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15 Kutak Rock Attorneys Earn Best Lawyers® 2023 “Lawyer of the Year” Distinction

News | August 18, 2022

The Best Lawyers in America© has selected 15 Kutak Rock partners as “Lawyer of the Year” for 2023. This designation goes above and beyond traditional inclusion and is based upon the highest overall peer feedback in a specific practice area and metropolitan region. The “Lawyer of the Year” distinction reflects an extraordinary level of respect that an attorney has earned among his or her peers. Only a single lawyer in each practice area and community is honored with a "Lawyer of the Year" award.

The firm’s “Lawyer of the Year” designations for 2023 are:


Russell C. Atchley: Litigation – Construction
Mr. Atchley focuses his trial practice on construction disputes, product liability litigation, complex business litigation, financial institutions litigation and health care litigation. He has extensive experience representing, design/build firms, architects and engineers, contractors and owners in construction disputes and professional liability matters, national banking institutions in business related disputes, manufacturers and retailers in products liability claims and healthcare organizations in several types of litigation. 

L. Kyle Heffley: Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants
Mr. Heffley focuses his practice on trial work with a special emphasis on healthcare litigation representing numerous healthcare providers in malpractice-related litigation and before licensing boards. He provides extensive experience in real estate litigation, business disputes and employment law matters.

Little Rock

David A. Smith: Closely Held Companies and Family Businesses Law; Tax Law
Mr. Smith concentrates his practice in federal income tax matters, particularly as they relate to complex business and financing transactions. He regularly counsels public and private companies, partnerships, corporate entities, real estate investment trusts (“REITs”), pension funds and healthcare organizations.

Jess L. Askew III: First Amendment Law
Mr. Askew practices in the areas of business and class action litigation and constitutional, education, media and appellate law.

Randal B. Frazier: Eminent Domain and Condemnation Law
Mr. Frazier has extensive transactional and litigation experience in several areas including general business and commercial matters, real estate finance, banking, commercial lending, creditor’s rights, complex workouts and foreclosures, land use and zoning and wireless communications. He is counsel to numerous banks and financial institutions, real estate developers, business entrepreneurs and both corporate and individual clients.


Ellen K. O’Brien: Real Estate Law
Ms. O’Brien focuses her practice on low-income housing tax credits, historic rehabilitation tax credits and state tax credits. Her experience has primarily been on representing investors and syndicators of tax credit properties for projects across the country. She also has experience in the restructuring and recapitalization of distressed tax credit projects.


Richard A. Olmstead: Litigation – Labor and Employment
Mr. Olmstead focuses his practice on employment law, appeals, and complex litigation in the energy sector. His employment experience includes defending and counseling employers and management in all aspects of the employment relationship including, but not limited to: defending claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in courts and administrative agencies throughout the country; OSHA compliance and litigation; conducting internal harassment and discrimination investigations; FMLA and ADA litigation and compliance; negotiating, drafting, and litigating employment contracts, non-compete, non-solicitation, trade secret, and severance agreements.


Joseph Reid: Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants 
Mr. Reid has more than 20 years of civil litigation experience. He has represented a wide array of businesses and individuals, including manufacturers, large and small commercial businesses, banks, hospitals and various professionals on a wide range of issues. 


Dwyer Arce: Appellate Practice
Mr. Arce focuses his practice on appeals and commercial trial litigation in state and federal courts in Nebraska, Iowa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He has represented clients in commercial disputes at trial and on appeal in a wide range of cases involving class actions, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, corporate governance, agribusiness, tax appeals, product liability, and personal-injury defense, among others.

Michael G. Mullin: Arbitration; Mediation
Mr. Mullin has served as a mediator in over 4,000 disputes and regularly mediates over 300 disputes per year across the United States. He is the only Nebraska mediator to be inducted into the International Academy of Mediators and was the first (of two) Nebraska mediators to be inducted into the American College of Civil Trial Mediators. He also has extensive litigation experience and has tried to conclusion more than 50 jury trials and numerous bench trials in cases involving personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, toxic tort and insurance coverage disputes.

John E. Schembari: Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law
Mr. Schembari leads the firm's national employee benefits and executive compensation group and focuses his practice primarily on minimizing his client’s legal risks while ensuring that their employee benefits and executive compensation programs align with their goals. He works with private, public and governmental employers on qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, employee stock ownership plans, insured and self-funded health plans, executive and incentive compensation programs, and other equity-based compensation arrangements. 

Patrick C. Stephenson: Trademark Law
Mr. Stephenson has more than 25 years of experience advising clients on all aspects of trademark protection and use. He has worked with business teams and in-house counsel to assist clients in every aspect of developing and adopting protectable trademarks and best practices for using and protecting valuable trademark assets. 

Jeffrey T. Wegner: Litigation – Bankruptcy 
Mr. Wegner has 30 years of experience representing banks, institutional lenders, landlords and lessors in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases. He has appeared in business bankruptcy cases in over 40 jurisdictions on behalf of the firm’s clients. Mr. Wegner is a recognized expert in bankruptcy law.


Peter J. Barrett: Litigation – Bankruptcy
Mr. Barrett represents unsecured and secured creditors, trustees, lessors, equity holders and corporate debtors in insolvency matters, including Chapter 11 reorganizations, business liquidations and loan workouts. He also represents clients in connection with acquisition of distressed assets and insolvency-related litigation.


Heather C. Yakely: Litigation – Labor and Employment
Ms. Yakely is the managing partner in the firm's Spokane office and has experience in both state and appellate courts in employment and constitutional law issues, municipal law, and tort defense. She has successfully defended law enforcement and municipalities in civil rights defense throughout her career. Heather has also successfully defended clients, municipal and private, in various employment matters, including discrimination, sexual harassment and ADA litigation.

About Best Lawyers 
For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Best Lawyers lists are published in leading local, regional and national publications across the globe.