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Missouri Lawyers Awards 2022: Ken McClain

Humphrey, Farrington & McClain

Zoom fatigue has been a topic of frequent discussion during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, which forced many people to work remotely and rely on the video conferencing platform.

But that strain apparently didn’t hurt Ken McClain in his arbitrations on behalf of employees who claimed that DST Systems, a Kansas City-based company, mismanaged their retirement plan and violated the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

For 52 weeks, McClain represented the plaintiffs in weekly arbitration hearings, alleging that that the company allowed the profit-sharing portion of the retirement plan to be largely concentrated in a single pharmaceutical company’ stock, which resulted in $395 million in losses.

McClain’s team won more than 86% of the cases, he said.

“I have been amazed at his ability to maintain that energy level and optimism,” said Bill Carr, attorney with White Graham Buckley & Carr, who worked with McClain on the cases. “There have been many different twists and turns to the cases, and Ken’s philosophy has always been: ‘It’s all going to come out OK in the end.’ ”

Given the ongoing threat posed by the virus, the arbitrators in the DST cases did not travel to Kansas City for arbitration hearings for the 552 employees’ claims. The sessions were done over Zoom. Some days, they tried four cases collectively; other times, they tried 15, McClain said.

“I love to try cases,” said McClain. “I always have enjoyed it, so it never disappoints me to have a defendant say, ‘We want to go to trial.’”

For the DST hearings, McClain still had to come into the office for the virtual hearings because of the collaboration required. A team of five people helped.

“When you are watching ‘The Tonight Show,’ it looks like it’s [just] Jimmy Fallon, but there are a whole lot of people behind the scenes running the cameras,” said McClain. “Being all in the same room was difficult to manage with everyone’s health — we had some people with Covid scares — but those were just part of the process.”

The arbitrators awarded the DST employees $41 million in judgments and $21 million in legal fees, McClain said.

During 2021, McClain also represented the Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador in an ongoing case against the tobacco industry seeking reimbursement for medical expenses allegedly due to smoking-related illness. McClain, who took the Canadian bar exam in order to try the cases, said the attorneys were in the final stages of negotiations.

“it’s been quite a long process of trying to learn another legal system and then being involved in negotiating a settlement,” said McClain, who filed tobacco-related lawsuits earlier in his career, including one on behalf of a former “Lucky Strike Girl” who developed lung cancer against the cigarette maker Liggett Group. “Seeing how [the Canadian] system works has been a real challenge, one that you don’t normally get in the practice of law.”

Carr, the attorney who also works on the DST cases, said McClain is up for unique challenges.

“He is one of the best trial lawyers I have ever seen,” said Carr. “His ability to adapt to changes and think on his feet has been very fun to watch.”

Missouri Lawyers Awards 2022