Legacy, team ethic reflected in former Buckeye’s office space
Tony White’s office in the heart of downtown perches over Capital Square. Through glass walls, White overlooks the city he serves as partner-in-charge of Thompson Hine in Columbus.
“It’s a great view of the Statehouse, the Columbus connections, I think, are important. My clients, the role I play in a lot of different organizations here in Columbus, and my family’s from Columbus.
White invited Columbus CEO into his office on September 13 (his 45th birthday, coincidentally). White’s workspace is decorated with the jerseys he wore on the Ohio State University basketball court from 1985-89; photos of his children and his father, respected former Columbus criminal attorney Albert White, line the credenza behind his desk. Clients and colleagues walk into an intimate atmosphere that conveys White’s strong bond with the city of Columbus, Ohio State University and his family.
Tell us about your OSU jerseys:
“One’s from my senior year, one’s from my sophomore year.
When people come through here it’s a great way to emphasize my connection to Columbus and the fact that I’m a Columbus kid. Even though I wasn’t born here--I was born in Washington D.C.--I grew up here and I went to Ohio State.
I represented the state of Ohio at Ohio State as a basketball player. I take great pride in that. Putting my jerseys up there is kind of my statement to everybody who comes in (here) that I take great pride in the fact that I represented the state of Ohio for four years.”
Which clients visit your office regularly?
“R+L Carriers, which is in Wilmington Ohio, (it’s) the largest privately held trucking company in the country. I do a lot of work for Nationwide Insurance here in Columbus. I do work for Mission Essential Personnel. I’m their outside general counsel. They are the largest supplier of linguist translators for the federal government for Operation Enduring Freedom.”
How do your clients react to the intimate setting of your office?
“One of the reasons I like this office—we moved in here four years ago—this is not the biggest office. I like it because it’s not too big. I didn’t want my office to kind of be big and cavernous. It sends a different message than I want to send as partner in charge of the office, which is: This is an intimate environment. You can always come in (here), sit down, bring your Diet Coke and let’s talk as opposed to some big bowling alley where you’ve got to yell at me from across the room. This was important for me to have that type of an office, Plus, I became partner in charge at e relatively young age.”
How old were you?
“(It was) June 1, 2005, so I was 37 years old. I was pretty young. There are a lot of more senior partners here. So when we moved over, just because I’m partner in charge, I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to say ‘I want that office over there as my first choice.’ I allowed our partners to pick by seniority. So when we moved over here, the most senior partner got to pick which office they wanted, (then) next senior, next senior, next senior. It was one of those things where I knew what I wanted, I figured that this office would kind of be there and be the right feel for me but I also wanted to demonstrate to my partners that it’s about seniority. It’s not about status.”
OSU’s athletic director, Gene Smith, had CEO in for an interview not long ago—that’s the humble, team-oriented ethic they strive to instill in OSU athletes.
“That’s exactly right. I work a lot with Gene. Gene’s a good friend. He asked me and I agreed to be the Ohio State representative to the Big Ten advisory commission. So I represent Ohio State in that to the Big Ten. I work with gene a lot, and he has that mentality, he really does. And I think any leader of any organization, that’s an important attribute: to recognize that you have to be humble, and you have to approach things as a team. You’ve got to realize that people are watching you in what you do and you have to be a team player.”
May I ask about your photos—who are we looking at here?
“This is my father. He was a prosecuting attorney and public defender here in Ohio and Columbus for 17 years…Albert White. (He) did a lot of high-profile prosecutions. Then he went out on his own and was a criminal attorney here in Columbus, Ohio.
It’s funny because when you come from a family with a long legal background in Columbus, the judges remember you. I can’t tell you how many times I go into the Common Pleas Court here in Franklin County and one of the judges says ‘Hey, I remember your dad,’ or ‘You sound just like your dad,’ or ‘ I remember when you were a little kid and you’d come in here and watch your dad.’ That’s always been nice, I really appreciate that.
Pictures of my sons (15, 11 and 7-years-old) are all over the place.
My son… for Christmas, he’s the one with the interesting presents for daddy. He thought that…the Avenger and Lego toys would be great things for me to bring in to my office. He knows I like to take them to see The Avengers movie, (so) he’s like ‘Well, you’ll love to take those into your office, you’ll have those action figures and you can look at them all day!’ I said, “Well…that’s a great idea.” He also made that candlestick down there that has my painted Ohio State jersey on it. ..My office is adorned with a lot of stuff from my kids.”
Do they have the same presence here that you had down at the courthouse growing up?
“They do. I love bringing them down here, showing them around the office.
I want them to feel comfortable here and to feel like there is something here for them. I know my older son…(is) talking about he wants to go to law school. I don’t want him to feel pressure that he’s got to do something his grandfather did and I did to be successful. I want him to find something on his own. But at the same time, I like the fact that he’s a kid born in Columbus, Ohio, and he wants to make a mark here in this town. And maybe he’ll be (the) third-generation of my family to do something significant in this town in the legal field.”
What’s the story behind the gavel on your desk?
“I got this when I became partner-in-charge, it was kind of a pass-down thing from the previous partner-in-charge….one day when I give up this position I’m going to pass the gavel to the next person. “
Outside of the firm, what boards do you sit on?
“I do a lot of work with Down Syndrome Association. Like I said, I’m Big Ten advisory representative for Ohio State. I also serve on…the Ohio State (Men’s Varsity O) board; recently just rotated off the United Way Ohio Board
Columbus is a good community, it’s an easy community to give back to, and so I enjoy doing that.”