The College Athletes of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon: Playing the Game of Law

Jennings Strouss & Salmon
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For nearly 80 years Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, PLC has been a name synonymous with strength, integrity, and excellence. With a rich and established history of commitment to the community and long lasting relationships, it’s a full-service firm whose very roots are irrevocably entwined with Arizona yet with branches that reach as far as Washington, D.C.

Building on an impeccable foundation of the core values: respect, recognition, communication, diversity, and public service, Jennings Strouss has maintained a team of exceptional professionals who leverage their talents and resources regionally and nationally to serve an ever-expanding client base. The firm promotes a pragmatic, results-oriented approach, coupled with a healthy, well-managed, and friendly atmosphere of collaboration. They are committed to excellence in the practice of law by adhering to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.

It is not surprising that at the very heart of this firm are the proven dynamics of a solid team approach. It’s a concept that comes almost second-nature to attorneys John C. Norling, Michael R. Palumbo, Brett D. Siglin, Bruce B. May, Kerry Hodges, and William A. Clarke whose attributes have been seasoned with the discipline, dedication, and old-fashioned hard work developed through their respective experiences with college sports. From the locker room to the conference room or the courtroom, these dynamic individuals are perfect examples of how successful sports experience translates into an auspicious career.

Managing Attorney John C. Norling maintains a thriving practice focused on advising clients on all aspects of their operations, including but not limited to, commercial transactions, real estate, business organizations, corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, federal and administrative compliance, business contract negotiations, and advertising law. He has developed a particular niche in the representation of automobile dealerships. He played guard and center for Wichita State University football team. Prior to accepting a full scholarship there, Norling played for Scottsdale Community College.

“I believe that the game of football is one of the ultimate preparations for the game of life,” says the experienced attorney. “It teaches the importance of competition, accountability, selflessness, teamwork, the ability to maintain your composure when things are going wrong around you, and the pure joy that comes out of a team victory. The game also teaches one how to deal with and overcome adversity. In football, as with any sport, you are routinely faced with adversity and need to fight through it. The same thing occurs in life and the practice of law.”

Civil litigation attorney Michael Palumbo has more than 30 years of experience assisting clients in resolving their business disputes. Central defender and captain of his soccer team at LaSalle University, litigator Palumbo talks about the impetus inspired by playing for what he describes as “quasi club sport” at his school. As the anticipated underdogs in most of their matches, Palumbo says, “a positive outlook was paramount to the team’s success.”

“It was very important in order to be as competitive as possible,” he says. “Motivation was a key factor: motivation to keep to the training regime, motivation to practice, motivation to represent our school in the best possible manner, and motivation not to let our teammates down. I took these lessons with me to my legal career. They have formed my practice many times.”

Attorney Brett Siglin whose practice focuses on a broad range of business law matters involving corporate structuring, joint ventures, bond financing, syndication of equity, contract negotiation, regulation and compliance, tax credits, property tax exemptions, and real estate acquisition and development, was on the track/cross country team at the University of Illinois.

“There are a lot of similarities between playing college sports and practicing law,” he says. “Both require having a good work ethic and being disciplined. I’ve always been very independent, so it’s helped me in both fields.”

Attorney Bruce May has devoted his entire career to all aspects of the law and practice of real estate and commercial transactions throughout the country. He played both tight end and defensive end for the Princeton football team but recalls one of his toughest and most influential coaches being the high school track coach, Hoot Moore.

“He managed to turn a small high school in a small town into a powerhouse by pushing us to our limits and beyond,” says May. “If we ever flagged or were tempted to stop running, he would tell us that there was someone out there training as well, who could press on, take that extra stride, and beat us in the race where we would inevitably stand alongside him at the starting line. The whole point was to win and win decisively.”

Although Kerry Hodges began his legal career as a business and commercial litigator, his practice now focuses on pension, benefits, collective bargaining, and labor law, primarily in connection with multiemployer employee benefit plans, as well as representing lawyers and law firms in licensing, ethics, and professional responsibility issues. He not only played right field on the Texas Tech baseball team, but also enjoyed a stint in the Houston Astros minor-league system.

“Larry Hays, Texas Tech’s head coach, had high standards for everyone (coaches and players alike), but he didn’t micromanage anyone,” says Hodges. “He provided a framework for our preparation and competition, but within that framework, he gave us a great deal of freedom to work toward our individual and collective goals in our own ways. He trusted us to prepare and perform with excellence, without constantly looking over our shoulders.  And that trust served to motivate everyone.  No one wanted to let Coach Hays down.”

NCAA All-American in Tennis and NCAA Post-Graduate Scholar, estate planning and probate attorney William Clarke is a graduate of the University of Kansas where he shined on the school’s winning tennis team. His practice focuses on estate planning, probate administration, corporate transactions, real estate transactions, general business matters, and he believes that there is a strong connection between playing sports and success in life and the law.

