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Educating Future Lawyers

Foulston Siefkin, largest law firm in Kansas looks to support future generations

Law Clinic

From Washburn Lawyer - Fall 2019

Tim O’Sullivan, ’75, had a background in psychology and mathematics and found the perfect place to combine his passions in law school.

“I wanted to practice in Kansas and Washburn University School of Law was the tenor of most recommendations ,” he said. “There also seemed to be better opportunities for me in law related areas and for my wife, Pat, in her educational and job pursuits in the Topeka area while I would be attending law school.”

The recommendation proved to be good for O’Sullivan, and he went on to build a successful career in estate planning and working with families to preserve harmony after someone passes. He has served Foulston Siefkin LLP as a senior partner for almost 20 years while also teaching as an adjunct professor at Washburn Law. His unique role from both the client and education perspectives has given him insight into why the law school needs a new building.

“Legal education has become more highly specialized than it was when I started-there were far more general practitioners at that time,” he said. “It also has become more technical and automated and computers can now be used to draft and assemble complex and sophisticated documents in only a fraction of the time previously required.”

It was the change in legal education over the years that led him and many other lawyers at Foulston to make a gift toward the new Washburn Law building. Through the generous gift, they are working to help future Washburn lawyers receive the same great education they did.

Kevin Arnel, ’87, a partner at Foulston, said the firm’s lawyers decided to make the gift because Washburn Law provided an educational foundation that helped get them to where they are today. Established in 1919, Foulston is the largest and one of the oldest law firms in Kansas. The firm has grown to nearly 90 lawyers with offices in Kansas City, Topeka, and Wichita. Washburn Law will name the professional development suite for the firm in the new building in honor of these lawyers’ generosity. The suite is composed of several interview rooms, career services resources, and professional staff offices.

“Part of why we made the gift is as a thank you and an acknowledgement,” Arnel said. “We would like the students coming out of law school to be well-equipped, and to go to work for folks like us. We wanted to invest in the future and pay it forward.”

Arnel said Foulston’s plan is to continue to grow and serve clients beyond Kansas and Missouri, expanding not only the geographic footprint but the specialty offerings the firm delivers, by investing in its own lawyers.

Cyd Gilman, ’78, who spent more than 36 years in federal criminal defense in Kansas and before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals before coming to Foulston, said she went into the field because she admired the work of Perry Mason on television as a young girl. She is astounded by how the field has changed since the show’s time, though. In the past 30 years, the number of courses at Washburn Law has increased nearly 40 percent. This, in turn, has changed legal education, creating needs for spaces that can adapt to different technologies, provide for more group work, and for specialized centers to operate.

Gilman is pleased with what her legal education has done for her and with what Foulston does for its clients. She has gone back to Washburn Law several times and is excited for the new opportunities she didn’t have when she was dreaming of becoming a lawyer.

“Washburn gave me one of my most valuable possessions in life – my law degree,” she said. “Legal education has transformed itself like the practice of law and Washburn needs a facility that is able to handle all those new functions. I really want to give the students of the future the very best legal education.”

This year, Foulston celebrated 100 years as a firm, and as the partners think about its future, they are focused on hiring lawyers who are practice-ready.

“As much as anything, we need smart, hard-working people who have a commitment to practice law and serving clients at a high level of excellence,” said Arnel, who still benefits from the relationships he built while in school. “The school helped me develop, and I think the law building is an important next step forward for the legal community in Kansas, the Midwest, and beyond.”

One aspect of Washburn Law that won’t change with the new building will be the family-like atmosphere that coincides with a legal education. O’Sullivan said he was happy to see that collegial atmosphere went beyond law school and to the firm at Foulston as well.

“I have only been with them for about 19 years, but wish I was with them my whole life,” O’Sullivan said of the firm. “I came to Foulston because of their experience, reputation, and the quality of lawyers. They are extremely collegial and have a strong family atmosphere, which is why this firm has been around for so long.”

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Phone: 785.670.4483
Email: contactus@wualumni.org