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Brendan Kenny

Breaking the Ice: Extra research, e-discovery and ’80s rock

Name: Brendan Kenny

Title: Attorney, Blackwell Burke

Education: B.A., history, University of California, Berkeley; J.D., University of California, Hastings College of the Law

Brendan Kenny, attorney at Blackwell Burke, enjoys connecting his legal representation to clients’ business strategy in his national products liability practice.

He also pours through sources including public records, newspapers, union periodicals, and government bulletins to put cases in a broader context.

“It allows me to take the allegations set for by the other side and put them in the context of how things really work in the real world,” Kenny said.

Kenny joined Blackwell Burke in 2012 after working at a small firm and in the California Attorney General’s Office in San Francisco in his native state. A case there where lost e-mails cost his side at one stage led Kenny to found the Twin Cities E-Discovery Forum.

His goal is ensuring that “the tail doesn’t wag the dog, that the discovery process doesn’t prevent what the legal system is all about, which is the resolution of a case on its merits.”

Q: What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Lead with an ’80s rock lyric. Sing “Just a small town girl” and I’ll respond with “Livin’ in a lonely world.” My wife could tell you, I’m always singing songs around the house.

Q: What prompted you to study law and pursue it professionally?

A: My fixation with two related problems: 1) How hard it is to get someone to really listen and to pay attention to what you’re saying, and 2) even if they do, how hard it is convince someone of anything? Working to overcome these problems on a daily basis continues to motivate me.

Q: What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A: In addition to spiritual reading, I’m rereading Blessed John Henry Newman’s “Aplogia Pro Vita Sua,” one of the most moving and persuasive things I’ve ever read.

Q: What is a pet peeve of yours?            

A: People who can’t or won’t focus on what someone is actually saying or doing. This creates totally unnecessary conflicts. Of course, I’m guilty of this too.

Q: What are your favorite aspects of being an attorney?

A: The opportunity to help clients by combining their knowledge and skills with my legal acumen and experience to craft trial themes that put them in the strongest possible position.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Unnecessary conflict with opposing counsel over secondary issues that could easily have been resolved with a phone call.

Q: What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A: Spending time with my wife and children. We love visiting rural cemeteries on beautiful spring Saturdays. You can learn so much about a town’s history by visiting its cemetery.

Q: If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A: In Shakopee, I would probably take them to the downtown because I love walking through old downtown.

Q: Is there an attorney or judge, past or present, whom you admire most?

A: My dad. He’s 79 years old and still going strong practicing law. In addition to being an unparalleled example of a husband, father and community member, he demonstrated that law could be a noble profession. He took his duty of loyalty and confidentiality very seriously. He’s my role model in basically every thing I do.

Q: What’s a misconception people have about working as an attorney?

A: That lawyers are particularly cunning, conniving or careless with the truth. I’d say we’re not. What we have is a professional duty to pay great attention to what the facts are and what they’re not because we and our clients have a lot of skin in game. The hyper-focus needed to present a factually correct and maximally persuasive narrative can look a lot like trickiness, hairsplitting and lack of candor to the general public.

Q: What is your favorite depiction of the legal professional in popular culture?

A: “My Cousin Vinny.” He qualifies is girlfriend as an expert witness, designates her as a hostile witness and then wins the case through his cross-examination of her.

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