Crafting a Legal Career

Adam Armstrong ‘05 knows that every good craft beer includes grain, hops, yeast – and legal papers.  The president of the UDSL Alumni Association doesn’t share a cold one with all his clients but, as co-founder of Ohio Beer Counsel, opportunities do come along.
“We paired the law with what we enjoy,” Armstrong says.
Armstrong is referring to the special practice group within his new law firm, Bruns, Connell, Vollmar & Armstrong, which specializes in assisting Ohio’s start-up and established craft breweries and distilleries with the legal ingredients to ensure success.
“Then, after business, we enjoy a pint,” he adds.  And he’s not expected to show up in a suit.
Adam and brewerArmstrong and his colleagues help established and start-up craft breweries and distilleries in Ohio on employment matters, forming corporate structure, raising money through private placement memorandums, obtaining federal and state permits, registering and defending trademarks, negotiating commercial leases, vendor contracts and equipment purchases, and when necessary, litigating in court.
“Since we started doing this, we’ve seen an increased interest,” Armstrong says. “We were one of the earlier ones to identify it as a practice area. It’s also fun and interesting.”
Starting a new law firm parallels Armstrong’s love of working with small businesses and entrepreneurs.  “I really enjoy being part of something that starts from scratch and being part of a team,” he says.
Crafting legal documents for the brewing industry likely will be a growing part of Armstrong’s practice.  The industry is flourishing, according to the Brewers Association’s chief economist, who recently spoke at the Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference in Cincinnati. Five years ago, there might have been only a handful of craft breweries in Ohio; today there are more than 190 and it’s possible it will increase to more than 400.
A graduate of Miami University, Armstrong was a public relations major who knew PR wasn’t right for him by the time he applied to law school.  He also thought mergers and acquisitions would be a good fit, but his strengths in public speaking and presentations made litigation and being in the courtroom more attractive. 
And while he enjoyed law school, he still recalls the challenges. 
“There always seemed to be something that needed to be done and not enough time to do it,” he says.  “There were two classmates I met in orientation.  We took all our classes together and studied together.  We always joked that between all three of us we made one hell of a law student.”
Armstrong joined the Dayton firm Freund, Freeze & Arnold after graduation. He always will be grateful for the skills and experience he gained there, including the opportunity to work on large and complex cases with attorneys he considers “great legal minds.”
He also believes his 11 years there gave him the confidence to start a new firm with three other partners. “I was fortunate enough to start my career with a great firm and learn every day from a great mentor, Neil Freund,” Armstrong says. “He, as well as others, helped shape the lawyer I am today.”
A throwback to law school might be what Armstrong finds most gratifying about being a lawyer; he likes being tested and forced to learn daily.
Adam ArmstrongMuch of his practice is focused on civil litigation, so he regularly is challenged to learn a great amount of information and details about other fields, such as medicine.  Trials necessitate taking complicated cases and simplifying them to make them more manageable for lay people, including the judge or jury. 
“I defend health care professionals – doctors and nurses in malpractice cases – so I have to be knowledgeable,” he says.  “It’s rewarding to have learned some aspect of medicine thoroughly enough that I can question someone who is an expert.”
Along with serving as president of the law school’s Alumni Association, he also serves on the board of trustees for Muse Machine and as a mentor to new lawyers through the Supreme Court’s Lawyer to Lawyer Mentoring program.
His days are now filled, not only with practicing law, but also running a business. Armstrong considers his wife Katie his greatest supporter and the cheerleader of his professional career.  She is also a graduate of Miami University and Dayton Law, where she teaches as an adjunct professor.
Formerly an adjunct professor at Dayton Law, Armstrong believes students benefit from how closely the Law School works with the legal community in Dayton, promoting professional relationships and friendships among students, practicing attorneys and judges.
Yet he shares advice for incoming students that it’s not always easy, and that includes the job market: “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I can’t stress enough the importance of networking.  It starts when you enter law school and it doesn’t end when you graduate.  Networking is essential to building a law practice, so you better learn it early and get used to it.”
He also values the human touch and may practice, in part, based on how he was nurtured as a student.
“I always felt UDSL was more concerned about me and my personal development rather than just a number on paper,” he says.  “The family community Dayton Law offered felt comfortable to me and less like the competitive, cutthroat law schools portrayed in books and movies.”
                           -- Carole Judge
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