Dunlevy: Litigation Firm's Emphasis in Earlier Years

Article excerpt

By Max Nichols

Columnist for The Journal Record

When Fred Dunlevy joined that law firm that is now Crowe Dunlevy in 1937, the emphasis was on litigation.

John Embry, who had joined the firm in 1916 after a sterling career as U.S. attorney for Oklahoma Territory and the Western District of Oklahoma, and as county attorney for Lincoln County and Oklahoma County, was a dynamic trial lawyer. Vincil "Vip" Penny Crowe continued that tradition starting in 1929.

The emphasis in 1937, said Dunlevy, was particularly on suits involving permanent and total disability claims; double indemnity claims under life insurance policies; farm mortgage foreclosure suits all over Oklahoma, and commercial litigation, including bankruptcy matters and collection work.

Now, in celebrating its 90th anniversary today, Crowe Dunlevy is organized into three basic departments: litigation with L.E. "Dean" Stringer as chairman; business with Lon Foster III as chairman, and oil and gas with Gary W. Davis as chairman. With 94 lawyers, the firm is engaged in all aspects of the general practice of law.

Dunlevy, who succeeded Raymond A. Tolbert in 1960 as administrator while Crowe was the firm's leader, saw the transition. Dunlevy handled the administrative duties until 1975 and continues as of counsel.

"In 1937, probably 50 percent of our legal work was generated by out-ofate clients," said Dunlevy. "With the addition of V.P. Crowe, F.C. Love (1939), Troy Shelton (1943) and Calvin Boxley (1932), the firm began to acquire more local and state clients.

"Love (who later became president of Kerr-McGee Corp.) not only generated substantial oil and gas practice, but through the Liberty National Bank was a pioneer in handling the legal aspects of oil and gas loans."

After World War II, the firm began to expand in a variety of directions "largely due to the foresight of Mr. Tolbert," Dunlevy said.

"John Swinford and Ben Burdick were added as litigation lawyers," he said. "Harold Thweatt and George Guysi were added as oil and gas lawyers. The firm had no tax practice or expertise until Bruce Johnson joined the firm in 1951.

"Bruce Morrison and Jim Gibbens added support to the real estate and corporate practice. Val Miller, Bill Holloway (now U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge), Jim Peabody and Bill Paul were allrpose lawyers who worked in several areas.

"By 1960 and probably earlier, the firm was handling all types of litigation and office practice. All phases of the practice were beefed up with additional attorneys after 1960."

Crowe Dunlevy now has 78 lawyers in the Oklahoma City office, 12 in Tulsa and four in Norman. Of those, 51 are shareholders, and nine are of counsel.

The firm also has more than 100 staff members, including 21 legal assistants. It has moved aggressively into computerization, with all secretarial and clerical staff members connected to the main system and 65 percent of all attorneys with personal computers.

More important, Crowe Dunlevy has specialists in matters relating to corporations and other types of business, securities, taxation, real estate, oil and gas, commercial transactions, healthre law, banking, financial institutions, bankruptcy and creditors' rights, probate, estate planning, antitrust, franchising and distribution, labor and employment law, family law, administrative, environmental law, insurance, aviation law, municipal financing, appellate, litigation in state and federal courts, and all types of alternative dispute resolutions such as arbitration and mediation. …