A little before 10:30 a.m. on June 3, 2020, Derek Boone took a deep breath and swung open the glass doors of his law firm’s forty-ninth-floor conference room. As the managing partner of Chicago-based Trale Blaser & Stern, Boone had conducted hundreds of meetings in this room, but today was different. Private equity firm SilverKnight Partners had made an unprecedented $200 million investment in Trale Blaser the day before, transforming the law firm from a traditional partnership into a privately held corporation with an equity value of $600 million. Boone had just become the CEO, and in a few minutes, he would lead the inaugural board meeting.

This moment had been years in the making. The American Bar Association, along with the state bar associations, had changed the rules of professional conduct to allow nonlawyers to invest in law firms in the fall of 2018. The following spring, Henry Abrams, the cofounder of SilverKnight Partners, a $10 billion buyout shop, had approached Boone about a deal with the firm. It had taken the then-48-year-old Boone several months to persuade his eight-member management committee to explore the option. Another six months were spent undergoing a grueling due diligence process, negotiating terms, and obtaining the support of Trale Blaser’s partnership.

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