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Tim Thornton

Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale

thornton-timTim Thornton became Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale’s first chief executive officer in 2016.

The veteran attorney said that the firm’s decision was a little counterintuitive; they had a strong year, financially, but the choice of him, or more accurately, an attorney like him, made perfect sense.

Thornton, who has been with the firm since 1981 and previously served as its president, said that the new CEO position is far more firm and client management than the practice of law. Putting down one’s law practice, and picking it up at the end of a five-year term might not appeal to someone just starting in the law, as opposed to someone nearing retirement age.

In his more than three decades at the firm, Thornton worked as lead counsel on cases involving construction disputes, transportation, and contract issues. The cases varied from nuclear power plants to light rail projects.

He was also involved in arbitration and dispute resolution in both the public and private sectors.

“Very quickly following the changeover, the board knew it had made the right decision,” board member Russell Scott said of Thornton.

With the change in leadership structure, Greensfelder was positioning itself for firm-wide growth, Thornton said. The firm is remodeling its St. Louis headquarters, and expanding its Chicago office. It’s also making significant investments in technology, and will continue to do so, he said.

The firm is expanding its practice in intellectual property law, data breach, and financial services, as well as health care, environmental and business services.

That growth was not limited to larger offices and more attorneys. Thornton helped establish Greensfelder University, a program within the firm that improved the training their young lawyers receive, and teaches them the business of running a law firm.

The job came with some additional travel requirements: Thornton spends time each month in the firm’s different offices. He meets with attorneys, and tries to understand what they need to be successful; something he said is a key part of his leadership strategy.

“I try to understand what it is they are really seeking,” Thornton said, “and really to get out of the way.”