“For me, the key to being a truly successful attorney is achieving the right balance between serving your clients and serving your family and community,” says Lisa O. Stump, member at Lashly & Baer, P.C.
Stump serves her clients and her firm by representing public and governmental entities – advising on issues including governance, ethics, contracts and procurement, governmental immunity, public employment, taxation and bond issues, the use of public monies, elections, and public records laws.
“All the clients I work with are generally supported by public funds, whether they are school districts, libraries, municipalities, or transit systems. The thing they all have in common is that they receive tax revenues,” she says.
Stump chairs the governmental and public institution practice group at Lashly & Baer. Her client list is varied; there is no typical client. For example she represents, among others, Rockwood School District, the county library system including St. Louis County Library, St. Louis Public Library and Kirkwood Public Library, Bi-State Development Agency (Metro), the Rate Commission of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, and municipalities throughout St. Louis including the city of Crestwood and the city of Festus. Her duties on any given day could include advising clients in the appropriate expenditure of public funds; draft ing contracts including construction contracts, consultant agreements, and lease/purchase agreements; and participating in financing transactions.
Stump was instrumental in some of the most significant projects in St. Louis including the MetroLink light rail system, the St. Louis Convention Center Headquarters Hotel, and the successful effort to rehabilitate the historic McKinley Bridge. She has draft ed policies and operational rules for a rate review agency, and was involved in litigation on behalf of school districts related to charter schools, desegregation and constitutional issues.
A Good Attorney, Good Parent and an Active Member of the Community
Stump has found that essential “right balance” through her commitment and an intense focus on two primary areas of her life: her family and her church.
She and her husband, Steve, have four boys: Curtis, 21, Brent, 19, Kevin, 16, and Mark,10. Stump and her family are very active in Bonhomme Presbyterian Church in Chesterfield.
Among other church work, she volunteers a significant amount of personal time to one of the church’s biggest commitments: the privately-run El Centro Integral orphanage in Honduras. Stump became interested in the volunteer work when her son wanted to go on one of the church’s one-week missions. She joined his group and became personally involved from that initial experience.
Although young orphans, mostly girls, do not need legal advice on U.S. governmental entities, they do need attention and care. Stump says, “I get the opportunity to show love and affection to the children, organize craft s and activities and play with them. It’s amazing to see their joy. My family sponsors one of the girls, so we have an awesome personal relationship there. The people on the mission also do projects at the orphanage, such as re-flooring and painting.”
“I’m not someone who believes that your work always has to be your first and only priority in order to be great at your job. Good attorneys, and good people in any field, will be better at their chosen profession if they will recognize the importance of both job and family in living up to your full potential,” she says.
Stump is also involved in other aspects of her business and personal communities. Stump is AV Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, was listed in the 2005 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers, serves on the Missouri School Boards Association, policy advisory committee since 2000 and the City of Town & Country Clayton Road Task Force since 2008. She has served on the board of directors for MSBA’s Missouri Council of School Attorneys, 2000-2005; chair of MSBA’s Missouri Council of School Attorneys, 2005-2006; and on the board of directors for the Good Shepherd School for Children, 1996-2001. She speaks regularly at different school group meetings on topics such as the Missouri Sunshine Law, student records, social networking and bullying in schools.
Stump warns against becoming so involved with the business aspects of life that you become consumed by it at the potential cost of your family, your overall health, and your ability to perform and communicate on a person-to-person basis.
“In the end, if you get consumed by your work, you lose the ability to step back and get perspective,” she says.
Finding Her Way to Answers to Client Needs
The idea of becoming an attorney was planted early in her life. “If I had to trace it back, I’d have to go to high school. I had a law class there with a wonderful teacher who first brought the idea to my mind.” Throughout college “I kept taking different classes in different areas which made me realize, ‘I really like it.’”
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S., with distinction, in business administration from the University of Kansas in 1986. She received her J.D. in 1989 from Washington University, where she was an editor of the Washington University Law Quarterly and a member of the Order of the Coif. Her professional associations include the American Bar Association, the Missouri Bar, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, and the National School Boards Association.
In her words, she “fell” into this practice when hired at Lashly & Baer specifically to handle these types of clients when she joined the firm 25 years ago. Lashly & Baer, P.C. is a well-known, full-service legal firm with a diversified list of local and national clients in such areas as government, education, health care, business, labor and litigation.
Stump says, “I like the analytical side of what I do – trying to solve problems and find answers. The work Lashly & Baer offered appealed to me because it involved things such as constitutional law. That’s an area that the law schools say you’ll never use or rarely use in practice, but I’m involved with such matters every day. The school and library aspect of it intrigued me, too. I like being able to help our community in my practice.”
Stump is quick to point out the importance of two mentors at Lashly & Baer who have a powerful impact on her career: John Fox Arnold and Ken Brostron. “Both practice serving governmental clients. Both have mentored me and the advantage is that they both have very different styles of work and presentation. I get to work with both and that has allowed me to meld what I have learned from them into my own style and manner of practicing law.”
A Love of Problem-Solving
“I love to figure out a solution to a tough problem and I think that’s very helpful when dealing with governmental entities when they want to do something that hasn’t been faced before. This isn’t an area where I can look at case law and find a case that’s exactly the same. It doesn’t work that way,” she says. “When clients want to do something unique a good attorney will oft en have to figure out a way, perhaps a new way, for the client to accomplish the goal,” she says.
Stump is a middle child, a fact that may give her a negotiating edge. “I’m used to trying to find the middle ground on things when there may be diverse opinions. I’m good at sticking to what the law says and giving legal advice rather than taking sides and getting in any sort of policy decisions beyond the legal one.
“My guiding business philosophy is to serve my clients’ best interest, staying always within the legal parameters and looking at what is legally an option for them and then providing the best advice and counsel I can – all the while making a serious effort to stay out of any of the politics,” she says.
Her clients face issues similar to those faced by private institutions and corporations, but with the additional challenge of dealing with statutory and/or constitutional restrictions. “My clients also have an additional level of issues and challenges on top of all the standard issues and that makes it very interesting,” she says.
Attorneys representing public and governmental entities must make sure that actions of those entities fall within their governing documents whether it’s statutes, a city charter, or a school board policy. Stump says, “They each have this extra layer of governmental limitations. The other major factor is that because they are public entities, they all have some political and policy issues which attract the attention of their respective constituencies and the news media.”
“Tax revenues for all public entities are decreasing, which has an effect on the firm’s clients and the clients’ ability to serve their communities. Fiscal restraints are tougher than they used to be, which affects everything they do,” Stump says.
Such legal restraints require forward thinking by an entity’s legal representation, and creative solutions. Stump invests a lot of time with the firm’s health care lawyers because changes in health care affect so many people in so many areas. “For example, it’s affecting our schools and many people are looking to the schools for health care when they need it. We are working together to help establish school clinics. These issues will bring new challenges to the legal industry and the clients it serves. We believe it’s our duty to be ready to help our clients address those issues and meet those challenges,” she says.
Serving Clients Who serve the Community
“The best part of my job is working with clients who are really serving their communities and who want to do what’s best for their communities. A good attorney has to work hard, accept responsibility, and be proactive in getting work done rather than being reactive. But a good attorney also must realize that an attorney can best serve the firm’s clients by being a well-rounded human being,” Stump says.