Brown & James
If anyone could be said to define the role of an influential appellate attorney this year, it is T. Mike Ward.
A veteran of more than 150 appeals, the history of success that has followed Brown & James’ managing partner continued apace in 2021.
Before the Missouri Court of Appeals, Ward helped establish methamphetamine as a “pollutant” under an insurance policy in a case of first impression. Before the Eighth Circuit, he participated in the reversal of a district court judgment over ambiguous policy language in an uninsured motorist claim. Two other state appeals court cases saw arguments over whether a step-down provision constituted an anti-stacking provision and the rejection of a plaintiff’s request for a new trial in a personal injury action.
Ward, a St. Louis native and 2011 Missouri Lawyers Weekly Law Firm Leader Award winner, credits his love of writing and his time spent clerking with Judge Jim Pudlowski at the Court of Appeals for his success as an appellate attorney.
Insurance coverage issues fall naturally into that milieu.
“Those are often intensive writing projects,” he said. “The research and writing is akin to an appellate brief.”
He said appellate work at the level of a supreme court is especially satisfying since even getting a matter accepted is so difficult.
“The Supreme Court is a court of discretionary jurisdiction so you have to persuade the court to take your case in the first instance before you can brief it on the merits,” he said, “so it is always gratifying when you are the party applying for transfer and you are able to persuade the Supreme Court to take your case.”
As part of a “purpose-driven and purpose-filled life,” the ability to practice law is something Ward sees as a privilege. So is leading a law firm, a position he said requires both diplomacy and good listening skills.
He said he was thankful to the founders of Brown & James for providing him the chance to excel at the firm which he joined in 1986 and where he ultimately became a partner the following decade.
“I’m very fortunate and very grateful for the opportunities that were given to me and I hope that I have not wasted them and that I have made the most of them,” said Ward, a one-time volunteer lawyer award honoree from Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. “They are the ones who should be honored, not myself.”