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Lathrop Gage partners leaving to open Kutak Rock office

The move prompts Lathrop Gage’s closure in Springfield

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Kutak Rock LLP, an Omaha, Nebraska-based law firm, is coming to the Queen City by way of six Lathrop Gage LLP partners.

The leaders of the Springfield office of Kansas City-based Lathrop Gage were hired as the first staff members for what will be Kutak Rock’s 18th office, said company Chairman Jay Selanders. Lathrop Gage issued a statement July 6 announcing its Springfield office will close by July 26. A total of 11 Springfield staffers will leave Lathrop Gage, including all its active partners: James Jeffries; James Meadows; Dan Nelson; Joseph Reid; Michael Textor; and Randell Wallace, the partner in charge.

Wallace said via email the partners will be joined by three associates at Lathrop Gage’s Springfield office: Jarica Oeltjen, Josh Christensen and Taylor White, along with two of-counsel attorneys, Amanda Cochran and Elijah Haahr. He said Ariel Kiefer, a recent graduate of University of Missouri School of Law, will be joining the staff after taking the bar exam later this summer.

Those involved say negotiations are ongoing for an office location. An opening date will be announced in several weeks, Selanders said.

Lathrop Gage’s Kansas City office referred questions about a possible noncompete clause with the new firm to Wallace, who did not return multiple messages seeking further comment.

With the addition of the Springfield office, Kutak Rock has nearly 530 attorneys companywide, with a Midwest presence in Kansas City; Wichita, Kansas; Omaha, Nebraska; and Fayetteville, Rogers and Little Rock, Arkansas.

Selanders, who is based out of the firm’s Kansas City office, said he’s known several of the partners coming on board through interactions when in Springfield working on bankruptcy court cases. He said the possibility of a Springfield location for Kutak Rock has been an ongoing discussion for the past several months.

“It was sort of a mutual discussion,” Selanders said. “It’s difficult to point to the exact starting time.”

The firm has an active presence in northwest Arkansas, he said, and with Kansas City to the north, Springfield was an attractive market in between those areas to consider as a new office location.

“We think Springfield is a growing, vibrant community that has a lot of potential,” he said. “We think being there makes a lot of sense for us. … These partners being a part of the deal really made it work.”

Lathrop Gage employs 25 in Springfield, and the office contributes to the firm’s $131.5 million in total annual billings. That number is down from $150 million annually that officials previously reported.

The firm has operated in Springfield for 20 years, originally opening in Hammons Tower.

In early 2013, Lathrop Gage signed a more than five-year lease at 910 St. Louis St., Ste. 100, on the first floor of the downtown headquarters of accounting firm BKD LLP, according to SBJ archives.

“When Lathrop Gage first opened its Springfield office 20 years ago, it was part of our plan to service clients across the great state of Missouri,” Lathrop Gage managing partner Cameron Garrison said in the statement. “As law and technology have evolved over the last two decades, however, that goal has become possible without maintaining an office in Springfield.”

Meanwhile, Garrison said the firm has added more than 50 attorneys and staff this year, in such markets as Los Angeles, Boston and Denver. Closer to its headquarters, he said offices in Overland Park, Kansas, and St. Louis also have expanded in the areas of cybersecurity and intellectual property specialties.

“The partners departing our Springfield office have chosen a different direction for their practices,” Garrison said. “We wish them well in their new endeavor.”

Personnel movement among law practices in the Queen City has been a frequent occurrence in recent years, with a number of them involving Kansas City-based firms.

Ten attorneys departed Kansas City-based Husch Blackwell LLP’s Springfield office beginning in June 2014 to help start a Springfield location for Kansas City-based Spencer Fane LLP. Spencer Fane in March 2015 signed a 10-year lease with renewal options for 12,000 square feet of office space in Farmers Park, according to past SBJ reporting.

In January 2015, three attorneys left Kansas City-based law firm Polsinelli PC to join Lathrop Gage. Two of those attorneys, Meadows and Textor, are among those moving on to Kutak Rock. According to SBJ archives, Polsinelli closed its law firm at the end of 2015 following the retirement of three attorneys, judges John Holstein and Phil Garrison, and former bankruptcy trustee and managing partner Tom O’Neal.

Aside from the Springfield office addition, Kutak Rock has bolstered staff size multiple times in the past year, Selanders said. The firm grew its attorney count in February when seven attorneys joined its Denver office after leaving Denver-based law firm Lowe, Fell & Skogg LLC. Last October, four attorneys from the Kansas City office of Lathrop Gage left to join Kutak Rock’s Kansas City location, while the firm’s Minneapolis office added six attorneys from Anderson, Helgen, Davis & Cefalu PA.

Kutak Rock started in 1965 and its 2017 revenue was approximately $242 million, Selanders said.

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