Donald Messinger, a partner with Thompson Hine LLP in Cleveland specializing in corporate and business law, considers the fact he’s still with the same firm he started with in 1968 his greatest accomplishment. He’s provided counsel and represented numerous publicly and privately owned businesses, and handled mergers and acquisitions, public offerings and securities, and finance. He’s also leveraged buyouts and represented nonprofits, but said the greatest skill he’s learned is listening.
“As a lawyer, you have to listen to your clients and understand what they’re all about,” Messinger noted. “Everybody has a story, and it helps to be sensitive to what their motivations are, what their objectives are and so on. A lot of lawyers like to quote cases and use Latin names for this-that-and-the-other, and that goes in one ear and out the other. You need to speak the language of the people you’re working with and listen to them.”
CJN: What inspired you to enter law?
Messinger: I dated a young lady during college and we had similar jobs in Washington, and, as one tends to do, we talked about our goals and aspirations. Being in Washington, you’re around lawyers and the political scene, so she encouraged I take the LSAT and Graduate Record Exam. I scored well in both. I figured I knew what graduate school would be like in history, but law school would be a different experience, so if I didn’t like it, I could always fall back on graduate school. But from day one, I really did enjoy law school. I enjoyed the challenge and the method of teaching. That young lady’s idea was so good that I married her – she is my wife, Sally.
CJN: Why did you want to focus on corporate/business?
Messinger: At that time at Thompson Hine in 1968, newly minted lawyers tried a number of different areas of practice, because the LSATs tended to be general back then. So I was in a pool and was fortunate to work on some major corporate transactions, really starting – fortunately – day one, and I enjoyed it. I liked being a strategic thinker, and I’d written all kinds of practice, but I had some affinity for this type of work. My personality is one where I enjoy developing longer term relationships, and I found that my skills and interests aligned with helping for-profit and nonprofit organizations achieve their objectives.
CJN: What Jewish values do you use in your work?
Messinger: I’m reliable, meaning I do what I say I’ll do; I’m honest, meaning I don’t deceive or cheat; and I’m respectful, meaning I treat others with respect.
CJN: What is a memorable moment from work?
Messinger: In the mid-1980s, I led a team that enabled a startup client to acquire a closed steel mill in Cleveland, resulting in the creation of hundreds of new, well-paying jobs.
CJN: When you walk into a room, what “intro song” should start playing?
Messinger: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”