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MoveMakers & NewsMakers for Aug. 1, 2023


See who is making news and moving where in the weekly Missouri Bar update "MoveMakers & NewsMakers."

St. Louis | Kansas City

St. Louis

The “Richard S. Arnold Award for Distinguished Service” was recently awarded by the Eighth Circuit Bar Association to Gerald Ortbals of St. Louis.

The Eighth Circuit Bar Association has presented these awards to 10 deserving individuals, one from each judicial district within the Eighth Circuit, since 2010. The awards are based on nominations provided by the chief judges of each district in the Eighth Circuit. In selecting award recipients, the association asks chief district court judges to consider the extent to which potential recipients have demonstrated the following characteristics of Judge Arnold:

  • The person has achieved professional excellence in their field; 
  • The person has been a leader in the legal community, as reflected in leadership positions held in bar associations and professional organizations;
  • The person has contributed significant work toward the delivery of volunteer legal services to underserved members of the community;
  • The person has been honored by their peers; and 
  • The person has served as a mentor or role model for less-experienced lawyers or students interested in law.

Ortbals has dedicated a lifetime to pro bono work, public service, and service to the legal profession, balanced against the demands of a thriving corporate litigation practice.

Ortbals recently retired from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner but continues to serve as a professional mediator and arbitrator with United States Arbitration & Mediation (USA&M). His dedication to performing pro bono work and fostering a widespread commitment to it within the broader legal community has won him many awards, including The Missouri Bar Pro Bono Award, the Saint Louis University Law School Leadership Award, and the United Way Volunteer of the Year Award.

Ortbals was a volunteer through Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM) for many years. But he also recognized the bigger picture problem – there were far more people in need of legal help they could not afford than there were volunteer lawyers. He teamed up with then-head of LSEM and former Supreme Court of Missouri judge Richard Teitelman to launch a campaign that recruited the region's law firms into making long-term, substantial pledges of pro bono assistance through legal services. In addition, they launched an annual "Justice for All Ball" that raised money to complement and expand LSEM's work in the community.

Ortbals also became involved with a new homeless shelter funded by Catholic Charities – St. Patrick Center, established in 1983. He did not just represent clients, but he organized a structured, sustainable program that continues today. He became so involved with St. Patrick Center that he went on to serve on their board, including as president of the board.

Ortbals earned his Juris Doctor from Sant Louis University School of Law. Shortly after graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served as a counter-intelligence officer until 1971.

Judge Rodney Sippel, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, has been appointed as the Judicial Conference liaison to the Federal Judges Association. The appointment period is from 2023-2025. The FJA “…is a national voluntary organization of federal judges … whose mission is to support and enhance the role of its members within a fair, impartial and independent judiciary; to actively build a community of interest among its members; and to sustain our system of justice through civics education and public outreach.” They provide materials on the rule of law and separation of powers, landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases, jury service, and a wide variety of multi-media and YouTube programming. 

Armstrong Teasdale announces that partner Michael Jefferies has been reappointed to the firm's Compensation Committee.  He recently completed his second three-year term as an elected member of the committee and will serve an additional one-year term.

Jefferies is a partner in the firm’s Corporate Services Practice Group and works with clients across multiple industries on matters related to business operations and growth. His practice is primarily focused on mergers and acquisitions and other corporate development transactions. Jefferies also serves as chair of the firm’s Technology Committee and is an active member of the Opinion Letter Committee. He also previously served on the Strategic Planning, Alumni, and Wellness committees, as well as the firm’s COVID-19 Response Task Force.

St. Louis-based law firm Lewis Rice has formally established its Design & Luxury (DeLux) Practice Group after years of experience counseling fashion, apparel, and beauty brands on a variety of legal issues affecting them throughout their life cycles. 

Led by member Emily K. Bardon, the DeLux Practice Group includes a diverse, multidisciplinary team of lawyers in every major legal practice area. They advise brands on all their day-to-day needs, including:

  • Design and development of new products;
  • Intellectual property, including trademarks, copyrights and patents;
  • Contracting with manufacturers and suppliers;
  • Advertising, promotions, and social media, including partnerships with influencers;
  • Cybersecurity and data privacy;
  • Litigating disputes;
  • Leasing and purchasing retail space; and 
  • Hiring employees and independent contractors.

Lewis Rice’s DeLux attorneys represent a variety of clients throughout the fashion, apparel, and beauty industry, including retailers, fashion and textile designers, manufacturers, influencers and models, nonprofits and more. While they counsel organizations of all sizes, they take a special interest in supporting startups as well as minority- and women-owned businesses on their journeys to becoming well-known brands.

Scott H. Malin has been elected to Lathrop Gage's Executive Committee. He is a partner in the firm’s St. Louis, Chicago, and Denver offices. He counsels high-net-worth clients and closely held businesses and assists with the intergenerational transfer of wealth structured to reduce tax implications for clients’ businesses and their families.

Kansas City

Lathrop Gage announces the election of Bridget B. Romero to the firm's executive committee.  She is a partner in the firm’s Kansas City office and focuses her practice on employment and labor law. She counsels business owners, HR professionals, and in-house lawyers on a full range of matters. Romero has served as the firm’s personnel counsel since 2014.

