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Labor of Love

Michael W. Hawkins Makes A Federal Case Out of Employment Rights

By Felix Winternitz

As a teenager, Mike Hawkins spent many a long, hot summer working at manual and factory labor. That experience has paid off in ways that the attorney might not have even imagined way back when.

Today, Hawkins works as a labor and employment specialist at Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. “In college, I was positively exposed to some lawyers involved in politics and business,” he recalls of his initial interest in the legal profession. “I thought I wanted to be a business lawyer and pursued that as my course of study in undergrad and law school.

“I initially began my practice with Dinsmore & Shohl as a corporate securities lawyer. After three years, I had the opportunity to transfer into the Labor and Employment Department,” Hawkins continues. “What attracts me to it today, after some 30 years of practice, is assisting clients in successfully addressing and resolving labor- and employment-related issues in the workplace.”

Hawkins assists his clients in a wide variety of issues involving reductions in force and some of the challenges arising out of those reductions, issues related to union strikes and some National Labor Relations Board challenges, a variety of sexual harassment, discrimination and military service discrimination claims, as well as proactive and preventative advice, counseling and training.

“I get to observe the Shakespearean drama unfold in the workplace on a regular basis,” he notes. “People say and do some amazing things. This area of practice allows me to use my intuition and creativity to resolve workplace issues, claims, lawsuits and challenges.”

Asked to name some career highlights, Hawkins ticks off his list: “I have had the unique opportunity to prepare and argue two cases before the United States Supreme Court. These have been unique and incredibly valuable experiences in my legal career.”

The first case began with a dispute with a union and ultimately involved the definition of “supervisor” under the National Labor Relations Act. The second case concerned an alleged race discrimination claim under a statute passed in 1866 and brought to bear the pivotal issue of strict construction of a statute versus the judiciary legislating interpretations of the statute.

“In both cases, the solicitor general of the United States took an active role, making the cases even more intriguing and having broad national impact,” Hawkins notes. “An opportunity like this clearly makes one a better lawyer, enhances one’s legal skills, and for a lawyer is the equivalent of going to the Super Bowl or the Olympics. It is a rare and humbling opportunity.”

Hawkins, who earned both his B.A. and J.D. at the University of Kentucky, is married and has three grown daughters. He loves anything that has to do with the outdoors, including cycling and fly fishing.

The Privacy Protector

Lori E. Krafte Branches Out Into Multiple Interests: Trademark, Copyright, Defamation, Even Baseball Law

When Lori Krafte first thought about entering law school, she ruled out only one single area of practice: Intellectual Property. Little did Krafte know that IP was exactly the arena of law she’d wind up practicing.

“At the time, I didn’t know you could practice in ‘soft side IP’ — trademark and copyright — without also doing patent, and my background is in the humanities, not the sciences. But I got hooked on trademark and copyright law in an ‘Intro to IP’ class, which I have since taught a couple of times.

“The advertising portion of my practice was a natural development from there,” continues Krafte, who is an attorney at Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC. “Advertising law encompasses IP issues, of course, but also First Amendment, defamation, privacy and other areas of the law.”

Krafte is a graduate of Indiana University, with a B.A. in political science, and the University of Cincinnati College of Law. She also earned a Ph.D. in religion and theology at Claremont Graduate School in Claremont, Calif., and is the author of a number of articles and books on Judaic studies, including Feminism and Modern Jewish Theological Method (Lang Publishing, New York).

As an adjunct and visiting professor, Krafte has taught trademark and unfair competition classes at the UC College of Law and an electronic media law course at the UC College-Conservatory of Music (in CCM’s broadcasting department), as well as theological and philosophy courses at George Mason University, American University, The College of William and Mary and Christopher Newport College — all in the Virginia and Washington, D.C., area.

Krafte’s father, a trial lawyer and judge, first inspired her to enter the legal career track. But it was Krafte’s own drive and passion that landed her at the forefront of her profession, including a notch in her belt courtesy of the United States Supreme Court.

One recent case, “Quon v. Arch Wireless,” is about whether employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their text messages. “The U.S. Supreme Court has just agreed to review ‘Quon v. Arch Wireless,’” she notes. “In that case, a police department had a formal
no-privacy policy, but an informal policy that allowed personal texting. The 9th Circuit found a reasonable expectation of privacy despite the formal policy.”

