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Lozoff v. Shore Heights





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. PAUL W. SCHNAKE, Judge, presiding. MR. JUSTICE GUILD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

In 1971 the defendant corporation, Shore Heights, Ltd., (Shore Heights), was the beneficiary of a land trust holding title to 209 lots in Kendall County. Flintlock Investments of Aurora, Illinois (Flintlock) was negotiating with Shore Heights for the purchase of these lots and was also negotiating with Aldridge Construction Company (Aldridge) for the sale of the same lots. Plaintiff, Emanuel S. Lozoff, was employed by Flintlock at this time. Plaintiff was licensed to practice law in Wisconsin but was not licensed to practice law in Illinois until March 2, 1972, almost three months after the complaint herein was filed.

A contract was entered into between Shore Heights and Flintlock but the sale was not consummated. Thereafter, plaintiff discussed with Aldridge's attorneys the possibility of their negotiating directly with Shore Heights. Plaintiff also proposed to Shore Heights' attorney, Norman Lawrence, that plaintiff be employed by Shore Heights to put together a sale of the lots to Aldridge.

On July 20, 1971, a meeting was held between Shore Heights' attorney, plaintiff and the defendant Charles Greene, who was general manager of Shore Heights. At this meeting a letter agreement was dictated by plaintiff and later signed by the defendant, Delores Greene, president of Shore Heights, for Shore Heights. In pertinent part, this agreement provided as follows:

"Dear Mr. Lozoff:

This is to serve as a memorandum of our agreement in which you will be paid the sum of $65,000 as attorney's fees for the legal services rendered by you in the Aldridge Construction Company — Shore Heights land agreement for properties located in Kendall County, Illinois." (Emphasis added.)

On August 6, 1971, a contract was entered into between Shore Heights and Aldridge but later Aldridge served notice on Shore Heights that they were not going to proceed with the contract.

On December 9, 1971, plaintiff, represented by counsel, filed the instant complaint alleging that he was due $65,000 from defendants for having rendered legal services to them as described in the July 20, 1971, letter agreement. The complaint also alleged that plaintiff dealt with the defendants Charles and Delores Greene individually as well as on behalf of the defendant Shore Heights and that the Shore Heights-Aldridge contract was not consummated due to defendants' "refusal, failure or inability" to comply therewith. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and against the individual and corporate defendants in the amount of $65,000, and answered in the affirmative the special interrogatory, "Did the Plaintiff perform all of the services, which were required by him by the contract?" Following entry of judgment based upon the jury's verdict and the denial of relief prayed for in their post-trial motion, defendants appeal.

The sole question presented in this case is whether an attorney who is licensed to practice law in Wisconsin but not in Illinois may recover attorney's fees for legal services rendered in Illinois.

Although defendants raise several allegations of error, we find that we need only consider the question of whether an attorney who is not licensed to practice law in Illinois can recover on a contract to perform legal services in Illinois. Prior to a discussion of that issue, we note plaintiff's argument that defendants have not properly preserved this issue for review due to their failure to raise it in their post-trial motion. We find, however, that in their post-trial motion defendants specifically asserted that the court erred in denying their motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion in limine, both of which were based exclusively upon plaintiff's lack of an Illinois license to practice law. Such a specification of error satisfies the specificity requirement of section 68.1 (2) of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, par. 68.1(2)) by indicating the grounds upon which the defendants rely "* * * with sufficient particularity to afford the trial court identity of the error relied upon." Osborne v. Leonard (1968), 99 Ill. App.2d 391, 396, 240 N.E.2d 769, 771.

We turn, then, to a consideration of the effect of plaintiff's not being licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois. Section 1 of the Attorneys and Counselors Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 13, par. 1) in part states:

"No person shall be permitted to practice as an attorney or counselor at law within this State without having previously obtained a license for that purpose from the Supreme Court of this State.

No person shall receive any compensation directly or indirectly for any legal services other than a regularly licensed attorney."

Plaintiff argues that the plain meaning of this statute has no application to the instant case because: (1) he acted merely as a "finder" and not as a lawyer, or (2) Supreme Court Rule 707 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110A, par. 707) controls the instant case.

As to plaintiff's first argument, we find that the fact that the Lozoff-Shore Heights contract, which was drafted by plaintiff, provided that plaintiff was to be paid $65,000 "as attorney's fees for * * * legal services" and the fact that the complaint sought recovery for legal services precludes plaintiff from now contending that he merely acted as a broker or "finder." As to plaintiff's ...

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