Sunday, August 15th, 2010

By any Number, Farrell is a Winner

The above headline was from the August McHenry County Business Journal and following is a reprint of that article.

CRYSTAL LAKE – “It’s not easy; I don’t sleep as much as I used to,” Ryan Farrell said. “My wife has told me: ‘If you volunteer for one more thing, I’ll kill you.’”

That is an overstatement … probably. But there is no denying Farrell’s impact in the community – outside and inside the office. That is why he is among this year’s 10 Under 40 honorees.

“Ryan has been with Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle for just over four years, and in that time he has proven himself to be an invaluable member of our firm and the community as a whole,” wrote nominator Rich Flood, managing partner at the Crystal Lake law office. “As the co-chairperson of the firm’s Business & Transactional Department, Ryan has shown himself to be a highly capable attorney. … Showing not only his acumen, but also ambition, Ryan is not only an attorney, but a certified public accountant.”

Farrell, 32, grew up in Crystal Lake, graduated from Crystal Lake South High School, then headed to the University of Illinois in Champaign, where he earned an accounting degree.

Before joining the law firm he worked for Earnst & Young LLP in Chicago, performing compliance and fiduciary reviews and representing clients in their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. But in the midst of his third year there, in August 2004, he moved back to his hometown to get married.

“I was commuting three hours out of the day, but it was important for me to be back here,” Farrell said. “I thought it was a better fit for raising my family.”

Farrell landed a job with Zukowski, Rogers, Flood & McArdle in 2006. It was the end game in a series of decisions sparked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I took at introspective look at what I was doing. I thought I’d give it a shot to go back and do whatever I wanted to do,” Farrell said. “I like making a difference, and that is hard to do auditing major corporations like McDonald’s and Mitsubishi.

“It was hard to see the difference I was making on a day-to-day basis. … Now, most of what I do I see the results in short order. I get a bigger [emotional] payoff more often.”

Farrell enrolled in law school at Loyola University in fall 2002 and attended classes in between work assignments – including internships at Earnst & Young and mall developer General Growth Properties – before he returned to Earnst & Young full-time.

“When I was kid, all I ever said I wanted to be was a lawyer,” Farrell said. “Certainly what I do isn’t want I thought I would do. What I wanted to do is fire away at a jury and be Tom Cruise from ‘A Few Good Men.’

“During college I was originally pre-law. But my dad suggested I do something a little more practical. I would recommend to everyone that they don’t do pre-anything; that they keep their options open as much as possible.”

Farrell has become the go-to numbers guy at the office when it comes to sorting out high-end divorces, tax issues, foreclosures and deeds. It is a responsibility he takes seriously. After all, his employer has a minimum billing requirement each month and he has to make a living.

But he also has cultivated quite a reputation as a volunteer. Both of his parents influenced his interest in community service, but he credits his older sister, Jennifer – who has coped with kidney failure most of her life – with helping to put things in perspective. He takes less for granted. And by managing his time, he somehow fits everything in.

“I’m a type A personality. Anything that I’m in I want to run. I have no patience,” he said. “The thing I like the least is being bored. I like to be doing something. I’m kind of a Renaissance man.”

That “something” includes volunteering for a number of charitable, business-related organizations such as the Crystal Lake Dawnbreakers Rotary Club, McHenry County Economic Development Corp. and the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce and chamber foundation. In 2009, he received the Presidential Award of Excellence for his efforts in last year’s chamber office renovation.

“Everything he does, he is really thoughtful. He thinks things through,” said Gary Reece, president of the Crystal Lake chamber. “I think he has a wide-open future. I think what makes him tick is he is a cautious, thoughtful and motivated guy. … He has fun, but he is serious when he is approaching a subject. He keeps things in perspective. There is a time to be businesslike.”Farrell practices in several transactional areas of the law, including business and tax, banking, employee benefits, estate planning, and real estate. His background is as a CPA and experience in tax law and estate planning.

“I like banking and transactional stuff. It’s more interesting than the outside world would think,” Farrell said. “You try to put something together – create and modify some terms and take it back. I get to use my creativity a little bit and work with people.

“It’s nice when you are walking around the community or are out to breakfast and see someone that I worked on an estate plan for that allowed them to stay in business. I think it is rewarding.”