PRIVATE COMPANY WITH ANNUAL REVENUES UP TO $500M
Assistant General Counsel, HOK
For Donovan Olliff, becoming a lawyer was one way to advance his career in an entirely different line of work: architecture.
Olliff’s work today blends both fields as he works in-house for international architecture firm HOK.
A native Texan, Olliff grew up in Oregon after moving there with his family. He returned to his home state to attend Texas Tech University, where he studied architecture.
Olliff said he was inspired by his father, who built his family’s home.
“I always liked construction, and I wanted to do something like that,” he said. “From the time I was in high school, being an architect seemed like an exciting career.”
Olliff worked as an architect for seven years while also attending law school at the University of Houston Law Center. He said he knew he wanted to earn a graduate degree, and he believed law would help him become a better architect.
After graduating from law school in 2001, he spent four years with the construction law-focused firm Cokinos, Bosien & Young in Houston. In 2005, he went in-house as corporate counsel and project manager for Ziegler Cooper Architects, also in Houston.
In 2007, HOK lured him to St. Louis, where he has remained for the past 12 years.
What he enjoys most about his job stems from his belief in HOK’s work.
“I think we create some of the best places around,” he said. “In the time I’ve been at HOK, I’ve really seen our design go to the next level. We do great design work.”
He said he takes pride in helping to set up complex projects for success, and then celebrating their completion.
Projects of which he is especially proud include overseeing work on Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
Olliff is a member of the Jefferson Society, an organization for architect attorneys, and he is serving a 10-year term on the American Institute of Architects Contract Documents Committee, which drafts and revises AIA contract documents. He also previously served as HOK’s diversity advisory council chair.
Colleagues inside HOK and outside counsel praise Olliff and his work.
One nominator called him “knowledgeable, curious and conscientious.”
“He is an excellent listener and an effective communicator,” the nominator said. “He handles his role with aplomb, frequently in high-stress situations.”
Another called him “one of the most productive individuals I have ever met.”
“He has the ability to sort through the most complicated issues, distill them to their fundamental elements and produce an elegant written analysis before many competent lawyers I know have even identified the issue,” this nominator said. “He does this all day long, one problem after another.”
Outside of work, Olliff is an avid runner — he’s run the St. Louis Marathon twice and the San Francisco Marathon once.
“I love running in Tower Grove Park,” he said. “I put on audiobooks, and that helps me get out of whatever I was doing during the day and get into my own space for an hour and a half.”
He also enjoys traveling with his husband.