Handshakes, Carbon Paper and Bowling Leagues: Being a Lawyer in Springfield in 1959
Foreword by Crista Hogan
Fifty years ago The Daily Events published a Legal Directory of the Greene County Bar Association. It listed the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all 164 members. It also listed the officers: President Edmund Forehand, Vice President B. H. Clampett, Secretary Mayte Hardie and Treasurer Ben Francka. The 1959 Directory was printed on one page. As you look through this hundred plus page 2009 Directory you might pause to reflect on the bar association and the world as it existed fifty years ago and on our lives and our work today.
The 1959 Directory also prominently featured a photo of “Springfield’s own ‘Tink’ Woolsey” saluting him for his service as President of the Missouri Bar. It took almost half a century for another Springfieldian to rise to the presidency of the state bar, with our own Ron Baird serving in 2006-2007.
Fifty years is a long time to wait. And six years is a long time to wait, which is how long it has been since the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association published a Pictorial Directory. It takes a good deal of time to accumulate the photographs, contact information, advertisements and reference information to produce a quality product. And, despite our best efforts, the directory will be dated as soon as it is printed; with an ever mobile membership contact information that is updated by the SMBA staff on a daily basis.
Even though the contact information will change, and the photos will become dated, this directory helps us document and preserve the history of our bar. The membership of the SMBA is larger and more diverse than ever, and our members work in increasingly specialized fields, representing clients in the Ozarks and all over the world. While Springfield prides itself on its small town roots the legal services provided by of our members equal those found in any city in the world. As our world and our workplace become increasingly complicated the need for quality legal services continues to grow.
What was it like to be a member of the Springfield Bar fifty years ago? Perusing the 1959 Directory and dozens of photos in the SMBA Archives inspired the theme of this directory. There are over a dozen attorneys who were practicing here in 1959 and who are still members of the bar. Through a series of interviews, SMBA member Ryan DeBoef asked these distinguished members what the profession was like fifty years ago and how things are different today. SMBA member James Owen compiled the research and interviews into the interesting and entertaining story which follows. It is interspersed with direct quotes and quips from our 50 year members. Their stories are a part of our history as an organization, a part of who we are and the direction our profession is taking.
Handshakes, Carbon Paper and Bowling Leagues:Being a Lawyer in Springfield in 1959
By James Owen
Law School: Getting in was easy, staying in was hard, and paying for it was a minor matter
Most attorneys can tell a so-called “war story” about law school and taking the bar. For the young attorneys who started their careers in the late 1950s, war and military service figured prominently in their life’s story. Most of the gentlemen interviewed for this article served in the Korean conflict and were married and raising a family before enrolling in law school. Many of them paid for their education using the GI Bill. When Sam Hamra left the Army on August 1st, his wife picked him up and drove him straight to law school to enroll. Admissions standards were considerably different fifty years ago. The LSAT was invented in 1948 but not widely used until the 60s and 70s. Ray Whiteaker, who attended the University of Missouri- Columbia, remembers that all he needed to do was to "walk over to Tate Hall to get registered." The exact requirements varied from law school to law school, but generally, applicants need only have completed 60-90 hours of college with a "C" average to qualify for admission. Not only was it pretty easy to get in, it didn’t cost much either. Some law schools charged $200 per year. Judge Mitch Hough recalled his yearly bill to be $100. "It costs me as much to park my car as it did to go to law school."
One might wonder why these admissions procedures did not create a glut of unqualified attorneys. Judge Hough, who was law school classmates with future Governor Mel Carnahan, said that they received an inspiring pep talk from the Dean. "He said, 'Look to your left and look to your right. Only one of you will graduate.'" Perhaps that “pep talk” was a bit exaggerated, but it was quite common for a law school class in the 1950s to graduate with less than half their ranks remaining. Judge David Anderson stated, "The entrance exam was flunking out your first year." Diversity was nearly non-existent in law schools in the 1950’s. Nearly all the attorneys interviewed noted that each class only had one or two female students and perhaps one minority student, if any. They also noted that in most cases, women and minorities did not make it through the first year.
Sitting for the Bar
Today’s recent law school grads might spend thousands of dollars for professional review courses to refresh their knowledge of already forgotten information. The attorneys interviewed remembered their preparation being considerably less complicated 50 years ago. They recall that only Missouri law was covered on the examination, with no "multistate" portion. Most candidates for admission were still in law school when they sat for the bar. Under the "Five-Sixth Rule,” Missouri required that a student must have only completed 5/6 of their coursework before seeking their professional license. Studying for the exam was also less complex. Charles Fuller recalls using Horn books and materials provided by the Missouri Bar for his studies. Fred Hall got together with three or four of his friends to study "Clark's Summary on the Law." Ray Whiteaker prepared for the examination by sitting in a room for a couple of days and simply reading over his law school notes. When asked how he studied for the bar Tom Strong had the most concise answer, “I didn’t.”
