UMKC School of Law to Honor Six Alumni, One Organization for Achievements

Honors to be bestowed Feb. 23 at The Big Event

Six outstanding individuals and one organization will be recognized for their professional achievements and dedication to the law school and the legal profession by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law at the school’s annual Big Event on Feb. 23, 2019.

“Each year the Law Alumni Association and Law Foundation are pleased to honor exceptional accomplishments and achievements of our alumni and friends,” said Ashley Atwell-Soler (’08), President of the UMKC Law Alumni Association. The Law Alumni Association and Law Foundation sponsor and organize the event that raises money for student scholarships. The honorees will be presented at the dinner by Atwell-Soler, Foundation President Scott Bethune (’88), and Dean Barbara Glesner Fines.

The Decade Award

This award will be presented to Abraham Kuhl (’08), a Partner at Young Jakobe & Kuhl LLC. In his ten years of practice, Kuhl has made outstanding contributions to the legal profession as a respected member of the family law bar in Eastern Jackson County and the state of Missouri. He is an adjunct professor at UMKC Law School and serves on the Law Alumni Association Board. He serves as Chairman of the KCMBA Domestic Relations committee, President of the KCMBA Family Law Section and on the board of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Foundation. He provides pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence through the Volunteer Attorney Project and provides pro bono legal services to our military veterans through the Military Matters program.

The Pat Kelly Service Award

This award will be presented to M. Blake Heath (’09), owner of M. Blake Heath, Trial Attorney, LLC. He focuses his practice on helping clients in complex personal injury suits, product liability claims, medical malpractice lawsuits, and insurance coverage disputes. Heath started giving back to UMKC School of Law immediately after graduation, serving on the Pat Kelly Poker Tournament Committee in 2010, and has served as chair of the committee since 2013. He also serves on the Law Alumni Association Board and the Bob Downs Golf Tournament Committee. Heath has taught continuing legal education seminars through the UMKC School of Law, and has supported the school financially as a consistent donor to the Law Foundation and events held for the law school.

The Pro Bono/Public Service Award

This award will be presented to the Hon. Karen L. Krauser (’02), who serves as a Circuit Judge for the 7th Judicial Circuit Court. Judge Krauser has dedicated her career to public service.  She began as an assistant prosecuting attorney with the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office, eventually working her way to the role of Deputy Chief. She has worked to improve the quality of our justice system and the overall betterment of the legal profession thorough her appointed positions and dedicated efforts on multiple committees and sub committees. She also generously devotes her time, energy and resources to many professional and charitable organizations.

The Lifetime Achievement Award

This award will be presented to Fred L. Slough (’74). Slough’s first trial experience was as a criminal defense lawyer, often appointed, with little or no pay. He continued to practice criminal defense until he moved over to plaintiff's side personal injury, civil rights and discrimination cases. He is now a solo practitioner and is also a mediator. Slough is a member of the Missouri Bar, the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, the National Employment Lawyers Association – Kansas City, the National Lawyers Guild, the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and the Missouri Association Against the Death Penalty.

The Philanthropy Award

This award will be presented to the Kansas City Estate Planning Symposium. KCEPS has been associated with the UMKC School of Law since 1981. Since then, the UMKC Continuing Legal Education program has provided services to this organization and continues to present three seminars that attract more than 1,000 professionals each year. Additionally, to encourage law students to consider the field of estate planning as a career, the KCEPS Prize was established in 1999. It is annually awarded to students who write an exemplary paper on an estate planning or taxation problem, or who distinguish themselves during an internship in a law firm that specializes in estate planning. In 2017, KCEPS established the Myron Sildon Endowed Scholarship that is awarded to 3L or LLM taxation students. The scholarship honors the legacy of Myron Sildon, the founder of the organization.  KCEPS has not only made significant financial commitment to the UMKC School of Law, but also has helped expand the reputation of the law school to the estate planning community and beyond   

The President’s Award

This award will be presented to the Hon. Lajuana Counts (‘88) and to James R. “J.R.” Hobbs (’81). Hobbs is a shareholder at Wyrsch Hobbs & Mirakian, P.C.  He has an active practice in the areas of white-collar criminal defense, criminal defense, and commercial litigation, representing individuals and businesses. He is a past president of the Law Foundation and continues to serve as an adjunct professor at UMKC School of Law. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, Fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers, a Fellow in the International Society of Barristers, and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates. Hobbs has served on the Missouri Appellate Judicial Commission and is currently a member of the Missouri Supreme Court Commission on Race and Ethnic Fairness.  He is a past recipient of the Lon O. Hocker Memorial Trial Lawyer Award bestowed by the Missouri Bar Foundation and recipient of the Dean of the Trial Bar, awarded by the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association

Counts is a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. She served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District for nearly thirty years. Her enthusiasm for service seems limitless. She is the immediate past president of the Law Foundation, and her continuing service to UMKC earned her the prestigious Bill French Award. She has served on the Jackson County Bar Association since it was founded and is a past president. The same story of service and leadership can be found through her involvement in the National Bar Association, the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City, the UMKC Women’s Council, and the Lawyers Encouraging Academic Performance.

About the Event

The Big Event: A Night in Paris at the Hilton President Hotel is scheduled for Saturday, February 23 at 1329 Baltimore St., Kansas City. For more information and to purchase tickets online or contact Cary Powers at 816-235-6328.

About the UMKC School of Law

UMKC School of Law provides a comprehensive, affordable legal education comprised of a personalized admissions process, collaboration with supportive faculty, real-world opportunities in a vibrant city, and tools and skills to experience professional success. It is housed in a modern, technologically sophisticated building on a landscaped campus and enjoys strong community and alumni support.

About the UMKC School of Law Foundation and Alumni Association

The Law Foundation is in its 60th year of service to the UMKC School of Law. The Foundation raises money for scholarships and programs that will enhance legal education opportunities for students and elevate the reputation of the law school.

Published: Feb 5, 2019

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