James P. Tatooles earned his JD from JMLS in 1963 and has been a solo practitioner for 50 years. He has an easy-going manner and a gift for storytelling, and he is old school. Just how old is old school? Try this: “It cost $500 a semester to attend John Marshall, and you could pay in installments.” Or this: “We didn’t have the LSAT. I showed up the day before classes started. They said, ‘Start tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Don’t you want any transcripts?’ ‘No,’ they said, ‘we’ll get them later.’ And this: “In my third year, Dean Noble Lee heard about the LSAT and wanted to find out what it was like. So he asked my whole class, ‘Would you mind taking it? The law school will pay for it.’ We all took it. I don’t think I did that well.”
For Tatooles, the major transformative role at the Law School was played by Dean Lee. “He established a class called Case Analysis that was required for graduation, and then he taught it himself,” Tatooles recalls. “He could be cantankerous. In my last term, in the last session of the Case Analysis class, he had me on my feet analyzing a domestic relations case and he just blew up. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. He ended class early and promised us he was going to put that same case on the final exam. Sure enough, there it was, and no matter how many times I reread it, I simply could not see the analysis any other way than I had done it in class. So that’s what I wrote. A couple of weeks later, before the grades were in, I was on the way to the library and who should join me in the elevator but Dean Lee. I was actually afraid. At first we rode in silence, but then without any preamble he announced that I had received the highest grade in Case Analysis. After I graduated he asked me to return and teach the course!”
“The John Marshall Law School has been terrific for me, and I can’t thank it enough. It gave me an opportunity.” Tatooles has shown his gratitude through gifts to the Law School, including a carrel in the library and another carrel in the new home of the Veterans Legal Clinic.
Tatooles is a Chicago native who shifted his practice from the city to suburban Wheeling in the 1970s. Although he now represents the grandchildren of people who were his clients when he started out, he isn’t interested in retiring. “I’m optimistic—I renewed my lease for another three years,” he says. “I make my own appointments; it’s a real personal relationship with my clients. The phone keeps ringing and I keep working.