The site for administering the bar exam varied from year to year with starkly dissimilar settings. Some of our 50 year members sat for the bar in the State Capitol, surrounded by the dark mahogany and rich oak of the Missouri House of Representative’s chamber. In other years, applicants sat in the teal-painted hallways under fluorescent lights in the old StateOfficeBuilding in Jefferson City.
B. H. Clampett sat for the bar in 1950 and recalls “while the examination was in progress, the Korean War broke out.” According to Clampett, several military reservists who had started the exam got called up in the middle and didn’t have the chance to finish.
There was some variety in obtaining the bar results in the 1950’s. Instantly checking bar results online was inconceivable fifty years ago. Back then, the Missouri Bar would teletype the names of new attorneys to local newspapers all across the state. Each publication included only the names of individuals who had addresses within their readership area. Ray Whiteaker recalls that he was staying in Kansas City with family at the time the results were published. He was convinced that he had not passed because his name was not in the Kansas City Star. Since his official address was outside the Kansas City readership area, he eventually learned of his admission to the Missouri Bar by letter. Judge Don Bonacker experienced similar confusion when his name was not in the Springfield newspaper. Some attorneys received a phone call or telegram directly from the Clerk of the Supreme Court after Labor Day. The grueling law school experience at that time certainly seemed to have an impact on the passage rate. Leland Bussell recalled that 100% of his law school class passed.
Going to work: Proper Attire, Six Day Work Weeks and an Office in the Woodruff Building
The ultimate objective of all the hard work required to gain admission to the bar was the opportunity for employment. In 1959, obtaining a job was not always easy. Once the results of the bar exam were announced, most new attorneys had to return to law school to complete the required class work for graduation. Some lawyers returned to the military. A few of them continued their education beyond law school.
In 1959, when these lawyers went to work they did so in starched shirts, neatly-pressed coats and hats. Turner White recalls that in his firm, Harold Lincoln enforced a strict dress code. Proper attire was required even on Saturdays when law firms were commonly opened until . The women in the law firm, who were almost exclusively secretaries, were required to wear dresses. Trousers were a major taboo for women. Many of our members will recall Ivella Elsey, who is now deceased. She stated that one of her major accomplishments for the legal profession was gaining the right for female attorneys to wear pants in the cold of winter. Casual Friday, or even casual Saturday was unimaginable in the law firm of fifty years ago.
Fred Hall initially worked for the Missouri Attorney General. His first private sector job was as an associate with the Springfield law firm of Walker, Daniel, Clampett, Ritterhouse, and Ellis. His job started on the day after Labor Day. Hall recounts that he hoped to take advantage of the holiday and get a head start by moving in when the office was closed and quiet. Imagine his surprise when he arrived on the holiday to find every staff member working away. Almost every lawyer interviewed for this article mentioned that all law firms worked on weekends and holidays. They noted that even the courts were open on Saturday mornings for routine motions.
Each lawyer listed firms with names that represent a bygone era. These firms were commonly referred to by shortened versions of their official names, such as “Farrington Curtis” or “Woolsey Fisher.” According to the attorneys interviewed, before larger firms from St. Louis or Kansas City located in Springfield, most local law firms had an average of five or six attorneys with the largest firm having ten to twelve lawyers. Most law firms employed "only two or three secretaries." Kenneth Reid remembered that when he came to Springfield the major law firms in town were Mann Walter and Powell; Farrington Curtis; Neale and Newman; and Miller and Sanford, “none of whom exist as such other than Neale and Newman, which was made up of Ben Neale and Charles Newman. I knew them both." In fact the Neale & Newman firm traces its roots to 1903, the same year as the founding of the Springfield Bar.
There were 164 lawyers in the Greene County Bar Association in 1959 and only three of those members were women: Ivella Elsey, Gladys Stewart, and Mayte Hardie. According to Fred Hall, Ms. Hardie was considered "uptown" because she worked at Miller Sanford. The vast majority of the firms were located in the WoodruffBuilding or at other downtown locations. In fact, sixty percent of the lawyers listed in the 1959 bar directory had addresses in the Woodruff or LandersBuildings. The November, 1959 issue of the Bar News noted the popularity of the Woodruff Building stating that “it has been suggested to the landlord that he change the name from Woodruff Building to Law Building.” The WoodruffBuilding was an especially desirable location due to the fact that the Missouri Court of Appeals was housed on the 10th floor and firms had easy access to the Court's law library without having to pay for their own books.
