Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard
Things feel different at the Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard office in Kansas City.
Inside a building near Country Club Plaza, the firm now fills the whole 10th floor — a space triple the size of its former berth on the 12th. The interior walls are glass, admitting light. There’s a new layout, new decor and new colors, not to mention several new faces onboard.
Counsel Sharon Stolte had a hand in all of it.
About a year ago, Stolte became the managing attorney in Kansas City, one of the firm’s seven offices. Leadership, she said, is something she has always been comfortable with — even outside of work, where she serves as the president of the Kansas Premier Soccer League and vice president of two other soccer groups. (All three of her children played the sport, and her husband played professionally indoors for the Dallas Sidekicks).
One of the first big challenges of Stolte’s tenure was overseeing the remodeling, she said. It was her idea to adorn the space with artwork exclusively by Kansas City artists; she asked a friend and curator to help select the best pieces.
She also helped recruit about five attorneys during the past year or so, bringing the total to 19. Among the new additions was Paul Sinclair, an experienced litigator with a specialization in bankruptcy, restructuring and creditor’s rights.
Despite taking on extra duties as managing attorney, Stolte has managed to build her own book of business: Her originations increased more than 60 percent in the fiscal year that ended on Oct. 31, she said.
“Sometimes in taking on a leadership role you worry about what’s going to happen to your practice,” said Stolte. “But we brought in a third party to hold workshops, and that was instrumental in me keeping marketing at the forefront.”
Stolte, a native of Colorado, knew in second grade she wanted to be a lawyer. Watching her father endure the headaches of developing business and zoning laws, she resolved to grow up and help people navigate thickets. She attended the University of Colorado Boulder as an undergrad, then earned her law degree at the University of Kansas.
Upon graduation, she thought she would be a transaction attorney, but she noticed that many banks were closing every week. She started working for a bankruptcy judge in Fort Worth, Texas, and ended up staying on that track.
Today, her primary focus is Chapter 11 debtor and creditor issues, as well as Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 consumer-debtor matters. In addition, she represents lenders and banks regarding default in state courts, and she also handles contract disputes.
On the philanthropic side, she has, among many other things, served as the co-chair of the Hope Lutheran Church and School Auction and the United Way Fundraising Campaign.
Years ago, to stay sane amidst her myriad responsibilities, Stolte would rise at around 4 a.m. and run with her two dogs. Now she has two younger dogs in training, whom she prefers to lead around the neighborhood at night after long days of practicing and managing the office.
“That’s a nice stress-reliever,” she said.
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