Thomas McGarry is a veteran trial lawyer. His civil litigation practice emphasizes the defense of professionals in federal and state courts and disciplinary agencies.
For more than 30 years, Mr. McGarry has focused on representing lawyers and lawyers' professional liability insurers. During that period he has represented and counseled hundreds of lawyers and law firms in actions for civil liability, in professional ethics and responsibility, and in risk management. He has also counseled professional liability carriers on lawyers' malpractice insurance coverage and has acted as national claims counsel overseeing defense activities nationwide.
His extensive experience as a trial lawyer combined with his concentration in the law governing the liabilities and responsibilities of lawyers has enabled him to both counsel and protect his lawyer clients in the challenging environment of legal practice.
Mr. McGarry was a drafter of the Illinois attorney malpractice statute of limitations. He is active in organizations focusing on the law governing lawyers and professional liability and responsibility. He is an associate member of the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability and an active sponsor of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society.
Mr. McGarry is the leader of the firm's Professional Responsibility, Professional Liability and Risk Management Practice Group. He also serves as a member of the firm's Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee. Previously, he served as co-chair of the firm's national Lawyers Professional Liability Practice Group, including its Lawyers for the Profession® practice, and has been a member of the firm's Executive Committee. Mr. McGarry joined Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in August 1983.
In the Fall of 2005, Mr. McGarry completed intensive training in mediation from the faculty of Pepperdine University School of Law’s top-ranked Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. He is a certified mediator in the Cook County Court-Annexed Mediation Program.
He served as a judicial law clerk to Hon. James J. Mejda, Illinois Appellate Court.
Honors & Awards
- Recognized on the Super Lawyers list by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine, 2005 – 2006, 2009 – 2010, 2012 – 2021
- Selected as one of the "Top 100" leading business lawyers in Illinois, based upon surveys conducted by the Leading Lawyers Network, 2006 – 2007
- Holds the AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating for ethics and legal ability
- Recognized by his peers as a "Leading Lawyer" in the area of Professional Malpractice Defense Law: Legal / Technical / Financial
Mr. McGarry has shaped the law governing legal malpractice liability. As lead trial counsel and as appellate counsel, he has formulated and argued creative interpretations of the law governing lawyers, which have resulted in legal precedent limiting the scope of a lawyer's civil liability. Many of these cases have been of national importance. These include:
- Premier Networks, Inc. v. Stadheim and Grear, Ltd., 395 Ill. App. 3d 629, 918 N.E.2d 1117 (1st Dist. 2009). Mr. McGarry defended patent infringement plaintiff's counsel in the first Illinois case to apply the Federal Circuit's Air Measurement and Immunocept Concepts holdings to affirm dismissal of state legal malpractice claims grounded on exclusive federal jurisdiction due to substantial questions of patent law in the underlying case.
- Tri-G, Inc. v. Burke Bosselman & Weaver, 222 Ill.2d 218, 856 N.E.2d 389 (2006). Mr. McGarry represented amicus, Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel, in Illinois Supreme Court decision holding that Illinois does not permit a malpractice plaintiff to recover lost punitive damages against his former lawyer.
- Doe v. Roe II, 289 Ill. App. 3d 116, 681 N.E.2d 640 (1997). This Illinois case again limited the right of a plaintiff to sue a lawyer for breach of fiduciary duty arising out of sexual misconduct and infliction of emotional distress. This case decided that sexual relationships between attorneys and clients are not per se actionable but only give rise to a fiduciary breach if the lawyer takes advantage of special knowledge of the client's vulnerability.
- Doe v. Roe, 958 F.2d 763 (7th Cir. 1992). This U.S. Federal Court of Appeals decision considered a situation similar to Suppressed v. Suppressed and it concluded that federal RICO liability could not arise from the malpractice or sexual misconduct of a matrimonial attorney.
- Suppressed v. Suppressed, 206 Ill. App. 3d 918, 565 N.E.2d 101 (1990). This case was the first to establish the rule that a matrimonial lawyer is not liable to his client for engaging in a sexual relationship unless sex was a quid pro quo for the legal services or unless it harmed the representation. This case established a practical limitation to the fiduciary obligations that lawyers owe to clients.
- Renovitch v. Stewardship Concepts, 905 F.2d 1040 (7th Cir.1990). This Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision limited an issuer's attorney's liability to third persons for securities fraud and RICO.
