Thomas D. Flanagan, Class of 1963
Founder of a nationwide property tax law firm
Thomas Flanagan is a co-founder and managing partner of the law firm Flanagan & Bilton. He began his career at Chicago Title Company, but soon took a position as an assistant state’s attorney in the criminal division. After moving to the condemnation division, Flanagan became an expert in fair market value, which eventually led him to specialize in property tax law when he founded his own firm. In addition to his property valuation expertise, he has extensive experience handling a variety of property tax matters, as well as litigation at both the trial and appellate levels. His firm serves clients in 40 states, including a wide range of real estate investment trusts, banks, insurance companies and pension funds. It is also known for its unique online billing system that allows its clients across the country to manage all of their properties through a single system.
What has been your greatest challenge?
I think the hardest thing in the world is to start a practice because you starve to death for so long and you don’t know what’s out there. It’s very difficult to get business because people aren’t just sitting out there waiting for you to start your practice; they’re already generally being represented by someone else. You have to be able to entertain potential clients.
How did Chicago-Kent prepare you for your present success?
In many, many ways. It teaches you a different way of analyzing problems and situations, and that’s what you’re going to face in life. But there’s no rule, because all the problems and solutions are going to be different. Chicago-Kent gave me the tools to go forward and analyze problems and come to the linchpin of a problem. Instead of arguing over the minutiae, you’re going to find one little point. You pull one little point and the whole thing either collapses or stands. That’s what you come out with.
What would people find most surprising about you?
At 48 years old I got married and had 6 children! I was totally a confirmed bachelor and had no intentions of getting married.
What does it mean to you to be named one of Chicago-Kent’s 125 Alumni of Distinction?
I think it’s absolutely fabulous. It’s a cap in my life that anyone even knew that I was practicing law. I always thought I stayed under the radar, not intentionally. It’s a great honor and it recognizes what Chicago-Kent can do for individuals. Without Chicago-Kent I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today. It made my life and my childrens’ lives.
What advice would you give to young attorneys just starting out today?
Look at your competition. There are so many hard-working people. I also suggest getting trial experience wherever you can as soon as you can.