WATERLOO — A law firm whose attorneys have represented some of the Cedar Valley’s most high-profile developments and community projects is celebrating a milestone this year.
A century has passed since World War I veteran William L. Beecher and E.H. McCoy hung up a shingle together in Waterloo. The firm they founded in 1918 enjoyed a storied history that continues today as Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson.
“I think our footprint in the community is beyond just being lawyers in the firm,” said senior partner Hugh Field. “We also are contributing in the community.”
Partner Eric Johnson said the firm over the years has encouraged its attorneys to be active in civic organizations, noting he currently serves as president of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber.
“We try to provide good service to the clients,” Johnson said. “On the other end we try to serve our community. When you take care of your community, in a lot of ways, it all comes back in the long run.”
It’s a philosophy the partners contribute heavily to W. Louis Beecher, William Beecher’s nephew, who joined Beecher & McCoy in 1947 following military service in World War II, practicing law for 64 years until retiring in 2011. He died in 2012.
While most of the firm’s 13 current attorneys now practice civil law, William and Louis Beecher handled several high-profile criminal trials throughout their careers.
The younger Beecher served as the court-appointed counsel for Buddy Beckwith, a mentally disturbed World War II veteran who was ultimately sent to the gallows after being found guilty of a murder in Grundy County.
“Louis both prosecuted a death penalty case as a special prosecutor and defended a death penalty case,” Johnson said.
A merger with Harris-Van Metre in the 1950s brought a number of attorneys into the firm, including Robert Buckmaster, who would serve as city attorney and briefly as Waterloo mayor.
Throughout the years the Beecher firm handled the legal work for some of the Cedar Valley’s most noteworthy developments, including Black Hawk Village, Crossroads Center, Black Hawk Broadcasting Co. and local NBC TV affiliate KWWL, and the Waterloo Regional Airport.
Field, who is nearing his 50th year with the firm, remembers Louis Beecher securing real estate options in the 1970s for the present-day Deere tractor works on East Donald Street.
“He went out and bought 1,700 or 1,800 acres and nobody knew what he was doing,” Field said. “He didn’t tell me, and at that time I was his right-hand guy.”
That focus on business law and development continues.
Field drew up the organizational papers for the Cedar Valley Alliance, handled Merrill Oster’s Pinnacle Prairie development on Greenhill Road in Cedar Falls, and represents local hotel operators.
Johnson represents Brent Dahlstrom, who is developing Grand Crossing and multiple residential and commercial projects throughout the Cedar Valley, and Ben Stroh, who is redeveloping the former Logan Plaza and Crossing Point retail areas.
The firm, with offices at 620 Lafayette St., has managed to survive 100 years despite what Field called “13 big personalities.”
“You try to get people who are good at their craft and respect one another,” Johnson said of the firm’s longevity. “As long as you’ve got the financial piece worked out … things become a lot easier.
“We’re a pretty full-service firm,” he added. “Different partners specialize in different areas.”
Nathan Miller, the firm’s newest attorney, said he was attracted to the Beecher firm after graduating from the University of Iowa three years ago.
“The people in the firm already was the big thing for me,” Miller said of his decision. “The attorneys were well respected in the community.”