Some law firms exert influence through their sheer size. Others do so through big verdicts or splashy headlines.
The Levy Craig Law Firm in Kansas City, in contrast, focuses on the quieter business of doing exactly what small- to medium-sized businesses need to survive and thrive year to year, day to day. And for the last two years, leadership of that effort has fallen to firm president David Kenner.
Kenner, a soft-spoken transactions lawyer who joined Levy Craig 12 years ago, jokes that he got the job because he was the “last man standing” after others decided to leave the headaches of running the firm (where he has the same billing requirements as every other shareholder) to someone else. In truth, he takes the continuing success of a firm that has been around since 1925 very seriously.
“I appreciate the opportunity to continue the legacy my predecessors have set,” he said.
Levy Craig’s practices range from transactions to commercial litigation to, somewhat incongruously, domestic law. That last category, Kenner said, makes sense when you consider the extent to which many small businesses’ finances are entwined with those of the personal finances of their owners.
“A lot of owners and business people get divorced,” Kenner noted.
Kenner, who got his law degree in 1983 from Columbia University, said his first inspiration to be a lawyer came from watching Perry Mason, though it turned out that litigation wasn’t his cup of tea. He found his real love — banking law — while working for the Resolution Trust Corporation, as part of unwinding the mess of the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s and ‘90s.
“I kind of learned the banking practice through how not to do things,” he said.
Since then, Kenner has sat on the boards of directors of several banks, including a current spot at TriCentury Bank. He is also involved in the community, most notably as attorney and secretary to the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, as well as numerous volunteer efforts with the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. The latter is a family affair: Kenner’s wife, Nancy Kenner, an attorney with Kenner Nygaard DeMarea Kendall, is a past president of KCMBA.
Having a wife who is an attorney and runs her own firm makes a big difference, he said.
“We each understand the stress the other is going through, and we can bounce ideas off of each other in a very safe environment,” Kenner said.
With 14 lawyers, Levy Craig is big enough to service its clients without getting bogged down. Kenner notes that his firm can close a deal “in the time it takes some large firms to do a conflicts check,” though he’s careful to note that the firm knows what it can do and can’t do.
“If you’re doing a large public offering, we’re not the firm for that,” he said. “But if you’re buying and selling businesses, buying and selling and developing land and buildings, we can certainly help you.”