Practical Magic

Richard La Jeunesse makes his clients' legal problems disappear

Published in 2008 Ohio Super Lawyers — January 2008

It's the kind of scene you might expect to see on a gritty street corner rather than in a downtown law office. Richard T. La Jeunesse crumples up two pieces of ordinary notebook paper and hides one in each fist. He moves his hands around a bit as he tells a story about the challenges of bringing buyers and sellers together in the real estate world, and a few seconds later, he opens his fists to reveal that both pieces of paper now rest in his left palm.

Sleight-of-hand may seem like an odd skill for a partner at Graydon Head & Ritchey in Cincinnati, but La Jeunesse also happens to be a card-carrying magician. He pulls out his wallet to show off a membership card from the International Brotherhood of Magicians and reminisces about receiving his first magic set when he was 5. It didn't take long for that gift to make an appearance at first-grade show-and-tell. "I was bit by magic early," he says. "It's something that gets under your skin."

But what exactly makes it such an appealing hobby? La Jeunesse enjoys plying his trade to bring humor, wonder and delight to other people. When giving a professional talk, he might engage the audience with a crafty trick he ties into the topic. He also donates his skills for charity events, and at his firm's annual Christmas party you might find him entertaining the children with his top hat and other props.

Out the window of his 19th-floor office, you can see the impressive Cincinnati Commerce Center, a high-rise La Jeunesse helped make possible. He worked on buying more than 60 different property interests in a quarter-block area to make way for the project. "I watched the building being built," he says. He also had the opportunity to meet Buckminster Fuller—famous for his geodesic domes—at the building's topping-off ceremony.

His specialty in commercial real estate started nearly the moment he joined Graydon Head & Ritchey. The firm first employed him after his second year of law school, and before the summer ended, he received an offer for a permanent job upon graduation. Today he's co-chair of the commercial real estate industry group, and he's also a member of the firm's executive committee—of which he has a hand in shaping a work culture that lets young lawyers dive right into the mix.

Before turning his focus to the law, La Jeunesse took in a rich roster of academic and travel experiences. He earned degrees in journalism and French at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and took the time to spend his junior year abroad in France—along with his future wife. From there, he went abroad again, spending a year in Belgium on a Rotary fellowship and earned a master's in American studies from the University of Michigan. After completing that degree, he enrolled in the university's law school and throughout his schooling, he earned extra money with his magic show.

It's a fitting path for someone with a passion for other cultures, and France's in particular. As his name implies, his father is of French descent, and he has visited the country eight times. He speaks the language fluently and sometimes helps his wife, a French teacher, grade her students' homework. "I feel like I know her students as well as she does," he says. The couple even has a special satellite dish at their home so they can watch a French TV station. Naturally, he loves French cooking, and he's involved with several French organizations, including the French-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati.

According to La Jeunesse, his diverse interests only enhance his talents as a lawyer. Whether he's talking about magic or property taxes, he's always passionate. It's that friendly and contagious enthusiasm that serves him equally well in front of eager 8-year-old magic fans or buttoned-up real estate developers. "We're all people with a special blend of talents," he says.

With La Jeunesse, you never know which one he'll pull out of his hat next.

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