2003 seems like a long time ago. And that’s how long I have been practicing law. The time has flown by and is checkered with some typical and not-so-typical milestones of a litigator-turned-estate planner.
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2003 after earning my Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University. I ventured to New York City to join my husband in the excitement, grind, and hustle that the City offers. Starting at an insurance defense firm in Midtown, I was handed an endless string of cases defending hospitals, doctors, and landlords in medical malpractice and premises liability claims. My first hearing was in the Bronx. Dozens and dozens of attorneys who had never before met shouted the case name to locate their counterpart. Together we sat in the hallway and filled out the scheduling order. We met with a clerk to get it signed. I never saw a judge. This was “justice”? Needless to say, it was an eye opening experience for a young attorney. I took many depositions early on, drafted motions, and stayed up late working. I learned to negotiate, be persuasive, and work hard for my clients.
In 2005 my husband and I moved to Wisconsin. I joined a prestigious, regional firm that practiced in a range of areas. I participated in my first trial—a non-compete employment dispute. Our client lost at trial but won on appeal. I saw a judge persuaded by details and not the law. I learned how to continue advocating for our client after an initial defeat to achieve the just result. I also handled a number of Section 1983 claims and represented county governments throughout Wisconsin. Most cases dealt with claims against law enforcement. I learned how to get a male-dominated sector to believe in me as their lawyer. It worked and I was successful.
In 2007 we moved to Kansas City and I’ve been here ever since. I started my Kansas City career at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, became a Partner, and stayed until late 2017. During that time, I worked exclusively for alternative-fee clients and managed hundreds of cases within a fixed budget model. I toured the country representing product manufacturers wherever they were sued. The case staffing structure was lean and I had the opportunity to do everything—trials, mediations, settlement conferences, expert discovery, motion drafting and oral arguments. I was the client’s point person for the more than 50 cases I oversaw. I reviewed budgets and strategy and worked hard to resolve matters efficiently. I cared about the client’s cases. I cared about the client. We were partners in legal battle. For six months beginning in late 2016 I was seconded to a Fortune 500 company to work in the legal department. I managed a significant portion of the company’s commercial docket and saw from the inside what outside counsel should provide—a legal plan, an honest budget, useful and proactive reporting, efficient results.
Following a decade at Shook, fellow PEAK Partner Kristi Burmeister and I decided to start our own firm—Heritage Law LLC. We set out on our journey with straight-forward goals: to serve our community and to work with individuals in a growing practice area. We began with estate planning and fiduciary litigation, and our practice has already grown exponentially since our opening in October 2017. Estate planning is now my primary focus and I relish in meeting new clients, learning about their families, and helping them shape their estate planning goals. I have also come to appreciate the strain that contested estate and probate matters place on families, oftentimes with limited monetary upside. Seeing families destroyed by litigation and overcome by the financial cost and emotional stress involved in that process, I also offer mediation services to help families resolve conflict on the front-end of a dispute. For a more comprehensive overview of my estate planning and mediation practice, please visit www.heritagelawkc.com.