, hosting the Chicago Bar Association’s new podcast @theBar, traveling, FC Barcelona, the company of family and friends, and equestrian when I have the time.
Jonathan Amarilio, Partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, represents individuals, businesses, and state and local governments before state and federal appellate courts.