Long Term Attorney-Client Collaboration Leads to Legacy Planning


A lawyer’s work with a client can be as short as a single project; once completed the attorney and client go their separate ways. With a little luck, an initial project can be followed by another. Every once in a while, when the circumstances and chemistry are right, an initial project can mark the beginning of an attorney-client collaboration that can last for decades.

As a result of one such relationship, the Firm’s Dick Burke’s work with a client culminated in the establishment of a charitable trust that, among other things, will continue to have a profound impact on the lives of dozens of Chicago high school students and their families for years to come.

Throughout his life, the client (who will not be mentioned by name) poured his energy and creativity into his various business interests. He first met Burke as a shareholder in a manufacturing firm that he represented.  As time passed, the client acquired complete ownership of the firm and as such had frequent contact with Burke as the company’s attorney.

Having advised the client on many aspects of his business, from structuring an active board of directors, to employment and customer contract issues and finally to real estate leasing, Burke came to understand the client’s personal values and priorities.

“My client was an entrepreneur and he achieved a great deal of success,” said  Burke.  “As he approached retirement age with no heirs, we saw challenges and opportunities.”  It became clear that the business would need to be sold, which the Firm later handled after the client’s death.

“As he aged, our conversations shifted from day to day business to what kind of mark he wanted to leave behind,” said Burke.  The attorney listened to his client and helped him clarify what meant most to him beyond his business career.

They determined that supporting a sustainable and green urban environment was important, as was supporting aquatic life. Trusts were established to fund long term projects in cooperation with research institutions as well as for a scholarship fund designed to help burgeoning entrepreneurs at Princeton University, his alma mater.

Burke recalls that the client was receptive to a wide range of giving to educational and social service entities. The two were collaborating once again but this time it was to help give money away instead of make it. They hatched a plan to create and launch a charitable trust that would address his charitable desires.

The resulting trust works with Holy Trinity High School, De LaSalle Institute, Mother McCauley Liberal Arts High School, Trinity High School and St. Patrick High School offering twelve new four year scholarships to students who are academically successful and motivated to go to college. For each of these students, the Trust pays for half of the high school tuition including resources to get them into college, such as ACT tutors for juniors and seniors.

This not only helps students get into colleges, but also can lead to college scholarships. Paying for half of the high school tuition helps ensure that parents also have an incentive to keep students on track.

“More people with skin in the game means there are more people rooting for these scholars to succeed and thrive,” said Burke. Representatives from the Trust check in with mentors from these schools who regularly meet with each student to make sure they are staying on track, getting good grades, staying out of trouble, etc.

Along with Holy Family Scholars, another scholarship program which supports high school students in a variety of high schools in the Chicago area, the Trust is assisting a total of 60 students from middle and lower income families, providing quality high school education for their children working towards college. “The ideal outcome for the scholars goes far beyond just getting into college, but also impacting their own lives as well as the lives of their families and communities,” said Burke.

For more information, please contact Dick Burke at rburke@burkelaw.com or 312/840-7001.

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