General Practice: Making a Living at $125 a Month
One of the recent trends that these distinguished attorneys cite as a major shift in the legal profession is the tendency of attorneys to practice in specialized or more limited areas of the law. Most Springfield attorneys of 1959 were general practitioners, which Ben Francka said was “anything anyone would bring me.” Sam Hamra recalled that John Hulston was the first lawyer to specialize when he limited his practice to business. Leland Bussell noted the “silk stocking” firms primarily did insurance defense. It should be noted that several of the attorneys interviewed used the term “silk stocking firm.” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “silk stocking” refers to anything “aristocratic or of wealth.” What is truly noteworthy is just how “general” the general practice was in the 1950’s. Fred Hall recalled that several attorneys also worked as claims adjusters. According to Fred Hall, “back then law firms adjusted auto claims. Insurance companies didn’t use lay adjusters.” It was also common for attorneys to exam abstracts. Title insurance was virtually unheard of. Abstract companies would extend abstracts and the attorneys would write title opinions. Tom Strong recalls “they tried to teach me to examine an abstract, but all I wanted to do was try lawsuits.”
Of course, every lawyer practicing today is probably curious as to the cost of legal services in the 1950’s. It was remembered by those interviewed that a beginning attorney could charge $25 per hour while more experienced attorneys got to bill anywhere from $50 to $75 per hour. An average case could go from initial consultation to the end of a trial for around $1000. Abstracts were examined for $25 and a couple could get an uncontested divorce for $100 with any other work going for a flat rate of $250. Several attorneys noted most of these fees were published annually by the Greene County Bar Association in a binder entitled Attorney’s Desk Manual. In fact, the service of setting and publishing minimum fee schedules appears to have been the primary function of the organized bar for many years. This practice continued until the courts reclassified that practice as “price fixing”. As a young associate, fees rarely mattered as their salary remained a lavish $125 a month regardless of the number of hours expended.
Law firms were generally thrifty in furnishing offices for associates. Lawyers were provided a desk, chair, a pen, and a legal pad. Charles Fuller commented it was "embarrassing to let a client see where you worked". Some attorneys considered an office as extravagance. Judge Bonacker recalls getting an “office” which consisted of a desk and a chair placed in a hallway. Only secretaries had typewriters and these were manual typewriters. Getting words to paper was more complicated than even that. Direct dictation to a short-hand writing secretary was the mode of the day. Leland Bussell recalled the advent of dictation equipment. He recalled the wax circular cylinders that “looked like a PVC pipe” where the user spoke into a recorder that then fed the words into a needle. The secretary put the cylinder in a machine that played the recording. After she had transcribed it, the secretary would put the cylinder in a machine that used a razor to trim off the recording so it could be reused. “Eventually, it would be shaved down all the way and you would have to get a new piece of wax” said Bussell. As frustrating as technology used today can be, few attorneys today would care to revert to the technology of 1959.
In the 1950’s, copies were made using carbon paper. According to Warren Stafford, if you wanted to send a client a copy of a statute, the text had to be typed out by a secretary. Judge Hough recalled the staff of the Greene County Prosecutor’s office using “thermo copying”, a process, according to Wikipedia, where text was copied onto paper “by melting a coating of ribbon so that it stays glued to the material on which the print is applied”. Phone calls had to go through an operator. Ray Whiteaker remembered calling the operator back on long-distance calls and the operator would “say what the charge was for the call, and that’s how we billed it.”
Imagine a World Without Discovery: Going to Court in 1959
The practice of filing motions was not as prevalent or pervasive in 1959 as it is in 2009. The practice of noticing up a motion for hearing in 1959 was nearly non-existent. Leland Bussell stated that a phone call with a follow-up letter was all that was required. Most of the lawyers commended their “excellent secretarial staffs” for making sure petitions and motions were drafted and sent out in about the same amount of time as today. Warren Stafford recalled doing several trials without conducting a single deposition or sending out any paper discovery requests. Judge Bonacker stated that “discovery was done during the trial.” According to the interviewees, interrogatories did not even exist. Charles Fuller stated that in 1959 civil rules had yet to be codified in Missouri. Most courts relied on their own local rules to define and dictate how trials were conducted. Warren Stafford remembered that GreeneCounty’s effort to write out local rules was a huge undertaking between the Bar and the Bench.
