Founders’ Story

Carl Giffels and Maury Rivkin

Long before we had any inkling that we would be estate planners, we each received a remarkable first-hand case study.

Larry’s paternal grandfather and Michele’s paternal great uncle each founded a business, which our fathers (and Michele’s grandfather) later joined. The businesses were successful financially, but, for our parents, they brought challenges involving control, envy, respect, and, most of all, hard work, typical of multi-generational family enterprises. We watched our parents devote tremendous effort to navigating these challenges, not only to build the lives they wanted for themselves, but also to create proud, secure, and harmonious legacies for their descendants.

Although we did not fully appreciate the intangible aspects of their efforts until years later, their business success and careful planning, in large part, provided for our college and law school educations. In 1993, after our second year of law school, we met as summer associates at a large Chicago law firm, Altheimer & Gray (may it rest in peace), and started dating. Upon graduation, we each took a job at that firm and soon became engaged. Lucky for us, the firm did not frown on intra-office relationships. Its leaders figured that, if we were together, we would not mind working until midnight many nights.

We stuck with the large law firm world for the first four plus years of practice, learning a lot about practicing law but also witnessing the assault on professionalism in law practice that continues to this day, with growing pressures on lawyers to focus on more than their clients’ best interests. During that time, we also learned that we liked working together, and that estate planning suited Larry’s passion for counseling, Michele’s passion for systems and organization, and our joint interest in analytical problem solving.

In 1999, we opened our own estate planning law practice in a corner of what had been a Benihana’s Steakhouse, with our then 9-month old daughter, Megan, crawling around the office. In charting a course for our practice’s future, we made two important commitments that remain with our firm to this day: we would concentrate our efforts narrowly on estate and trust work so that we could do it at the highest level, and we would approach our clients’ planning challenges from a broad, multi-disciplinary perspective.

rivkin_family_beach_sepiaIn the ensuing years, we were fortunate to become connected with hundreds of smart, thoughtful families who put their trust and confidence in us and with extraordinary employees who brought their own life experiences, skills, and commitment to top-notch client service. In 2014, we were delighted to welcome our longtime colleague and outstanding lawyer, Denise Kaplan, as a partner.

As our practice grew, so did our family. Megan was joined by younger brothers Joey and Brady, and our experiences with the challenges of parenting added to our insights. In particular, as we faced a series of medical and developmental crises in Brady’s early years, we gained an appreciation for the challenges so many other parents and siblings face every day as a result of medical and developmental disabilities.

With Brady far surpassing early predictions for his development due in no small part to the generosity we received from so many others, we decided to broaden our firm’s mission to include a commitment to help, on a pro-bono basis, families of modest means who are faced with the challenges and expense of raising children with special needs.

As we reflect back on the development of our practice and plan for its and our family’s future, the lessons received from our parents’ and grandparents’ experiences resonate far more deeply than they did when we were kids. With those lessons in hand, we feel extraordinarily honored to have the opportunity to help hundreds of other families strive to create their own proud, secure, and harmonious personal and family legacies.

Michele and Larry Rivkin