Serving North Central Illinois,

LaSalle, Bureau, Putnam, Marshall,

              Grundy and Livingston Counties

Reputation Matters

      James T. Reilly

Jennifer Bunker Skerston

name gavel, books, and scales of justice

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By Reilly Law Office, Aug 23 2019 04:47PM

Please join us in congratulating our very own Attorney Jennifer Bunker Skerston for receiving the Five Years of Service Newsletter Editor Award from the Illinois State Bar Association. Jennifer is pictured here with ISBA 3rd Vice President Rory T. Weiler.

By Reilly Law Office, Jul 26 2019 02:36PM

If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that is hindering your ability to work, you may be considering a Social Security Disability application. You may have already taken the steps necessary to get the ball rolling. Regardless of where you are in the process, enlisting the help of an experienced Social Security Attorney is always a good idea.

The majority of disability claims are initially denied often due to the applicant’s inability to provide sufficient medical evidence. Additionally, there are specific deadlines that must be met throughout the application process. If your claim is denied you only have 60 days to file the appropriate paperwork for an appeal. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is not very forgiving if you miss an important deadline. Additionally, if you are denied, and you decide to request a disability hearing, you may face wait times of up to two years for a hearing date. As you can see, there is so much that goes into successfully winning a claim.

Without medical proof, it is virtually impossible to be awarded benefits. This especially applies when mental health issues prevent you from working. Certainly, there are advantages to working with a disability lawyer early on in the process. If you speak to a lawyer early, they can help you decide what medical evidence you need to meet a condition in the listing which automatically results in a disability award. They may be able to work with your doctor, on your behalf, to obtain additional medical testing or documentation. Meeting a listing is the easiest way to earn financial benefits. However, the listing applies to only extremely debilitating conditions.

What Are the Advantages of Hiring a Disability Lawyer?

Anyone who has been through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) process will tell you that it is complicated and time-consuming. There are many nuances that are difficult to understand. An experienced attorney will serve as your advocate. Bound by professional rules and ethical obligations, your lawyer will handle your case carefully.

Working with the Social Security Administration can be like speaking another language. While it might be challenging for you to understand the process, your disability lawyer knows it very well. They can help communicate on your behalf, acting as your “translator”. Disability lawyers understand how to present your case to give you the best chances of winning your claim. The key component to any SSDI or SSI case is providing adequate medical evidence. In addition to helping you understand what medical information is needed, your attorney can assist you in collecting and presenting the relevant medical documentation.

What if You Have Been Denied?

If you have been denied, it is crucial to consider legal representation immediately. There are time sensitive deadlines for appeals that must be met. The stages are: Initial Application; Reconsideration; Hearing Before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ); Appeals Council Review; and suit in United States District Court. Evidence collection is done throughout the process before the ALJ Hearing. The attorney is most crucial to represent you at this hearing. Evidence submitted after five business days before the hearing is generally not allowed.

If your case needs go to disability hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, your lawyer will prepare you for that hearing and let you know what to expect. They will identify and prepare you and appropriate witnesses on your behalf. The penalty for not providing your written evidence in time is that it is barred. You might have to start the whole process over! While hiring an attorney is always optional, it has been shown to increase your chance for approval. Lawyers know the rules.

Regardless of where you are in the Social Security application process, it’s never too late to consider obtaining legal assistance with your SSDI or SSI claim. Contact a lawyer. Experience matters.

James T. Reilly has been practicing law since 1979. He is an experienced trial lawyer with over fifty jury cases tried to verdict. He concentrates his practice in both civil and criminal litigation. He has an extensive Social Security Disability practice obtaining permanent disability awards for hundreds of clients. Reilly is a graduate of Loyola School of Law in Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree with double majors in Economics and Finance from the University of Illinois. The Law Offices of Reilly & Skerston, LLC handles matters throughout North Central Illinois. Appointments are available in Streator, Ottawa, and LaSalle.

By Reilly Law Office, May 10 2019 07:27PM

Law Offices of Reilly & Skerston, LLC is located in Streator with appointments available in Ottawa and LaSalle. Attorneys James T. Reilly and Jennifer Bunker Skerston have represented clients throughout central Illinois for more than 45 years combined. Law Offices of Reilly & Skerston, LLC is a full-service general practice law firm including Estate Planning and Administration, Social Security Disability, Family Law, Accidents, Workers’ Compensation, Criminal and Traffic matters.

Both Jim and Jennifer handle family law matters involving custody determinations, divorces, paternity, adoptions and guardianships. Jim is a mediator certified for family law issues required to be heard according to Rules of the Illinois Supreme Court and Local Court Rules. Jim and Jennifer are knowledgeable concerning recent major changes in family law, including how maintenance and child support are calculated. They provide individuals who are considering a divorce information about their rights and what to expect during the process.

Jim is an experienced trial lawyer with over 60 jury cases tried to verdict. Jury awards include medical malpractice, wrongful death, fraud prosecution and various types of personal injuries. Jim has defended individuals in criminal courts ranging from murder cases to truancy. He has successfully obtained “not guilty” verdicts for persons charged with Arson, Aggravated Battery, drug offenses, Driving Under the Influence, Driving While Revoked, Domestic Battery, and many other felonies and misdemeanors.

Jim has served as a La Salle County Assistant Public Defender since 2000. He represents virtually all minors charged in La Salle County for adjudication of wardship under the Juvenile Court Act. He is also the La Salle County Guardian Ad Litem for abused and neglected children.