“From an early age, participation in sports establishes positive patterns of behavior that parlay into college and professional athletics,” he says. “Involvement in sports instills discipline and focus; it requires organization and time management; and, most importantly, it promotes self-esteem. All of these attributes are vital to a successful career, including the practice of law.” Clarke likens a positive attitude with how much effort and preparation one applies. “Putting in the time to be better prepared than your opponent, and in peak physical condition, is the key to success in any sport,” he says. “Likewise, putting in the time and preparation to fully serve one’s clients’ needs is the key to a successful law practice.”

APTITUDE + ATTITUDE = ALTITUDE

They came from different parts of the country, different schools, and even different sports, but the importance of a positive attitude seems to be a universal theme.

“Attitude determines altitude – and I firmly believe that is true. If you do not have a positive attitude you cannot really expect to get positive results,” says Norling. “A negative attitude will defeat you before you even begin. It will affect your will and ability to prepare for the event. It will also impact those around you. Attitude is contagious.”

“Attitude is everything in every context,” asserts Palumbo.

“Once athletes reach a certain level, I have always believed that what tends to separate them is attitude and inner drive,” observes Hodges. “Confidence and possessing an ‘inner fire’ are critical to excelling in sports, particularly at the college and professional level.”

TEAMWORK

On or off the field, working together, collaborating, and supporting one another translates into more success for every member of the team.

The same philosophy holds true at Jennings Strouss.

“It’s an environment that encourages entrepreneurship with ample support,” says Siglin, and others seem to concur.

“The way I describe our firm to young lawyers is that it’s a very collaborative, open atmosphere where folks are extremely supportive of one another,” offers Hodges. “There’s a genuine open-door policy here which means we can walk down the hall to get an opinion or a colleague’s input on any matter that might come up. Everyone here is ready and willing to help out. Obviously, this is not only beneficial to those of us who have been here a while, but for those young attorneys just starting out. For them, it’s an atmosphere where you can learn and grow knowing that others are looking out for you and in turn you can look out for others.”

“We’re one of the last large, original Arizona-based firms,” Clarke points out, “and that independent spirit and family-like atmosphere remains strong at Jennings Strouss today. The attorneys and entire staff work as a united team. It is a very positive and fulfilling environment in which to practice law.”

“I’m a big team person,” says Norling. “I believe you accomplish more together than you can on your own. That may be an overused statement, but if you can work together with a group of similarly motivated and passionate people then there’s no limit to what you can achieve. That’s one of the things team sports teach you.”

“One of the greatest attributes of Jennings Strouss is the quality and character of the people here. Our people treat each other with respect which helps our team approach to servicing our clients,” says Norling.

Palumbo describes how prior to joining Jennings Strouss he struggled to find a balance between his professional and personal life. “I began looking around at different places,” he says. “When I consulted with my brother, he recommended Jennings Strouss. I came here in 1986, it seemed like a good fit and I’ve been happy here ever since. It is a place that fosters a team idea and you have a relationship with everybody.

Something that I used to tell young lawyers interviewing with the firm was find out how long the support staff has worked at the firm. If the support staff has longevity, the firm most likely is a good place to work. We recently had a secretary that celebrated her 45 year anniversary.”

COACHING

All of these attorneys have enjoyed great success both in their chosen sports and with impressive law practices. Many have continued to enjoy sports by turning to coach within the community, but all have coached in a very different arena. As the firm has continued to grow over the years, young attorneys have joined the fold and these seasoned veterans have been more than happy to offer advice, support, and teach these “rookies” the ropes.

“It’s not complicated,” says Siglin. “Just as in every other aspect of life, you’ll get out what you put in. A good work ethic and discipline will carry you a long way towards a successful law career.”

Palumbo has similar advice. “Selflessness, discipline, hard work, and intelligence are personal attributes that make a good leader in any context. Someone who models these characteristics will earn respect, which is at the heart of true leadership.”

Hodges says the lessons he learned playing baseball apply to the practice of law as well. “Talent only gets you so far; hard work and a little luck are necessary, too.”

“In practicing law, attitude evolves into a client-based drive,” says Clarke. “What motivates me in my law practice is to work extremely hard for every client and to serve them in the most professional and respectful manner possible.”

Norling offers advice that he says applies to sports, career, or life. “The ability to get up after you have been knocked down (both figuratively and literally) is crucial to success in football and the practice of law,” he says. “Another valuable lesson is the importance of selfless teamwork. It is incredible what can be accomplished by a motivated group of individuals who do not care about individual glory or credit, but want to achieve a specific goal.”

With more than 40 years of practicing law under his belt, May certainly has words of wisdom to offer. “Socrates said it best, ‘the wisest man is the one who realizes how truly ignorant he is.’ Never think you’ve ‘made it’. There’s always a newer, higher bar to reach,” offers May. “Don’t think you know it all, take all the help and advice you can glean from your older, more experienced colleagues. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all here for each other. There’s no such thing as my client; they’re our clients.”

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