Early Riser

Why Tim Carroll quit working for the president of the United States and got a real job

Published in 2010 Illinois Rising Stars — February 2010

While attending high school on Chicago’s South Side, Tim Carroll would often get up at 1:30 a.m. for work. “My dad did not think it was appropriate for me to get a cushy job working at a retail store, so he got me one loading trucks down at the dock for the Chicago Tribune,” says Carroll, 38, now a partner with Loeb & Loeb.

On top of the Tribune job, he installed carpeting for his father’s home-building company, and, despite being the seventh of eight children, was the first to attend college: the University of St. Francis. There he was often distracted by extracurriculars.

“Given that Chicago is Chicago, I was interested and active in local politics,” he says. “I worked on a couple of campaigns and did a congressional internship for Marty Russo.” In fact, he devoted his senior year to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential bid—dividing his time between Illinois (for the primary), Pennsylvania (for the general) and eventually D.C. It was at the Democratic Convention in New York that Carroll’s early-rising habits came in handy.

“I was usually up early in the morning, roaming the halls, along with the Secret Service agents,” he says. “One morning, Chelsea Clinton was up early and asked me to open the jar for the jelly on her toast.” He didn’t disappoint.

By this time, Carroll had already met several famous faces—“Celebrities like to hang around politicians, I learned”—but he was most taken with Clinton himself. “When I first saw him speak, I was star-struck,” he says. “He was such a charismatic figure.”

After the election, Carroll followed Clinton to D.C., assuming he would work at the Small Business Administration. “I had an access badge, a computer and attended staff meetings,” he says. “But after two weeks, I learned my position was given to someone with more clout. They told me, ‘You’re now going to work on health care reform.’”

Assigned to Democratic operative Martin Dunleavy, Carroll acted as a regional field coordinator, organizing lobby sessions on the Hill and in various congressional districts. He also acted as advance man.

Fear, Carroll says, is the main reason health reform didn’t pass. “Republican pollsters knew that if Bill Clinton, given his charisma, intelligence and abilities, ever got a landmark piece of legislation like health care reform,” Carroll says, “he would be unstoppable.”

Eventually, he adds, “My future father-in-law told me to get a real job. I was 25 years old, I wanted to marry his daughter, and he was concerned about stability.”

Back in Chicago, Carroll attended DePaul University College of Law and spent a decade at Vedder Price. He took his commercial and intellectual property litigation practice to Loeb & Loeb in January 2009. One of his largest portfolios is Open Text Corporation, Canada’s largest software company, for which he is North American litigation counsel. “In the past year we’ve obtained dismissals for three patent cases,” he says. “And patent cases can cost $3 to $5 million just to defend.”

He describes his practice as robust and recession-proof. “Intellectual property is one of the few assets that’s still worth something,” he says.

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