Doctor of Laws

Another honor for Polsinelli

James A. Polsinelli, UMKC School of Law alumnus and renowned Kansas City attorney, donned the regalia of a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa at the School of Law commencement May 18, 2013.

After more than 40 years as a prominent Kansas City attorney – years filled with good business, good times and good works – the ceremonial garments fit very well.

Polsinelli grew up in south Kansas City and attended the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1964. He then attended the UMKC School of Law, where he graduated with distinction in 1967. During law school, he was a contributing editor to the UMKC Law Review and a member of the Order of the Bench and Robe.

In 1972, he founded his own small law firm with two young partners, opening an office in the Plaza Theatre building. They could tell when a popular movie was playing, Polsinelli recalls, because the steps would be littered with more popcorn than usual.

The Polsinelli firm quickly earned a reputation for excellence in commercial law and development. As legal concerns shifted to areas such as bankruptcy, biotech needs and intellectual property cases, Polsinelli added attorneys well-qualified in business litigation, financial services, construction, life sciences and health care law. Originally a trial attorney, Polsinelli switched to corporate law because he liked working with the same clients and understanding their needs, a philosophy based on relationships that is still important to him.

From the start, Polsinelli was committed to serving causes and clients of limited means. Every year, the firm gives thousands of hours of legal services at no cost. They take pride in helping the community. Moreover, they assist Legal Aid organizations in Missouri and Colorado with their pro bono case loads.

It is not an afterthought. The Polsinelli firm has full-time attorneys on staff to work pro bono cases for individuals or charitable organizations. As part of their work load, other attorneys may volunteer their time for the same type of clientele.

Early on, the Polsinelli firm planned to grow to, maybe, 25 attorneys. But to keep up with clients’ needs, they added lawyers and opened other offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Dallas, New York, Wilmington, Denver, Phoenix and St. Louis.

With a well established reputation in corporate law, Polsinelli predominantly works on mergers and acquisitions and business succession planning, overseeing deals in the $25 to $500 million range.

Over the years, the firm has employed many UMKC Law School graduates, most of them working in the Kansas City office. Polsinelli himself remained in Kansas City, making his presence felt not just in legal circles but in the community as well. He stressed his firm’s insistence on hiring a diverse group of students as interns, and on promoting education at every level. He chaired the Rockhurst High School Board of Trustees and was a member of the Board of Trustees for Rockhurst University, St. Teresa’s Academy and UMKC.

Polsinelli took on civic causes that bettered the life of many Kansas Citians, playing a significant role in beginning construction of the popular exercise trail, benches, and landscaping for Mill Creek Park. The Eco-Pond, a bird sanctuary created by natural waterfalls and marine plants, is a point of pride.

At UMKC, Polsinelli and his firm supported the Technology Entrepreneur Speakers Program through the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, the Missouri Small Business and Technology Development Center, the Law Foundation (past president) and the Bloch School Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

The Polsinelli firm has been recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the top 100 law firms in the country, and he was named a “Baron of the Boardroom” by the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association.

So on May 18, with the recommendation of the faculty and the blessing of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, Jim Polsinelli became one of the newest Doctors of Laws, Honoris Causa – an honor well-deserved and appropriate.


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