This month we highlight the very distinguished career of Eugene A. DiMonte and Riccardo A. DiMonte, father and son and alter egos of the north suburban law firm of DiMonte & Lizak. Gene, and now his exceptionally talented son, Riccardo, have been significant influences in our Chicagoland community for many decades and in no small part, our ethnic community. They contribute time, effort and talent to making Park Ridge and the Chicagoland community a better place with their quality legal services and their contributions to the improvement of the Italian condition in these areas.
I’d like to introduce them to our readers in their own words, starting with Gene.
“My parents each immigrated here from Italy in their late teens and met here in Chicago. My father was from Caramanico in Abruzzo. My mother was from Montefalcone di Valfortore, Province of Benevento, Campania region. My wife, MaryRita’s parents and sister were born in Friuli Venezia Giulia. She was born here in Chicago.
“I was born in 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. We lived in my grandfather’s house at 3920 Lexington Street. In 1946 our family moved to Stevensville, MI, along with two other uncles. I attended a two room school house there. We returned to Chicago in 1950 to the southwest side of Chicago. I attended Kelly High School and graduated in 1958. I received a bachelor of science in commerce degree (BSC) from DePaul University in 1958 and a JSD degree from DePaul in 1961. I never worked for a law firm and started my own practice after law school with a bit of help from an older lawyer.
“My primary initial area of practice was construction and real estate law which transitioned into zoning and real estate development. The practice then grew into a general corporate practice including banking and employment law. We also have a new strong estate planning group.
“We presently have 26 lawyers in our firm and 21 staff personnel. We occupy our own building at 216 Higgins Road in Park Ridge.
“All through law school I worked as a heating and air conditioning salesman on a commission basis to pay my own way through college and law school. I have never worked for a salary.
“My father was a contractor and kept me busy weekends and summers. Between school, music, and work I never had time to get in trouble.
“I played the tuba in many bands and orchestras including the Chicago Civic Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera Orchestra. Because of the time constraints, I quit playing during college and unfortunately have never resumed doing so even though I still have an instrument and fool with it every once in a while.
“My main hobby is raising and training bird dogs and hunting.
“My wife MaryRita and I were married after the first year of law school with two years to go to complete my studies in law. We have three sons, two of them were born before taking the bar exam. They are Riccardo, Rinaldo, and Alfredo.
“In addition to my law practice, I have been very active in land development forming numerous ventures for that purpose.”
And now, in Rick’s own words:
As my father mentioned, my father and mother’s parents immigrated here from Italy. My mother’s family was from northern Italy and my father’s family was from southern Italy. You can genuinely say that I am, and my two brothers are, the product of a mixed marriage!
My parents met at DePaul University attending college and my father law school. They married in 1959 and I was born literally nine months later in June of 1960. Although my younger brother Ron and I were not aware of it, we both attended my father’s graduation from law school in 1961. Although we were too young to remember, we are both very proud that we attended his graduation ceremony.
I was very lucky to have (and I still have) such wonderful parents. With my grandparents’ Italian cultural background, we were raised very “Italian,” i.e., Catholic School, church every Sunday, frequent correspondence with our Italian relatives here in America and in Italy, Italian food at home and big Italian celebrations for religious holidays like Christmas and Easter, and American holidays like Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. Of course, my grandparents discouraged my father from learning Italian because it was very important for us to assimilate into the American culture, which I believe we have done.
As I mentioned above, I was born in 1960 in Oak Park where my parents had an apartment overlooking construction of the new Congress Expressway. A few years later, we bought a house in Elmwood Park, demolished it, and built two three-flats with family occupying adjacent units just like good Italians should do. In 1967, my parents and their three boys moved from Elmwood Park to South Barrington, Illinois, which was somewhat of a cultural shock but a very nice change for three boys to grow up in a semi-rural environment where we could enjoy the outdoors on a daily basis. My brothers and I attended St. Anne’s grammar school in Barrington and St. Viator High School (for boys) in Arlington Heights.
In terms of the law practice, I was very lucky to have such a hard-working and competent lawyer for a father. We spent a lot of time together on the weekends going hunting and fishing and his law cases and legal principles were a frequent topic of our discussions. For example, I was reading the Mark Twain classic “Huckleberry Finn” and didn’t know what the word “mortgage” meant. After I asked my father the meaning of the word during our next automobile ride, rest assured I knew what I meant at a very young age.
As a young man, I made up my mind that wearing a suit and working in an office was for sissies. I therefore started a landscaping business with my two younger brothers in approximately 1972. The business grew throughout the greater Barrington area, my brothers bought me out when I went to college, and my younger brother has raised a family and put four kids through college operating that business to this very day, 40 years later!
After landscaping, I became a logger and worked in the woods in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Although I loved working outdoors whether it was landscaping, logging, or construction, I quickly realized that manual labor would limit me and I immediately returned to college and applied for law school. I think my parents were very surprised after I spent 18 years convincing them that neither office work nor wearing suits and ties were for me. Now I have been wearing suits and ties continuously for 30 years practicing law so what did I know anyway?
I graduated from DePaul Law School in 1985 and worked as both a law clerk and a collection agent during law school. My collection agency business was primarily for court reporters so I collected money from every law firm in the city for court reporters’ attendance, deposition and trial transcripts. Since we had no cell phones or email, I personally visited over 100 law firms every year.
Once I graduated from law school, I had offers from several of the larger firms for higher salaries but my father convinced me that a small firm practice would put me ahead of my classmates in short order. I trusted and took his advice, joined his firm and we have grown from six lawyers in 1985 to 25 lawyers in 2015. Our five-year strategic plan puts us at 30 lawyers within the next two years.
In terms of law practice specialties, my dad was always a generalist doing both transactional work and litigation. I decided to specialize in commercial litigation early because I loved business (I earned my bachelor’s degree in business administration) and I loved the challenge of trial work as well. Over the years, I have progressed from collections to construction law and mechanic’s lien, bankruptcy, mortgage foreclosures, business divorce and sophisticated, multiple party commercial litigation of many types. I have tried two lottery prize cases to verdict and dabbled in all types of litigation including personal injury and federal civil rights.
I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish here at DiMonte & Lizak, LLC. We have a group of very hardworking and intelligent, dedicated attorneys who practice at a very high level with very high standards and discipline. Our associate training program and mentoring is excellent and young attorneys join our firm to get hands-on experience in transactional and litigation work early in their careers.”