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ICON Awards 2022: Bill Hart, Husch Blackwell (retired)

Bill HartWith his eyes set on a career in international law, an assistant dean sidelined Bill Hart’s post-Duke University Law School plans with a straightforward piece of advice. “He told me to go into the FBI – it’ll be the best education you will ever receive.”

In his four-year law enforcement career, Hart worked undercover to gather intelligence on organizations that had been staging protests at the University of Michigan. He recalls his time in the bureau fondly and says it provided a valuable experience that he could draw from throughout his 40-year career.

“You learn how the real world works,” said Hart. “Secondly, you learn how to read folks and relate to all kinds of people and be aware of what’s going on around you, which allowed me to pursue the rest of my life.”

After leaving the FBI in 1970, Hart moved to Springfield, Missouri, near the family farm, and joined the law firm of Farrington, Curtis, and Strong. He built a successful business and real-estate practice overseeing and negotiating several mergers, which ultimately resulted in the firm joining Husch Blackwell.

He earned the moniker of the lawyer’s lawyer for his ability to negotiate settlements where all parties left feeling he treated them fairly. He abides by a simple personal motto. “If you’re in a business transaction, listen to both sides, not just the client, but the other side,” explained Hart.

Hart developed those skills in those early FBI days. “One of the things I learned in the FBI was to listen. Sometimes they don’t hit on what’s important to them, but you have to read into what they are saying and figure out their concerns.”

He handled real estate deals for the late John Q. Hammonds, the developer of much of Branson and hotels across the country, and numerous other clients in Southwest Missouri. He recalled those transactions required tapping into his bureau background to help make local neighbors and homeowners associations comfortable with a proposed project. If they weren’t satisfied, at least they felt heard.

Hart fondly recalls that he developed many lifelong friendships through legal transactions that he treasures to this day. In his retirement, he enjoys his travel photography hobby; however, after a career trying to make everyone happy, he prefers a little more social distance. “My wife encourages me to take pictures of people, but I am not as smitten with people as I am with landscapes.”

ICON Awards 2022