Prairie Portrait: Kristin Kenney of Polsinelli Shughart
Name: Kristin Kenney
Bio: As a Kansas City native, I love working with the Midwest startup community because it's full of smart, creative and hard working people who are all committed to making this a great place to be an entrepreneur.
Titles: Science and Tech Attorney
Residence: Kansas City, Mo.
Intro music: Song I love now - Alt-J's "Breezeblocks"
Silicon Prairie News: Given that you once doubted you'd join a big firm, what was it that drew you to Polsinelli Shughart?
Kristin Kenney: Polsinelli is an entrepreneurial firm that values lawyers who think like business people. Although it’s now a large national firm, Polsinelli has remained headquartered in Kansas City and is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the Midwest. I decided to join Polsinelli because I’m encouraged to use my business experience in addition to my legal skills.
SPN: What experiences or lessons learned during your time as an entrepreneur have proven most valuable in your work an attorney for entrepreneurs?
KK: There are two big lessons I’ve learned as an entrepreneur. First, develop relationships with a few experts you really trust to give you reliable advice. “Golf course advice,” however well-intentioned, can be really dangerous when it comes to issues like taxes, intellectual property and securities, so it’s very important to surround yourself with quality people and good legal counsel. Second, it’s really important to give back to other entrepreneurs and the community. Over the last 10 years, I’ve had a lot of people who have invested in me and my career. Reinvesting in others helps maintain the unique community aspect of the Midwest startup scene, and you’re always learning something new!
SPN: You earned a spot in the finale of the Gigabit Challenge with RE:Cite. What's your 30-second pitch for RE:Cite, and what has become of the business since the Gigabit Challenge?
KK: RE:Cite is a productivity and collaboration software tool for the legal industry. Improved productivity is good for lawyers because it increases their profitability and is good for clients because it decreases cost of legal services. While I really believe in the importance of good legal technology, I've decided to shelf RE:Cite for now and focus primarily on being a good lawyer for entrepreneurs. My background as an entrepreneur enables me to provide startups with practical and legal value.
SPN: To what would you attribute your interest in the Midwest startup scene? When and how did you first get tapped into it?
KK: I started my first company when I was in undergraduate school in 2001 and have always worked with entrepreneurs. However, I didn’t get involved with the Midwest startup scene until law school, when I joined the inaugural eScholar program offered by UMKC’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Technology. I continued my involvement because I love the challenge and excitement that comes with developing an idea into something that changes lives, industries, and economies. Technology change has created an unprecedented demand for innovation, and I feel lucky to participate by helping small businesses plan, stay current and grow.
SPN: You were recently recognized this year as the University of Missouri System's Student Entrepreneur of the Year. How would you describe your response to that honor?
KK: I was incredibly humbled by the award. It’s a huge personal honor, but I believe it’s also a testament to our community. As the first law school recipient, it speaks volumes about the quality and value of the interdisciplinary approach that is embraced by both UMKC’s School of Law and UMKC’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Kenney. Frame image from Big Stock Photo.
Prairie Portraits: To learn more about this series, see our introduction post, or visit our archives for past Prairie Portraits. To suggest an individual for a future Prairie Portrait, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prairie Portraits are brought to you by Hudl.