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ICON Awards 2020: J. Kent Emison, Langdon & Emison

When Kent Emison joined Bob Langdon at Langdon & Emison in Lexington, the firm was a typical small-town practice that handled a variety of legal matters.

J. Kent EmisonIn the decades that followed, however, Emison helped to launch a high-powered personal injury practice with national reach. He said that path evolved naturally after the firm took on a case in the early 1990s that laid the groundwork: In Baker v. General Motors, Emison obtained an $11.3 million verdict for the families of two people who burned to death in a car after a collision.

The case ultimately rose to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1997 ruled unanimously in his clients’ favor while also settling whether a Missouri court could order the testimony of a former GM employee who was barred from testifying in another state.

Before Baker, Langdon & Emison was a general practice firm, Emison said. That case led the firm to delve into personal injury law.

“It wasn’t by design,” he said. “Bob Langdon and I were still involved in a small-town practice and never ever imagined that when we took the case . . . we never wanted nor thought we’d end up where we did, but it was great.”

Emison is a lifelong resident of Lafayette County. He grew up in a third-generation dairy-farming family, but he bucked family tradition to instead become a lawyer. He earned his law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1981.

For the first six years of his career, he practiced with Kansas City firm Jackson Dillard, a real estate and commercial transaction law firm.

While he enjoyed the work and his colleagues, he said the commute from Lafayette County to Kansas City wore on him. In April 1987, he joined Langdon, who was practicing at a general practice law firm founded by the father of former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton.

Emison said the best part of his practice is being able to help people in need. He said his clients have experienced serious or catastrophic injuries or have lost a loved one, and he meets them at the worst point in their lives.

“To make a better life for them is the best,” he said. “It’s the best thing I think anybody can want to do.”

Today, Emison is joined at the firm by his three sons, two of whom are also lawyers. He said his wife, Robin, also has pitched in at the firm, including helping to make trial exhibits. He credits her for his successes.

“She’s been supportive from the get-go, and she’s made a lot of sacrifices,” he said. “Without her help and support, I would never have been able to do what we’ve done in the law practice or with the family.”

Emison also is dedicated to volunteering in the legal community and his local community. He is a past president of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, and he also helped to organize a nonprofit organization in Lafayette County that has helped more than 100 people per year to obtain their GEDs.