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Focusing on Business Restructuring: Meet Richard Chesley ‘85

Richard Chesley

After finishing his undergraduate studies at Northwestern University, where he majored in political science and economics, Richard Chesley ’85 couldn’t decide between law and business for graduate school. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he says, “but ultimately I decided that law school was the better path for me.”

As a result, Chesley chose to attend the College of Law. “I decided to visit,” he said, “and I got a great sense of the school. I loved the size and feel, its history and purpose, and the dedication of the faculty and administration to both the students and the community. I also had family in the area, which was another benefit.” The decision proved to be a good one; in addition to his successes in school and beyond, Chesley met his wife, Dee Dee '86, while at the College of Law.

After working at his father’s firm—Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley—during his first summer, Chesley went to Columbus to work for Jones Day during his second summer. He continued working for Jones Day after graduation. During his first few years with the firm, his primary focus was litigation, albeit in a variety of areas. He was principally representing large entities, such as Rockwell, GM, and other Fortune 500 companies. In addition, some of his litigation work was in the bankruptcy arena; ultimately, his practice went in that general direction.

Making the Move to the Windy City

In 1996, Chesley moved to Chicago to work in Jones Day’s office there. “At that point,” he said, “although I continued to do litigation, I became more involved in the business side of bankruptcy transactions.” From 2001 to 2003, Chesley went to Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zokin, an investment banking firm, where he served as senior vice president and restructuring general counsel. In that role, he was a member of HLHZ’s financial restructuring group where he worked on the restructuring of Nextel International, CTI Móvil, and United Airlines among many others.

In fall 2006, Chesley opened the Paul Hastings office in Chicago as its managing partners.“The office started out with two lawyers,” he said, “and today there are 60.” He served in that capacity for several years, continuing to work on the business side of transactions, both domestically and across the border. He recently stepped down from his position as managing partner, although he continues to serve as a partner in the firm’s corporate law practice.

Finding His Niche

When he has the opportunity, Chesley speaks at bankruptcy restructuring programs about two to three times per year. “My practice isn’t just legal,” he explained; “I frequently work with investment banks and do internal panels regarding business restructuring.” He was featured in Chambers USA as the top Bankruptcy and Restructuring lawyer for Illinois in both 2008, 2009, and 2010.Illinois Super Lawyers for 2006.

Although his work and his other involvements keep him thoroughly busy, Chesley enjoys spending time with his family. “My wife and I like to travel,” he said, “especially to visit our two children—one is in college and the other is in boarding school.” Chesley also writes articles on various topics, including private equity investing in the global economy.“I try to stay as active as possible in the legal community,” he said.