James Polsinelli to retire from the law firm that bears his name

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James Polsinelli. Photo courtesy of Polsinelli/Mark McDonald Photography.

James Polsinelli is retiring in January from the firm he founded with two other lawyers in 1972.

Polsinelli was 28 years old when he founded the firm now known simply as Polsinelli, report the American Lawyer and a press release. They managed to launch the firm in Kansas City, Missouri, with the help of a $10,000 credit line secured by household goods, including pots and pans. The firm now has more than 800 lawyers in 21 offices.

Polsinelli’s mantra was “quality work in a timely manner for a fair fee,” according to the firm’s chair-elect Chase Simmons, who was quoted in the press release. “That’s an ethic that will continue forward in tribute to Jim’s name forever.”

Polsinelli graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 1967 and went on to practice law at an insurance defense firm. He didn’t like the work partly because insurance adjusters “didn’t have any skin in the game,” he told the American Lawyer. At his new firm, Polsinelli advised business owners on matters regarding their corporations and their own personal wealth.

The initial partnership agreement declared that the firm would never have more than 25 partners—an effort to promote collegiality—but that fell by the wayside as the firm developed relationships with clients who could be served by additional offices.

The Polsinelli firm has had various names over the years. In 2013, the firm shorted its name from Polsinelli Shughart to Polsinelli.

It is one of the rare large law firms to still have the name of a founding partner partly because of the 1928 Canon 33 of the ABA Canon of Ethics that said “care should be taken” to ensure there is no deception when a firm continues to use of the name of a deceased or former partner, according to the American Lawyer. That changed in 1937 when an amendment to the canon specifically stated that using the name of a deceased partner “is not unethical.”




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