By Patricia O’Dell
While some corporate giving programs focus specifically on the organization’s specific range of interests, Polsinelli, a law firm with its headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., has a giving policy grounded in individual involvement. This unique philosophy that has led to gifts to the University of Missouri—Kansas City well beyond the School of Law.
“I started the firm with colleagues in 1972,” says Jim Polsinelli. “We had three lawyers and a receptionist and we probably didn’t need her,” he remembers with a laugh. “From the beginning I thought if we hired the right people—and worried less about getting the right clients—the rest would work itself out.”
It’s a philosophy that’s paid off for Polsinelli. The firm currently has 21 offices nationwide and more than 850 attorneys.
“In the beginning I was involved in every hire,” says Polsinelli. “We recruited from regional law schools and focused on people who were involved in their communities. I thought community involvement was important.”
In line with this philosophy, the firm has resisted focusing its philanthropy on one area. Instead, each attorney is given an individual account that is funded by the firm to support organizations that are important to them.
“We’ve revisited this from time to time, but we think that there are a lot of needs and we want our associates to be connected to the community,” said Polsinelli.
“This level of involvement is part of our culture,” says Chase Simmons, Polsinelli Vice Chair and Chair-elect. “Jim instilled it back in the beginning. We still live it and breathe it. If highly engaged people are the type of people you want to hire, then we believe you need to have the resources to support their priorities in the community.”
Associates are able to utilize those funds in ways that they think are the most impactful; their support of UMKC is significant. Beyond the UMKC Law School, Polsinelli has donated generously to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Henry W. Bloch School of Business, the Entrepreneur of the Year program, the Conservatory of Music and Dance, KCUR and American Public Square.
While support for UMKC comes from several of his colleagues, Jim Polsinelli has a personal commitment to the university as well. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the university and is a director of the UMKC Foundation.
“UMKC means a lot to this community,” Polsinelli says. “It means a lot to me. I think it’s a special institution.”