- Roberts v. Heilgiest, 124 Ill. App. 3d 1082, 465 N.E.2d 658 (1984). This was the first Illinois case to discuss the public policy which prohibited an attorney representing a client to be made a third party defendant in the client's case. This opinion gave the attorney-client relationship precedence over a lawyer's potential liability.
Mr. McGarry has also acted as trial counsel in nationally reported attorney disciplinary and administrative law cases, including:
- In Re Rinella, 175 Ill. 2d 504, 677 N.E.2d 909 (1997). This was the first Illinois case to decide the ethical responsibility of a divorce lawyer to avoid sexual relationships with clients during the course of representation.
- Fentress v. Eli Lilly, 90-CI-06033 (Jefferson County). This nationally publicized case in Louisville, Kentucky, involved multiple shooting deaths attributed to the effects of Prozac. The confidential high/low settlement agreement was challenged by the court as unethical. Mr. McGarry represented one of the plaintiffs' attorneys to successfully obtain a judgment discharging the attorney from court sanctions and discipline.
- William R. Hogan, Jr. v. Department of Justice, C4-0752-96-0621-I-2. In this highly publicized case, Mr. McGarry represented the Assistant U.S. Attorney who successfully prosecuted the El Rukn organized crime gang. Mr. McGarry successfully represented the prosecutor against charges of prosecutorial misconduct at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. This was the first case of a federal prosecutor bringing an action against the U.S. Department of Justice to fight his termination.
Mr. McGarry frequently speaks before bar associations and at law schools on issues of attorney malpractice and ethics. He is a frequent guest lecturer on the legal profession at DePaul University College of Law. He has presented to the National Association of Bar Counsel and has been an invited speaker at the Professional Liability Underwriting Society International Conference. His presentations include:
- Panelist, "Fixing the Boundaries of Expert Opinion Testimony: Competing doctrines and Effective Strategies," LMRM Conference, Virtual Event, March 2, 2021
- Co-Presenter, "Litigation Risks: Conflicting Duties," RPC Solicitors' Liability and Risk Seminar, October 15, 2020
- Moderator, "Pick your Poison: Factors in Choosing a Trial by Judge or Jury in Lawyer
Disputes," LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 4, 2020
- "Developments in Malpractice for the IP Lawyer," 10th Annual Ethics in the Practice of Intellectual Property Law Seminar, John Marshall Law School Center for Intellectual Property, Information & Privacy Law, Chicago, Illinois, June 7, 2019
- "Law Firm Transitions," Illinois Professional Responsibility MCLE Marathon 2019, Practising Law Institute, Chicago, Illinois, April 10, 2019
- "Death, Taxes and Malpractice: Grappling With Estates, Trusts & Probate Lawyers’ Liability," 5th Annual Illinois Forum Mega Meeting, Medinah, Illinois, May 2016
- "Smart (Lateral) Moves: Ethical Concerns for Lawyers and the Firms They Leave or Join," American Law Institute live webcast, March 2016
- "Death, Taxes and Malpractice: Grappling with Estates, Trusts & Probate Lawyers' Liability," LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2016
- "Developments in Litigating Legal Malpractice Claims 2015," LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, February 2015
- "Professionalism and Ethical Dilemmas," DePaul University College of Law, January 2015
- "The Infectious Client in the World of Client Mobility — Whose Problem Is It Anyway?," West LegalEdcenter live webcast, December 2014
- "Getting Yourself out of Hot Water: Trends, Getting to Closure, and the Interrelationship With the Malpractice Claim," and "The Infectious Client in the World of Client Mobility - Whose Problem Is It Anyway?," 2014 Risk Management Seminar Lake County Bar Association, Lake Forest, Illinois, October 2014
- "Discipline Investigations: Trends, Getting to Closure and the Interrelationship With the Malpractice Claim," DePaul University College of Law Alumni Meeting, May 2014
- "Ethics Issues in IP Practice," Leydig Voit & Mayer, Chicago, Illinois, June 2013
- "Litigating the Malpractice Case — The Recent Important Decisions," Hinshaw Roadshow CLE/CE Series, Hartford, Connecticut, June 2013
- "Litigating the Malpractice Case — The Recent Important Decisions," Hinshaw Roadshow CLE/CE Series, New York, New York, June 2013
