Even though his term as president of the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel (IDC) only lasts one year, Chicago attorney R. Howard Jump wants to plan for the group's future.

Jump, who took over as president last week and focuses his law practice on personal injury and insurance coverage defense, said he's been working with fellow officers on the group's executive committee since he was elected secretary treasurer. Collaborating closely with past-president Anne M. Oldenburg and new vice-president Aleen R. Tiffany over the past few years, Jump said the trio has been brainstorming long-term goals.

"We got together and started talking about how things are going to look five, six, seven years out," he said. "That's what you need to do if you want to accomplish big goals and we think it's going to carry through."

Jump, 58, has been involved with the statewide defense group since the late '80s. As a relatively new lawyer back then, Jump said he learned a lot from veteran defense attorneys while serving on IDC committees.

More than two decades later, Jump said he sees how crucial young lawyers are to bar groups, as well as veteran attorneys.

"Bringing in young lawyers is important for everybody. It keeps you alive, strong and diverse," Jump said. "I am proud to see how the overall median age of the organization is changing."

In addition to getting more young lawyers involved, Jump said part of the group's long-term plan includes a more proactive role in lobbying the Illinois General Assembly.

While IDC has had a presence in Springfield for quite some time, Jump said he wants to introduce legislation, rather than just react to other groups' proposals.

"We are working on that now and plan to propose a number of items we think would address some inequities in the system," he said. "Our goal overall as an organization is to make sure the system is healthy, respected and fair for everybody."

While the system may not always be fair, Jump said he despises hearing Illinois' civil justice system get characterized as a judicial hellhole.

"It's not warranted and it's not true," he said. "I think members of all bar organizations have a responsibility to address that perception because it reflects badly on the entire judiciary and legal community."

Jump said he also plans to continue IDC's opposition to Cook County Law Division's simultaneous disclosure pilot program, which requires defendants and plaintiffs to disclose experts at the same time in an effort to cut costs.

He said the group will host a roundtable discussion next month in Chicago to "have an honest conversation about litigation costs and delay in the Law Division here in Cook County and see if there are some other things that can be done."

Jump said he looks forward to his year as president and feels lucky to be the first president in IDC history who received the reins of the group from a woman and will pass them on to another woman. This, he said, is very meaningful for him as someone who grew up with a mother who worked and a lot of strong women in his family.

Jump said his mother worked as a legal secretary while his family lived in Georgia. His family moved around a lot because his father served in the Air Force, something that taught him how to observe and adapt. Those two skills have proved more than useful in the legal profession, he said.

Although Jump said he can't imagine his life without the law, he didn't always want to be a lawyer. He studied science and math at Mercer University in Georgia before taking a break from college to work "every nasty job that no one else would do," including hard labor at a power generating plant and a deep water well cleaning rig.

Those experiences drove him back to Mercer University, where he obtained his undergraduate and law degrees from. After a short stint working for a Georgia lawyer, Jump moved to Chicago, a city he said he fell in love with while visiting friends as a third-year law student.

Without any job prospects or an Illinois law license, Jump worked as a security guard at the Art Institute of Chicago while studying for the bar exam. After he passed, he went to work at Hubbard, Hubbard, O'Brien & Hall before joining Kiesler & Berman. He started his own practice in 1994.

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