2020 was an incredible year for the country and, as you know too well, the legal industry.
The impact of COVID-19 has shuttered courthouses and stalled legal action — even halting it in some cases. Still, the business of lawyering has continued, despite the widespread limitations this global pandemic has created.
And the Missouri legal community has not been immune to human loss. Attorneys and those who work beside them in firms and government have succumbed to this virulent enemy. Certainly, no community has been spared, but when the impact hits close to home, sorrow runs deep.
Yet in the face of all of the disruption and tragedy faced across this state, the Missouri legal community stands tall. Courts have created systems and levels of alert that establish safety protocols while working hard not to limit access. Firms have found ways to protect employees and clients while continuing to facilitate representation. While we would have wished for another way to do so, we will have learned from necessity.
It is against this backdrop that we celebrate and honor the exceptional work and success of so many through our 2021 Missouri Lawyers Awards.
Missouri Lawyers Media took a long look back at this incredible year to not only identify those gladiators who marked big verdict and settlement wins for their clients in 2020, but those whose actions in and out of the courtroom have had — or will have — significant impact on the profession.
The attorneys we recognize all carry the hallmarks of tremendous purpose and vision.
Of accomplishment and impact.
Against a devastating illness most didn’t see coming.
Nominations for these awards were submitted from across the state and from a wealth of resources. The nominations alone are a testament to the great work practiced day in and day out by so many dedicated men and women. But in selecting the honorees, we witness the ripple effect of their work as well. In addition to the profession, these lawyers make a commitment to community, however they define that.
They are leaders, not followers. They understand and demonstrate that service to their communities isn’t a byproduct of success; in fact, success is a byproduct of service.
On behalf of everyone at Missouri Lawyers Media, I extend our sincerest congratulations to the 2021 Missouri Lawyers Awards honorees. We are proud to be a part of this recognition and grateful to those honored this year.
And we, along with the rest of the world, hope for an end to the ravages of this pandemic.
— Liz Irwin
Lawyers of the Year
Charles Weiss, Stephen Snodgrass and Jonathan Potts of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, for their work to overturn the wrongful conviction of Donald “Doc” Nash.
Awarded to the newsmakers — the Missouri lawyers who made substantial contributions to the legal community this year.
Brad Zimmerman of Carmody MacDonald, who worked with lawmakers to change Missouri’s tax code to benefit the families of first responders from Missouri killed or injured by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Judge David Byrn of the Jackson County Circuit Court, who has guided the court as presiding judge through floods, protests and a pandemic.
Awarded to plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers, not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.
Todd Graves and Dane Martin of Graves Garrett, for their work in keeping millions of dollars in taxpayer money from flowing to a Platte County shopping district.
Daniel Thomas and Michael Kilgore of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, who won hefty judgments against the federal government for men who were abused at a VA medical center in Kansas.
Kent Gipson and Taylor Rickard of the Law Office of Kent Gipson, for their work in freeing a wrongfully convicted man whose case was championed by WNBA star Maya Moore.
Athena Dickson of Siro Smith Dickson, who won a significant jury verdict for a wrongfully terminated shopping district manager.
Natasha Scruggs of The Scruggs Law Firm, whose work to improve society ranges from an annual law camp to advocating for the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people.
Sarah Bardol of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, who took part in a food distribution program to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Influential Appellate Advocates
Awarded to the lawyers behind the most significant appellate decisions of the year.
Rosemary Percival of the Missouri State Public Defender System, who persuaded the Missouri Supreme Court to allow expert testimony to challenge the reliability of eyewitness identification.
Tom Weaver of Armstrong Teasdale, who got the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District to cut in half one of the biggest jury verdicts in Missouri history.
William Ray Price Jr. of Armstrong Teasdale and Robert Adams of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, who won a long-awaited and closely divided ruling in the Supreme Court that prevented a new trial against their clients.
Law Firm Leaders
Awarded to chairpersons, managing partners or other law firm executives who demonstrated extraordinary vision, innovation and leadership during the year.
David Braswell of Armstrong Teasdale, who has led the firm following the untimely death of his predecessor and helped redefine the firm’s strategic goals.
Michael Downey of the Downey Law Group, who has made his firm the go-to place for ethics advice, training and representation.
Shannon Johnson of Seigfreid Bingham, who led a trial team in a first-of-its kind recovery under a rarely used Missouri statute.
John Kennyhertz of Kennyhertz Perry, who, as managing partner, handles the day-to-day operations of the firm through the changing environment of the pandemic.
Amy Mistler of Spencer Fane, who leads one of largest offices of one Missouri’s fastest growing firms.
Christopher Pickett of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, a firm shareholder who leads its efforts to diversify the workplace and to recruit and retain diverse talent.
Scott Seitter of Levy Craig Law Firm, who has reorganized the firm’s management structure, brought in a new COO and worked to upgrade the firm’s technology.
Gregory Smith of Husch Blackwell, who has helped build the firm into the operation it is today during his eight-year tenure of firm leadership.
Patrick Whalen of Spencer Fane, whose leadership and vision have made the firm one of the fastest-growing law firms in the nation.