Stanley B. Stallworth
By Patrick Folliard
The goal of this column is to enlighten our readers about the private endeavors of attorneys with whom we come in contact in the profession. By examining lawyers and their work practices by day in contrast to the personal interests that they pursue outside of the office, it is our hope that this series of articles allows our readers to see the other side of lawyers who manage to pursue unique interests despite their demanding careers.
Stanley B. Stallworth
In July, attorney Stanley B. Stallworth spent about $700 on a wide range of painting supplies. His plan was to celebrate his 44th birthday alone with his easel, enjoying the day making art rather than purely appreciating it. Unfortunately, things got hectic, and Stallworth, a real estate partner in Sidley Austin LLP’s Chicago office, never got around to putting brush to canvas. Today, those same tubes of paint, palettes, and different-sized brushes remain unopened in boxes on the floor of his home office.
Perhaps one day Stallworth will paint vibrant, evocative paintings. In the meantime, he remains busy with a time-consuming legal practice as well as buying and selling art. A collector of mostly African American art for more than a decade, Stallworth is also part owner of the Gallery Guichard, located in a renovated landmark office building in Chicago’s historically black Bronzeville neighborhood just blocks from Stallworth’s home. Specializing in art from the African Diaspora—works by artists of African descent—Guichard is considered a leader in the Bronzeville renaissance taking place on Chicago’s south side.
a particular occupation,
business, or profession;
“Many of the big galleries in major cities don’t exhibit African American artists,” says Stallworth, who owns Guichard along with four other people, including his sister, a professor and associate dean at the University of Alabama; the business’s namesake, African American artist André Guichard; Guichard’s wife, Frances; and fellow attorney Stephen Mitchell. “That we’ve not only opened a gallery, but opened one that is as beautiful, well run, and as successful as a gallery on Erie or LaSalle streets in Chicago’s mainstream art district, and is giving African American artists a first-class venue to show and sell art at first-class rates, makes it all the better.”
Although he was heavily involved in the gallery’s August 2005 formal opening—dealing with artists, selecting works to be exhibited, assisting with aesthetics, and more—Stallworth came into Guichard primarily as an investor. Because he runs a law practice at a large firm (1,700 lawyers in 16 offices across four continents) and is co-chair of Sidley’s firm-wide Diversity Committee, Stallworth cannot be involved with the gallery on a day-to-day basis. He does, however, drop by the gallery with his clients and other Chicago corporate types in tow, encouraging them to buy art. Not long ago, Sidley purchased four pieces from Guichard for its new and larger offices.
An avid art aficionado with a collection of more than 90 pieces, including paintings and sculptures, Stallworth began collecting before he had much disposable income. In fact, Stallworth began acquiring art before becoming an attorney and long before he became part owner of Guichard. He started buying art during the two years between his undergraduate degree and law school, a time that he spent teaching high school at his alma mater in Evergreen, Alabama. Regularly, he filled his weekends culling art from yard sales and antique shops, and when he saw something that was both affordable and appealing, he bought it. Never once, says Stallworth, did he think of his purchases as investments.
At Guichard, it is not uncommon to see the work of black artists from all over the world. An opening earlier this year featured the work of eight African artists who had never before been to the United States. “They came over, exhibited at the gallery, stayed with us, and hung out in our homes,” says Stallworth. “It was an amazing exchange; historical, really.” Other shows at Guichard have included work by black artists from Europe, the Caribbean, and South America.
Stallworth (right) and André Guichard admiring a painting in Gallery Guichard
When he is not thinking art, Stallworth is thinking real estate law. While many real estate law partners develop niche practices like lending, Stallworth is a self-described real estate generalist and prefers all-around work with a focus on development and construction. “I have to really like what I’m doing,” says Stallworth. “From my perspective, issues of acquiring and disposing of real estate and watching buildings go up are the most exciting part of the practice.”
Stallworth recalls a favorite Sidley project: “It related to the construction of a steel plant in one of Chicago’s west suburbs, a $20 million project,” he says. “The client kept me involved at every level and was willing to pay for me to be on site and to attend 15 to 20 meetings with the owner, the builder, and the subcontractors. Ordinarily, I’m not so intricately involved in the building process, but I was that time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
In addition, Stallworth is firmwide co-chair of Sidley’s Diversity Committee. He also leads the firm’s diversity recruiting project which requires intensive traveling throughout the country to job fairs and law schools, including the Ivy League law schools and other law schools with a high concentration of minority students, where he “cherry picks” prospective associates ranked at the top of their class.
The product of small town Evergreen, Alabama, Stallworth was encouraged to succeed by his parents. His mother was a high school librarian, and his father was a high school coach and principal with business interests on the side. Stallworth graduated salutatorian from the local high school and went on to attend his father’s alma mater, Alabama A&M University, in Huntsville, on an academic scholarship. At the historically black college, Stallworth was elected student body president and became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s first fraternity for African American men, and later graduated summa cum laude with degrees in English and biology. He entered law school at the largely white University of Wisconsin in 1987 with plans for returning to Evergreen soon after graduation to help his father grow the family’s successful slaughtering business. Preparing for a lifetime of corporate law and billion-dollar deals was not on his radar, but real estate law struck him as something practical—even in a small town, he could always buy and sell property. (Today, he owns more than 160 acres of real estate in Evergreen, including a home where he displays more than 20 pieces of African American art.)
something a person does in
addition to a principal occupation,
esp. for pleasure; hobby.
“I was ‘sidetracked’ when I earned better grades than I expected and consequently was offered jobs at law firms,” says Stallworth. When he accepted his first legal job as an associate at Sidley in 1989, Stallworth developed his plan to return to Alabama after three to five years; instead, he remained at the firm partly because of mentors. One in particular, Virginia Aronson, a white female partner and member of the Management Committee, identified with Stallworth and became interested in his success because, like her, he also hailed from a small town, and because he was very bright.
And still, as an owner of the temporarily defunct business (his father is deceased), Stallworth continues to harbor ideas of reopening and expansion, but that will come, he asserts, after eight to ten more years with the firm and the gallery in Chicago. Considering his double passion for real estate law and art, will Stallworth ever really be able to leave behind his exhilarating life in the Windy City? Check back in 2017. DB
Patrick Folliard is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md.
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From the November/December 2007 issue of Diversity & The Bar®