When Brenda Hamilton was 16 years old, she began learning how the law works to get things done.
“A friend of mine was killed in a car accident on a very narrow, old bridge,” Hamilton recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Why is this bridge allowed to be this way? Why hasn’t something been done about it?’”
She reached out to her then Missouri State Senator Richard Webster, who helped her get in touch with the right people at the Missouri Department of Transportation. She attended city council meetings and made presentations about what needed to be done to get that bridge repaired. A year later, she attended a committee hearing at the State Capitol. The result was funding for the bypass that now goes around her hometown of Carthage.
“Senator Webster encouraged me to go to law school,” Hamilton says. “I already knew I wanted help others and make a difference in the world.” She received her J.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
“I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur,” Hamilton says. “Having my own business was important to me from a young age. In high school, a friend and I opened our own balloon delivery business.” For 20 years, she lived her law school dream of having her own firm as the managing/founding shareholder with Shank & Hamilton, PC.
In her current career position, Hamilton represents businesses of all sizes in courts across the nation in a wide variety of complex commercial litigation. In state and federal courts, she also has successfully handled many class action lawsuits involving consumer fraud, employment discrimination, and Fair Labor Standards Act/wage and hour claims.
“In the litigation field, 97 percent of cases settle, so civil litigation attorneys aren’t in the courtroom every day,” she says. “It’s thrilling to be in front of a jury and cross-examine a witness. But many victories are often winning a motion or handling a Zoom court hearing or winning an appeal. In our firm, we celebrate all of our victories together.”
Hamilton also enjoys the challenge of finding ways to keep women attorneys involved in the practice of law and help them advance to leadership positions. Some of the young female attorneys she mentored are now shareholders in her firm, which is rewarding for her.
“I didn’t have a lot of women partners and women litigators to mentor me,” she says. “I strive to be a woman who doesn’t pull up the ladder behind me, but extends it down and reaches down to help others up.”
After adopting her daughter from China, Hamilton wanted to help other families with international adoptions. She serves as vice president and a board member with Families Blessed with the World’s Children. This nonprofit focuses on supporting and assisting families that are adopting, have adopted or want to adopt internationally.
“My daughter’s exuberance and the drama of a middle schooler help take me away from a bad day,” Hamilton says. “She helps me put things in perspective.”