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Sylvester James Jr. (’83) Receives 2011 ABA’s Solo and Small Firm Lifetime Achievement Award

MAY 27, 2011—The General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division of the ABA honored Sylvester "Sly" James Jr. (’83) with its 2011 Solo and Small Firm Lifetime Achievement Award at its spring meeting luncheon in St. Louis on May 13. The award goes to attorneys who are recognized by their peers as embodying the ideals of the legal profession and as serving a professional lifetime of significant distinction.

On May 1, 2011, James was sworn in as mayor of Kansas City, Mo., the city’s second African-American mayor. For the past nine years, he has practiced trial law with the firm he founded in 2002, the Sly James Firm, handling cases concerning plaintiffs’ personal injury, legal malpractice, nursing home negligence, and more, as well as mediation and arbitration.

James completed his B.A., cum laude, in English at Rockhurst University on 1980 and attended a year of law school at Syracuse University. After completing his J.D. at the Law School in 1983, he joined Blackwell, Sanders, Matheny, Weary and Lombardi as an associate. In 1990 he became the firm’s first African-American partner. He and Nancy Kenner formed Kenner James & Kavanaugh in 1983, where he was a shareholder until founding his own firm.

A Fellow of the ABA, James has served as director of the Kansas City Bar Foundation, vice president of the Public Interest Litigation Clinic, and vice president of the Board of Directors of Legal Aid of Western Missouri. He has been a member, secretary, and president of the Missouri Board of Law Examiners (1992-2002) and a member of the Board of Governors of the Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers (1995-2003). He was president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association in 2003 and has chaired its Diversity Committee.

Also an active participant in community, civic, and political affairs, James has served on the boards of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority, the Enhanced Enterprise Zones of Kansas City, and the Jackson County Ethics Commission. He also co-chaired a successful initiative to refurbish the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City in 2006.

The ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division is composed of nearly 30,000 members working in a variety of settings, including private practice, military, and government positions. The Division’s diversity offers valuable perspectives and skills in meeting the needs of its members.


Sylvester James Jr.

Sylvester James Jr. (’83)