David Chavern '87 is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. He previously served as the Chamber's chief of staff and vice president of its Capital Markets initiative, where he quickly became one of the nation's leading voices on corporate governance and on the regulation of the U.S. capital markets. Earlier, he served in several senior positions at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and before heading to Washington D.C., was in private practice in Philadelphia. In addition to his law degree, Chavern holds an M.B.A. from Georgetown University and is a graduate of University of Pittsburgh.
Which VLS professor had the greatest impact on you?
I would say Lou Sirico, both because he was a great teacher and because 1L Property was the first law school class where I felt I had clue as to what was going on. I still say "livery of seisin in fee simple" when I want to bother my children.
What was most memorable about your time at VLS?
Probably going to a moot court competition in North Carolina with Pat Connell, where we had fun and were pretty successful, if I recall. The only downside was that we had to share a room to save money and Pat smoked a lot back then. Last I heard, he was serving our country in Iraq (through the State Department) so I would be honored to have him back and smoking in my presence again!
What was your original career goal/dream job?
I just figured that I would be a partner in a law firm somewhere. My only specific desire at the time was to find work that was compelling and interesting. I have been lucky to have found that in all of the different jobs I have held.
What led you to make the switch from private practice?
I moved to Washington because of my wife's work and, I figured, as long as I am here I might as well try the government thing. When in Rome. I was very fortunate to get a great position at the Export-Import Bank where I spent the next 12 years trying to get infrastructure projects in odd parts of the world.
What do you love about your current position?
I always say I like a job "where what I read in the paper in the morning changes my day." Being COO of the U.S. Chamber is clearly one of those jobs because we are on the leading edge of so many issues and events. I really feel like I have one of the 10 best jobs in Washington.
How has your law degree benefited you in your current position?
Throughout my career, I have periodically moved in and out of the law. When you have a non-law job, it is really important to NOT be your own lawyer. You have to try to switch that part of your brain off. That being said, the legal training and experience helps in innumerable ways, particularly with respect to writing and analytical thinking.
What is the most important career lesson you have learned?
You have to build trust within an organization. When people trust each other there is almost no end to what they can accomplish together. When people within an organization don't trust each other, then every single activity becomes a slow, Herculean lift.
What is the most influential (or favorite) book you have read?
There are many possibilities but I would single out Patrick O'Brian's 20 volume Aubrey-Maturin novels. It took me a year to finish them all, but it was well worth the effort. I wish there were 20 more to read.
Who is your favorite lawyer of all time (real or fictional)?
Actually, my first boss, David Marston (now of Gibbons PC). All relevant lessons about the actual practice of law I learned from him.
One thing on your bucket list...
To live a few months each in Venice and New Orleans. Both have beauty and great food, but more important, an extraordinary approach to life.