While the practice of law involved many hours in the office, a considerable amount of time was also spent in court. At the time, GreeneCounty had only two divisions. It was recalled that some of the other courthouses in the area did not have indoor restroom facilities. GreeneCounty attorneys were far more fortunate in that regard since our courthouse had all of the necessary amenities. Appearing in outlying counties was difficult in other regards as well. Andy Dalton remembered that in some of the outlying counties “all the Springfield lawyers were placed at the end of the docket.” Tom Strong recalls that some of the courthouses were so cold that his main strategy during a hearing or trial was to “stand as close to the heater as possible.” The attorneys also remembered that while there was no smoking in the courtrooms, smoking was permitted in the courthouse and that there was frequently a blue fog of smoke in the hallways and judicial chambers.
The majority of lawyers in Springfield were at the courthouse on Friday. There was generally a strong sense of collegiality and professionalism that existed among the members of the bar association. The attorneys interviewed warmly remembered that everyone knew each other and almost all business was done with a handshake. Fred Hall also noted that the small number of lawyers allowed you to know “who the good ones were and who the bad ones were.” Court procedures were much less formal. Some of those interviewed admitted that the judges also let lawyers get away with more than they do today as courtroom procedures were much less structured and informal. It was observed that while there were no clients showing up to court in tube tops and flip flops like they do in 2009, the hallways were lined with farmers in dusty overalls.
Cases moved through the court system relatively quickly. Most trials were done in less than a year. According to Ransom Ellis, Jr. “a trial could be set just about as fast as you wanted it. They held lawyers’ feet to the fire.” Tom Strong recalled a specific case where the time between when his client walked in the door and the time he had a post-trial appellate opinion was a day shy of 15 months. Contested divorces could be resolved in three months and Andy Dalton said a criminal case would come before the judge thirty days after the preliminary hearing. According to Warren Stafford, only about “seven or eight” lawyers in Springfield tried cases back then. He further stated that when there was a trial, the trial normally could be done in a day and there were no pretrial orders or exhibit lists. Lawyers ordinarily did not know the identity of their opponent’s witnesses until the day of trial and did not see their exhibits until the trial actually commenced. While discovery was less involved, jury instructions were regarded as being harder. Tom Strong remembered that there were no standard forms to rely on back then. He recalled that not only “did you have to write them yourself, but they were pages and pages long.”
The attorneys who practiced law in Springfield in 1959 were a tight-knit group. The legal profession was male dominated and was regarded as a sort of “good ole boys” club. As they do today, attorneys remained active in the community through politics and community activities. In part, this was due to their desire to serve and also because as Andy Dalton observed, “that’s how lawyers got business.” Politics and community involvement were big social networking events for lawyers. But it wasn’t all serious business. According to Andy Dalton, the bar did have a pretty good bowling league.
The Greene County Bar Association
In 1959, the organized bar was a focal point of the legal profession. The Greene County Bar Association served as an important vehicle for social activity between the Bench and Bar. Breakfast meetings and other gatherings were held frequently and one of the big events was an annual dinner with the Greene County Medical Society. Meetings were held at the Moran and Colonial Hotels and, according to Judge Hough, “it was almost a professional sin not to attend.”
In 1959, the Bar was led by York Johnson who ran the organization from his office in the WoodruffBuilding. The Greene County Bar Association was run less formally than it is today. In 2009, a primary focus of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association is to provide affordable professional educational opportunities for our members. In contrast, it was recalled that there were no Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements in 1959. The basic rules for success in 1959 were simple: Pay your fees, don’t steal from your clients, and don’t advertise.
It is often stated that the past is the best predictor of future behavior. If that is true, the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association has a future of dedicated professionals striving to serve the community and legal profession with dignity, compassion and virtue. Almost all the attorneys interviewed acknowledged that the compensation for legal services is better now than it was in 1959 and that writing and research is much easier with the development of new technology. They also observed that as more people are drawn to the profession, there exists a danger that practicing law may become a business as opposed to remaining a profession. When Judge Hough compared the state of our profession in 1959 and 2009, he stated, “there were just as many lawyer jokes and they were just as rough.”
Due to the changing nature of our society, issues have become more complicated and the practice of law has become more competitive. Yet the fact remains that each member of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association was drawn to the legal profession for a reason. Most of our members were drawn to the legal profession in order to do the right thing for the right reason and to promote the Rule of Law. Simply put, they regard the privilege of practicing law as a call to honor. This has not changed since 1959. As you examine the photographs of the diverse members of our association, explore the history of our organization, and reflect upon our future, this common thread becomes apparent.