Attorney Virginia Fry has a nickname from one of her clients. They call her the “Closer.”
It’s a title she’s earned over a 38-year career in law.
“Sometimes cases are not about winning or losing but finding a solution to a problem,” says Fry, a partner in the Springfield office of Husch Blackwell LLP.
“I am often brought into situations that are in a crisis mode and that need a problem solver.”
The issue at hand might be claims of harassment, wrongful discharge or discrimination. Regardless, Fry is there to defend public and private employers.
In her commercial litigation practice with emphasis in labor and employment law, she also handles breaches of fiduciary duty and matters of constitutional law for some 40 clients.
She’s built clientele in the education and health care industries.
“Although those industries may seem diverse, the labor and employment issues that each have are unique to their fields but similar in nature,” Fry says. “The impact that I have had on my clients is to offer an objective analysis of the situation and help the client understand the options available to them.”
For instance, Fry represented College of the Ozarks in 2012 when it sued the federal government claiming the contraceptive mandate in former President Barack Obama’s health care law violated the school’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Nixa Public Schools is another education client. Longtime Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith says he connected with Fry in the early 2000s shortly after he was hired.
“Virginia distinguished herself in my eyes by consistently advising us wisely over the years and, on occasion, getting us out of some self-inflicted problems,” says Kleinsmith, who retired from the Nixa district this summer.
“If I was in a foxhole, fighting for my professional life, and I could have only one person in the foxhole with me, it would be Virginia Fry.”
Fry says she wants her clients to better understand their situations and the options available.
“It is my goal to provide the necessary information so that a client can make an informed decision,” Fry says. “A client’s success is the greatest compliment a lawyer can have.”
She has plenty of awards to show for that approach: Distinguished Attorney by the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association, Woman of the Year in Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s Women’s Justice Awards, and Best Lawyers in America nods in commercial litigation, employment law-management and litigation-labor and employment for 14 years running.
Fry was the one the firm looked to when half-a-dozen partners left Husch Blackwell’s Springfield office in 2014. The partners started another office for Spencer Fane LLP, and Fry moved into the primary leadership position for Husch Blackwell’s local office of 16 employees at the time. There are now 35, she says.
For her alma mater, Missouri State University, Fry has served on the board of governors since 2013 and was chairwoman in 2017. She graduated from MSU in 1976 and earned an MBA there a year later. She went on to earn her Juris Doctor from University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law in 1980.
Looking back on her career, she points to her first case when she worked for the now-dissolved Woolsey, Fisher law firm in Springfield. The case involved a power plant at a time when utility companies were getting fined based on the color of smoke emissions. Her client was the boiler manufacturer.
“I never thought when I went to law school I would be walking around a boiler room. I learned more about electricity and how the whole process worked than I ever thought,” Fry says. “It was helpful – years later I was on the City Utilities board and I could understand.”
Fry also serves on Husch Blackwell’s Diversity/Women’s Initiatives Committee and on its firmwide executive board.
“I was nominated by my partners to serve on this 10-member board that formulates policy and strategy for the firm,” she says.
Outside of her employer she’s involved with the American Healthcare Lawyers Association, Missouri Council of Education Attorneys, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and The National Association of College and University Attorneys.
While clients and cases may change over the years, one thing remains: “The attorney/client relationship is built on trust, so it follows that a successful lawyer is also a trusted adviser,” Fry says.
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