Retired, Former Chair
Larry began his career at McDermott in 1964 (attorney number 56). He served as Firm chair from 1991 to 2003—the longest tenure of any chair other than the Firm’s founder. Now retired from the practice of law, Larry is active in a number of volunteer roles in the Chicago area.
Tell us how you came to join the Firm and about your early days as an associate.
One of my law professors advised me to consider becoming a tax attorney because I was a CPA. At the time, McDermott was (and still is) known as the premiere tax firm in Chicago, and that professor introduced me to Emory Naylor, then the chair of the Tax Department (and later the chair of the Firm). That introduction led to an interview and an offer to join McDermott. For four and a half years, I shared a small windowless office with another associate, Al Olson. We then “graduated” to an office with a window (but no view). However, the joy of that move was quickly diminished one day when Emory saw we had opened the window about 2 inches to get some air. He was worried that client papers would fly out of the window. So much for the window.
Although you started out as a tax lawyer, you went on to start McDermott’s Health Industry Advisory Practice Group. How did that come about?
In mid-1976 6-8 new clients—all not-for-profit hospitals—came to a Firm associate through one of his contacts, all wanting to engage in the same type project. I asked Emory if I could spend substantial time to learn what was going on in the healthcare industry to account for this. He told me I could reduce my billable time to a 70% level and spend “the other 70%” of my time educating myself on the industry. His math turned out to be consistent with the reality. I attended countless hospital or related conferences, I read numerous healthcare publications, and I spent a lot of time with a client, Hinsdale Hospital, to learn as much as I could about the industry. In mid-1977, I developed a plan to form a nationwide health law practice at the Firm. I identified what would be necessary for such a practice to be competitive and successful. I presented my proposal to Emory and was given the green light to work on putting the pieces in place. (Two of those pieces were the opening of Boston and Los Angeles offices.)
Did you ever envision that you might become chair?
I suppose I thought about it when I was a younger lawyer. I do remember the night of the election. The first person to know, outside of the Management Committee, was my legal assistant, Carol Heim. Then my wife. Later that evening we celebrated with John and Era Pennell. John was a retired McDermott partner and was my mentor.