In The News: Hutchinson Law firm Borne From Experiences
Originally published on Hutchnews.com
By John Green
Posted on January 20, 2019
There were a couple of things from his father’s life – and death – that led Scott Mann into private practice as a Hutchinson attorney.
His dad, Norman Mann, was a well-known architect who specialized in public buildings, particularly schools.
He operated his own company for many years out of an office on East First, exposing Scott to the experience and idea of someone running his own company instead of working for someone else.
His father and another architect died in a plane crash in 1977, when Scott was a junior at Buhler High school, after the small plane hit severe weather returning from a school board meeting in Oklahoma where he was working on a school expansion project.
The experience of his mother dealing with the insurance company, and the assistance that attorney local Ken Peirce provided to the family, steered him toward law.
“Just how helpful he was in walking through things with my mom,” Mann said of Peirce’s influence. “She was obviously still grieving and then having to handle lots of things she was not used to handling.”
The survivor’s benefits, along with scholarships, including a basketball scholarship at Hutchinson Community College, paid for his school, Mann said. He completed his business degree at Kansas State University and then earned his law degree from the University of Kansas law school.
He joined the Hutchinson law firm of Gilliland and Hayes and was a partner there from 1986 to 1999. Much of his work there, he said, was defense work for insurance companies.
“It was a great experience,” Mann said. “They are great people, good mentors. But after 15 years, I wanted to start my own business. I was sort of getting a mid-life crisis. If I stayed there, I would have been fine, but then I’d always think back ‘why didn’t I challenge myself more.’”
Small Business of the Month
He initially set up in a small office off East Second Avenue with a paralegal and receptionist.
In 2006, Nation Meyers, who had bought his father’s building years earlier, advised him one of the primary tenants was moving out and the building was for sale.
He was ready to expand in 2008, but the financial crisis hit, so he waited a year before adding another attorney, Mann said. Then he hired Mike Wyatt.
The firm has since expanded to six attorneys with offices in three states.
Mann, Wyatt and Rice LLC is the Hutchinson / Reno County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Month for January.
“We have satellite offices in Wichita, Kansas City, Springfield and Tulsa,” Mann said. “We have someone in Kansas City, but the others are not manned. They allow us to serve clients in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.”
“We concentrate mainly on motor vehicle accidents and any kind of personal injury accident work,” Mann said. “Anything that involves insurance companies and claims against insurance companies, we can help people with that.”
The decision to focus on injury law and not do commercial or domestic work was a conscious one, said Mann, 56.
“If you’re going to be good at something, that’s what you’ve got to do,” he said. “We don’t do commercial work, but we refer a lot of cases in that regard.”
They also receive a lot of referrals, he said.
“Having done this for 32 years now, you build up all kinds of relationships,” he said.
Which is how they ended up with offices in three states.
“We started getting calls from people outside Hutchinson, from Garden City and Lawrence,” Mann said. “We started representing people throughout Kansas, and when that happened, we got calls from people who those clients knew from Missouri and Oklahoma.”
Initially, they referred those cases to attorneys in those states as well. But, in 2014, they opened an office in Missouri to take clients there. That was followed by an Oklahoma location two years ago. They don’t staff those offices, but have the locations in order to practice law in those states.
All of the attorney’s in the office are now licensed to practice in all three states. They are also all from Hutchinson, Mann noted.
After Wyatt – who went to Buhler High and Washburn – Mann hired Mitch Rice in 2011. Rice graduated from Hutchinson High School, Wichita State University and then Washburn University School of Law. Joining the firm next was Jesse Tanksley, a Central Christian graduate who went to KU, in 2015. Before joining Mann, he clerked for the Kansas Court of Appeals and worked for a Wichita law firm.
In 2017, they hired Sam Schulte, clerked for Mann while in law school. He attended Buhler and played golf for HCC before going to KU.
“I try to hire a law student as a summer clerk every year,” Mann said. “It’s a good way to mentor. I know it was helpful to me, and those kind of jobs are not everywhere.”
His newest attorney is Mason Lent, Mann’s son-in-law. He was finishing up his undergraduate degree in business at KU when he met Mann’s eldest daughter, Taylor. He joined the firm after doing insurance defense work for a while in Wichita.
“My growth plan has never been a plan,” Mann said. “It’s always been people. It seems like we’ve been blessed with meeting the right people… By hiring younger guys, it also energizes you. They’re excited and have great ideas. When I went to law school, we didn’t have computers or cell phones. Bringing in younger guys really transformed the level of our practice.”
Beside attorneys, the office employs seven full-time staff. They include Carrie Barr, Paralegal (28 years), Katherine Moore, Office Manager (14 years), Kate Schnider, Legal Assistant/Receptionist (6 years), Pam Mitchell, Legal Assistant (4 years), Robin Yates, Legal Assistant (3.5 years), Caressa Runyon, Legal Assistant (1.5 years), and Renee Jenkins (1 year).
“The biggest thing I heard starting out was people complaining about their attorney being too busy and not calling them back,” Mann said. “We really try to stay on top of that. We have a great staff. Carrie, my legal assistant at Gilliland and Hayes for 10 years, has been with me almost another 20 years in my own office. It’s the best staff I’ve ever had and all are from Hutch, their families are from Hutch.”
Mann and his wife, Theresa or “T” — a Lubbock, Texas, girl he met at Padre Island on Spring Break during his first year of law school and married the summer he graduated — have raised four daughters in Hutchinson. Two are attending KU, he said, and two are KU grads.
The family has attended First Church of the Nazarene for 30 years, where Mann serves on the board.
“It’s been an important part of our lives and our kids’ lives,” Mann said.
Besides church, members of the firm are involved with the Cancer Council of Reno County, United Way, Buhler, Hutchinson High, Central Christian, Holy Cross and Hutchinson Trinity Catholic Schools, the Sleep Tight Foundation, and Love Life Run, and firm employees spearheaded home renovations for a Hutchinson family in need.