Attorney Spotlight | Q&A with Kristen Brightmire
OPVEON is pleased to feature Kristen Brightmire. Kristen Brightmire is a partner at Doerner Saunders Daniel & Anderson in Tulsa, Oklahoma where she focuses on employment litigation and has previously served on the firm’s executive committee.
Ms. Brightmire gained prior experience at CITGO Petroleum as in-house employment counsel. From her experience, she brings her clients a unique understanding of employment laws and regulations, as well as how to counsel executives faced with litigation. Representing companies in the manufacturing, utility, retail, insurance, paper and other industries, she quickly evaluates the legal risk and assesses the company’s risk tolerance, staffing, the local legal environment, and more.
Ms. Brightmire has substantial legal experience in the labor and employment area, representing employers in every aspect of the practice. In non-litigation matters, Ms. Brightmire has counseled numerous clients as to employee-related matters as well as drafted and reviewed policies, handbooks, employment contracts, severance programs, severance agreements, and relocation programs. She has also represented clients at every step of the litigation process from the administrative agency through trial and appeal.
Ms. Brightmire is recognized in her field by Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, Chambers USA, and has an A-V® Preeminent™ Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating. She was selected as one of the Top 25 Women Attorneys for Oklahoma by Super Lawyers® in 2010–2011 and 2013–2019. She was named by Best Lawyers as 2013 and 2017 Tulsa Litigation — Labor & Employment “Lawyer of the Year” and as 2021 Tulsa Employment Law/Management “Lawyer of the Year.” Ms. Brightmire is also a Fellow with the Litigation Counsel of America.
As a litigator, Kristen represents employers in defending against employment claims including Title VII, FMLA, ADEA, ADA, FLSA, OADA, as well as state law contract, tort and breach theories. In her transactional practice, Kristen assists employers with severance agreements, RIF programs, employee handbooks and policies, trade secret agreements, non-solicitation agreements and employment contracts. Kristen also regularly trains and counsels employers on issues such harassment, drug and alcohol testing, hiring, firing, discipline, wage and hour issues, retaliation, discrimination and accommodation.
Tom Ferguson, managing partner of Doerner Saunders Daniel & Anderson, has this to say about Kristen: “I have worked with Kristen on legal work for clients and business work for the firm. To each she brings exceptional knowledge magnified with exceptional insight. She is a “go to” attorney for our clients and I consider her a “go to” partner for business and management advice.”
Q&A with Kristen Brightmire
Q: How do you utilize the experience you gained at CITGO Petroleum?
A: There are a lot of attorneys who move in-house, but I know only a handful who return to private practice. I learned many things while in-house at CITGO but two of the most valuable involved the relationships I had. First, I understand the pressures of being in-house. There are a lot of talented attorneys in private practice, but not all of them understand how to leverage their talents to make their in-house clients’ lives easier. I utilize my experience as in-house counsel to put myself in my clients’ shoes. Second, as my CITGO responsibilities were HR, labor relations, and benefits, I learned about the corporate side of those fields. As outside counsel, it is not enough to simply advise on a new law or best practice. You must also be mindful of the role of that professional in the overall corporate structure and, when called upon, provide counsel as to how to advocate to ensure your client is getting the best legal advice so that it can make sound legal decisions.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a partner at Doerner Saunders Daniel & Anderson?
A: Having access to a group of attorneys for whom I have so much respect. I can send an email out saying, “has anyone ….?” and there is someone in our group who will respond. We have the tradition of helping each other to the advantage of our clients. It’s just more fun to be part of a team.
Q: What is your greatest professional success?
A: Winning jury trials is always fun, and winning an appellate argument is certainly rewarding. However, I must say that I believe my greatest professional success was obtaining summary judgment for an employer-defendant in a collective action brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act. I won’t bore the reader with all of the details, but this case involved 37 named plaintiffs representing a class claiming millions of dollars in damages. Our defense involved a well-orchestrated strategy utilizing video surveillance, depositions, and a large database of documents and data points. This case was like finding a large box containing 100,000 puzzle pieces and selecting the correct 1,000 pieces and placing them together to reveal the correct landscape puzzle. It was just a lot of work by our team (and it was a team effort) which paid off for the client.
Q: What is a valuable lesson you have learned in your profession?
A: Life is long; be kind. We can represent our clients zealously while still being kind to others in the profession. Jeff Nix taught me this in my first year of practice. I was young and wanted to be seen as a “serious” attorney. He was going to be late on something or another and called for an extension. I started objecting, noting prejudice (and other such things). Jeff stopped me kindly and said: “You know, we will all be practicing for a long time. You can object if you want, but you will definitely need an extension some time. If it doesn’t harm your client’s position, you might want to give that some thought.” (Quotes for clarity only; this is paraphrased and not at all an exact quote.) Jeff was right and I knew it immediately. I have tried to be that kind of professional. If it will disadvantage my client’s position, that is one thing. Otherwise, life is long. Each of us will face obstacles in our professional and personal life and will occasionally just need some kindness.
Q: Who has been the most influential person in your career?
A: “Most” implies one, but you can’t have just one. Lynn Mattson taught me about labor and employment law. He also taught me the most important thing was the work — do good work, provide excellent service to the client, always be early. I consider Lynn my mentor and could never thank him enough for giving me so many opportunities. But I was also lucky to have Linda Martin, Elise Brennan, Kathy Neal, and Rebecca Fowler. These four women were at Doerner Saunders when I began, and I leaned on them over the years for guidance on a wide array of topics. I tried my first case with Kathy Neal. So, really, just too many people to include.
Q: What is one thing you are exceptionally good at?
A: Organization. (Footnote, my family would say “calendaring”).
Q: What is your favorite television series?
A: Comedy — The Office, Drama — Law & Order (the original).