- "What You Might Not Know About Malpractice Insurance," Chicago Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois, May 2013
- "The Significant New Decisions Affecting Litigation Attorneys," LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2013
- "Ethics Alert: Multimillion Dollar Legal Malpractice Verdicts – A Teachable Moment for All Lawyers," Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) 11th Annual CLE Expo, Chicago, Illinois, March 2012
- "On the Horizon: Developing Areas of Lawyer Exposure," Hinshaw's annual LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, February 2012
- "Update on Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and Social Media and Legal Ethics," in-house CLE presentation, Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., Chicago, Illinois, July 2011
- "Ethics and Risk Management," Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., Chicago, Illinois, May 2011
- "Settle and Sue: Is Legal Malpractice a Remedy for an Inappropriate Settlement or for the Settlement That Did Not Happen?" Hinshaw's annual LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, February 2011
- "Suits for Fees / Mandatory Fee Arbitration," OneBeacon Professional Partners Risk Management Seminar, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 2010
- "What IP Lawyers Should Know About Malpractice Law," The John Marshall Law School, Ethics in the Practice of Intellectual Property Law seminar, Chicago, Illinois, April 2010
- "2009 LMRM Case Update and Statutory Causes of Action," Hinshaw's annual LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2010
- "Selected New Rules," Cook County States Attorney training seminar, Chicago, Illinois, December 2009
- "Creative Solutions: Defending Professionals in Claims Involving Ponzi Schemes," CNA Accountants and Lawyers Defense Network (ALADN) Annual Conference, Chicago, Illinois, October 2009
- "In the Spotlight – The Exposure of Patent Lawyers," Hinshaw's annual LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2009
- "A Professional Responsibility Update," IICLE's Personal Injury Lawyer Update Program, Chicago, Illinois, June 2008
- "Ethical Consideration of Lawyers in Transition," DePaul Business and Commercial Law Journal's 6th Annual Law Symposium: Lawyers, Law Firms & the Legal Profession: An Ethical View of the Business of Law," Chicago, Illinois, May 2008
- "Packing Your Parachute: Preparing for Law Practice Risk," CNA Loss Prevention Series, Chicago, Illinois, April 2008
- "Top 10 Preventable Causes of Legal Malpractice and Disciplinary Claims," North Suburban Bar Association, Skokie, Illinois, April 2008
- "Exposure in the 'Triangle': Defense Counsel as Litigation Target," Hinshaw's annual LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, February 2008
- "Ethical and Fiduciary Duties of Counsel in a Merger or Acquisition Transaction," Chicago Bar Association Corporation & Business Law Committee, Mergers & Acquisitions Subcommittee meeting, Chicago, Illinois, February 2008
- "Sexual Relations With Clients – Civil and Disciplinary Exposures," West LegalEdcenter live webcast, November 2007
- "Avoiding Legal Malpractice in Personal Injury Litigation," IICLE seminar, "Personal Injury Practice Update," Chicago, Illinois, June 2007
- "Top 10 List of Preventable Problems in Legal Malpractice," and "Ethics Law for the Equine Lawyer," 22nd Annual National Conference on Equine Law, Lexington, Kentucky, May 2007
- "The Ethical Practitioner," American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Chicago chapter, Chicago, Illinois, April 2007
- "Privilege, Estoppel, Judgmental Immunity and Other Special Defenses," Hinshaw's annual LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2007
- "How Legal Malpractice Issues Can Become ARDC Complaints/Defense Issues," Illinois State Bar Association Standing Committee on ARDC, Chicago, Illinois October 2006
- "How to Avoid and Litigating Legal Malpractice Complaints," Federal Practice Committee of the Chicago Bar Association's Spring 2006 Seminar "Civility and Professional Responsibility," Chicago, Illinois, May 2006
- "Contribution, Indemnification and Other Means to Spread or Avoid Damages," Hinshaw's 2006 LMRM Conference, Chicago, Illinois, March 2006
- "Ethics, the ARDC and Legal Malpractice," Legal Profession class, DePaul College of Law, Chicago, Illinois, November 2005
