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Alumni Spotlight - Steve James

Steve James is an alumnus of Husch Blackwell's Kansas City office.

Steve James
Senior Associate General Counsel
Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc.

What is your history with Husch Blackwell?

I was hired by what was then the Husch & Eppenberger firm in Kansas City as a summer associate in 2008. By the time the summer started, though, Husch & Eppenberger had merged with Blackwell Sanders, so I became part of the inaugural summer associate class of the combined firm. After graduating law school in 2009, I joined the firm as an associate. While my primary practice area was real estate, due to an extremely depressed real estate market at the time, early on I found myself getting involved in a variety of other projects, including litigation, bankruptcy and data privacy. Although not planned, this cross-training experience was invaluable as it helped me to develop lasting relationships across different practice groups within the firm and with different types of clients. One of these clients was Associated Wholesale Grocers, Inc. (AWG), which I eventually left HB to join in 2016. At AWG, we still frequently work with HB, so I have the good fortune of continuing those relationships I built as an HB associate.

Describe your current role/practice outside of Husch Blackwell.

I am currently senior associate general counsel at AWG, which is the nation’s largest cooperative food wholesaler to independently owned supermarkets. AWG serves more than 1,100 member companies and more than 3,000 locations throughout 28 states from eight full line wholesale divisions. I primarily handle AWG’s transactional matters, including real estate, development, finance and acquisitions, but given the relatively small size of our in-house legal team, we all end up wearing a variety of hats.

Describe any interesting and emerging trends you’re seeing in your industry.

The grocery industry is rapidly changing as new technologies emerge and consumers demand more efficient and convenient ways to get products. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly expedited this trend with automated solutions, grocery delivery and online shopping all seeing huge growth. At AWG, we are evolving with the changes as we are currently working on a new state-of-the-art automated distribution hub, which will be capable of double the volume and SKU count across our facilities.

What is one of the most interesting projects on which you’ve worked?

Calling it the “most interesting” is certainly a stretch, but I always joke that one of my first projects at AWG was to draft a waiver for a hot dog eating contest that one of our member stores was hosting. It was a classic example of the oddball projects that occasionally cross your desk as in-house counsel. Thankfully for me, most of the projects at AWG have been much more intellectually stimulating. Thankfully for lovers of tubed meats, no one was injured in the hot dog eating contest, so my expertly crafted waiver didn’t come into play.

What hobbies/activities do you enjoy outside the office?

I love spending time with my family, enjoy traveling and am also a big sports enthusiast. Locally, I try to attend as many Chiefs, Royals and (as a native of St. Louis) Cardinals games as I can and have also combined travel and sports with a goal to see a game at every MLB ballpark. I have checked quite a few parks/cities off the list, but still have more to go.

View Husch Blackwell alumni resources on our Alumni Network page

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