In 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to force many people to work from home, Bob Tomaso, office managing partner of Husch Blackwell in St. Louis, received some atypical requests from colleagues.
“I can’t tell you how many people called me and said, ‘Hey, could you just water my plant?’ or, ‘I was looking for a package,’” recalled Tomaso, who came into the office daily whenever he was in town.
That willingness to do the seemingly menial tasks has made Tomaso a successful leader at the firm and as president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Tomaso said tries to emulate his grandfather, who had a sixth-grade education, and “treated everyone well. I have always tried to be very friendly, tried to make other people feel comfortable in whatever setting I was in.”
That is important at the bar association, whose primary purpose, Tomaso said, is maintaining “a civil bar.”
“You are less inclined to be rude or obnoxious with people you know,” said Tomaso.
But how do you accomplish that when people are reluctant to gather because of COVID?
>In August, for the first time in two years, the organization held its Bench & Bar Conference at Lake of the Ozarks. The point was “to get lawyers and judges together in a casual atmosphere,” Tomaso said.
“We weren’t trying to convince people to attend but [we were] reassuring folks that we had taken precautions to keep the venues and meeting rooms safe,” recalled Tomaso.
The event included Tomaso moderating on a panel on media and the law with Lauren Trager, a KMOV (Channel 4) reporter; photographer Bill Greenblatt; and Scott Lauck, Missouri Lawyers Media reporter.
Tomaso thinks the talk helped attorneys realize that you shouldn’t be afraid of the press.
“You can use the media to get important legal points across. Some people use the media to promote themselves and their practices,” Tomaso explained.
Outside of formal events, Tomaso helped bar association members because he “has not always told you what you wanted to hear but what you needed to hear,” said Susan Baltz, who was a marketing manager two decades ago at what is now Husch Blackwell and is now executive director of the St. Louis bar association. “I trust Bob and go to him for advice…both professionally and personally.”
In his legal practice, Tomaso has also continued to provide valuable advice over the past year, said Katie Rutledge, vice president and chief human resources officer of the Springfield Clinic, an Illinois health care facility. That included helping the clinic during a dispute with the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois health insurer.
“I always feel important and valued and that he knows what is going on, so I very much appreciate that,” said Rutledge. “I also feel like he just genuinely has the best interest of our clinic at heart.”