For the first time in the history of Legal Aid of Western Missouri, its top leadership positions and board officer roles are all women. 

In 2021, Alicia Johnson was named the organization’s executive director. Later that year, Silya Shaw was named deputy executive director. Never in the history of the organization have both positions been held by women. In 2023, the Legal Aid Board of Trustees also appointed all women to officer positions. 

In addition to Legal Aid’s all-women executive leadership, it is significant that three of Legal Aid’s six managing attorneys are women providing supervision and guidance to over 60 attorneys. 

“It is an honor to serve as Legal Aid’s Executive Director and to be a part of this historic moment for the organization,” says Alicia Johnson. “But the work is ongoing and never over. Legal Aid will continue to strive to ensure our organizational leadership and staff representation reflect that of the diverse community we serve. This is the only way in which we can truly advance our mission to provide dignity, self-sufficiency, and justice for all.” 

Meet Legal Aid’s women leaders  
Alicia Johnson – Executive Director  
Johnson assumed the role of executive director in August 2021. She joined the organization in 2010 and served as its deputy executive director from 2014 to 2021. Prior to coming to Legal Aid, Johnson and her husband Chris and their two sons lived and worked for two years in Cameroon, Africa through a nonprofit doing mission work. Johnson is a graduate of UMKC School of Law, and her first job out of law school was as a bankruptcy attorney. She is a huge fan of the Chiefs and of KC Current, Kansas City’s professional women’s soccer team. 

Silya Shaw – Deputy Executive Director  
Shaw joined Legal Aid in 2014 and was promoted to the managing attorney of the Kansas City office in 2015. She assumed the deputy executive director position in December 2021. 

Billie Orr – Managing Attorney, Central Office  
Orr was named the managing attorney of Legal Aid’s central office located in Kansas City in 2022. She manages a total of 52 attorneys and support staff. Orr previously worked at Legal Aid from 2005 to 2009 and from 2012 to 2015 assisting clients with Medicaid and Social Security appeals. She has also worked as a guardian ad litem in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although Orr is a native of West Virginia and has lived in many different places over the years, she could not be happier to call Kansas City her home with her husband, two human sons, and one cat daughter. 

Pamela Roychaudhury – Managing Attorney, Joplin Office  
Roychaudhury was named managing attorney of Legal Aid’s Joplin office in 2015 and manages a staff of three attorneys, four support staff and one social worker. Prior to becoming a managing attorney, she joined Legal Aid in 2001 representing victims of abuse in domestic matters and representing clients in housing, consumer, and probate matters. 

Courtney Noll – Managing Attorney, Warrensburg Office  
Noll joined Legal Aid in 2019 as a staff attorney in the Warrensburg office. She was named managing attorney of the Warrensburg office in 2020 where she manages eight attorneys and support staff. 

Gillian R. Wilcox – President, Board of Trustees  
Wilcox assumed the role of board president in January 2023. She has served on the board since 2014. Wilcox is the deputy director for litigation at ACLU of Missouri, where she has worked since 2014. She has dedicated her career to public interest and has a long history with Legal Aid of Western Missouri. Wilcox moved to Kansas City in 2008, and her first job was as an attorney in the Economic Development Unit where she worked from 2009-2012. 

Jolie Justus – Vice President, Board of Trustees  
Justus assumed the role of board vice president in January 2023. She has served on the board since 2021 as the board treasurer. Justus serves as general counsel for Truman Medical Centers/University Health (TMC/UH). From 2007-2015, she represented Kansas City in the Missouri Senate, and as a councilperson for the city of Kansas City from 2015-2019. Justus and her wife Lucy live in downtown Kansas City with six rowdy rescue dogs and a sporadically productive urban garden. 

Kesia Smith, Treasurer, Board of Trustees  
Smith assumed the role of treasurer in January 2023. She has served on the board since 2017 and previously held the position of board secretary. Smith manages Smith Law Office, LLC in St. Joseph. practicing in the areas of personal injury, motor vehicle accidents, workers' compensation, family, insurance, and criminal law.

Amber Christ, Secretary, Board of Trustees  
Amber assumed the role of secretary in January 2023 and has served on the Legal Aid board since 2021. She is the managing director of health advocacy at Justice in Aging, a national organization that fights senior poverty through the law. Christ previously worked for Legal Aid from 2006 through 2012. She returned to Kansas City after ten years in Los Angeles and has loved rediscovering the city and its community with her husband Jake and daughter Penelope. 

Stinson LLP is pleased to welcome Nicolette C. Rodriguez to the firm as a litigation associate in its Kansas City office. 

Rodriguez's practice focuses on representing businesses and organizations in complex commercial litigation and disputes. She's also practiced real estate-related litigation. 

Rodriguez serves as a Big Brothers Big Sisters Kansas City Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion board member. She is an active member of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and served as vice chair of the Business Litigation Committee for 2022. 

Prior to joining Stinson, Rodriguez was an associate in Polsinelli's litigation and dispute resolution practice. 

Rodriguez received her Juris Doctor from Washburn University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Kansas and Missouri, in addition to the U.S. District Court, District of Kansas and the U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri. 



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