Practice Makes Perfect

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) - Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Author: Susan Dibble This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

When Roy Peregrine and his late partner, Hartman Stime, founded their Wheaton law firm back in 1959, they borrowed $2,500 and did their own typing.

If they thought an important person was calling, they let the answering service pick up the call so the VIP would think they had a secretary.

"He got a couple cases. I had nothing," Peregrine recalled. "Somehow it worked out."

Peregrine , Stime, Newman, Ritzman & Bruckner celebrated its 50th anniversary this fall with nine attorneys on staff and clients that go back decades with the firm.

Giving individual attention to the needs of each client, whether new or old, is a hallmark of the firm and part of its mission.

"I suppose it’s more caring than anything," Peregrine said. "Our basic goal has been providing service rather than making money. The consequence of that is none of us are rich, but we have a lot of good friends."

Peregrine still attends Christmas and birthday parties of a client who was injured years ago in car-bike accident and who now lives in a sheltered-care facility.

"He takes that personal interest in the person and organization," said Jackie Reinert, the firm’s office manager. "It’s beyond just practicing law."

Wheaton resident Stan Allured said his association with Peregrine goes back more than 40 years. Peregrine does legal work for a small business

Allured owns, now run by his daughter, and has done other work for Allured’s children and grandchildren.

"We’re very pleased that he stays as active as he does and is available to us whenever we need him," Allured said. "It’s a very nice relationship we’ve had with Roy ."

The firm has not only attracted longtime clients, but also staff members who stay. Only two partners are no longer with the firm — Stime, who died in 1991, and Carl Henninger, who became chief judge in the Circuit Court of DuPage County — Reinert said.

Reinert, who joined the firm in 1973, describes the original partners as "exceptional people, incredible lawyers and wonderful mentors."

"It’s more like a family environment," she said.

Roger Ritzman, an attorney with the firm since 1976, said the other members of the practice both like and respect Peregrine .

"We have a great deal of affection for him," Ritzman said. "As a person, he’s kind and compassionate. As an attorney, he’s professional and provides an excellent quality of legal work."

Stability and change

Peregrine , now 81, allows that he doesn’t put in as many hours as he used to, but he still comes in five days during the week and Saturday mornings.

"For one thing, it’s better than cleaning out the garage," he jokes. He no longer does the litigation work he once did, but handles mostly estate planning and probate work.

"I get to see people I’ve known for years and years. Talk to them about their families," he said.

Raised in Oak Park, Peregrine was born to a family of lawyers. His father and three uncles were all attorneys. After graduating from Chicago-Kent College of Law, Peregrine practiced in his uncle’s law office before he and Stime left their Chicago firms to start one closer to where they lived.

Stime became a municipal attorney and represented the city of Wheaton for years. Peregrine focused primarily on workers’ compensation and did much of the legal work when the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County condemned land for the Springbrook Forest Preserve in Naperville. He drew up wills and handled real estate cases as well.

"I’m from the general practice group. Almost everybody now is specialized. They’re very good at their specialty, but they don’t know anything else," he said.

The practice of law has changed in other ways, too, Peregrine said. He recalled that he and Stime took great pride in the law library they built up. Now those books are obsolete, with attorneys doing most of their research on the Internet.

Copies of documents are now easily printed. Courtrooms are no longer smoke-filled, a change Peregrine says is for the better.

"Everybody used to smoke," he explained. "You got over to the courthouse and they had ashtrays in front of the benches."

Peregrine laments the loss of civility between attorneys, who he says used to remain on good terms whether they were opponents or not. Responding to the change, the Illinois Supreme Court has established a committee to promote civility, he said.

"There is an effort to restore it," he said.

But Peregrine said the relationships between attorneys and clients have not changed that much.

"Besides ability, one of the most important parts of lawyer’s work is communicating with his client," he said.

Peregrine was a hearing officer for 15 years on the Attorney Registration and Discipline Committee of the Illinois State Bar Association. Much of the time, clients’ complaints against attorneys dealt with their failure to communicate, he said.

"The lawyer never returned phone calls. Wouldn’t tell (the client) when something went wrong," he said.

Peregrine also served for 15 years on the bar association’s Character & Fitness Committee that reviews the credentials of applicants to the bar.

Getting involved

His firm has been involved with the local community as well. When Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 planned to raze the former home of Civil War veteran Marcellus Jones for parking, community residents raised concerns about losing the historic building. Jones, who had served in the Union calvary, reportedly fired the first shot in the battle of Gettysburg and had the home built about 1865.

Peregrine ’s law firm stepped forward when the school district agreed to sell the house at auction to anyone who would move it. The firm bid one dollar in 1977 and moved the stately building to 221 E. Illinois St., where it still houses the firm’s offices.

"Turns out we probably could have had it for 50 cents," Peregrine said. "We spent a lot more money getting it into shape."

A Wheaton resident, Peregrine also has served on the boards of the Community Housing Association of DuPage, the YMCA, the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, and has been active in the Presbyterian Church.

The father of three sons and two daughters, he did a stint as a Boy Scout leader while his sons were growing up, but confesses, "I was probably one of the worst Scoutmasters of all time.

"I wasn’t suited temperamentally or educationally," he said.

After his first wife died, Peregrine married Marie in 1990. The two spend seven weeks during the winter in Mexico and enjoy visiting the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where Peregrine fishes,

Being in a law firm rather than in single practice allows him to take that time off, he said.

"People are very solicitous of me because of my age and condition," Peregrine said. "Pretty much I do what I want."


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