Shook Partner, Matthew Keenan was recently interviewed by The American Lawyer for his pro bono experience and his upcoming changes. Keenan was the firm’s pro bono committee director and served on multiple legal aid boards. Keenan will become executive director of Kansas Legal Services beginning in 2023.
In the interview, Keenan discusses what experiences prepared him for his new role, his background in pro bono work and why he chose to make the transition from product liability litigator to a legal services leader. Below is an excerpt from the published article.
TAL: How long have you been with Shook Hardy? What positions or roles have you had during your time with the firm?
“I’ve been at the firm for 37 years. It’s really the first firm I worked for. I worked for a federal judge for a year but I’ve been here basically the entirety of my private practice. I came from a family of lawyers. My dad was a small-town lawyer in Western Kansas. He practiced with his brother. At the firm, I was director of pro bono for eight years and was also on the board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri for six years. Most recently, I was appointed to the board of Legal Services Corporation. It’s the oversight board for legal aid organizations. I’ve served on the Legal Services Corporation board for four years.”
TAL: Does the firm’s litigation focus make it conducive to taking on pro bono work, because that tends to be the form that a lot of pro bono work takes?
“Yeah, there’s no question. I think a litigation practice is well-suited for pro bono advocacy. I would say that a big part of pro bono advocacy is problem-solving, and the most important skill set is civility. The landlords always have an attorney, you’re calling a landlord, and you use constructive dialogue to get favorable terms for a client getting evicted. I think it’s fair to say one that gets along and goes along with our adversaries, is a very helpful reputation to bring in.”
The American Lawyer is an online publication published by ALM Media. They provide news, data analysis and forecasting on the global business of law.