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ICON Awards 2021: Jennifer Gille Bacon, Polsinelli

With one World Series win in two appearances and stars like Frank White and George Brett leading the way, the 1980s-era Kansas City Jennifer Gille BaconRoyals remain icons for generations of fans.

Jennifer Gille Bacon credits her fondness for ‘80s Major League Baseball to an altogether different Kauffman Stadium experience: an extended conversation (between pitches) with a visiting lawyer from Zambia that would crystallize the young attorney’s purpose in life.

“‘I work to establish the rule of law in Africa’ — that’s what he told me,” she said of then- African Bar Association president Rodger Chongwe, who a decade later would survive an assassination attempt in his home country.

“In that moment, Chongwe (figuratively) grabbed my little Midwestern feet out of their little Midwestern shoes, and said, ‘You will stand in MY shoes, and look at the world through MY eyes. You are here to uphold the rule of law.’”

“In that moment, I knew what my purpose was — and what the purpose of every lawyer was,” said Bacon, a past president of The Missouri Bar who retired from Polsinelli in 2019. “Forty years later, he was and is still right.”

A child of “relentlessly egalitarian” parents, the native Kansan grew up in Wyandotte County, Wichita and Topeka before heading to Lawrence for college.

With an undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in hand and designs on studying psychology, it was off to graduate school at Ohio State, where Bacon earned a master’s degree “running rats through mazes and college sophomores through a nonsense syllabus” before returning to KU for law school.

“It was interesting, but not the kind of brush I had in mind,” she said of grad school. “I had a big broad brush and plans to change the world in mind.”

Working primarily with business clients in industries ranging from healthcare, insurance and trucking to financial services and pharmaceuticals, Bacon was part of trial teams that set then-record wins for the largest verdict and settlement, respectively, in Kansas City business litigation at the time.

One notable keepsake: a framed feather quill pen she received while bringing a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Bacon led the Polsinelli team that emerged victorious in a 2015 antitrust claim on behalf of commercial and industrial purchasers of natural gas against 10 natural gas suppliers.

Bacon is past chair of the Missouri Bar Supreme Court Advisory Committee and the Missouri Commission on the Retirement, Removal and Discipline of Judges. She was also the first woman to chair The Missouri Bar YLS Council.

A 2014 winner of Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s Women’s Justice Award, Bacon remains active in Kansas City civic life, serving on the boards of the Rose Brooks Center, The Barstow School and the Friends of Chamber Music.

At 71, Bacon has come to terms with the reality that “while you can always be part of the solution, you’re unlikely to be the prime mover. When your age starts with a seven, no one is willing to call you middle-aged anymore.”

She’s also keen to celebrate a life well lived.

“I’ve had remarkable good fortune in my life, and it continues,” she adds. “I am the luckiest girl you know.”

ICON Awards 2021