Corporate Vision February 2017

26 CORPORATE VISION / February 2017 , A Stable Business Denise E. Farris is the Owner andManagingMember of Farris Law Firm, recently awarded American Law Firmof the Year - Kansas. She tells us how she stumbled upon a niche area of lawwhich has since become one of her areas of expertise. The Farris Law Firm LLC was formed in 1996 and operated until 2001. At that time it provided primarily commercial construction, business and equine law services. In 2001 the firm merged with Husch & Eppenberger until 2003, then split out and has operated as the Farris Law Firm LLC from January 2004 through the current date. With regards to the services it provides, Farris Law focuses on commercial construction/government contracts/business services, and on equine/veterinary law and pharmaceutical regulations. Denise’s unique talent is combining litigation practice with contract practice. “In most larger firms, attorneys are required to focus primarily in one area of the other,” she explains. “Thus litigators are quite good at picking out holes in a contract from a litigating challenge or ambiguity perspective, but aren’t the greatest at drafting risk management clauses. Contract attorneys are good at drafting contracts but are not always the best at picking out their own ambiguities or finding their own ‘weak spots’ for challenge. My combined practice areas expanded my perspective in providing both of these services.” Denise has another talent and this is thinking outside of the box in terms of finding, creating, educating potential clients on, and then developing new practice niches. “When I began practice in 1991, there were very few ‘affirmative action’ practice attorneys outside the employment law arena, even though there were billions of dollars of contracts at play with MBE/WBE/ DBE goal requirements. My background in constitutional law in general, and the affirmative action cases following the 1986 City of Richmond vs J A Croson decision quickly helped me realize there was a niche in this area. I was one of the first attorneys in the KS/MO area to develop a reputation on the constitutional parameters of affirmative action compliance from many perspectives – that of governmental entities attempting to draft programs that would withstand legal challenge, or from companies seeking to better understand the program policies and how to legitimately certify as Minority Business Enterprise / Woman Business Enterprise or how to better mobilize grass roots campaigns to create such programs, or from non-minority small businesses who wanted to better understand race and gender neutral contracting programs, or from majority players who wished to review program parameters to ensure they passed constitutional muster.” Denise has always been a passionate horse lover and has owned horses on and off for most of her life. It was this passion which led her into equine law. “In 1994, I noticed a number of states were beginning to pass special ‘immunity protection’ statutes aimed at equine activities. In essence, the passage of these statutes recognized the HUGE economic impact of the horse industry – an almost $110 billion/year industry equal to the motion picture industry in size, and one generating almost $12 billion in taxes annually. Like doctors, horse professionals began dropping out of the industry in the late 1980’s due to sky rocketing costs of frivolous lawsuits related to horse injuries. The statutes developed with assumption of risk policies similar to ski resorts – acknowledging that people choosing to participate in “inherently risky sports” must accept some level of assumption of risk of injury or even death. The statutes essentially state that horseback riding is an inherently dangerous activity, that people assume the risk of injury or death UNLESS certain limited exceptions apply, but that professionals wishing to avail themselves of those statutory protections must give some forms of warning to their participants. As a life-long horse enthusiast, I realized that most of my stable-owning friends did not know about the statutes and/ or were not in compliance with them, so I published a newsletter giving a brief summary of the new laws. Overnight I became an ‘equine law expert’, and quickly realised there was a practice niche in this area at a time when very few firms had expertise. “My equine law practice was very rewarding as most people able to afford large stables have other successful businesses which became firm clients as well, with a significant number in commercial construction. “My equine law visibility was largely risk management through contract drafting; my commercial construction was largely litigation related. Thus the marriage of litigation/contract drafting in my practice. Both practices are both large and small business related, both deal heavily with contract law in drafting and enforcement, and both types of law are heavily regulatory, and also contain lots of administrative law elements. “The equine law practice in 2004 lead to various public speaking and writing engagements which in turn introduced me to the animal health market, veterinary law, and soon into the complex and developing world of FDA regulations towards pharmaceutical compounding. National veterinary risk management and education of various players in the industry on the rapidly developing law on pharmaceutical compounding is now a large part of my firm’s practice.” Maintaining neutrality, confidentiality and fairness in cases can often prove challenging, however Denise explains that, since its inception, the firm has viewed conflicts of interest in a much more narrow perspective than even required by prevailing rules of ethics and court cases. “Where our rules indicate a conflict exists where a lawyer has represented a party and gained confidential information negative to that party’s position in a new case, my firm has always approached it from a ‘Does it feel right?’ perspective. In most cases, we feel it doesn’t pass this case if we took on a client engagement at one time, and then turned around and sued that same client at a later time on totally different facts and the law. We view a client as typically a client for all time, and in most instances, have been very happy to see our clients look at us the same way for the services we provide.” Client satisfaction is obviously key when it comes to running a law firm. “As a small business owner, I’ve personally felt the pain of an unexpectedly large 1701CV89