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Business Spotlight: Legacy of Law
Bolivar firm celebrates the century mark with Douglas family roots
, Contributing Writer
Tuesday, May 29, 2012 10:51 AM
The third- and fourth-generation Douglases, Patrick and Kerry, co-own Douglas, Haun & Heidemann PC, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in early March. Kerry Douglas' grandfather, T.H. Douglas, in the portrait at right, founded the firm in 1912.
: The firm keeps a Springfield office to meet with area clients.
Douglas, Haun & Heidemann PC
: Kerry Douglas, Patrick Douglas, Craig Heidemann, Verna Haun and Donald Brown
: 111 W. Broadway, Bolivar, MO 65613 and 106 S. National Ave., Springfield, MO 65802
: (417) 326-5261
: (417) 326-2845
: Estate, litigation, real estate, business and criminal law
: $2.7 million
Most businesses celebrate a milestone anniversary with an open house or employee picnic. When the law partners at Douglas, Haun & Heidemann PC planned the firm’s 100-year anniversary celebration, they invited the whole town of Bolivar.
Kerry Douglas, president and senior attorney, says 1,541 people were served food at the firm’s centennial picnic held May 12 on the Bolivar square.
DHH is a general practice law firm that handles individual and business law in areas including family law, estate planning, class action litigation, criminal law, personal injury and bankruptcy.
Douglas, a third-generation family member to work in the firm, says involving the community in the celebration is part of DHH’s commitment to the town. “Everyone at our firm is expected to become involved in the community by volunteering and serving on boards,” says Douglas, who served as Citizens Memorial Hospital District’s first board chairman 1979–2006 and also co-founded the Citizens Memorial Healthcare Foundation.
Douglas estimates the firm’s attorneys and staff spend up to 40 hours per month serving on community and nonprofit boards. Sometimes, that involvement entails pro bono legal work. Sue Entlicher, Bolivar’s state representative in the 133rd District, began working with attorneys at DHH during her 16-year stint as the Polk County clerk.
“We had a situation with an election issue in which I needed representation,” says Entlicher. “Our prosecutor was not available, so I asked Kerry Douglas and he did it pro bono. Any other law firm would have charged, but that’s the way they are, their involvement in the community is well known.”
The firm has a lot to celebrate after 100 years in business. By fall, DHH will have added three attorneys in the span of a year, and revenues increased to $2.7 million in 2011 from $2.5 million in 2010.
Though the firm is projecting a slight decrease in 2012 to $2.5 million, Craig Heidemann, partner and director of the litigation group, says that decrease is due to contingency case money coming through at the end of last year. Heidemann says if contingency cases settle before the end of this year, the revenue figures would be higher than projected.
A legal history
Kerry Douglas’ grandfather, T.H. (Thomas) Douglas, founded the firm in 1912 at 111 W. Broadway in Bolivar – the same spot where it operates today.
T.H. Douglas had a solo general practice until Elvin, his son and Kerry’s dad, joined the practice in 1932. “They handled everything from criminal appeals to property disputes and tax cases,” Kerry Douglas says.
Kerry Douglas joined the firm in 1972 after graduating from the University of Missouri Law School and a two-year enlistment in the Army. In 1976, Gary W. Lynch was the first person outside of the Douglas family to join the firm, and three years later, Elvin Douglas died. In 2003, Lynch was elected to the office of Polk County Associate Circuit Judge, and he now serves as a judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals-Southern District.
“In 1972, we continued to have a very general practice in estate planning and criminal defense, but as the firm grew and law became more complicated, we realized it would be necessary to adopt specialty niches,” Douglas says.
Currently, the firm has 11 attorneys, including five partners: Kerry Douglas and his son, Patrick, Heidemann, Verna Haun and Donald Brown. Douglas says all of the partners have equal ownership, with the exception of Brown.
Estate planning and related administration of wills still account for about 25 percent of the firm’s revenue. “I think we finally ran out of wills Granddad Douglas wrote,” Douglas says. “But we continue to have a lot of wills and estate plans that need updating.”
A matter of class
Family law is about 15 percent of revenue and criminal law is 10 percent.
One of the fastest-growing areas is the litigation department, including business law, which has grown to about half of business this past year, up from 20 percent in 1996. The firm has secured settlements in the last 12 months totaling $2.5 million.
Business clients include the city of Bolivar, the Bank of Bolivar, Southwest Electric Cooperative, Woods Supermarket, Pennington Seed and Bolivar Insulation Co.
Brad Gregory, president and CEO of the Bank of Bolivar, says due to the economy and challenges with some loans and contracts, the bank’s legal fees have doubled in the past two years.
“They’re a well-rounded law firm that can handle about any situation,” Gregory says. “They’ve done a good job guiding us through contract and collection matters.”
DHH also takes on a lot of class-action suits. One of the biggest cases the firm settled involved a class action suit based on the recall of the drug Vioxx, which eventually recovered $450 billion in settlements for clients.
Heidemann estimates the firm also has represented 90 percent of clients who have won suits paid out by the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and the Springfield Police Department in suits alleging prisoner civil rights violations. In 1997, the firm was involved in one of the largest payouts for such cases against the Missouri Department of Corrections and won a $1.5 million settlement in a class-action suit.
In 2010, the firm subleased 900 square feet in Springfield at 601 N. National Ave. from JMark Business Solutions for $850 per month. The office isn’t staffed but was opened to give Springfield-area clients a more convenient place to meet attorneys.
Heidemann says a side benefit is the firm’s bankruptcy practice and litigation that focuses on suing collection agencies on behalf of clients for unfair collection practices has grown 100 percent since opening the Springfield office.
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