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Kevin Casenhiser – American Technologies Inc.
Based in Orange, California, American Technologies Inc. (ATI) is the nation’s largest family-owned restoration contractor with more than 750 full-time employees and 17 branch offices across the U.S. The company offers a full slate of turnkey services including restoration, environmental remediation and reconstruction.
From small leaks to natural disasters, ATI provides 24-hour emergency response for water damage, fire and smoke damage, lead and asbestos removal, mold remediation, biohazard cleanup, contents cleaning, restoration and pack-outs.
Leading the legal team at ATI is general counsel Kevin Casenhiser, who joined the company just two years out of law school and has served in the role for nearly eight years. A longtime family friend of ATI president Gary Moore, Casenhiser was brought in during a period of unprecedented growth as one of the company’s first in-house attorneys.
“I had been working at a small firm in Irvine at the time and thought ATI was just calling for my perspective,” says Casenhiser of his first meeting with ATI. “It was a great transition for me; I had learned a lot working at a law firm, but it was just not for me.”
Having quickly tired of the law firm lifestyle where success is measured solely in billable hours, Casenhiser was attracted to the stability and potential of a position with ATI. “It’s exciting to be part of a growing business,” he says. “I now work with the chief financial officer and help with decisions that allow the business to prosper and grow.”
Casenhiser’s arrival at ATI allowed the company’s executive team to spend more of its time focusing on managing a period of crucial growth. “In that first year I freed up the president and CFO so they could do their own jobs while I focused more on breach of contract issues and litigation management,” he says. Since those early days, Casenhiser’s role has grown to include employment and transactional matters, and real estate issues as ATI expands.
A longstanding relationship
After graduating from University of California Los Angeles in 2002 with a degree in political science, Casenhiser took a year off to help fundraise for a statewide after school program proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. After a successful campaign, Casenhiser spent a year in the family property management business, Bessire and Casenhiser Inc., before enrolling at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law, graduating in 2006.
From there, Casenhiser moved to a small Irvine law firm where he quickly gained broad industry experience. “I was able to experience more legal situations and had more responsibility and autonomy than I would have in a larger firm,” he says.
With family connections stretching back more than 20 years, Casenhiser was already familiar with ATI’s business and when the company called, he was eager to join the team. The switch to working in-house was an adjustment for Casenhiser, who went from working in a firm full of attorneys to being the sole law professional on staff. “The legal team here is just me,” he says, usually borrowing help from the HR department or other administrative assistants.
On a typical day at ATI, Casenhiser will handle 20 to 40 legal matters, from rote tasks such as issues of disability leave to negotiating seven-figure contracts or large change orders. The company works with insurance companies and property owners to get damaged facilities up and running as quickly as possible, ensuring minimal downtime and less loss of income for property owners.
“The best way we avoid issues is to do the work right, up front, which means good solid contracts, operations and customer service,” he says.
Casenhiser has long enjoyed educating people on complex issues and gets ample opportunity to develop that skill at ATI. “We have contracts that we use, but we may have to use a customer’s contract on occasion and those need to be reviewed and understood by all,” he says. “It is critical for me to be able to explain the provisions of these contracts in terms ATI’s employees can understand.”
With 17 locations across the country, Casenhiser’s job often involves helping the company prepare to break into new markets. The company recently expanded into Washington with a new office in Seattle and will soon make its way into Denver.
“The challenge is to keep your eye on the horizon and what is coming down the pipeline. Managing growth and customer service in a different regulated environment is a constant challenge,” Casenhiser says.
As a high-volume business, ATI often finds itself relying on outside counsel for common issues such as breach of contract cases which can range from several hundred dollars to more than $1 million, making budget management a huge concern. “I manage my time and resources for the benefit of the company, utilizing outside counsel when necessary but remaining actively involved in all cases in a cost-conscious manner,” he says.
Surrounded by inspiration
Casenhiser credits his success in the role of general counsel to his ability to see an issue from diverse angles. “I like to think that I do a good job of anticipating problems and putting myself in the other person’s position,” he says. “I can step away from the legal arguments, identify the business issues and help resolve the matter in a way that addresses both concerns.”
He also points to a number of important role models who have helped shape him into the man, and attorney, he is today. “My dad has been inspirational in his work ethic and everything he’s done to support his family,” says Casenhiser. He also cites his supportive, goal-driven wife, who started a business and supported them through law school, as an inspiration.
At work, Casenhiser looks to ATI president Moore as a professional role model. “He is an amazing entrepreneur and leader. He makes good, rational decisions, while embodying an entrepreneurial spirit,” Casenhiser says.
Working in a company that provides disaster restoration and recovery, Casenhiser doesn’t have to look too far to find something rewarding about his job. “We help people get back on their feet after a catastrophe; being part of that experience, helping people recover, is a great feeling,” he explains.
A lifelong adventurer, Casenhiser appreciates the more predictable schedule as in-house counsel over the law firm grind because it frees him up to make the most of his weekends, including climbing the tallest peak in the Lower 48. “I love exercising and being outdoors,” he says. “Earlier this year I hiked Mount Whitney with a group of friends, and we also just did a Ragnar Relay, a 200-mile relay race with a group of 12 runners from San Francisco to Napa Valley.”
With an eagerness and ability to help clients and co-workers understand complex legal issues and a boundless appetite for adventure, general counsel Kevin Casenhiser will surely help American Technologies Inc. continue on as the nation’s largest family-owned restoration contractor.