“I’ve seen a whole lot of new life beyond the small town where I grew up,” says Brette Hart. She was the local realtor’s daughter who looked at the courthouse in their town and dreamed of helping people fix their problems. With her JD degree from Washburn University School of Law, she is living her dream.
Hart is the owner and managing partner of her majority female law firm. She is lead counsel on litigation cases, bad faith avoidance cases, coverage opinions and pre-litigation matters. She also handles a full caseload of complex litigated cases.
In addition, she manages and supervises attorneys and administrative staff, and handles all the negotiations and finances for the firm. “I set a tone of no drama, no nonsense for everyone who works here,” Hart says. “No competition, no hierarchy. We have a very cooperative work environment and a team mentality. Our clients know that, too. I trust all of my attorneys and staff, and I want them to succeed.”
Dana Harris, Hart’s mentor and later her partner, saw in Hart what many others see: a gifted litigator, a tireless advocate and a person of integrity. One of the first cases Hart handled, soon after graduating from law school, was a multiple vehicle accident on I-70 that involved several well-known rap artists. “A tour bus, two semis, five cars and five motorcycles, and everyone lived,” she recalls. “Our client was the tour bus company. At that point, I had been licensed for only a short time and had sat through only two depositions.”
Lawsuits were filed, and soon Hart was flying around the country, taking the lead on depositions and meeting attorneys who were already legends in her profession. “The cases went on for two years,” she says. “I took 15 depositions. I carried four banker’s boxes of documents around with me. This was a good start for my career. I learned that I can do this.”
Hart has tried more than 35 jury and bench trials, as well as appellate cases and oral arguments, in both Missouri and Kansas. “I come to every case seeing opposing counsel as my worthy adversary, a person, a professional, not my enemy,” she says. “When you’re in the courtroom, you’re adversaries. When you walk out of the courtroom, be cordial and friendly and civil. Talk and be creative and resolve the issues.”
One of her most memorable court appearances was when she tried a case three days before her first child was born. “I was cross-examining a doctor who wasn’t telling the truth,” she says. “When I made a strange face, the judge stopped the trial. He said I was making everyone nervous. My son decided to wait until the trial was over to be born.”
When Hart is having a difficult day, she opens a drawer in her desk. There she finds thank you notes from clients, letters of recognition, appreciation letters from attorneys. “Those mean a lot to me,” she says. “They remind me how I’ve helped people out of rough times.”