Cook County has more than 40,000 practicing attorneys—more than the rest of the state combined. This number includes attorneys who specialize in nearly every conceivable type of law in a variety of settings. Here’s more information on where and how these attorneys operate, as well as some of their largest practice areas.
The Daly Center is the main courthouse in Cook County; it is also the courthouse for the county’s 1st District. Most civil and traffic cases, as well as many other litigation, are heard in-house. There are 5 other districts in Cook County, each with its own courts. The courts are located at the following locations: Skokie (2nd District), Rolling Meadows (3rd District), Maywood (4th District), Bridgeview (5th District) and Markham (6th District). If you live in the suburbs, your case will likely be heard in your local district court, but many claims will still be heard at the Daly Center, especially most claims over $100,000.
It is best to hire an attorney who is experienced in your specific legal issues and who is familiar with the court in which your case will be heard. In addition to knowing your case, this type of attorney may also know some of the judges and attorneys you will be dealing with during litigation. This attorney will be best equipped to present your case in the manner that has the best chance of winning.
Attorneys in Cook County vary widely in the amount and type of fees they charge for services. Some attorneys do contingency work, which means you don’t have to pay the attorney anything unless he or she obtains financial compensation or a settlement for you. The lawyer will then earn a percentage of the monetary amount, usually 30%. However, some areas of law do not allow contingency measures, such as criminal and divorce cases. Lawyers working on these cases may charge a retainer fee, which is the cost of officially hiring the lawyer. You will most likely also be billed by the hour for the time the attorney spends working on your case, although sometimes you can negotiate a flat fee upfront for all legal work. The amount of retainer and hourly fees depends on the law firm the attorney works for and the type of case you have.
Most lawsuits arising out of accidents, such as car accidents or slip and fall cases, are personal injury lawsuits. These cases are also called tort cases. Tort cases are assigned to two Cook County divisions, the Legal Division and the Civil Division. Tort cases over $30,000 are assigned to the Legal Department, usually at the Daly Center, although smaller cases may be heard in suburban district court. Smaller cases are assigned to the civil department. These smaller cases usually end in arbitration, with the parties trying to reach an agreement that works for both parties.
In a criminal case, you are always against the government, and if you lose, you could face jail time. Criminal cases are heard in all six Cook County district courts, as are other Cook County courts. For example, most felony cases, such as murder or weapons charges, occur in the courthouse on 26th Street in California. These cases are the most serious and most likely to result in jail time. Lesser criminal charges are usually heard in the nearest district court. As with all practice areas, it is important to hire an attorney who has won cases against the same offenses that you have been charged with in Cook County so that penalties can be minimized.
Nearly all medical malpractice cases in Cook County are filed at the Daly Center. Therefore, most Cook County attorneys who specialize in medical malpractice are located in Chicago, but they will work with individuals from all over the state of Illinois.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Board at Thompson Center hears all workers’ compensation claims. The Thompson Center is located in downtown Chicago, near the Daly Center. This is the case if you were injured on the job in Cook County, or if you worked outside of Cook County but your business was located or you were employed here. Also, due to the proximity to the Thompson Center, most attorneys in the area practice outside of Chicago, but they serve all clients who need their services.
Divorce and Family Law
Divorce cases can be heard in courts in Chicago, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Markham and Maywood. However, the Daly Center is the main divorce court and hears the most cases. The place of divorce proceedings is determined by the original complainant; however, the other party may apply to transfer the case to another court. Divorce and family law attorneys are located throughout Cook County.
All Cook County probate (wills, trusts, and estate issues) are heard at the Daly Center, including those who died living in Cook County, even if their family did not live in the area. Many Cook County probate attorneys are located in Chicago, but some practice in the suburbs and travel to the Daly Center when necessary.
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