| Practice Description: |
"Nobody is too smart or too stable to never have a marital problem," says Errol Zavett. During a practice now spanning a half century, Zavett has become well known for his empathy, experience, and sense of humor. "I have personally represented many lawyers and professors, and they are no more knowledgeable than anyone else when it comes to navigating a divorce. In my parents' generation, divorce was a great shame. Now, there is nobody in America who doesn't know somebody who has been divorced."
Divorce may be a legal process, but Zavett emphasizes that at its core it focuses on the individual, a person and a relationship that has not worked out. For Zavett, the first interview always starts the same way. After a polite exchange of information, he puts his pen down and says, "Tell me why you're here. What really happened?"
When a client explains the problem, Zavett's approach is to say, "Let me tell you the steps we'll take." Then he helps his client to think about what to expect, to create a realistic calendar of events, and to realize that the road ahead is rarely a straight line.
"In the beginning, it is not unusual for clients to believe that everything can be split up equally and resolved amicably. And in truth, any lawyer will tell you that a collaborative settlement, when possible, is the best option. But to be honest, every case is unique and many situations have the potential to be difficult." The most challenging part, he notes, is when there is a fight over children.
"That can keep me up nights," Zavett says. "If children's lives or futures are at stake, then that's a big concern. The rest is just money."
Divorce law is very, very different in 2011 than it was when he began practicing, Zavett explains: "Everything we do has changed. Dealing with hurt feelings, jealousy and anger are just some of the stages that people go through. The important matters are the same, but the legal work we do today is very different. When I started practicing, it was a question of 'Is the title in his name or her name?' Suddenly we are looking at all these other things. We now treat the marriage as a partnership. We assign values to things we never dreamed of." These include, for instance, housekeeping and child care.
"I spend a lot of my time predicting how my client will feel about a proposal, how the other side will accept a suggestion or an idea. These are very real concerns, and we have to deal with an objective reality," Zavett states.
"One of the reasons I keep practicing family law is that there are always fascinating differences in cases. As divorce attorneys, we are as much spectators as participants. We have to stay ahead of the game. Our job is not only to predict what the courts will decide, but also understand how people will react."
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
Date of Birth: 1938
Law School: University of Illinois College of Law, J.D., 1963
Undergraduate School: University of Iowa, B.A., 1960
Bar/Professional Association Involvement:
- Chicago Bar Association
- Matrimonial Law Committee
- Illinois State Bar Association
- Family Law Section Council, 1980-1987
- Continuing Legal Education Program, 1987-1990
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Bounds of Advocacy Committee
- Client Relations Committee
- Governor, 1989-1992, 1998-2004
- Journal of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Illinois Chapter
- Former president, 1988-1989
- Board of Managers, 1983-1992
- DePaul University College of Law
Awards; Honors; Distinctions:
- Listed, "Top Ten Leading Family Law Lawyers in Illinois," Leading Lawyers Magazine - Consumer Edition, 2011
- Listed, The Best Lawyers in America
- Leading Lawyers Member selected by peers in Family Law
Published Legal Writing:
- Consulting editor, Nicholas Illinois Civil Practice, Family Law Volume, 1999
- Co-author: chapter on appeals, Illinois Family Law II, 1977, revised, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001, and 2005
- "Negotiating Settlements in Matrimonial Cases," Guide to Negotiations, 1979
- "Practitioner's Introduction to the new Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act," General Practice Review, 1977
- Advisory Committee, Illinois Family Law Reporter, 1983
*Mr. Zavett has lectured on the topic of family law to the Illinois, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina State Bar Associations, including:
- Faculty, "Drafting Marital Settlement Agreements," Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE), 2012