Graham helps clients obtain government entitlements and solve problems with units of local government. With a focus on the city of Chicago and Cook County, he helps secure necessary approvals for land developments in the Chicago metropolitan area. A consensus builder and negotiator, he maintains excellent relations with community organizations, local elected officials and other stakeholders. Graham provides legal counsel for compliance, regulatory, public policy and encompasses zoning, land use, building code compliance, licensing, construction agreements, government contracts, procurement and legislative approvals. In the land use area, his experience includes securing all types of land use entitlements through planned developments, zoning map amendments, special uses, variations, text amendments and public way approvals. He represents property owners, real estate developers and every classification of real estate including retail, residential, commercial, industrial and myriad specialized land uses. He regularly represents clients before the Department of Buildings and the Fire Department. In addition, he has obtained approvals through boards and commissions, including the:
- Building Board of Appeals
- Chicago Plan Commission
- Committee on Standards and Tests
- Chicago Plan Commission
- Committee on Zoning
- Chicago City Council
- Commission on Chicago Landmarks
- Community Development Commission
- Zoning Board of Appeals
Graham also serves as legal counsel to one of the five annuity and benefit funds of the City of Chicago, advising in a broad range of areas including compliance with the Illinois Pension Code, investment management agreements, open meetings and freedom of information act compliance and the fiduciary obligations of the trustees of the pension fund.
Graham gained government industry experience through his prior professional roles in municipal government, serving as:
- Commissioner for the City of Chicago Department of Buildings managing the revisions of the Chicago Building Code, a staff of 500 regulatory employees and a budget of $34 million.
- Zoning Administrator of the City of Chicago Department of Zoning directing revisions of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, managing a team of building permit review staff in the review of permit applications seeking zoning conformance, managing a team of field inspectors and reviewing applications for zoning map amendments, planned developments, special uses, variations, exceptions and appeals.
- Ex-officio member of the Chicago Plan Commission.
Graham has been recognized in The Best Lawyers in America, 2010-2018 and Illinois Super Lawyers, 2017-2019 for land use and zoning law. He earned an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating – the highest Peer Review Rating possible – by Martindale-Hubbell. Graham has been selected as a Top Ten Leading Lawyer in Illinois in Land Use & Zoning and a Leading Lawyer in Illinois in Governmental, Municipal, Lobbying & Administrative Law and Real Estate Law: Commercial. Graham was honored as a recipient of The Chicago Bar Association’s 2017 Earl Burrus Dickerson Award. He was also named to the Crain’s Chicago Business inaugural list of the Most Influential Minority Lawyers in Chicago in 2017.
Graham has lectured on land use law and development at Northwestern University School of Law, Northwestern University Graduate School of Management, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University and DePaul University and the American Law Institute/American Bar Association Land Use Institute.
Graham has been listed in Crain's Chicago Business' "40 Under 40" and Ebony's "30 Leaders Under Age 30." In 2011, Chicago United selected Graham as the Business Leader of Color. Graham was a speaker at the Aspen Institute on the challenges facing public housing in Chicago and nationally.
Graham received his. B.A. from the University of Illinois where he was a student member of the Board of Trustees. He earned his J.D., with honors, from Northwestern University School of Law.
Honoree, Best Lawyers in America, Land Use and Zoning Law
Honoree, Leading Lawyers
Honoree, Illinois Super Lawyers (2017 - present)
AV Peer Review Rated, LexisNexis/Martindale-Hubbell
All Service Areas
- Northwestern University School of Law (1983)
- University of Illinois (1980)
- State - Illinois
- Federal - Northern District of Illinois
- The Admiral at the Lake continuing care retirement community in Chicago, Illinois
- Highland Park Hospital redevelopment in Highland Park, Illinois
- Northwestern Healthcare redevelopment in Evanston, Illinois
- Northshore Medical Group, Lincolnwood, Illinois
Commercial and Residential:
- Solstice on the Park (Proposed in Hyde Park) luxury condominium designed by Jeane Gang
- City Hyde Park mixed-use retail and residential project designed by Jeanne Gang
- Gateway Plaza 31-acre mixed-use retail shopping plaza
- Holy Family Village unincorporated Cook County
- Greystar Overture Edgewater active adult community
- Waste Management Calumet Industrial Disposal, bioremediation facility and Materials Recycling and Recovery Facilities
- University of Chicago Planned Development amendment
- Clark Oil Refinery, Blue Island, Illinois
- USX South Works 120 acre mixed-use planned development
- Navy Pier redevelopment for the New Shakespeare Theater
- McCormick Place West Building, MPEA Corporate Center and Conference Center
- Loyola University Planned Development
Speeches and Publications
Moderator for the CRE: The Counselors of Real Estate Midyear Meeting. Topic was “Opportunity Zones: Challenges and Opportunities,” April 29, 2019.
Author, "Building Code Modernization Ordinance: My Take" Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA/Chicago) blog post, April 2019 issue.
Moderator for the Civic Federation and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s “Best Practices for Financing Illinois’ Infrastructure” seminar. Topic was “Building an infrastructure plan that meets critical needs,” April 5, 2019.
Public Service Announcement, Business Leadership Council’s "Get Out the Vote" initiative, WVON 1690 AM radio, March 29-April 2, 2019.
- American Law Institute
Former Faculty Member, Land Use Institute
- American Bar Association
- American Bar Foundation
Former Director, Board of Directors
- Chicago Bar Association
- The Counselors of Real Estate
- The Realty Club of Chicago
- Economic Club of Chicago
Member since 1995
- Chicago Public Library Foundation
- Lloyd A. Fry Foundation
Vice Chair, Treasurer and Director
- Business Leadership Council
- Leadership Greater Chicago
- The Chicago Community Trust
Former Chairman, African-American Legacy
- Nonprofit Advisory Council of the Office of the Illinois Comptroller
Member, appointed by Illinois Comptroller
- Charitable Advisory Council of the State of Illinois
Member, appointed by Illinois Attorney General
- Chicago Parks Foundation
- Lambda Alpha International Honorary Economic Society, Ely Chapter