As counsel to the board of education for St. Louis Public Schools in the early 1980s, he became lead counsel in the St. Louis school-desegregation case. He also wrote the school system’s interdistrict-transfer plan and won several court orders, which generated millions of dollars for capital improvements in the school system.
“There was a great challenge to try to help the school system create opportunities for kids,” Brostron said. “It was a natural charge for me to do that, but the legal issues were complex and interesting.”
The case, originally brought in 1972, began with a parent who opposed the school-district procedure used to assign students to schools, which resulted in the city’s schools enrolling predominantly one race or another. By the mid-1980s, students were transported between neighborhoods to create more integrated school buildings, new school buildings were built and others modernized in the city, magnet schools were created and students were allowed to choose their schools in both the city and suburban districts. The case was not resolved until 1999 when a federal judge allowed reduced participation.
Brostron graduated from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1974 and immediately joined Lashly & Baer. He’s been there ever since, serving as president from 1986 until earlier this year. His legal career was sparked by a summer job at the firm. Even though he’d originally been interested in a career as an educator, he also had a connection to the law through his grandfather’s position as police chief in St. Louis.
In addition to his work in education, another major area of Brostron’s practice has involved medical-malpractice defense. In his career, he’s seen trials get more detailed as technology has become more ubiquitous in the courtroom.
“Juries get a lot more information than they got when I first started,” Brostron said. “It was pretty high-tech if we had poster board in a case of medical records. Now we show the entire medical record digitized, and [we] pull out information.”
Despite the introduction of technology, the best attorneys still understand that conversations must happen face-to-face, Brostron said. Young attorneys need to learn how to be a “hard adversary while being a gentleman,” a long-standing legal tradition in St. Louis, he said.
“In law we’ve got to communicate with one another,” he said. “The more that you communicate by email, the less there’s a direct discussion, and there’s more room for misinterpretation.”
Although Brostron’s practice today focuses on medical-malpractice defense, he remains both an educator and a student at heart. In addition to working on his golf game, he’d like to work with young lawyers as a mentor, imparting the lessons he has learned through the years of his experience.
“There’s always an answer to a legal issue; you just have to find it,” Brostron said. “The only thing against you is that you might run out of time. If you don’t have the right answer, you’re probably not asking the right question, so change the question and try again.”
He would also like to see more progress on the issue of school desegregation and improving education for all in the St. Louis area.
“It’s a big, deep-rooted issue that’s going to take many, many, many more years to fix, particularly in St. Louis,” he said. “It’s a lot further along than it was in 1980, but I want to see some tolerance and acceptance continue, but in today’s world that seems to be difficult.”