I’ve known Sly James for years, and he is one of those people that virtually everybody likes. He’s a good guy, and he relates to people with a gentle sense of humor, a thoughtful kindness, and by finding common ground.
A great example of this skill is in the success he found in presiding over the local bar association. The truth is, lawyers don’t get along. Insurance defense lawyers think that plaintiff’s lawyers are all liars and cheats. Plaintiff’s lawyers think that insurance defense lawyers are unethical hacks. Corporate counsel believe that they are better in every specialty than the specialists, and the specialists think that corporate counsel are lazy prima donnas. Big firm lawyers think that solo and small firm attorneys are losers who couldn’t make the grade, and solo and small firm lawyers think that big firm lawyers are pompous, pampered price-gougers. And everyone knows that bond attorneys are over-priced proofreaders.
Now, how would you like to take on the task of unifying the seething mass of dislike and distrust that is a bar association?
Sly James took on that challenge, and did a great job of serving as president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association. In fact, he did such a great job that he came out of the job even more popular among the lawyers than he was going in. He then ran for the Missouri Bar Board of Governors, and crushed a field of other candidates, including a couple of incumbents (myself included). In his race, he got big endorsements from several influential lawyers who did not share his practice setting or his specialty.
Sly James got lawyers, one of the most combative groups on earth, to follow his leadership.
It makes sense, if you think about it. Sly is a plaintiff’s lawyer, which means that, in most cases, he doesn’t get paid unless 12 average citizens on the jury agree that his side ought to win. By some strange coincidence, when he is elected mayor, he will be able to achieve his agenda by convincing 12 below-average citizens on the council that his side ought to win. Sly is uniquely qualified to lead Kansas City.