James J. Boyne, Class of 1991

Recently retired president and COO of investment firm with more than $32 billion in assets

James J. BoyneAfter graduating from Chicago-Kent in 1991, James Boyne practiced as a corporate and securities attorney with Jenner & Block before joining Van Kampen Investment, Inc. in 1993 as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel. He went on to spend more than twenty years in the investment management business, most recently at Calamos Asset Management, an investment firm with more than $32 billion in assets. Boyne served as both President and Chief Operating Officer at Calamos until this fall, when he was appointed Executive Director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club (SSWSC), a not-for-profit organization that has been committed for nearly 100 years to the mission of developing children through participation in winter sports. The SSWSC has produced 79 Olympians with 135 Olympic appearances. Boyne also currently sits on the Board of Trustees of North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and recently relocated his family to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

From my perspective, the challenge has been to balance work and life. Previously, that was a huge challenge for me. I tended to put everything I have into my work, and as you start to build your family, you realize you need to strike a better balance. I think I've done that gradually over the years, but certainly as I started out I was spending an inordinate amount of time focused on my career. I think you build that with confidence and worth on the professional side, and recognize that there are things more important than just career. My goal has been to try and become a better person, which I think translates well on both the professional and personal sides.

What do you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?

It’s the relationships that I’ve built over these many years with staff, colleagues and those who've supervised me. There’s no one job or accomplishment that I’d hold out. I’ve built a lot of great relationships and I feel that I’ve built a solid reputation in the business that I work in - both internally with my colleagues, as well as the people that I deal with outside my career. It was always my natural instinct to be a relationship builder, but as you’re focused on yourself and your career, sometimes you can lose sight of that. I’ve always tried to have empathy for others and put myself in their position. Whether it came from an issue or a business negotiation, I’ve always tried to deal fairly with people. Candidly, but fairly.

How did Chicago-Kent prepare you for your present success?

I would say Chicago-Kent was more than about a legal education; it was about critical thinking. They brought a very practical approach to that. Of course there was theory, but there was a lot of practical application. The legal writing program really set me apart when I practiced law and in the business setting. My ability to parse through issues was really formed during my education at Chicago-Kent.

What advice would you give young attorneys who are just starting out today?

I think it’s a difficult market for attorneys. Although I will say in the late 80s, my uncle gave me the advice that, “There’s a lot of lawyers, kid- the market’s tough.” When I went into law school I knew I had to differentiate myself with academics so I was very focused on that. I think that people having a positive, can-do attitude and having a quiet confidence, having a little humility, will help build relationship and create opportunities for them. What I’ve found and what I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way- you really need to know what you don’t know. It takes some time to be able to say, “I don’t know.” I’ve seen a lot of people shoot themselves in the foot and I did it early in my career by feeling the pressure of having to give an answer. But having that humility and being able to admit what you don’t know and that you’ll get the answer, I think is very important. A lot of people lose credibility by succumbing to that instinct.

What does it mean to you to be on of Chicago-Kent’s 125 Alumni of Distinction?

As a kid who grew up lower middle income, I feel humbled that such a fine institution sought fit to honor me. It motivates me and fuels my drive to try and inspire others, to achieve in life and make a difference in ways they may not imagine today. I didn’t have most of the successes I’ve had in my mind’s eye when I started. All of them have been surprising along the way. Having the tenacity to pick yourself up and move on in the face of failure is really what I try to fuel in myself and other people.