2012 is in the rear view mirror and questions abound as to what the future holds for Illinois – particularly the future of our state’s struggling economy. Some of the lowlights for Illinois in 2012 included being named the third-worst managed state in the country, the third worst state in the nation to do business and the fifth-worst state in the country for legal fairness.

Can things get any worse in the Land of Lincoln – or should I say, the Land of Lawsuits?

With an ailing economy and a mountain of debt, lawmakers have a lot of issues on their plate for 2013. One item on their agenda should be to improve the legal climate in Illinois. The state’s economic woes cannot all be blamed on the lack of legal reform in Illinois. But clearly there is a link between Illinois’ ailing economy and the complete lack of legal reform at the state level.

If we want to turn Illinois’ economy around, we need to send a clear message that we are serious about job growth and job creation. One simple way to do this would be for lawmakers to finally make legal reform a priority.

Illinois’ unemployment rate of 8.8 percent is one of the highest rates in the country. Only eight states have a worse unemployment rate than Illinois. The unemployment rate in Iowa is 5.1 percent and unemployment rate in Wisconsin is 6.9 percent. Both Wisconsin and Iowa have made a legal reform a priority.

Illinois ranks 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness according to a recent survey from the respected Harris polling company, and a report published last month by the American Tort Reform Association ranked Madison County, the third-worst “judicial hellhole” in the country and named Cook County to the watch list.

A state ranked 46th out of 50 states for legal fairness is hardly in a position to attract new jobs and opportunities. The reality is companies look to locate or expand their businesses in states where the judicial system is fair.

According to the study, Creating Conditions for Economic Growth: The Role of the Legal Environment, NERA Economic Consulting released in 2011 for the Institute for Legal Reform, Illinois could save up to $2.4 billion in tort costs and create between 54,000 and 147,000 new jobs by improving its legal environment.

Wisconsin legislators have made their state more attractive to employers but Illinois lawmakers have made our state more attractive to personal injury lawyers. In the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers need to take action to improve Illinois’s legal climate.

No, lawsuit reform is not a magic bullet but it is place to start. Illinois used to be a destination state for jobs and opportunities. It can be that way again, but the Illinois economy will continue to struggle as long as lawmakers keep ignoring the need to restore fairness and balance to our courts. Let’s resolve to make 2013 the year of lawsuit reform.

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