Identifying the Ingredients for Success
When Brian Chenoweth ’94 speaks to young lawyers and law students, he finds himself echoing Andrew Popper, the Ann Loeb Bronfman Distinguished Professor of Law and Government at American University Washington College of Law. “‘Think of all of the legal principles you learn as cans in your pantry. Take whatever cans you need out as you need them, depending on the situation,’” he recalled Popper telling his Torts class more than 25 years ago.
Since then, countless cans have accumulated in Chenoweth’s personal pantry. A lover of nature deeply concerned about issues like climate change, he worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and various nonprofit organizations while taking evening classes at AUWCL, where he initially homed in on environmental law. He considered a career in environmental policy before pursuing private practice: “I realized I wanted to be able to handle a case from beginning to end, charting and implementing a strategy and measuring my own success. These things would be difficult to do in a policy job,” he said.
After nine years as a partner at Rycewicz & Chenoweth LLP—which he co-founded less than three years into his legal career, expanding his practice to incorporate real estate, land use, insurance, business, and construction law—in 2006 he founded Chenoweth Law Group PC. The 12-lawyer firm in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, handles litigation and commercial law cases there as well as in California and Washington state.
“Ninety percent of my practice is litigation, which I guess makes sense. Even when I was a kid, my mom told me I should be a lawyer because I always liked to argue,” he remembered.
Chenoweth says the best thing about growing his own firm is having the ability to develop a specific kind of culture. He wants his team to feel valued, supported, and fulfilled so that they enjoy coming to work, and he recognizes the need to stay “rested and fresh” to remain productive.
“The education I received at AUWCL combined with the practical experience I got working full time while going to night school really positioned me to start my own firm early on. I came out of school having a much better idea of what it means to actually practice law than a lot of other students do,” he said. “There is no magic formula for staying balanced through all of the responsibilities, but you have to set your intentions to make time for the important things such as family and exercise, as well as work.”