This is the second time Missouri Lawyers Media has honored Timothy Thornton with a Missouri Lawyers Award, though it is by far the sadder of the two.
Thornton was the chief executive officer of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale until his untimely death in a bicycle accident on June 23, 2019. He was 64.
Thornton spent nearly his entire legal career with Greenfelder. After earning his law degree from Washington University in 1980, he joined the St. Louis-based firm in 1981. He served as the firm’s president before he was named Greensfelder’s first CEO in 2016.
“His leadership has been invaluable in helping chart the future of Greensfelder,” Vince Garozzo, past firm president and a member of the firm’s board of directors said in a statement at the time of Thornton’s death.
Greenfelder maintains Thornton’s “In Memoriam” biography on its website.
“Tim’s vision for the firm was one where all employees were given the opportunity to achieve their highest potential, diversity of leadership was paramount to future success, and clients and community were at the forefront of Greensfelder’s business model,” the firm said. “He believed that Greensfelder employees were the firm’s biggest asset and frequently referred to them as ‘family.’ He was known as a great leader, and an even better person.”
Missouri Lawyers Media had named Thornton a Law Firm Leader at its 2017 Missouri Lawyers Awards. In an interview at the time, Thornton said his leadership strategy involved understanding what attorneys needed to be successful.
“I try to understand what it is they are really seeking,” Thornton said, “and really to get out of the way.”
Greensfelder is among the largest law firms in Missouri, with $66.9 million in gross revenue in 2018, according to Missouri Lawyers Media’s MOney 2019 publication.
Prior to his leadership roles, Thornton’s practice focused on construction disputes, transportation and contract issues, as well as arbitration and dispute resolution. He was a fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers.
Thornton was survived by his wife, Terry; his children Patrick (Emily), Meaghan (Bryan), and Katie; and his granddaughter. He was an avid athlete and cyclist and had a love for U2’s music, the firm said.
Following Thornton’s death, John W. Dillane has served as Greensfelder’s interim leader. Since then Greensfelder has named Kevin McLaughlin, the head of its employment and labor practice group, as the next president and chief executive officer. He officially takes office on Feb. 1.
“We lost an exceptional leader who had the trust of every employee of the firm,” McLaughlin said in an interview in October. “It’s going to be incumbent on me not to ask for that trust but to earn it.”