Springfield trial attorney Steve Garner doesn’t see himself as an influential lawyer.
“The only thing I try to influence is my client’s case,” he said.
Garner is a shareholder and officer of Strong-Garner-Bauer. He’s been with the firm since 1986, the same year he graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law.
He amassed some significant verdicts for his clients in 2015, including $3.92 million for a girl with a brain injury in a suit against her father and $2.1 million for a 62-year-old woman who fell on a defectively designed restaurant ramp and suffered a fractured foot. The year also included a $21.7 million class action in litigation for seven years.
When asked which case stands out from the rest, he said there’s not an easy answer. Each case presented its own challenges and victories.
“The ones that are most important to me are the ones where my clients are the happiest,” he said.
Beyond his own practice, Garner is known for his willingness to assist others with their cases, often in the final weeks leading to trial. Garner said he doesn’t see his help as coming to the rescue.
“I enjoy trying lawsuits,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of good friends who are lawyers and I enjoy trying the lawsuits, so I get to help a friend and get to help a client.”
He added that he sees jury trials as the foundation of the justice system.
“With as many mediations and resolutions and settlements as there are, it seems like there’s less and less jury trials to get a benchmark for lawyers on what cases are worth or what type of cases are winnable,” he said. “So if I get a chance to help out a friend and try out a case, then I do it.”
In that vein, Garner has taken an active role in lobbying state lawmakers on preserving trial by jury through his work with the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys. He is a past president of MATA, wrapping up his term in 2014.
“I think there’s a lot of attacks on the justice system that are unwarranted, so I think involvement in making sure that the laws are not degraded for consumers is an obligation that any lawyer should have and I’ve always taken to heart,” he said.
Garner is also generous with his advice, often helping other attorneys for free. He said his practice has offered briefings on a variety of subjects over the years.
“I think it’s kind of our duty to assist other lawyers that are addressing issues that come up over and over again,” he said. “If we’ve already done the work, there’s no reason they should recreate the wheel.”