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John W. Dillane – Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale

Not long ago, John Dillane showed up at the 35-year reunion of his law school class from Washington University in St. Louis and chatted with classmates who had become litigators. They spun yarns of wild cases they’d handled. He listened.

“I don’t have those cases,” said Dillane, a specialist in health care-industry transactions at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale in St. Louis. “But it’s fun to solve a puzzle and help people find that outcome that works. And being able to do that creatively and quietly is what gives me joy.”

It gladdens his clients, too. One of them at a large Missouri health system remarked to Missouri Lawyers Media that it’s hard to find a single attorney with both the expertise to close a deal and also the ability to meet deadlines, communicate clearly, bill fairly and remain a genuinely nice person.

John W. Dillane

John W. Dillane

“John is that attorney,” the client said. “He’s a transactional unicorn.”

Dillane uses other analogies for his own legal niche: He’s a guardrail for people with big ambitions. He’s an architect, often on a team of other architects, who squeaks shapes and words onto a whiteboard that, much later, take on a brick-and-mortar reality.

Or he’s a backup musician in a rock band.

“I’m not even the drummer,” he jokes. “I’m the bass player, trying to keep pace — but no solos involved.”

Many longtime St. Louisans recall, for example, when Schnuck Markets purchased 60 National supermarkets in 1995. But very few of those people realized that Dillane was deeply involved in that deal on the Schnucks side.

“That was a fun secret to keep before it went public,” he said.

At Greensfelder, Dillane rose up the ranks and eventually served as president for five years. One of his biggest achievements at the firm was an unusual transaction he helped shepherd to completion in 2015 between SSM Health, his client of more than three decades, and Saint Louis University. In that deal, a third-party company that had owned SLU hospital for 17 years sold it back to SLU. The university then contributed it to SSM, and in return, gained a minority membership interest and governance rights in SSM’s operations in St. Louis.

Now, a new hospital and ambulatory care facility worth $550 million is under construction on South Grand Boulevard between Chouteau Avenue and Interstate 44.

“It’s this enormous commitment by both parties to permanently anchor that sector of town,” said Dillane. “I’m very proud to have been part of the team that worked to make that happen.”

In his free time, Dillane said, he and his wife travel some, but mainly they’re “homebodies.” He attempts to read for pleasure if, after a long day, he has the energy. But his days in the office are, in fact, long — and that’s how he prefers it. Working is something he enjoys even if, he said, it’s “not terribly exciting” compared to the colorful cases his litigator friends handle.

Yet sometimes in the evenings, he leaves Greensfelder’s office in downtown St. Louis and ascends onto Interstate 64 to head home. He looks to the south and sees the long arms of construction cranes towering above the soon-to-be SLU Hospital. And he’s happy.

“It gives you a sense of pride,” he said. “Here’s an enduring legacy that helps the community.”