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Legal Limelight: Bill Bay, Partner, Thompson Coburn, St. Louis

Staff Report//September 14, 2023

Legal Limelight: Bill Bay, Partner, Thompson Coburn, St. Louis

Staff Report//September 14, 2023

Bill Bay

Bill Bay, a partner with the St. Louis office of Thompson Coburn, became the president-elect of the American Bar Association on Aug. 8. He will assume the role of ABA president in August 2024 at the conclusion of the term of current President Mary L. Smith.

Bay has been a member of the ABA House of Delegates for more than 20 years and served as its 2018-2020 chair. He is also a past chair of the ABA section of litigation and a past member of the ABA Board of Governors, where he served as the chair of the finance committee.

He is also a fellow in the American Bar Foundation and a member of the American Law Institute.

In Missouri, Bay is a past president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis and a past member of The Missouri Bar Board of Governors, as well as a fellow of The Missouri Bar Foundation. He currently co-chairs the Missouri Supreme Court’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness.

In his practice, Bay represents major corporations in high-stakes litigation in state and federal courts across the country. His clients include major financial institutions, manufacturers and post-secondary institutions.

When did you decide to become an attorney and why?

My path to a law career was not remarkable in any way. Going to the corner store to pick up something my mom needed. Walking to a friend’s house a few doors away and going to the park to play ball. Biking down the alleys and looking for soda bottles to turn in for deposit. Going to school three blocks away and to church less than a mile away. Loved visiting the donut shop or frozen custard stand.

My world was my neighborhood. It was where I grew up. It shaped my world view — that life is about relationships and the unique perspective and value every person brings to your life. I have never forgotten that as I practice law. Everyone has a story to tell.  And it matters.

How did you come to be in your particular practice?

After graduating from University of Missouri-Columbia, I headed to the University of Michigan for law school. But I always wanted to come home to St. Louis. Thompson Coburn has been my practice home for just over 40 years. We have come a long way from the 50-lawyer firm I joined to the nearly 450-lawyer firm we have today with offices throughout the country. Their support for me has made a real difference.

What has been your favorite moment as an attorney?

I look forward to beginning my service as president of the American Bar Association in August 2024.  These are exciting days to lead, full of challenges and change. The American lawyer needs the leadership of the American Bar Association. It serves a unique role, a national unifying role, a place where every lawyer can find a home, value, worth and fulfillment. It will be my privilege to welcome every lawyer to their professional home, the American Bar Association where together, we can make a difference in the lives of our members, the public we serve and our communities.

What is something that would surprise people about you? 

Two things. During high school and college, I worked at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. I became a breakfast cook and really liked it. Breakfast is still one of my favorite meals to eat or cook. During college, I spent one summer as part of a small international music team on mission in France. It was a life-changing experience.

What is your favorite thing to do away from work? 

I like reading. Mysteries are my favorites, but I am a big fan of sci-fi series. I also enjoy the challenge of jigsaw puzzles.

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