Michael Chivell likes to joke about why he got hired.
“I interviewed with the firm the day after the Cardinals won the World Series in 1982,” said the 67-year-old Illinois native. “I always joke that everybody was in this state of euphoria and so, somehow or other, I passed muster and they gave me a job offer.”
But there was more to his nearly four decades of success at Armstrong Teasdale. Making partner after less than seven years as an associate, the University of Iowa graduate did work in various areas of corporate law, first in litigation and real estate transactions before dealing with mergers and acquisitions work in the oil and gas area.
“Your career sort of goes where clients take you as your reputation grows,” he said. “At a really young age, the folks in charge of our firm saw something in me because they started getting me involved in management one way or another.”
In fact, Chivell began serving on the executive committee at around age 35.
“I was the young guy in the room for many, many years,” he noted. “I just stepped off of it a month ago and of course I was the old guy in the room. I got to go full circle.”
Chivell also served on the compensation committee, ran both the real estate and corporate practices at different times and served as managing partner – twice. He was chair until May when he assumed the chairman emeritus title.
He said the secret to a good career was to concentrate on “all the f’s” – faith, family, friends, firm, fun.
“If you could do all of those things while you were practicing and working, then you were gonna be a success,” he said.
Chivell, who was honored as a law firm leader by Missouri Lawyers Weekly in 2012, said he holds to Rudyard Kipling’s advice to keep your head about you while others are losing theirs.
“That’s always served me well in a courtroom, with clients and in management,” he said.
It wasn’t always the easiest advice to take. Leading the firm through the onset of the Great Recession was a challenge but, while some foundered, Armstrong Teasdale prospered.
“This is a service industry,” said Chivell who currently serves as executive director of the United States Law Firm Group, a network of 17 law firms with more than 6,000 attorneys. “You have to be better. You have to be faster, and you have to be reasonable on cost.”
Saying that he embodies the firm’s ethos of “people first”, his nominator writes that he is a skilled counselor and friend to many.
“A man with quiet confidence,” his nominator wrote. “Mike is both personable and incredibly level-headed – traits that resonated most with the firm’s attorneys and staff and have made him a trusted and respected leader for over a decade.”