By Eric Woods
Photo by Terry Farmer
Founded in 1828 by John Todd Stuart, the history surrounding Brown, Hay & Stephens (BHS) includes a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln, who joined the firm nine years after its establishment. As the firm closes in on 200 years, employees have long enjoyed their careers at Brown, Hay & Stephens.
“We are an old law firm with an upstart feel of many first-generation lawyers and support staff,” said managing partner Chuck Davis, who has been with the firm for 15 years. “Our team hustles and is determined to make its mark. I love it here.”
“Of course, competitive wages and good benefits are important, and our office offers both, but I think what sets the offices apart are the people who fill them,” said legal assistant Deb Willsie, who has been with the firm for 25 years. “I’ve witnessed and been on the receiving end of the generosity here. People give their time and support when someone is facing a difficult situation and share in each other’s good times, a perk you may not find everywhere.”
Willsie said, “I’ve always been proud to be a part of BHS because the firm has allowed its service to speak for itself. You do good work, and a client refers a friend, a family member or colleague. That’s the biggest compliment.”
Daniel Hamilton, a six-year partner at BHS, would agree. “Although the firm’s unique history is important to our heritage and values, BHS is a vibrant and rewarding place to work today due to our past and present leaders’ commitment to a vision for the future, a group of experts that work collectively to achieve the best results for our clients and our commitment to the Springfield community at large,” he said. “The most rewarding reasons to work at BHS are that it is made up of great people that all work as a team to deliver the best possible outcomes for clients and the firm, and each individual that makes the firm special donates time and resources to many important causes in our community.”
Dwight “Cap” O’Keefe is a senior counsel and a 31-year-veteran of BHS. “There is a sense of camraderie here – some off-the-wall humor, but just enough to make BHS fun and unique,” he said. “It’s the people, lawyers and support staff ranging in age from 25 to 85, all pulling their oars and sharing a laugh now and then.”
In addition to helping clients succeed through legal work, BHS is proud of its contributions to the Springfield community. Over the past year, the company has donated to dozens of charities and employees have volunteered hundreds of hours. The firm also established a 200th Anniversary Fund through the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, setting a goal to make substantial charitable gifts around the community during the upcoming 200th anniversary in 2028.
Finally, BHS renewed its commitment to downtown by completing a major renovation to the top floors of the U.S. Bank building, where the company office is housed. “We are committed to Springfield and its downtown community, and in 2019 we put our money where our mouth is,” said Davis.
Looking ahead, the firm’s purpose will continue to focus on enabling clients to succeed by providing effective legal counsel on a long-term basis.
“We seek to continue this mission, to grow with our clients and to develop new community leaders. We will grow,” said Davis. “You do not have to work here long to develop a sense of pride in our team and in our history, which we would love to share with new clients and the future generations to come at our firm.”