Over the years, Krafte’s practice has even extended to the prosecution, enforcement and licensing of sports trademarks. “I have represented USA Baseball, the national governing body of amateur baseball, for over 10 years,” she notes.

Krafte’s personal accomplishments include serving on the boards of AdClub Cincinnati and Greater Anderson Promotes Peace (GAPP). She is married and has two sons.

Born & Bred

Mike Sutton Gives Back to His Hometown, One Client And Cause at a Time

By Gretchen Keen

Northern Kentucky might not be the biggest or most prestigious place to practice law, but for Mike Sutton, it’s home.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that managing partner of Sutton Rankin Law PLC operates in Edgewood. As a Kenton County native, a graduate of Covington Catholic and the University of Kentucky College of Law, there’s no place like home for this local attorney.

“There’s plenty of businesses and clients, and I’ve grown up in the area, so I’m staking my law practice in the Northern Kentucky area,” Sutton explains.

While he runs a smaller Kentucky firm today, that wasn’t always the case. Sutton worked for Adams, Brooking, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing in Covington, then a satellite office of the former Frost Jacobs.

When it was consolidated back to downtown, Sutton was moved to the Cincinnati office. “It was a great law firm. I had great training and everything there, but I really didn’t want to be in a Cincinnati law office without a Northern Kentucky base, because this is my home,” he recalls.

Sutton ended up at Graydon Head’s office in Florence until 1992. At that point, he and current partner/NKY native Larry Hicks decided it was “now or never,” and started their law practice: Sutton, Hicks, Lucas, Grayson & Braden, PLC (now Sutton Rankin Law).

“The motivation, really, was I was at a point in my law career where I felt that with the right mix of lawyers, and starting a firm over here, with Northern Kentucky growing, I could … be successful and grow the firm slowly,” Sutton says.

Since then, the firm has stuck to the motto, “Names you know, people you trust.” To Sutton, this means clients should never feel intimidated or lost in a sea of bureaucracy. Sutton says most of his clients have never interacted with lawyers, so they are often anxious about seeing one. To counteract that, he and his eight-person team try to listen to the clients’ needs and then point them in the right direction.

The grassroots, small business clients, he says, are some of the most rewarding. Sutton recalls a case in which he helped a man in the automobile refurbishment industry after he left his employer. When the man tried to use his skill set on his own, the company sued him because of an extensive non-compete agreement. Sutton argued that the agreement was unreasonable and won.

Aside from his work, Sutton tries to improve Northern Kentucky. He is on the boards of the Northern Kentucky Cold Shelter (where he also volunteers), Covington Catholic High School and the Northern Kentucky Bar Association.

“Part of my life is law,” Sutton says. “The other part is being involved in the community and giving back to where I have grown up.”

The Advisor

James Zimmerman Helps Businesses Grow by Aiding and Connecting Entrepreneurs

Many lawyers chose their careers based on their propensity to argue.

But not James Zimmerman.

“That’s just not my personality,” he says.

Sure, he can argue — after being selected as an Ohio Super Lawyers Rising Star for several years, it’s clear that Zimmerman doesn’t lack a competitive spirit. But law isn’t a zero sum game, he emphasizes; it’s about creating value.

For Zimmerman, a partner in the Business and Financial Department in Taft, Stettinius and Hollister LLP’s Cincinnati office, creating value for clients is the most rewarding aspect of his job. A good
business lawyer should be a client’s first call when he or she has a problem, legal or not, Zimmerman says. And for many clients, he is that first call: a trusted advisor who helps them think through the broader strategy questions that businesses often face.

Although “relationships” may not be a required subject in law school, relationships are essential in the legal world, Zimmerman emphasizes. In addition to helping his clients legally, he maintains an active network of business resources in the city to connect them with. “I spend a lot of time just meeting with people and getting to know them,” he adds.

Zimmerman notes one of the relationships that paid off for a client: He helped a local technology company sell a piece of software to Microsoft Corp. for a hefty return. “It was a fun project,” he says. “They had a product that Microsoft rea