July 2, 2018

Andrew Chamberlain: Seeing the Whole Picture

Andrew Chamberlain, a partner at MPS with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, played football in high school. His position was defensive back. The skillset of a great defensive back includes, among other traits: speed, the ability to change directions quickly as needed, rigorous preparation, good technique, and the ability to see the whole picture.

Andrew is the first to admit he was not a star athlete, but he learned a lot from his football experience. The skills he honed on the field—speed, pivoting quickly, meticulous preparation, and the ability to see the whole picture—are the same skills he uses in his legal practice.

Andrew grew up in Portland, Oregon in a family of people who were teachers. His father was the high school vice principal of the school Andrew attended. One of the upsides of seeing how a large organization functions behind the scenes was getting to know many of the teachers as regular people outside of the classroom. He knew them as people who had their own concerns, lives, and families that most students largely knew nothing about.

He realized that “what took place in the classroom was their job, not all of who they were,” said Andrew.

No matter how people he interacts with express themselves, he hardly ever takes things personally. He tries to bear in mind that all clients and opposing counsels are people with a full range of concerns outside of his view and that their attitudes and views are likely not directed at him.

He attended the University of Oregon for undergraduate school and ventured east to University of Notre Dame Law School. He graduated in 2009 during the Great Recession. Many national and multinational law firms postponed, reduced, or canceled their recruiting seasons that year, preferring to wait until economic conditions improved.

Andrew returned to Portland and connected with a former youth football coach and the benefactor of a scholarship Andrew had won in high school. The gentleman, Terry Newsom, owned a company that sold, leased, and maintained business technology equipment like copiers, printers, and software. He hired Andrew to help him with legal issues at his burgeoning company.

The company was Pacific Office Automation, which at the time was a large regional independent office equipment dealer. Today it is the largest office equipment dealer in the United States.

When he started, he was the only lawyer there and didn’t have a formal job description. Some of his first tasks were ‘problems’ that had stymied his new colleagues. As he met more people, he would suggest ways he could help. He was consistently placed into situations of increasing responsibility as his ability to manage those problems grew.

Andrew regards this period as “one of the most formative experiences of his career.”

He was able to get involved in a lot of different areas within the business, which made the work interesting and exciting. His colleagues started coming to him for legal advice as the business grew. He found that he enjoyed learning from the people who were running the various divisions. He learned, too, that when you ask people to explain what they do, they are usually delighted to tell you. Andrew uses the skills and experience gained working directly with the key executives of a large and growing privately held business every day in his law firm practice working with similar businesses.

He spent time listening to and talking with his colleagues and the business leaders he was meeting. He made sure to understand the issues and, equally important, what they were trying to accomplish. He found he could often intuit what people wanted and what they needed to know.

Andrew said, “I try to communicate clearly. I try to use language that everybody understands. And I find that clients appreciate that, both then and now.”

He stayed at Pacific Office Automation for six years. “I knew I wanted to put the skills I learned at POA into practice in a law firm and in a larger city,” said Andrew.

In early 2016, he accepted a position at MPS. He and his young family moved from the Portland area to greater Chicagoland. Here he spends a lot of free time coaching the older two of his three children in various sports. (The youngest isn’t ready for team sports yet but will be soon.) They all enjoy spending time outdoors hiking, camping, and fishing. And since all the grandparents live back in the Portland area, they travel back to the west coast at least once a year.

At MPS he leads and directs M&A teams, interacting with clients to understand their objectives, then working to figure out the strategy. The MPS mergers and acquisition practice typically involves cases where a client is selling a business to a private equity company, a larger company is purchasing a smaller one, the sale of family businesses, or the like. He enjoys helping clients achieve their goals.

With baby boomers starting to retire in droves, Andrew and his team have no shortage of work. He likes the teamwork required for getting a deal done and the intellectual and creative challenges it brings. For every transaction, he needs to be rigorously prepared, see the whole picture, and anticipate and be responsive to change.

Those defensive back skills he learned in high school turned out to be good preparation for lawyering after all.

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