Steven F. Pflaum



  • University of Michigan Law School (J.D., 1979), magna cum laude
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (B.A., 1976),

    Phi Beta Kappa

Related Services

Steve is a partner in the firm’s Litigation Department, where he represents clients in complex civil litigation matters before state and federal courts throughout the country. He has considerable experience with commercial disputes, constitutional challenges, statutory interpretation issues, and defamation and invasion of privacy suits. He is skilled at representing municipalities in cases involving so-called “locally undesirable land uses” such as airports, music amphitheaters, jails, or landfills. A past President of the Illinois Appellate Lawyers Association and a Fellow of the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, he regularly handles state and federal appeals involving a broad range of civil and criminal issues, often serving as lead appellate counsel or consulting counsel following an unfavorable result in a lower trial or appellate court.

Steve devotes a significant portion of his practice to representing not-for-profit hospitals in property and sales tax exemption controversies. He assisted with the drafting of 2012 legislation covering this unique area of law and has argued two appeals before the Illinois Supreme Court regarding that legislation, including one on behalf of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association that produced a unanimous ruling upholding the legislation’s constitutionality. His unique, and uniquely extensive, experience litigating hospital exemption issues, counseling hospitals and their affiliates in preparing property and sales tax exemption applications, and guiding hospital-related entities in contested proceedings before the Illinois Department of Revenue enables him to develop comprehensive, long-term strategies that enable his clients to minimize their tax liability and thereby devote more resources to their charitable purposes.

Steve is a founding member and current chair of the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee, a former member and two-term chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility, and a former outside General Counsel of The Chicago Bar Association. Although primarily intended as a form of public service, Steve’s involvement with professional ethics and liability issues has increasingly led to his retention by lawyers and law firms as an expert witness or as counsel regarding those issues.

Steve was recently appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to chair the Court’s Statutory Court Fee Task Force, a group of judges, legislators, and lawyers tasked with recommending improvements to the 2019 legislation overhauling the imposition of court costs and fees in civil, traffic, and criminal cases. That legislation was the product of recommendations by the legislatively created Statutory Court Fees Task Force, which Steve also chaired.

Clients rely on Steve to assemble and lead litigation teams in high-stakes or potentially precedent-setting situations. They appreciate his hands-on approach, which often includes major drafting responsibility for important briefs, as well as the care with which he develops nuanced, often multipronged strategies for pursuing his client’s objectives.

Steve is the past chair of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee, through which he collaborated with the members of the Committee and lawyers throughout the firm to implement the firm’s innovative and ambitious pro bono policy. Steve was one of seven NGE attorneys to receive the 2023 Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

  • Guided Illinois Health and Hospital Association in intervening in litigation challenging the constitutionality of Illinois’ hospital property tax exemption legislation, and obtained rulings upholding the constitutionality of that legislation in the trial court, the Illinois Appellate Court, and the Illinois Supreme Court
  • Successfully represented pork producer in landmark Illinois Supreme Court decision regarding land use regulations applicable to so-called “mega-hog farms”
  • Drafted municipal noise ordinance intended to control noise from outdoor music amphitheater and successfully defended ordinance at trial and on appeal in ensuing federal court constitutional challenge 
  • Served as lead counsel for a not-for-profit hospital in a case of first impression in which the Illinois Appellate Court upheld the hospital’s right to seek a judicial determination regarding its entitlement to property tax exemptions without first seeking exemptions from the Illinois Department of Revenue
  • Obtained dismissal of multiple lawsuits across the United States, including putative class actions, against candy manufacturer arising out of advertising promotion, and successfully defended the dismissals in those cases that were appealed 
  • Obtained jury verdict in “bet-the-company” case against manufacturer accused of copyright infringement and Lanham Act violations 
  • Obtained dismissal of numerous lawsuits against media defendants for defamation and/or false light invasion of privacy, and successfully defended the dismissals on appeal 
  • Prepared amicus curiae briefs in various federal and state appellate courts, including United States and Illinois Supreme Courts, on behalf of corporations, associations, and other clients 
  • Received rare appointments by Illinois Supreme Court to represent clients in (1) an appeal addressing the application of Miranda v. Arizona to interrogation of an inmate, and (2) an original habeas corpus and mandamus proceeding in the Supreme Court raising constitutional issues concerning the defendant’s sentence
  • Co-author with NGE colleagues Tonya G. Newman and Collette A. Woghiren of the chapter regarding property tax and sales tax exemptions in the treatise, The Law of Medical Practice in Illinois (2021 ed.)
  • Represented the Illinois Health Association in the Oswald v. Hamer litigation upholding the facial constitutionality of Section 15-86
  • Chicago Bar Association/Chicago Bar Foundation Justice John Paul Stevens Award, 2022
  • The Best Lawyers in America 2023, “Lawyer of the Year,” Litigation - Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy)
  • Chicago Bar Association/Chicago Bar Foundation Edward J. Lewis II Pro Bono Service Award, 2019
  • Illinois Judges Association Amicus Award, 2018, for distinguished service to the judiciary on the Illinois Judicial Ethics Committee from 1992 to the present
  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, recommended in “Litigation – General Commercial”
  • The Best Lawyers in America, recommended in “Chicago Litigation - Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy)” since 2011 (Lawyer of the Year, 2015, 2017, 2019)
  • Illinois Super Lawyers, recommended in “Business Litigation” since 2005

Bar Admissions

  • Illinois
  • California