James Chapman


Jim was a trial lawyer. He started more than 250 jury trials and took more than 100 cases to a verdict. Beyond being nationally recognized as an elite trial lawyer, Jim devoted more than 65 years of his life to helping the less fortunate, especially those in the prison community who are often without a voice. Working full days until weeks before his passing in August 2021, Jim served as the advisor to hundreds of lawyers appointed by the Illinois federal courts to represent indigent prisoners. Finally, from the day Peter Spingola and Bob Chapman formed Chapman Spingola in 2004, Jim supported Chapman Spingola in so many ways, which the firm will always remember and treasure. His “JPC’isms” will continue to guide the firm and his relentless drive to serve others in an honorable manner will remain our moral compass.

Jim was a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and International Academy of Trial Lawyers, which are peer review organizations with admission based on the highest recommendations of opposing counsel and judges before whom the Fellow has appeared. These designations honor trial lawyers who, by his or her practice, have demonstrated outstanding trial and advocacy skills, high ethical and moral standards and exceptional professional conduct, thus enhancing the image of trial lawyers.

In 1998, Jim founded the Illinois Institute of Community Law and Affairs to concentrate on research into the issues of recidivism. The Institute currently works with other organizations, prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families on these matters. For years, he taught communication skills to prisoners at Stateville Correctional Center.

During his career, Jim was under contract to the Federal Courts for the Northern, Central and Southern Districts of Illinois to advise lawyers who are appointed to represent indigent civil rights claimants. This work, in addition to teaching and advising appointed lawyers about their cases, involved extensive counseling on their conduct pursuant to ethical and other professional standards.

Jim had a broad-based litigation practice. He was involved in complex conspiracy trials at the State and Federal levels. These cases involved complex financial dealings. They were both criminal and civil and involved the liability of co-conspirators for all wrongs of other conspirators even if the co-conspirator was not involved in the particular misconduct of other members of the conspiracy. Jim had extensive experience in working with outside expert consultants and firms on measures of economic damages in antitrust, commercial contract and fiduciary breach cases.

Jim had extensive experience in litigated matters that have involved lawyer misconduct and law firm liability. In his career, he sued and defended lawyers and law firms for lawyer misconduct that ranged from negligence to outright fraud. These cases have included appearances on behalf of lawyers before disciplinary boards; lawyers charged with criminal and civil misconduct regarding transactions that involved their secret self-dealings through shell companies and transactions to the detriment of their employers (trust departments of banks; fraudulent exchanges of valid assets of client insurance companies for “junk” stocks and bonds; embezzlement of law firm client trust funds; failure to supervise and monitor activities of law firm partners, associates and employees; and other breaches of fiduciary duties and conflicts of interest). In addition, he served as counsel to large law firms to investigate internal lawyer misconduct and to advise such firms on courses of action. He was also involved in other types of professional negligence such as architect and appraiser liability.

Jim was admitted to practice in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Third Circuit; and in the United States District Courts for the Northern, Central and Southern District of Illinois and of Missouri and Oregon. He appeared pro hac vice in litigated matters in the Circuit Court of Navarro County, Texas; the Circuit Court of Cuyahoga County in Cleveland Ohio and other States. He also appeared in litigated matters in the Circuit Court of Cook County and other Circuit and Appellate Courts throughout the State of Illinois as well as the Supreme Court of Illinois.

Jim graduated from Harvard Law School.