As editor of his university newspaper, Erwin “Erv” Switzer was torn between whether he wanted to be a reporter or a lawyer until he spoke to the head of the law school.
“The advice of the dean was that a lawyer can be a journalist but a journalist cannot practice law,” he said. “I found that very persuasive.”
Persuasion turns out to be a good talent for an attorney. After a clerkship with an Eighth Circuit judge, the 66-year-old SLU graduate spent 11 years at Bryan Cave as a commercial litigator, eventually rising to become a partner. That’s when a friend asked him if he knew anyone who might be good for an open spot in the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
“After several months of not coming up with anybody, I thought and said, ‘what about me?’” Switzer said.
That’s how he became chief counsel for Attorney General Jay Nixon’s St. Louis office.
After more than a decade there, he spent time at Carmody McDonald before coming to Greensfelder in 2007 where he continues to do commercial litigation with an emphasis on appellate practice and government relations. He’s also the firm’s general counsel.
Switzer said he represents both government and private interests and particularly enjoys the intellectual challenge of appellate practice.
He also takes pride in being able to be respectful of opposing counsel as colleagues while remaining a fierce defender of his clients’ interests.
“Those can be reconciled,” he noted. “Some people seem to have difficulty with it but a lot of people do not. I enjoy being both a zealous and respectful advocate.”
Switzer has a dizzying array of involvements in the larger community including the Missouri Technology Corporation, Nerinx Hall High School and the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life. Former memberships include spots on the city’s board of election commissioners and the U.S. Attorneys Hate Crimes Task Force. He has chaired the St. Louis Housing Authority’s board of commissioners and been president of the city library’s board of directors.
He’s also earned his share of accolades. Missouri Lawyers Media previously named Switzer to the Power List for white-collar defense and honored him with its Mentor Award in 2015, the year after the St. Louis Bar Foundation presented him with its Spirit Justice Award. He’s twice been given BAMSL’s President’s Award, and he even got to throw out the first pitch at a Cardinals/Pirates game in 2000.
Still, his most satisfying moments come representing clients. He remembered one man whom he helped in getting a real estate license reinstated.
“When I told my client about getting the license, he said, ‘you gave me my life back,’” Switzer said. “That’s the reason why I went to law school — for that feeling.”