- "Dodging the Bullets: Understanding and Avoiding the New Threats to Lawyers and Law Firms," Hinshaw's Professional Responsibility and Risk Management Program, New York, New York, October 2005
- "The Legal Profession, Ethics, Malpractice and Malpractice Insurance, guest lecturer, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, Illinois, September 2005
- "Ethics: How to Handle Evidence Obtained by Questionable Means," Law Seminars International's "IP & Tech Law for Employment Lawyers Conference," Chicago, Illinois, September 2005
- "Litigation of the Legal Malpractice Action," Hinshaw's Legal Malpractice and Risk Management Conference, Chicago, Illinois, February 2005
- "Malpractice and How to Avoid It," Chicago Bar Association seminar, "Family Law Pitfalls: How to Void Them," Chicago, Illinois, January 2005
- "Legal Malpractice Segment of Illinois Civil Procedure," guest lecturer, DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, Illinois, November 2004
- "Developments in the Law of Lawyering," American Bar Association National Legal Malpractice Conference, San Francisco, California, September 2004
- "Avoiding Professional Malpractice," Chicago Bar Association Seminar, Chicago, Illinois, June 2004
- "Malpractice Avoidance for Real Estate Litigators," Illinois State Bar Association (Real Estate Practice Section), Lombard, Illinois, May 2004
- "Professional Liability Insurance and Risk Management for Law Firms," PLUS Midwest Chapter, December 2003
- "Litigating the Legal Malpractice Course of Action," LMRM Conference, March 2004
- "Avoiding Malpractice in Real Estate Litigation," ISBA Real Estate Litigation Section, May 2004
- Chapter Co-Author, "United States," The Professional Negligence Law Review, Third Edition, July 2020
- "Rules Prohibit Discriminatory Conduct Under Limited Circumstances," Leading Lawyers Magazine, May 2016
- "Going a Bit Too Far," Chicago Lawyer, December 2015
- "On Slinging Mud," Chicago Lawyer, November 2015
- "Land of Lincoln Open to All Attorneys," Chicago Lawyer, October 2015
- "Walking the Marijuana Tightrope," Chicago Lawyer, September 2015
- "Knowing When to Bite Your Tongue," Chicago Lawyer, August 2015
- "When a Lie Grows and Grows," Chicago Lawyer, July 2015
- "Knowing When You Can Exit," Chicago Lawyer, June 2015
- "Litigating the Legal Malpractice Case," Co-Author, Chapter 6, Attorneys' Legal Liability, 2014 edition
- "Attorneys' Legal Liability," general editor, practice manual, Illinois Institute of Continuing Legal Education (IICLE), 2002 – present
- "Attorney Disciplinary Proceedings: Illinois Practice and Procedure," co-editor, Law Bulletin Publishing Co., 2002
- "Panel 2: Lawyers in Transition: Ghosts from the Old Firm Haunting the New Firm,” chapter co-author, "DePaul Business & Commercial Law Journal," DePaul University College of Law and the Commercial Law League of America, Volume 6, Number 4, Summer 2008
- Mr. McGarry also wrote a chapter on attorney communications published in the Defense Counsel Practice Management Manual of the International Association of Defense Counsel, as well as a chapter on limited liability entities in the 2006 edition of "Legal Malpractice: The Law Office Guide to Purchasing Legal Malpractice Insurance," published by West Group.
- Since 2001, Mr. McGarry has co-authored a monthly column for the Chicago Lawyer on "Ethics." In addition, Mr. McGarry has written dozens of articles on professional responsibility and professional liability issues. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal on law firm litigation since the recession, and also in the Illinois Bar Journal on lawyer discipline issues.
- August 5, 2020
- April 8, 2019One of the Largest Rule 137 Sanctions Ever Imposed in Cook County
- Career Retrospective: Recently-Retired Hinshaw Partner and Legal Ethics Expert Tom Sukowicz Profiled in Chicago Daily Law BulletinJanuary 23, 2019
- June 22, 2018
- February 19, 2018
- February 16, 2018
- March 28, 2017
- November 4, 2016
- December 5, 2019Lawyers for the Profession®
- November 30, 2017Lawyers for the Profession®
- Served in the U.S. Navy as a commissioned officer from 1973 through 1977.
J.D., DePaul University College of Law, 1980
- Member, DePaul Law Review
B.A., Marquette University, 1973
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
- U.S. District Court for the Northern and Southern Districts of Illinois
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin