Jackson Kelly Member Seth Hayes Is Proud of the Firm's 200 Year Old History
January 26, 2022
By: Seth P. Hayes
((The following is part of a series of blogs from current and former attorneys at the Firm commemorating the 200th anniversary)).
This year, Jackson Kelly turns 200, making it the oldest law firm in West Virginia and the sixth oldest law firm in the United States. The firm was founded in 1822 in Charleston, Virginia, what was then a remote river town in western Virginia. West Virginia would not become a state for another 41 years, and Charleston would not become the permanent state capitol of West Virginia for another 63 years. As an amateur history buff, it is exciting to think about the history of this firm and the lawyers that came before me. Lawyers for Jackson Kelly have literally helped shape the legal profession, the region, and the country itself – a claim very few law firms can make.
But equally inspiring, is to think about all of the law firms that have come and gone during that same 200-year period. Forget law firms - it is humbling to think about legendary American businesses that no longer exist - Oldsmobile; Pan Am; F.W. Woolworth. These once iconic brands, likely thought to be invincible at one point in their lifespan, are no more. Yet Jackson Kelly has not only persisted through 200 years, it continues to grow and thrive.
As you might imagine, an institution does not last as long as Jackson Kelly without doing a few things right. What characteristics have allowed Jackson Kelly to prosper when so many other law firms have dissolved? The easy answer is that for 200 years, Jackson Kelly has provided trusted legal services to clients and that it has been able to grow and adapt to changing needs. While I am undeniably biased towards Jackson Kelly and the quality of our lawyers, I certainly recognize that other law firms also had talented lawyers, and I’m sure at least some of these lawyers similarly recognized that it was not prudent to hitch their firm’s proverbial wagons to the horse and buggy industry.
Certainly, quality legal services and an ability to adapt to changing times are essential for a law firm to thrive for 200 years. But the fact that Jackson Kelly’s age is extraordinarily unique amongst law firms also means that having exceptional lawyers in and of itself is insufficient for a law firm to succeed for as long as Jackson Kelly. To me, what sets Jackson Kelly apart from other law firms is the firm’s culture and its core value of placing its clients’ needs at the forefront of every firm decision.
For 200 years, Jackson Kelly lawyers have shared an unparalleled tradition of a singular commitment to the firm’s clients, many of which have been clients for decades. Jackson Kelly recognizes the value of every single lawyer in the firm. We do not get caught up with concepts like client origination and who makes more than whom. We recognize that the best way to service our clients effectively is to work collaboratively with one another and to ensure that client matters are staffed with the best talent for a particular task, regardless of rank or pride. And for 200 years, through both prosperous times and periods of great social distress, Jackson Kelly attorneys have treated one another with mutual respect and professionalism. That is the “secret sauce” that allows a firm like this to last for 200 years, and that is why we will be going strong for another 200.
If you are interested in joining our team, please reach out to me. We would love to have you.