40 Under Forty 2022

First Person: A One-Time 40 Under Forty and My Path to the Corner Office

By Seth Darmstadter

I ’m the Chicago Office Managing Partner at Michelman & Robinson, LLP. We’re a litigation, transactional and regulatory firm of nearly 100 extraordinary lawyers across seven growing offices. Unquestion- ably, my roads to M&R (I’m on my second tour of duty, following an 18-month stint rebuilding, restructuring, and rehabilitating Outcome Health, a healthcare technology startup, as its crisis-time GC) have been fortuitous, including the game-changing honor of being named a 40 Under Forty by Chicago Lawyer and Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in 2014—recognition that pro- pelled my career into overdrive. Back in law school, I joined Meckler Bulger Tilson LLP (now Cozen O’Connor) as a summer associate. That stint led to me becoming an associate and then, in 2013, a partner of the firm. A year after making partner, I was des- ignated a 40 Under Forty. Instantly, my phone “blew up.” Recruiters came calling, one of which introduced me to K&L Gates LLP. I had no intention of leaving Meckler, but the opportunity to jump to BigLaw in- trigued me, as did the several pitches of- fered up by K&L Gates lawyers. I took the plunge in January 2015 and began work at the mega-firm. While there, I practiced with a solid group of professionals, and the people and platform supported the expansion of my client roster, which grew

professional journey. To be sure, these concepts inform the way I approach legal practice and manage M&R Chicago. THE COMPANY YOU KEEP Be introspective, understand your profes- sional values, and be unapologetically de- termined to practice with and for others who share them. Focus on the engagement of your teams, and the shared commit- ment to serving as a tool in your clients’ successes. That mindset (rather than a fo- cus on “revenue first”) drives results and, with them, client satisfaction. My time at M&R has taught me that engaged teams lead to satisfied clients, and that revenue naturally follows. LEARN FROM THOSE WHO INSPIRE No matter where we are in our careers, there are always those around us who can serve as extraordinary models and men- tors. Embrace the opportunity to learn from them. I’m inspired most by changemakers. These include a local judge who never misses the chance to take promising prac- titioners under her wing and mentor them, treating law as a true apprenticeship by developing the next generation of practi- tioners. I’m regularly buoyed by my part- ner Sanford Michelman, an unparalleled strategist, always willing to bet on himself,

to include several of the premiere found- ers and companies in Chicago’s growing tech scene. Fast forward 18 months and things were rolling at K&L Gates. Even so, I said yes to a lunch meeting that forever changed my life. Over a Caesar salad, I learned that M&R planned to enter the Chicago legal market. I knew of the flourishing L.A.-based firm, and I accepted an invitation to fly west to meet with its stakeholders. After speaking with Sanford Michelman (M&R’s Co-founder and Chairman) and Dana Kravetz (the Firm Managing Partner), I agreed to become a co-founding partner of M&R Chicago. My reasons for doing so were then—as they are now—rooted in possibility and the visions of M&R’s leadership team (of which I’m now among the ranks). In them, I found wildly successful lawyers, great humans, friends, and entrepreneurs with whom I shared core values regarding ethics, client service excellence, and the business and practice of law. Those shared values are foundational to my professional fulfillment. Today, ev- erything we do internally at M&R focuses on a culture designed to build the most engaged workforce, and externally, we’re about putting our clients in a better posi- tion than where we found them. I’ve been asked to share my most im- portant takeaways from my ongoing



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