Jim also represents clients before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and has an extensive Social Security Disability practice obtaining permanent disability awards for over 150 clients throughout LaSalle County and Central Illinois.

Jennifer is actively involved in the Illinois State Bar Association Trusts and Estates Section Council. She is the Editor of the Council’s monthly publication distributed to members throughout Illinois and provides continuing legal education to attorneys, determines the need for new legislation, and reviews and suggests changes to current legislative proposals affecting wills, trusts and estates. She has developed and drafted will and trust-based estate plans and administered probate and trust estates. Jennifer Bunker Skerston has also taught an advanced Master of Laws (LL.M.) class at The John Marshall Law School in Estate Planning and Tax Law.

Jennifer explains the need for people to have appropriate estate planning regardless of age:

“Proper estate planning is important at all stages of life. Anyone who, if they passed away today, would leave assets, including proceeds of life insurance, to an individual who is a minor should seriously consider having appropriate documents drafted to protect the minor child(ren) from frivolously spending the inheritance at age 18. Parents of minor children should have their proposed guardian of their child(ren) named in a Will. As individuals grow older, issues concerning Medicaid and protecting assets from being spent on nursing homes become an important aspect of estate planning. The sooner a client comes to our office to address these issues, the more likely we are able to protect their assets. We also regularly draft Powers of Attorney which grant another individual the ability to make decisions concerning healthcare and finances. These can be used to avoid expensive public hearings for guardianship when a person can no longer make decisions for themselves or to simply allow another (usually a child of the elderly person) to provide assistance when needed. Additionally, proper estate planning eases much of the burden on loved ones after the person has passed.”

Both Jim and Jennifer are actively involved in their communities. Jennifer was recently recognized by the Streator Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry as an Outstanding Young Leader. She was selected as a 2019 Illinois Super Lawyers Rising Star in Family Law. She was also recognized as an outstanding young professional and a member of the “Forty under 40” class for Bureau, La Salle, Marshall and Putnam counties. She has been nominated for the 2019 ISBA Young Lawyer of the Year Award. Jennifer is Secretary of the LaSalle County Bar Association, and Vice Chairperson of the OSF HealthCare Foundation Council for Ottawa/Streator. She has been actively involved in the Zonta Club of the La Salle-Peru Area. Jennifer and her husband, Scott Skerston, have one daughter, Lydia.

Jim has served the Illinois State Bar Association as: a member of the Public Relations Committee; Marketing and Communications Committee; ISBA Assembly (the governing body of the Illinois State Bar Association); and Subcommittee on Technology for the ISBA Website. He is past president of the La Salle County Bar Association for many years and currently is the LCBA Treasurer. He is active in the United Way (especially their Labor of Love repair project for the poor and elderly); member of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Child Welfare Team; Juvenile Justice Symposium Board; Foundation Chairman for LaSalle County’s entry into the Big Brother/Big Sister Program of the Mississippi Valley. He is also a member of Ottawa’s Special Events Committee, Ottawa Civil Service Commission, Dayton Preserve Volunteer, member of the Reddick Mansion Association, member of the Ottawa Avenue Cemetery Board, and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus. Jim and his wife, Debby, have two sons, Damian and Phillip, and three grandchildren, Alexandria, Zander, and Creed.

By Reilly Law Office, Mar 1 2019 04:10PM

We are pleased to announce that Jennifer Bunker Skerston, a partner at Law Offices of Reilly & Skerston, LLC, has been selected to the 2019 Illinois Super Lawyers Rising Star list in the area of Family Law. This is an exclusive list, recognizing no more than five percent of attorneys in the State.

Super Lawyers, part of Thomson Reuters, is a research-driven, peer influenced rating service of outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Attorneys are selected from more than 70 practice areas and all firm sizes, assuring a credible and relevant annual list.

The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes:

• Peer nominations

• Independent research by Super Lawyers

• Evaluations from a highly credentialed panel of attorneys

The objective of Super Lawyers is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys to be used as a resource for both referring attorneys and consumers seeking legal counsel.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazine and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country, as well as the Illinois Super Lawyers Digital Magazine.

Please join us in congratulating Jennifer Bunker Skerston on her selection.

For more information about Super Lawyers, go to

By Reilly Law Office, Dec 26 2018 06:53PM

Well-known financial columnist Mary Hunt states, “Every adult needs his or her own will – one that is frequently updated and compliant with the laws of the state in which that person maintains permanent residence”. There are numerous problems with using the online or off the shelf will forms. A simple will for an individual prepared by an attorney is not that costly. The forms available online are often confusing and require some degree of computer savvy that not everyone has. An attorney will also be able to answer any legal questions you may have before signing your will and take appropriate actions to ensure that your wishes are met and concerns addressed.

If you die without a will or with one that has not been properly created, you are considered “intestate”. In this situation, the directions you wanted are often not followed. Asset division is made according to the laws of the state you reside in. That can often have money going to persons you did not intend to leave your estate to. Incurring unnecessary attorney fees that could have been avoided if you had done some advanced planning is a possibility. A will is important for planning who will take care of your minor children if you pass away, what specific items you desire to go to certain individuals, what charities or other organizations you wish to give money to in addition to your kin, and which of your descendants or heirs are to get what type and amounts of your various assets and under what conditions.

There are other more extensive estate planning tools such as Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and division of your assets by contract. All of these things should be discussed with a competent Trust and Estate attorney.

by James T. Reilly

Reilly Law Office, LLC can help you with any Estate Planning needs you may have. You can call us from Monday to Friday between 8.30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 815-672-8505.

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