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Lathrop & Gage joins local legal community

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by Paul Flemming

SBJ Staff

Kansas City's Lathrop & Gage law firm announced Feb. 9 it is opening a Springfield office, with Randell D. Wallace and Joseph L. Johnson joining the firm.

Lathrop & Gage joins a growing group of Kansas City and St. Louis firms that have opened offices in town in the last few years. The 185-lawyer firm, which includes Springfield native Jean Paul Bradshaw II, already represented a number of clients in the area, including Baird, Kurtz & Dobson, Cox-Freeman HealthPlans, Primrose Healthcare Services and the city of Springfield.

"You don't expect to come in and just steal folks' clients," Bradshaw said. "That's why we think it's not that much of a risk, because of the clients we've got down there already."

Bradshaw, who has lived in Kansas City since 1989 when he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, will not move back to Springfield, but he said the new office will mean more regularly scheduled travel to town.

"I have a decent feel for the Springfield legal market," Bradshaw said. "I talked to a number of different people. The No. 1 thing we wanted to do was staff a Springfield office with Springfield people."

"We've been looking at Springfield and wanted to be a presence there," said Tom Stewart, managing partner for the firm. "This fits very nicely with our strategic plan. It was just a question of when the stars aligned to make this happen."

The firm, which is the result of a 1996 merger, has also opened offices in Overland Park, Kan., St. Louis and Jefferson City in the last two years.

A Springfield office, and the addition of Johnson and Wallace, "allows us to grow certain practice areas," Stewart said. "And we want to be there to grow with the city."

Other metro firms mentioned Springfield's growth, both economic and population, as reasons for starting here. Also with offices in town are Wallace Saunders Austin Brown & Enochs, Blackwell Sanders Matheny Weary & Lombardi, Husch & Eppenberger, and Shugart Thomson & Kilroy.

Wallace had worked at Hall, Ansley, Rodgers & Condry. Johnson was formerly with William H. McDonald & Associates. He concentrates in the area of patent, trademark and copyright law.

"The fastest growing area of our practice is intellectual property," Stewart said. "We're also very interested in expanding our health care clientele."

The new office "in large part was driven by our existing clientele," Bradshaw said. "The law business is all about service. If you don't take care of your existing clients, pretty soon you don't have any."

Bradshaw has been practicing with Lathrop & Gage, and its predecessor, for five years. Before serving as U.S. attorney, he practiced with Neale Newman Bradshaw & Freeman, the eponymous Bradshaw being his grandfather.

Lathrop & Gage's office is in the Hammons Tower at 901 E. St. Louis.

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