Looking back more than 50 years, our founding partners were young attorneys determined to practice law differently. After Morrie Much accepted an offer to take ownership of an established real estate firm, he turned to a trusted friend and fellow attorney, Michael Shelist, to handle his clients’ estates and trusts.
These visionaries shared a similar approach to practicing law and soon decided to make their partnership official. On August 1, 1970, Much Shelist opened on West Madison Street in downtown Chicago. From there, Morrie and Michael brought on Joseph Ament, Howard Denenberg, and Mike Freed to establish a foundation that would anchor the firm for decades to come.
From five partners to 50 years of service.
Fate on a flight.
On June 21, 1959, Michael and Sandy Shelist were married at the Sheraton Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Just eight miles away at the Sovereign Hotel, Morrie and Janet Much were also reciting their marriage vows. The next day, the two sets of newlyweds boarded the same flight to New York for the start of their honeymoons. After striking up a conversation on the plane, the couples spent time together in New York and developed a close friendship after returning to Illinois. Eleven years later, Mike and Morrie would partner to form the firm we know today.
Different paths, same destination.
The legal profession runs deep in Mike's family, and he always knew that he wanted to be an attorney. His desire to go to law school never wavered on his path to Northwestern University School of Law. Morrie, on the other hand, explored different opportunities to use his business acumen before deciding on a legal education at the University of Chicago Law School.
New firm on the block.
Mike's and Morrie's legal careers flourished after law school – Mike with a focus on estate planning and Morrie with a concentration in real estate. With the shared hope of creating a premier law firm culture, they decided to take a risk. The duo joined forces to found Much Shelist on August 1, 1970. Their risk paid off and the up-and-coming firm began to grow – and fast.
Change is good.
The firm's official name has expanded and contracted multiple times over the years, and its office has moved even more often. Mike and Morrie both maintain that change is inevitable – and beneficial – for a growing business. They believed early on that a firm is at its best size when it has the right number of attorneys to do high-quality work for its clients. “It's not the number of lawyers that's important,” said Mike. “It's the ability to deliver high-caliber counsel.”
All hands on deck.
There is a striking similarity between Much Shelist in the early days and the firm we are today: attorneys and staff working together to cultivate a culture of respect, integrity, and authenticity. Mike and Morrie laid the foundation for a service-oriented model in which attorneys left their egos at the door and advised clients in more areas than just law. “Much Shelist has always recruited independent thinkers who keep the firm's interests close and take responsibility for the firm's business success as a whole, not just themselves,” said Morrie.
“Since 1970, Much has placed great value on building relationships – both business and personal. We’re more than just lawyers. In fact, many clients think of us as friends. I’m proud that more than five decades later, our attorneys are still making meaningful and lasting connections that extend well beyond the boardroom.”