Editor’s note: This story is sponsored by Techweek, but independently produced by Startland News.
Give now, get later.
That’s the mindset Jeff Simon, managing partner of Husch Blackwell’s Kansas City office, instills in his team of attorneys to not only encourage networking, but also build a stronger Kansas City.
Empowering his attorneys with autonomy to engage community members, Simon said the
strategy aims to help grow the community and connect the firm to new ideas.
“It’s about making relationships, and making the reputation as lawyers that we are not only competent but also that we care about our community,” Simon said. “We believe that works out for us in the long run — and it’s just a hell of a lot of fun being around all this creativity and people taking these risks.”
The 101-year-old law firm’s “give first” ethos is also deepening inroads for it in the startup and entrepreneur community. Husch Blackwell has doubled down on its engagement with startups entrepreneurs, sponsoring such events as Techweek Kansas City and offering pro bono services to startups in the Sprint Accelerator. It also helps counsel founders in the University of Missouri-Kansas City E-Scholars program, which provides fundamental business knowledge and mentoring.
To further build its hometown community, Husch Blackwell is playing host to a Techweek event featuring cocktails and creativity at J. Rieger & Co. in Kansas City’s historic East Bottoms. Barrells and Brushes is set to feature an “extreme” photo booth and serve craft cocktails while an artist captures the event on canvas. RSVP to the event here.
Startland News recently sat down with Simon to learn more about Husch Blackwell, its culture of innovation and approach to community building.
On the strategy behind connecting with the startup community …
We believe that law firms have a special obligation to the communities they serve and to do more than just work by the hour and send out bills. Law firms have an obligation to make the communities they live in better through pro bono representation and participation in community boards. And clearly, one of the things that’s going to be important for Kansas City is continuing to position itself as a community that young people want to come to, start businesses, have families and continue to grow Kansas City. That’s where the startup community comes in. We see it as not only a business opportunity to get to know brand new companies and help them grow — as we have for so many others that are now in the established business community — but to make the whole community a better place.
On the power of entrepreneurship to solve community challenges …
This renaissance in Kansas City can address some of the problems Kansas City’s had for decades and decades. To be specific, I mean east of Troost. One of the things that’s of personal interest to me is what we can do as a law firm, given our relationships in this community, to foster and encourage these opportunities not to stop at Troost, as they often have in the history of this town. We want to make sure there’s a very intentional effort in making sure that the parts of our community that need economic opportunity the most are included in this. That takes work, intentionality and relationships.
On the value of Kansas City’s collaborativeness …
I really love this town and I want it to thrive to the fullest extent of its potential, which I think is enormous. What I love about the startup community is that it’s organic and real. It’s not a government program or created on some marketer’s iPad. It’s very real, organic and genuine. It’s consist with Kansas City’s culture of helping one another. We’re not as buttoned up, territorial or self-interested as some communities. … When people come here for the first time and get a positive feeling they get that community sense.
On the HB Innovation Team …
Every community has a version of (a startup community) going on — Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, St. Louis, Chattanooga. What we decided to do a couple years ago was to share best practices and come up with a coordinated approach to learn from these experiences — both the positives and the mistakes — so we can grow our presence in these areas and grow our offerings for entrepreneurs. … It allows us to be the kind of legal service provider and community partner that these companies are looking for. HB innovation leverages our experiences across these various communities. … We’re really excited about it. It’s been a very positive experience for us.
On why is Husch sponsoring Techweek …
We want the Kansas City startup community to know that we want to do whatever we can to help them, whether individually as clients or generally as a community. We see Techweek as one of the opportunities where the Kansas City community gathers and we can get their attention to let them know who we are and what we can do. We see some of the work that’s happening here in Kansas City as the future and new economy. We’ve been with some of the companies that are now the biggest in Kansas City when they were startups. The next Garmin or Cerner is out there toiling away right now with two or three people. And if one of the byproducts of our participation in this community is 40 years from now celebrating the success of one of those company, then it’s all the better.