John C. Danforth Joins Dowd Bennett after Working with Bryan Cave for Decades
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John C. Danforth, an attorney who has been with Bryan Cave for 50 years, has departed the firm after a disagreement over a major case.

Summary: John C. Danforth, an attorney who has been with Bryan Cave for 50 years, has departed the firm after a disagreement over a major case.

Bryan Cave is one of St. Louis’ biggest and most influential law firms. However, according to St. Louis Today, John C. Danforth is leaving the firm, even though he has been affiliated with Bryan Cave for the better part of 50 years.


Danforth joined the firm as a summer intern in 1962 while he studied law and divinity at Yale. He joined the firm as an attorney in 1966. Danforth was the firm’s 26th attorney at that time. Today, the firm employs over 1,000 attorneys across the world.

Danforth, a former U.S. senator, is departing the firm after a heated disagreement over a high-profile case. Danforth will now practice with Dowd Bennett, a smaller firm located in Clayton. Dowd Bennett represents some of the country’s largest companies.

The case that caused such a rift between Danforth and Bryan Cave was one that ended in a $77 million judgment against Wells Fargo, one of Bryan Cave’s biggest clients.

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In the St. Louis County Circuit Court trial against Wells Fargo, Danforth testified that he encouraged Barbara Morriss of Olivette to pursue a case against Wells Fargo due to allegations that the bank mismanaged family trusts, which cost the family millions of dollars. Danforth and Morriss are longtime friends. Danforth was also close to Reuben Morriss III, Barbara’s late husband.

Bryan Cave advised Danforth to consult with an attorney about testifying, to ensure that his testifying in the case would not be a conflict of interest. However, as the trial neared, Danforth was removed as a partner and was barred from practicing by the firm. Danforth said he was still allowed to have an office at Bryan Cave, but his title was changed to “retired partner.”

Danforth said, “The trigger for this was the Morriss trial. Reuben was one of my very closest friends, and we were in each others’ weddings. I helped find legal representation for them, and I testified at the trial. The way I saw it, Barbara Morris didn’t have any protection, therefore that’s what I had to do.”

During his testimony, Danforth stated that Wells Fargo was at fault for the losses from the Morriss family trust.

Wells Fargo recently settled a securities lending case for over $60 million.

Dowd Bennett represented Morriss, and Thompson Coburn represented Wells Fargo.

The jury returned a verdict on May 11. The verdict is thought to be the largest plaintiff verdict in the history of St. Louis County. One week ago, Therese Pritchard, the chairman of Bryan Cave, called Danforth to tell him he could not longer have an office at the firm. According to the St. Louis Business Journal, his testimony was the only issue discussed with Pritchard. “They didn’t want me to testify,” Danforth said.



Danforth commented, “It clearly created an uncomfortable situation for Bryan Cave. After the jury verdict, they felt it better that I no longer be there.”

In a statement, Bryan Cave said that Danforth retired from the firm in 2014. The statement said, “During his remarkable professional career, he served as Missouri attorney general, a three-term United States senator, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. His decades of service to the country are greatly appreciated. We wish him well at his new law firm.”

At the end of 2013, Bryan Cave elected its first female chair.

Danforth added that he was grateful for Bryan Cave’s support as he pursued a political career. “I’ll always have a place in my heart for what Bryan Cave meant to me in the past,” he remarked.

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Danforth will join his former colleagues at Dowd Bennett. Edward Dowd Jr. and Jim Bennett were previously partners at Bryan Cave when they departed to build their own law firm in 2006. Dowd Bennett now employs over 24 attorneys, and the firm has represented major companies such as Monsanto, Anheuser-Busch, Wal-Mart, and Emerson.

Dowd (L) and Bennett (R)

Dowd (L) and Bennett (R)

Danforth said, “This is the premier litigation firm in St. Louis. It instantly felt like home.”

Dowd is a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. When Danforth was appointed as special counsel to look into the 1993 FBI raid at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, Dowd served as his deputy special counsel during the investigation, which went on for 14 months.

Dowd said, “I think Jack will be great with either corporate clients or for public investigations where you know everything that you find out is going to be public. This was a great opportunity for the firm, and we not only expect Jack to be involved in investigations, but doing what he’s always done, which his public service.”

Yale recently announced a new grading system.

Danforth said that the move is a “whole new chapter” and a welcome change. He explained, “I don’t want to be a retired person. I don’t want to get a cap that says ‘retiree.’ I want to do stuff. I want when I’m drooling, I want Ed to say, ‘Here, have a Kleenex.’ I like being alive and into things. This is, ’Here’s a key to a new door,’ and that’s how I feel about it.”

Danforth caused a stir in the Republican Party earlier this year when he commented that politicians’ bullying may have contributed to the suicide of Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, who took his life in February.

Danforth has said he does not plan to slow down his demand for greater civility in political discourse. The ordained Episcopal priest will release his newest book this fall, “The Relevance of Religion.” The book explores how religious individuals can try to repair broken politics.

Source: St. Louis Today

Photo credit:, (Pritchard), Dowd Bennett (Dowd, Bennett)





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