Almost two decades ago, when Brent D. Ballard was just beginning his law career, he joined the Union Club of Cleveland. His main reason for joining was simple.
As a young partner at the Calfee, Halter & Griswold law firm, Ballard wanted to make new connections. The Union Club was an ideal venue for it.
Ballard received a recommendation to join the club from John Wheeler, then a managing partner at the law firm. Wheeler went on to serve as Union Club president from 2003 to 2004.
Today, Ballard is following in his mentor’s footsteps. He was named president of the club on May 24. He is the third member of Calfee, Halter & Griswold to hold the title. Cindy Schulz, who joined the firm last year as a senior adviser, was the second female to be named president of the Union Club. Schulz, who formerly worked at Dix & Eaton, served from 2013 to 2014.
“I’ve received so much professionally, I feel like it’s time to give back,” Ballard says when asked why it was important for him to be such an active member of the club. “I think we all want to make the places we’ve been involved with better than the way we found them when we joined them. It’s imperative for our business leaders to get involved.”
Over the years, Ballard’s networking skills have flourished along with his career. Like his predecessor Wheeler, Ballard is a managing partner at his firm. He continues to counsel clients on real estate, general corporate, commercial business and finance law. He has been honored by U.S. News as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” for 10 years in the areas of corporate and real estate law.
Outside the firm, Ballard is president of the board at his alma mater, University School. He also serves on the board of trustees of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Bluecoats Inc. and Playhouse Square Foundation. He and his wife of 34 years, Ann, live in Shaker Heights. They have three children, Brent Jr., Isabel and Wick.
A Cleveland native, Ballard went away for his undergraduate (Bates College) and graduate degrees (Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration). He returned to Cleveland to attend Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and graduated in 1985.
“My wife and I made the decision to stay in Cleveland because we thought it would be a great place to raise a family,” Ballard says.
The decision to stay in Cleveland more than two decades ago has proved the right one for Ballard, personally and professionally. In his new role at the Union Club, Ballard is grateful to carry on the positive changes that are taking place in the heart of the city he loves.
“Like our city, Union Club has changed with the times,” Ballard says. “People want to be where the action is, and we have so much going on at the club. It is not just for business leaders: there are clubs within our club for everything from fitness to wine connoisseurs to book clubbers.”
“Our demographic is changing; we are getting younger,” Ballard says of the club. “We have so many young professionals living within a short walking distance of the club. The dues are $105 a month for them to join. We want to make it an enticing price point for them. I was in my 40s when I joined. Now people in their 20s and 30s are joining. That is something back in the old days that did not happen.”
Ballard plans to capitalize on the initiatives started by his predecessor — Randell McShepard, the club’s first African-American president. Under McShepard, the club reached a milestone of more than 1,000 members.
“We are one of the only business clubs left downtown,” Ballard says. “I think it’s important for a business to have a central gathering point, and the Union Club has stood the test of time by continuing to bring in leaders.”