2021 was another incredible year for the country and, as you know too well, the legal industry.
As courthouses slowly reopened and legal cases began moving again, judges and court administrators dealt with legal battles over masks and vaccines. And then the omicron variant threatened to stall our return to the “new normal.” Still, the business of lawyering has continued, despite the widespread limitations this global pandemic has created.
And the Missouri legal community has not been immune to human loss. Attorneys and those who work beside them in firms and government have succumbed to this virulent enemy. Certainly, no community has been spared, but when the impact hits close to home, sorrow runs deep.
Yet in the face of all of the disruption and tragedy faced across this state, the Missouri legal community stands tall. Courts have created systems and levels of alert that establish safety protocols while working hard not to limit access. Firms have found ways to protect employees and clients while continuing to facilitate representation. While we would have wished for another way to do so, we will have learned from necessity.
It is against this backdrop that we celebrate and honor the exceptional work and success of so many through our 2022 Missouri Lawyers Awards.
Missouri Lawyers Media took a long look back at this incredible year to not only identify those gladiators who marked big verdict and settlement wins for their clients in 2021, but those whose actions in and out of the courtroom have had — or will have — significant impact on the profession.
The attorneys we recognize all carry the hallmarks of tremendous purpose and vision.
Of accomplishment and impact.
During an ongoing pandemic with no end in sight.
Nominations for these awards were submitted from across the state and from a wealth of resources. The nominations alone are a testament to the great work practiced day in and day out by so many dedicated men and women. But in selecting the honorees, we witness the ripple effect of their work as well. In addition to the profession, these lawyers make a commitment to their communities, however they define that.
They are leaders, not followers. They understand and demonstrate that service to their communities isn’t a byproduct of success; in fact, success is a byproduct of service.
On behalf of everyone at Missouri Lawyers Media, I extend our sincerest congratulations to the 2022 Missouri Lawyers Awards honorees. We are proud to be a part of this recognition and grateful to those honored this year.
And we, along with the rest of the world, hope for an end to the ravages of this pandemic.
— Liz Irwin
Lawyers of the Year
Joel Ferber of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Chuck Hatfield of Stinson and Lowell Pearson of Husch Blackwell, for advocacy that secured expansion of Missouri’s Medicaid system.
Awarded to the newsmakers — the Missouri lawyers who made substantial contributions to the legal community this year.
Mary Fox of the Missouri State Public Defender System, for her efforts to reduce the system’s backlog of cases while persuading lawmakers to increase funding.
Rob Huq of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney Office, who helps lead both the circuit attorney’s office and the Washington University Law Prosecution Clinic while helping secure important victories in court.
Rachel Rutter of the Rutter Law Firm, who achieved a hard-won victory in a tough venue on behalf of a lesbian client who faced discrimination at the Department of Corrections.
Mit Winter of Kennyhertz Perry, whose expertise in sports law helped him found and lead the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association’s Sports and Entertainment Law Committee.
Awarded to plaintiffs’ or defense lawyers, not based on the size of verdicts, but the importance of the principle or policy at stake.
Robert J. Hoffman of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and Tricia Rojo Bushnell of the Midwest Innocence Project, for their efforts to free Kevin Strickland after 43 years in prison for a triple murder he didn’t commit.
Ken McClain of Humphrey, Farrington & McClain, who spent more than a year in trial conducting individual arbitrations for hundreds of employees who alleged their retirement plan was poorly managed.
Jay Nixon of Dowd Bennett, who put his brief-writing skills, his love of the outdoors and his knowledge as the state’s former governor to work on behalf of two important land conservation cases.
Pam Meanes of Thompson Coburn, Robert Bailey of the University of Missouri School of Law and Casey Wong of Sandberg Phoenix, who served as co-chairs of an effort by The Missouri Bar to address a timely issue: how to increase the retention of diverse lawyers in the profession.
Influential Appellate Advocates
Awarded to the lawyers behind the most significant appellate decisions of the year.
T. Michael Ward of Brown & James, the firm’s managing partner who won a series of significant appellate decisions this year concerning insurance coverage.
Tim Aylward of Horn Aylward & Bandy, who achieved his third career win in the Supreme Court in the fraught area of medical malpractice damage limits.
Sally Barker and Loretta Haggard of Schuchat, Cook & Werner, whose work led the Supreme Court to strike down a sweeping law that governed public-sector unions.
Brian Shank of Evans & Dixon, whose patience in waiting two and a half years for a Supreme Court ruling resulted in a significant decision on the limits of co-worker liability.
Law Firm Leaders
Awarded to chairpersons, managing partners or other law firm executives who demonstrated extraordinary vision, innovation and leadership during the year.
John Franke of Franke Schultz & Mullen, whose management of the firm he helped found has led all four of its offices to grow even during the pandemic.
Desarae Harrah of Harrah Law, whose entrepreneurial spirit and leadership led her to open her own law practice in 2018 while giving back to the legal community.
Matthew Reh of Armstrong Teasdale, who leads firm’s national litigation practice group and was just elected to the commission that helps select judges in St. Louis County.
Julianne Story of Husch Blackwell, who shaped both the advice given to clients and the firm’s own policies on labor and employment law during the pandemic.
Bob Tomaso of Husch Blackwell, who has spent 20 years in senior law firm management positions and is the current president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis.
Andrea McNairy of Brown & Crouppen, who is a managing attorney, an active litigator and the first female attorney to become a partner of the firm.
Samuel Wendt of the Wendt Law Firm, who has led not only his own firm but also the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association through the pandemic.
Julia Vander Weele of Spencer Fane, who took over in 2021 as managing partner of the firm’s Kansas City office, its largest nationwide.