Profiles in Advocacy: Allison Tanner
What makes your practice different?
I spent 12 years working at two big law firms, dealing with complicated, sophisticated problems. I left there to join Swanson Midgley. Now I have more flexibility with my rates. I can bring the depth of my 12 years of experience at big firms to help clients who now do not need to pay those high prices any more. I bring to my clients a depth of experience I have gained working on commercial lease transactions for big national companies for which I have done leasing projects.
How did you pick your practice areas?
I knew I did not want to do litigation. I started out doing real estate when I started working in the general transactional area. I loved the real estate part of it. In almost every transaction you go through the same process while at the same time working with different issues with each different property. It is a more congenial atmosphere, too. Everyone is trying to represent her client to the best of her ability, while at the same time, both sides are trying to get a deal. It is a good fit for me.
What else helps you cultivate relationships with clients?
The other organizations I am involved in help me to reach out to new clients and provide me with a different type of experience to help them. For example, I have been chairman or on the Board of Directors for KC CREW, Kansas City Commercial Real Estate Women, for several years. That group enjoys a broad spectrum of people. I starting out getting to know so many different people who have ended up as friends.
How do you facilitate referrals?
I enjoy many referrals both from other attorneys and in doing a good job and being responsive. I return phone calls and emails promptly. That is one of the things we do in our smaller firm that is not always found in big firm culture. We have a culture of responsiveness. We try to check back in at the end of the year and keep in touch with those who give us business. We get together with our past clients and do well maintaining those relationships
About what are you passionate?
I am passionate about trying to do a good job for my clients. The last three years have been challenging in the commercial real estate industry. It has been depressing stuff, mostly foreclosures and evictions. I am starting to see more transactions and activity now, clients coming in with private money. We are passionate about trying to build that business that we see starting again. I love what I do and have been very fortunate about that.
Working with my clients, I have to help them to be more realistic about the current situation in the market place. People want to sell at the prices they had before, people want to buy at low prices, but the Kansas City market has not gone up and down the way other real estate markets did. We do not see so much of a bargain here as people see in other parts of the country see. I have seen people buy property at auctions when we are trying to make sure the foreclosure was proper. UCC foreclosures are difficult as well. People just do not understand what all is involved a lot of time.
I am seeing more regular people popping back up now, which places more emphasis on being realistic with clients for me. The issues they are dealing with, like the kinds of loans they were able to get that they are no longer able to get require me to be realistic with them. I am working on more equity issues now.
I am also passionate about traveling and exploring several other places. We just went to New York City. Exploring is what we love. We recently went to a wedding in Houston. Our next big trip will be to go to Hilton Head for a long weekend.
What life experiences have helped you become a better lawyer?
One experience was going through a divorce. Having to hire, work with, and pay an attorney made me see law from the consumer side, not just the attorney side.
I was working full time as a lawyer, my daughters were 12 and 14, and I was trying to balance that and make it work effectively. It made me more efficient with my time. I am a partner in a small law firm now and a small firm is a small business. I am more aware of the operation of small business.
How did you pick your primary area of practice?
I thought real estate would be interesting and our firm had needs in that area. The very first transaction I worked on was a $350m property transaction. That was trial by fire. We closed the first eight properties by November and I started in September. We were working night and day, but I learned so much from that. I feel fortunate to have had the kind of training and experience I have had.
After my first year of law school, I clerked for a small firm, Badger & Levings. They were a litigation firm. It became clear to me that I did not want to do litigation. After that I clerked with a big firm after my second year. I ended up going with the big firm at first. When I started law school I was 32 years old, my daughters were two and four.
For awhile I thought I did my life backwards, by the time I got out, they were five and seven and in school. Even my youngest was already in kindergarten. So I never had those same pressures as many other women, especially new mothers, have as they begin their legal careers. They also agonize about feeling guilty about not staying home with the kids, which I was able to overcome because my kids were school-age by the time I was practicing.
It was wonderful coming in as a non-trad student. It was challenging. Before law school, I was working as a preschool teacher, so going to school with bright people was a welcomed change. I had time management skills that a lot of the students in school did not seem to have.
What are your hobbies?
I just got remarried. My husband and I like to travel. I like to garden. I do not really like chain restaurants. I am trying to keep up with my two daughters. I have a senior at Truman State and my other daughter is at Rhodes in Georgia. They are both very creative, artistic people. Happy Gillis is our favorite. It is open for breakfast and lunch until about 4:00. They are close to the River Market and Garozzo’s, about two blocks up on Gillis street. My other favorite restaurant is Le Fou Frog.
What has been your most interesting case/project?
The most interesting transaction I have worked on was the purchase of a paper mill in South Carolina. It covered 1600 acres and it had water excess issues. They got water from the Cooper River, but it was not near. There were issues about the chemical process and water that came in which they wanted to separate from the sale of the mill. The same family had owned it since the 1930s, but no survey had been done since the 1930s. I had quite a sense of accomplishment when we finished that one because of how many complex issues it presented.
Some of the more complicated transactions require a team. Because you find several different issues in each transaction like corporate, environmental, and bankruptcy issues, you have to have different specialties, so a lot of people can help.
Allison Tanner graduated in the top 10% in her class from the University of Missouri – Kansas City in 1997, having served on the UMKC Law Review. She is a partner at Swanson Midgley, LLC, focusing her practice in Real Estate & Housing and Business. Allison serves as a member of The Kansas City Chapter of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), on the board of directors of the Liberty Rotary Club, and as Co-Chair of Liberty Arts Squared Festival.
She represents condominium and homeowners’ associations as they increasingly deal with issues resulting from the foreclosure crisis. She handles a variety of commercial real estate development, financing, construction, and lease matters. She also represents various local and national developers and other companies. Such representation has included office, industrial, retail, organic ranching and multi-family developments in Kansas and Missouri with both national and local developers and other companies. Read more about Allison Tanner here.
Tags: Allison Tanner, Badger & Levings, Happy Gillis, kansas city attorney, kansas city business attorney, kansas city real estate attorney, kansas city transaction attorney, KC CREW, Le Fou Frog, Liberty Arts Squared Festival, Liberty Rotary Club, Swanson Midgley LLC, The Kansas City Chapter of CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women), UMKC Law Review, UMKC School of Law, University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Law