There are over 40,000 practicing lawyers in Cook County – more than in the rest of the state combined. This number includes attorneys specializing in practically all conceivable types of law, in a variety of settings. Below is a bit more information on where and how these lawyers operate and some of the biggest practice areas.
The Daley Center is the main courthouse for Cook County; it is also the courthouse for the County’s 1st District. Most civil cases and traffic cases are held inside, along with many other suits. There are 5 other Cook County Districts, each with its own courthouse. The courthouses are in 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 may be heard your local district courthouse, but many claims are still heard at the Daley Center, in particular most of those involving over $100,000.
It is best to hire an attorney who has experience both with your specific legal issue and familiarity with the courthouse where your case has been filed. In addition to understanding your case, this type of lawyer may know some of the judges and attorneys who you will be dealing with during your lawsuit. This lawyer will be best equipped to present your case in a way that gives you the best chance of winning.
Lawyers in Cook County vary widely in the amount and types of fees that they charge for their services. Some lawyers work on contingency which means you don’t have to pay any fee to the lawyer unless he or she gets a financial award or settlement for you. The lawyer will then earn a percentage of the monetary amount, often 30%. Certain areas of law are not allowed to be taken on contingency, though, such as criminal and divorce cases. Lawyers working on these cases will probably charge a retainer, which is the fee to officially hire the lawyer. You will most likely also pay an hourly rate for the time the lawyer spends working on your case, although sometimes you can negotiate to pay a flat fee for all of the legal work up front. The amount of the retainer and hourly fee will depend on the law firm the lawyer works for and what type of case you have.
Most lawsuits arising out of accidents, like car accidents or slip-and-fall cases, are personal injury suits. These cases are also known as tort cases. Tort cases are assigned to two Divisions in Cook County, Law Division and Civil Division. Tort cases for more than $30,000 are assigned to the Law Division and are usually heard at the Daley Center, although smaller cases may be heard in the suburban District courthouses. Smaller cases are assigned to the Civil Division. These smaller cases usually end up in arbitration where the parties try to reach an agreement that works for both sides.
In criminal cases, you will always be opposing the government in your case, and you may face jail time if you lose. Criminal cases are heard in all 6 of the Cook County District courthouses, and in additional Cook County courthouses as well. For instance, most felony cases (like murder or weapons charges) occur at the courthouse located at 26th Street & California. These cases are the most serious and most likely to result in jail time. Lesser criminal charges are typically held in the nearest District courthouse. As with all practice areas, it is very important to hire an attorney who has won cases involving the same crime you are charged with in Cook County, in order to try to avoid penalties.
Almost all medical malpractice cases in Cook County are filed at the Daley Center. Most Cook County attorneys that specialize in medical malpractice are located in Chicago as a result, but will work with individuals from throughout Illinois.
All workers’ compensation claims are heard at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission which is located in the Thompson Center. The Thompson Center is located in downtown Chicago, near the Daley Center. This is true if you are injured on the job in Cook County, or you are injured working outside Cook County but your company is based here or you were hired here. Again, most lawyers in this area practice out of Chicago due to its proximity to the Thompson Center, but they will work will all clients who need their services.
Divorce and Family Law
Divorce cases can be heard at the courthouses in Chicago, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Markham and Maywood. However, the Daley center is the main divorce courthouse and hears the most cases. The location of the divorce proceedings is determined by the person who originally files the case; however the other party can apply to have the case transferred to another courthouse. Divorce and family law attorneys are located throughout Cook County.
All Cook County probate (will, trust and estate issues) are heard at the Daley Center, this includes people who were residents of Cook County when they passed away, even if their family members don’t live in the area. Many Cook County probate lawyers are located in Chicago, but some will practice out of suburban locations and travel into Daley Center when necessary.