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Meet our 2016 Missouri Lawyers Award winners

Robert Blitz named Lawyer of the Year

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of Law Firm Leader Richard Walters. We regret the error.

Sports, like politics, is usually intensely local. But forces have aligned to make the fate of the St. Louis Rams not only national news but, more improbably, of interest to residents of western Missouri. Will the football team stay in St. Louis? If it doesn’t, will another take its place? Will a new stadium be built? Will taxpayers foot the bill?

Robert Blitz, an attorney with the St. Louis law firm Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch and Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s choice for Lawyer of the Year, accepted Gov. Jay Nixon’s invitation to help keep the NFL in St. Louis. It’s a monumental and controversial task, pitting him not only against efforts by the Rams to move to Los Angeles but also the reluctance of some in the city — not to mention the rest of the state — to finance a new stadium with taxpayer money. Blitz’s work on the effort, meanwhile, comes on top of his own busy law practice, which this year included a largely successful court fight for the widow of a prominent St. Louis real estate magnate.

Blitz is among 18 lawyers who will be honored at the Missouri Lawyers Awards luncheon on Friday, Jan. 29, at the Ballpark Hilton in downtown St. Louis. We recognize Missouri attorneys who have made a difference in their communities, whether by winning an important appeal, leading a law firm well or simply fighting the good fight. And in our new corporate counsel category this year we also honor two in-house attorneys for their efforts on behalf of their companies.

The winners will be profiled in a special section of Missouri Lawyers Weekly on Jan. 25.

These awardees will be joined by our Verdicts & Settlements winners — lawyers with the largest verdicts, settlements and defense wins of 2015, who will be announced next month.

Congratulations to all our winners —to see more information about their accomplishments, click on each honoree’s name.

Lawyer of the Year

  • Robert Blitz an attorney with the St. Louis law firm Blitz, Bardgett & Deutsch, accepted Gov. Jay Nixon’s invitation to help keep the NFL in St. Louis.

Influential Lawyers

Steve Garner of Strong-Garner-Bauer in Springfield doesn’t just win hefty verdicts and settlements for himself: He also works to help other lawyers win their cases.

Todd Graves of Graves Garrett in Kansas City received national attention this year with a Wisconsin Supreme Court victory in favor of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, ending a criminal investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall election.

Pamela Meanes of Thompson Coburn became president of the National Bar Association, the nation’s largest organization for African-American lawyers, just before the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown sparked unrest in Ferguson. Meanes led initiatives to investigate police brutality and to educate young people about their rights, while serving as a source of legal information to the media.

Jerome Schlichter of Schlichter Bogard & Denton in St. Louis was the first, and for a long time the only attorney to take on litigation tackling excessive fees in 401(k) plans. This year he achieved two record settlements for such cases.

Joan Swartz, a solo attorney in St. Louis, won an important jury verdict on behalf of an administrative law judge with muscular dystrophy who sued the Missouri Division of Workers Compensation for discrimination.

 

Legal Champions

Awarded to plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers, not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.

Megan Phillips, co-chair of the Missouri Joint Commission on Women in the Profession, helped implement a change to court rules that makes it easier for women who take time off to raise children to get back into practicing law.

State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, successfully pushed lawmakers to adopt his bill to tighten regulations on municipal courts, particularly those in St. Louis County, in the wake of unrest in Ferguson.

 

Influential Appellate Advocates

Awarded to the lawyers behind the most significant appellate decisions of the year.

John Ammann of Saint Louis University School of Law and Deborah Greider, a solo practitioner  in St. Louis fought for nearly 10 years and made multiple trips to the appellate courts to recover millions owed to recipients of Missouri’s Blind Pension Fund who had been underpaid under a state formula.

Greer Lang of Lathrop & Gage in Kansas City, argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in October that could affect every bank and credit-industry related institution in the country.

 

Law Firm Leaders

Awarded to chairman, managing partners or other law firm executives who demonstrated extraordinary vision, innovation and leadership during the year.

Teresa Bartosiak maps the strategic growth of Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard as part of the St. Louis firm’s three-member executive committee.

David Kenner, president of Levy Craig Law Firm, oversees a small but diverse firm while remaining active in the Kansas City community.

Jessica Liss, who established the St. Louis office of national employment law firm Jackson Lewis, oversees all of the litigation handled by its St. Louis attorneys.

Lisa Moore, who became president of Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal in St. Louis early this year, has led efforts ranging from renovating the firm’s office space to overseeing accounts receivable.

Richard Walters, who recently helped establish Spencer Fane’s Springfield office, has seen the office more than double in size during its first year and make a name for itself on the local legal scene.

 

Corporate Counsel

Awarded to in-house counsel whose advice and leadership led to extraordinary results for their company.

Bill Colby, general counsel for Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, made a national name for himself in the right-to-die case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. He now faces the numerous legal and regulatory challenges of the busiest emergency room in Kansas City.

David Geisler is the long-serving and recently retired general counsel of Dairy Farmers of America in Kansas City. He helped build what began as a regional organization into the nation’s largest milk marketing cooperative.

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