When it came to trying cases with his friend and law partner Tom Pickert, Ryan Fowler said it was no contest who the favorite was among their clients.
Fowler, an attorney with Fowler Pickert & Eisenmenger in Kansas City, recalled a client in one of their last trials who actually announced in the witness room that Pickert was his favorite.
“I think he more than anybody else I had been around made the client feel like he was actually speaking for them,” he said.
Pickert’s death Oct. 25 stunned the city’s legal community. The 39-year-old was fatally shot outside his Brookside home. Kansas City police have not made any arrests in the case nor identified any suspects.
Fowler said Pickert was an aggressive and passionate advocate for his clients.
“His approach a lot of times was to put himself into the position of the client, really trying to speak for them,” he said.
In July, in one of the last trials before his death, Pickert, along with Fowler, represented Jeffery Harris, a homeless man shot by David Jungerman on his business’ property. Harris received a $5.75 million jury verdict in the case. Fowler said several attorneys had declined to take on the case.
Fowler said Pickert also was passionate about the law.
“He was always reading books and thinking of different ways to present things, to make certain arguments, different ways to ask questions,” he said. “He was very much of an out-of-the-box thinker. Sometimes it was way out of the box.”
Brian Russell, an attorney with Meyerkord, Russell & Hergott, said he’d known Pickert for about five years since meeting when Pickert and Fowler were considering starting their own firm.
What made Pickert different, Russell said, is that he was willing to take a chance on a case if he believed it was the right thing to do.
“The normal calculus that might go into valuing a case was different for Tom, in a good way and in a way that made our profession better,” Russell said.
Nancy Kenner, an attorney for Kenner Nygaard DeMarea Kendall, first met Pickert as opposing counsel.
When he changed sides, the two worked together on cases when her practice needed some help, which continued until his death.
As an attorney, Kenner said Pickert was both smart and tenacious, drilling into the small details of a case.
“Every detail, all the medicine, no matter which side he was on, he really got into the case,” she said. “If (there was) anybody you could call a zealous advocate, it was Tom.”
Kenner remembers Pickert would stop by the office frequently to discuss the latest of the case and strategize.
Kenner said her work with Pickert renewed her enthusiasm for practicing law.
“His enthusiasm was just infectious,” she said.