School of Law to present distinguished alumni awards

The School of Law will celebrate the outstanding achievements of seven individuals at its annual Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner Friday, April 11, at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis.

Presenting the awards will be Kent Syverud, J.D., dean and the Ethan A.H. Shepley University Professor.

Four alumni will receive Distinguished Law Alumni Awards and three will receive Distinguished Young Law Alumni Awards. The honorees:

Distinguished Law Alumni

Michael M. Berger (JD ’67) is being honored for his outstanding career accomplishments and contributions to legal education. For most of his career, Berger practiced land use and eminent domain law, mostly in the appellate courts, in the Los Angeles law firm Berger & Norton. He argued hundreds of appeals, including four cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Berger now co-chairs the appellate practice group at the national law and consulting firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

Berger has maintained a strong connection to legal education. An adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and at the University of Miami Law School, he has taught in continuing education programs of the American Law Institute-American Bar Association (ALI-ABA) and other organizations. He also has taught at law schools at Georgetown University; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Southern California; and Washington University. In 1989, ALI-ABA presented him with its Harrison Tweed Award for career contributions to postadmission legal education.

Martin E. Galt III (JD ’67, GL ’73) is being recognized for his career achievements in the financial services industry. Following service in the U.S. Army, Galt joined the St. Louis law firm Thompson, Walther, Shewmaker & Gaebe. While there, he returned to the School of Law part time for a master of laws in taxation. In 1980, Galt left the firm to become the general counsel for the St. Louis Union Trust Company, the predecessor organization to Boatmen’s Trust Company, now a part of Bank of America.

He then became head of the personal trust division, president of the company and, ultimately, its chairman and CEO. Galt continued to serve in senior management when Boatmen’s was acquired in 1996 by NationsBank, which eventually merged with Bank of America.

In 2000, he became president of the Investment Products Division of TIAA-CREF in New York. In 2005, he returned to St. Louis to become the chairman of the Commerce Trust Co., his present position.

James L. Palenchar (JD ’75) is being honored for his success as a transactional lawyer. He started his career at Kirkland & Ellis in Chicago. He relocated to that firm’s Washington, D.C., office in 1977 and then moved to the Denver office when it opened in 1981. As part of that office’s management team, Palenchar grew the office to more than 50 lawyers. In 1993, he joined with a handful of his partners at Kirkland to found Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott. In less than 15 years, Bartlit Beck has grown to 65 lawyers in its offices in Chicago and Denver, focusing exclusively on trial practice and business transactions. He is now a senior partner in Bartlit Beck, which, while small by national firm standards, has established itself as an elite law firm, handling “bet-the-company” matters, pioneering alternative billing practices and advancing the use of technology in the practice of law. Palenchar heads the firm’s transactional practice from Denver.

Phillip B. Polster (JD ’48) is being recognized for his career achievements and numerous contributions to the community. After studying law at the University under the G.I. Bill, Polster joined Bruninga & Sutherland, a two-partner patent law firm.

After Bruninga & Sutherland split, Polster’s son Philip joined him in practice to form the firm of Polster & Polster, whose clients included Emerson Electric Co. The firm, which has evolved into Polster, Lieder, Woodruff & Lucchesi, now has about 20 lawyers, all specializing in intellectual property and all are members of the patent bar.

Polster has served on the University City school board, was chairman of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis patent section and has served as deacon, elder and chairman of the board of trustees of the First Presbyterian Church of St. Louis.

Distinguished Young Law Alumni

William H. Freivogel (JD ’01) is being recognized for his outstanding career achievements. He is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Previously, Freivogel worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 34 years. He earned his law degree while working as the paper’s deputy editorial editor.

Award-winning coverage of law and justice characterized Freivogel’s journalism career. While assistant Washington bureau chief for the Post-Dispatch, he covered the U.S. Supreme Court. A series of editorials he wrote in 2001 about Attorney General John Ashcroft and civil liberties abuses was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. A series about the Bill of Rights at 200 won the Sigma Delta Chi Distinguished Service Medal and an American Bar Association (ABA) Silver Gavel. Another he wrote with his wife, Margaret, about the Ronald Reagan administration’s civil rights policies won the Sidney Hillman award. He was the principal contributor of a series about the Constitution that won the Benjamin Franklin Award and the ABA’s Silver Gavel. A series on the Reagan administration’s attempt to kill the Legal Services Administration won the Emery A. Brownell Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Connie McFarland-Butler (AB ’91, JD ’96) the first African-American female partner at the St. Louis law firm of Armstrong Teasdale LLP, is being recognized for her successful career and service to the legal community. She is a trial attorney who has managed hundreds of cases involving the defense of high-stakes personal injury claims, complex torts, product liability and medical malpractice claims. McFarland-Butler has never lost a jury trial when she has served as lead counsel. She serves as an adjunct professor and teaches trial advocacy at the School of Law and also is an instructor for the National Academy for Trial Advocacy and a certified mediator. Among many awards, McFarland-Butler has received the John Emde Award for Trial Advocacy and Professionalism, the Milton F. Napier Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy and the American College of Trial Lawyers Medal for Excellence in Advocacy.

Irwin P. Raij (JD ’95) is being recognized for his career accomplishments. A partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Foley & Lardner, Raij has unique experience with the development of professional sports facilities, team operations, economic development, campaign finance and government ethics.

He is a key player in Major League Baseball’s efforts to facilitate the construction of a new stadium for the Florida Marlins. He previously represented Major League Baseball in the relocation of the Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals, to Washington, D.C. He continues to provide counsel to the team.

Before joining Foley, Raij served as assistant counsel to the Al Gore/Joe Lieberman presidential campaign. He had previously served in the White House Office of Counsel to the President and later in the White House Office of Counsel to the Vice President.

He was a recipient of the 2004 American Marshall Memorial Fellowship, sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Marshall Fellows study European institutions and explore economic, political and social issues.