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2021 Up & Coming Awards: Publisher’s letter, honorees

Google the phrase “Up and Coming,” and you’ll find lots of examples of up-and-comers as well as definitions. They explain that the adjective describes someone who is likely to achieve success in the future based on current progress.

You knew that already. Me, too. So it’s obvious why Missouri Lawyers Media chose it as the title of these annual awards that recognize remarkable attorneys early in their careers.

But I’m starting to believe we got the title all wrong. After all, the folks highlighted on these pages are succeeding now.

Not later. Now.

Read the current career stats of these honorees, and you will see each has ticked off accomplishments most of us find either elusive or decades in the making. And yet each honoree has achieved at these high levels before reaching age 40, or while practicing for less than 10 years.

My career began when these rock stars were just greeting life. Their careers are decades away from completion with accolades we can only imagine today.

We also celebrate mentors and law firm leaders who personify the trajectory for the Up & Coming honorees. Not only are they exceptional in their own careers, but they pay it forward by reaching back and offering a hand up. They recognize that true success often relies on a listening ear or a word of warning about challenges they’ve faced on their own similar paths.

Each year, Missouri Lawyers Media receives scores of nominations for these honors. Poring through the achievements of so many worthy candidates is a daunting task accomplished through thoughtful, deliberate discussion.

The honorees you will read about in this section define what this award is all about — early-career attorneys achieving at the highest levels.

It doesn’t matter what moniker we place on the award. No one will remember that.

What will be remembered is the accomplishment.


Liz Irwin

The honorees:

Wale Akinmoladun, Spencer Fane

Amanda Blackwood, Montee Law Firm

Thad Blenke, Thompson Coburn

Portia Britt, Maryville University

Paul L. Brusati, Armstrong Teasdale

Wade Carr, Dentons US

Ally Cunningham, Lathrop GPM

Lillian Davis, Polsinelli

Jillian Rebecca Dent, Stueve Siegel Hanson

Jason M. Finkes, Finkes Legal

Jared T. Frick, Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick

Kehl Friesen, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice

Brandon Gutshall, Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Patrick Hunt, Baty Otto Coronado

Ryan M. Hyde, Behr McCarter Potter

Jamaal Jordan, Stinson

Anne Kerns, Mickes O’Toole

Tanner A. Kirksey, Stanton | Barton

Jeffrey C. Klaus, Lashly & Baer

Alex Ledbetter, Finney Injury Law

Elizabeth C. Lillis, Growe Eisen Karlen Eilerts

Matthew Martin, BHaar & Woods

Matthew Mueller, Graves Garrett

Ian Murphy, Margulis Gelfand

Bethany G. Parsons, Turner, Reid, Duncan, Loomer & Patton

Diedre Peters, Blanton, Nickell, Collins, Douglas and Hanschen

Jamiel Peterson, The Law Offices of Jamiel J. Peterson

Duvel (DJ) Pierre, Spencer Fane

Andrew C. Robb, Robb & Robb

Brittany Sanders Robb, Robb & Robb

Nick Savio, Franke Schultz & Mullen

Tyler Schaeffer, Carmody MacDonald

Christopher J. Seibold, Brown & James

Shaun Stallworth, Holman Schiavone

Courtney Steelman, Husch Blackwell

Courtney M. Stout, Williams Dirks Dameron

Samantha J. Wenger, Dentons US

Greg Whiston, Seigfreid Bingham

Chris Wray, Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Lindsay Wuller Aggarwal, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Sophie Zavaglia, SWMW Law

Law Firm Leaders

Hissan Anis, Avant Law Group

Sarah Lynn Baltzell, Shook, Hardy & Bacon

Jennifer Therrien, Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale

Elizabeth Wente, Spencer Fane

Public Service

Kelsey Blackwell, Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office

John David Hatcher, Newton County Prosecutor’s Officee

Lesley D. Smith, Federal Public Defender, Western District of Missouri

Judith Westmoreland, Jackson County CASA


Roger K. McCrummen, McCrummen Immigration Law Group

Pro Bono

Ali Ragsdale Olszeski, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Up & Coming Awards 2021