By Dustin J. Seibert
Chicago Lawyer correspondent
If you’re a musician and avid music fan who happens to also be an attorney, and you start a firm with someone else who fits the same bill, your office space might resemble something like Leavens, Strand & Glover.
The many posters and portraits lining the 25th floor office hallway at 203 N. LaSalle St. resemble a recording studio or an office of a small music label, not necessarily an entertainment, media and intellectual property law firm.
The aesthetic is the brainchild of founding partners Thomas Leavens and Peter Strand. The pair started the firm in April 2009 in a small office in the Monadnock Building (“stumbling all over boxes,” Leavens said). Strand left a senior counsel role at Holland & Knight and Leavens left a number of in-house counsel positions for startups to create the firm.
Shortly after starting, they convinced Jerry Glover to come on board from his position as senior counsel for The Entertainment and Intellectual Property Group. The three-person firm moved to the current space in December 2009.
The firm’s Chicago office currently has seven attorneys, including three partners. Hillel Frankel joined the firm earlier this year and moved to Nashville, Tenn., to start the firm’s only satellite office.
Following an April 2013 expansion to the Chicago office that added an extra 1,235 square feet — which includes two extra offices and a “war room” — the space comprises a modest 3,750 square feet.
“We have a model that works here that would allow us to expand very efficiently, so we’re always looking for reasons to make an expansion,” Leavens said.
Leavens said he and the founders created a culture within the firm centralized around the highly relational nature of entertainment law.
“Peter, Jerry and I have known each other for so long and work so well together, it takes away a lot of grief and we can focus on doing the work we enjoy,” Leavens said. “We try to share that in terms of how we relate to our staff and clients. We are informal, but it doesn’t negate the quality of work, and I appreciate that.”
Here are a few key aspects of the space:
Posters galore — Leavens Strand & Glover’s signature characteristic is the glut of framed pictures, posters and artwork lining its corridors, mostly representing the firm’s current and former clients.
Posters include the firm’s music festival clients, including one from Austin, Texas-based music festival SXSW (South by Southwest), who hired former firm associate Heather Lieberman as general counsel early this year.
Promotional posters from the firm’s television clients, including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and Chicago-based shows including the “Steve Harvey Show” and the now-defunct “Oprah” and “Rosie” shows, line the halls; their guest passes and other paraphernalia hang throughout the offices.
In the reception area hangs an original painting by folk artist George Colin — resembling people supporting a whale — that was used as the cover art for The Band’s final album, 1998’s “Jubilation.” Leavens served as the album’s executive producer and inspired the cover art.
At the end of the main hallway is a framed blow-up of a book Leavens authored, “Music Law for the General Practitioner,” published in 2014.
Conference room — The office’s main conference room is defined by the framed black-and-white originals from photographer Paul Natkin — a longtime friend of Leavens — hanging on the walls. The photos are of legendary musicians while performing and include Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Ella Fitzgerald and Keith Richards.
In one corner is a Columbia Grafonola F-2, a working gramophone that doesn’t require electricity to play. The conference table coasters mimic classic vinyl records.
Strand’s office — With his long, silver gray mane, Strand resembles every bit the classic rocker that he is outside of his day job, so it’s no surprise that his office has a particular treasure trove of music paraphernalia.
Rockford band Cheap Trick has been a firm client since 2011. Strand helped guitarist Rick Nielsen abolish miniature replica guitars that were illegally created and sold in his name before setting him up with Axe Heaven, a company that created legally licensed ones. A collection of the legal guitars sits next to his windowsill.
Next to Strand’s office door hangs a framed promotional photo of Cheap Trick signed by all of its members. Hanging from the frame are Cheap Trick-branded guitar straps, a hat with the band name and several backstage passes.
Slotted in the frame’s corner is a sticker from a tour of Strand’s old band “YIPES!!” The band went on tour with Cheap Trick in 1980.
“Rick doesn’t remember that, though,” Strand said, laughing.
Leavens’ office — Leavens once had the idea that he would become a collector of vintage historical legal documentation. Though amassing an ongoing collection never quite panned out, he does have a couple that he keeps in his office, including a tripartite indenture from 1732, indicative of early attorney handiwork.
In the corner is a Philco 38-7 floor console radio. One knob is slightly more polished than the others as a result of having to order it online to replace the missing one. He keeps a cap that reads “All-Star Ballpark Heaven,” a Dyersville, Iowa-based youth baseball tournament and training camp currently in development near the Field of Dreams, a current firm client.
The hat reminds Leavens of the most famous line from the 1989 Kevin Costner film.
“It relates to what we do here at the firm,” Leavens said. “In terms of our thinking, it’s very much akin to ‘build it and they will come.’”