Profiles in Advocacy: Paul Hentzen
What makes your practice different?
There must be something different because of the response I get from clients and my referrals. That difference is me. People do not just get a law firm, they get me.
I am 55 years old and I have run a business since I was in high school. I was 42 when I went to law school. I was an engineer for Pizza Hut and a general contractor for 10 years in my family’s company. I have 16 great-grand kids, 10 grand kids, and 75-80 people in my family who all have friends and their own networks.
I am very involved in my parish and church. I provide planned giving to KC Hospice and to Children’s Mercy. I am willing to take part and to be a part of things. Everyone who deals with me knows they deal with all of me. They get all of me: my personal life, my faith life, all of me. When they ask, what do you do when you are not working? I say, what do you mean? This is not working, this is life. This is life, and you do what you like. I absolutely love doing law.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the people I work for and represent. I do this not because I have to, after all, I chose this profession. Someone who needs me to speak for them because they cannot speak for themselves always reminds me to exercise a preferential option for the poor. I connect with that in my faith, which for me cannot be a far away thing, it has to be what you do every day. I love representing people who need to be represented. Most of the time that will be a contingent representation, because they would not be able to pay for it otherwise. I enjoy more than anything the cases where someone needs someone else to speak for them.
I ran a business when I was in high school. I had a hay hauling business. I went to a catholic high school and paid for part of that with my business. I employed my younger brother, Pat, and my older brother, Bob. I sold the machine I used then after undergrad for more than I paid for it. This equipment appreciated. I took my cut of that and went around the world.
I have been to 27 countries. Australia is my favorite. The Australians draw me. That is the most friendly, welcoming place I have ever been. The Outback is like what the United States was almost a century ago. Australia is full of very unique people.
What life experiences have helped you become a better lawyer?
I have traveled to 27 countries. That has helped me. I did a comparative law program in Beijing, China. Some of the prejudices that people carry with them, I do not. Maybe it is because this world is a full place. It is a big tent and there is room for everybody.
That exposure to different views is helpful. We fall into the traffic of condemning the other side. But I am an advocate. Everybody has a different view that is legitimate and his own. It does not make him evil because he has a different view. So I will go out for lunch together with my opponents after the trial and after we argue passionately. I think, if I was in that person’s shoes, looking at me, what would I think about me?
How do you facilitate referrals?
I think the attitude I mentioned has helped me in my practice. All of the clients I have worked with came through referrals, some from clients but many from other attorneys. I did a lot of estates for other attorneys. You have to earn that respect. I do not think you earn it just with your practice. You earn it with the respect you give others. That respect has to be lived out in your life or it would not be real. With my estates work I have done several priests, several lawyers, and quite a few doctors.
I do not do the quid pro quo thing. But I make people this promise, if you refer someone to me, I will make you look good for making the referral. The person making the referral is beyond just a lunch or a quid pro quo. I will make you look good because I will give my best efforts.
I make an overt, conscious effort to invest time in the client. I have a client I spent time with in a dirty manufacturing place, he showed me around even though it has nothing to do with the suit, but it has everything to do with what makes him him. It is worth making the time. I defend that to my firm because it builds shared trust. This is better than just saying “you, come to me.” Instead, I say, I will go to you. I consciously invest that time. I find the time or I make it.
In estates and wills and trusts, sometimes a grown son or daughter will ask me to create a will, for example, for their parents. After that, that son or daughter will come back and ask me to do a will for them because they say “you are fair.”
How did you pick your primary area of practice?
I purposely opted out of criminal and a lot of domestic law. I do not have the personality for it. I had intended to build a practice on estates and wills and trusts. I am a natural litigator, so it found me. Sometimes you do not have enough litigation to keep you going. That is why when I joined Krigel here it was a perfect match. They had more cases that needed litigating and I needed to do more litigation.
What I liked about wills and trusts is that there was generally no emergency about it. Litigation is an adversarial proceeding. With wills and trusts, there is no adversarial proceeding. I was a director of a good sized charity, so I thought estates and trusts would help me to prospect and promote charitable giving.
What drew you to litigation?
I am one of 10 kids. I am used to big crowds and used to many opinions being expressed at the same time. I have a big Irish family. What other people call mayhem, I call supper. The hurly burly of trial, having to think on your feet, that comes naturally to me because I have had to do it my whole life.
What are your hobbies?
I am the original tool man: if it can be built, I can build it. There is nothing that has been hired out from me. I do the whole thing. The last law office I had, I built the conference table. I build furniture. I do the same things with cars. We needed breaks on the Volvo, so I did it. I am the original builder.
What has been your most interesting case/project?
I handled a series of mortgage fraud cases against subprime lenders. All of my clients were elderly, African American women who lived in the urban core of Kansas City. That was the most interesting by far. I learned the most from it. That was litigation by a large, sophisticated firm, and here I was, a little one man shop, never having tried a case before. It was a crash course in complex litigation. The first couple of trials, I got stomped, but I learned. Then I turned the corner on it.
Most of this was in state court but one case was in federal court. That would have been in January of 2010.
Paul Hentzen is an attorney at Krigel & Krigel, PC in Kansas City. He graduated from the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Law in 2001 having served as Executive Editor of the UMKC Law Review.
He is a lawyer who strives to live his faith in the practice of law with strong ethics, honesty, transparency, and service to his clients. His practice in Kansas City, Missouri includes commercial litigation, wills and trusts, and business law. With an MBA and business management experience that spans both the corporate and non-profit sectors, Paul brings a productive, business sensibility to the practice of law. His practice areas include: commercial litigation including breach of contract, employment disputes, construction law, and personal injury; wills and trusts including probate, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives; and business law including contracts, real estate transactions, business entity formation, non-compete agreements, business succession planning, business acquisitions and restructures.
Please read more about Paul Hentzen by clicking here.
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