“He came from a place where justice didn’t mean much, and when he got here, he was very taken with the system,” Crouppen said. “He was part of it in his way and I think he always dreamed of being a lawyer but he had no formal education. Every chance he got, he’d say ‘Terry I want you to be a lawyer. It’s the best thing you can do with your life.’ I sort of inherited my father’s dream.”
After graduating from Washington University School of Law in 1971, Crouppen started his career in the St. Louis Public Defender’s Office. After a few years of trying cases, he and a few friends from law school decided to start their own firm. Drawn to the possibility of creating their own destiny and being their own bosses, the group formed Crouppen, Walther and Zwiebelman, eventually joined by fellow name partner Ron Brown.
Initially, the firm represented both criminal defendants and personal-injury plaintiffs before dropping the former and focusing on the latter. He found the fields intersect in compatible ways.
“Generally, it’s one person against the system, the individual against a far larger adversary on the other side,” Crouppen said. “In one instance, it’s the state, and the other instance it’s big insurance companies.”
Today, Brown & Crouppen is one of Missouri’s top personal-injury firms, with 40 attorneys, according to Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s 2017 edition of The Firms. By its own count, the firm has recovered more than $850 million for clients. Crouppen attributes part of its success to marketing and advertising.
“I always had the idea that I bet if we could use the media, and generally radio and television, we could appeal to a lot of people and build a large practice far quicker than the traditional ways people built law practices up,” Crouppen said.
Throughout his career, Crouppen has seen the law field become more technical and complex. He said he’s also noticed that the reputation of lawyers has fallen, while jokes about attorneys have become commonplace.
“I think lawyers had a great deal higher place in American society in terms of respect, and I think that’s a shame because what lawyers do really hasn’t changed,” Crouppen said. “I think there are many entities in America today that have a vested interest in making lawyers look crass, unimportant and greedy. They use it to keep their power.”
Crouppen advises prospective attorneys to let the lawyer jokes roll off their backs and remember why they’re in the field.
“Never forget what you’re doing — bringing justice to the world,” Crouppen said. “It’s my opinion and thought that human affairs don’t always work out the way they ought to. The law is a way of bringing justice and goodness to the world.”
Outside of the office, Crouppen spends time with his wife Tina and their eight grandchildren.
“I’m very lucky and very blessed to get to do pretty much what I want and enjoy what I do,” Crouppen said.