Bar News - July 21, 2006
You Can Go Home Again
By: Anita S. Becker
Fifth-generation Attorney Fulfills a Legacy
It took Laconia attorney Bill Philpot nearly 30 years to continue the legacy of his late mentor, Judge Stephen S. Jewett, II. When he hired Samantha M. Jewett, who was admitted to the NH Bar in May, she picked up the family legal tradition where her father left off decades ago.
Jewett, a recent Franklin Pierce Law Center graduate in her mid-forties who left the corporate world to enter the family business of law, joins a law firm that traces its heritage back to its founding by her great-great grandfather, Col. Stephen S. Jewett.
Jewett’s family history is rich with prominent New Hampshire citizens. For nearly half a century, her great-great grandfather, Judge John Glines Jewett (whose grandfather, Samuel Jewett was the first permanent settler in Laconia in 1782) served the public in various positions, including 16 years as Judge of the Laconia Police Court; in 1891 he was appointed as the city’s postmaster by President Benjamin Harrison. Her great grandfather, Col. Stephen S. Jewett, entered the profession with the law firm of Hon. Charles F. Stone and was admitted to practice law in 1880. A successful trial lawyer and prominent Republican, in addition to establishing his own law practice; he was elected as a New Hampshire Representative in 1894, and eventually served as Speaker of the House. In 1917, Col. Jewett’s son (and Samantha’s grandfather) Theo S. Jewett joined the family firm, which changed its name to Jewett & Jewett. Theo Jewett served as an associate judge and later as presiding judge of what was then the Laconia Municipal Court during a 48-year legal career. In 1949, Theo Jewett’s son, Stephen S. Jewett, II, Samantha’s late father, joined the family practice. He served as a special justice of the Laconia District Court and was considered one of the state’s top title research lawyers.
Samantha Jewett did not originally set out to go into the family business. “I did think about going into law when I was younger, but then my father died.” She decided to leave New Hampshire instead and attend college at the University of Northern Colorado, where she received her BA and MA in education.
Born and raised on Parade Road in Laconia, for 25 years she lived in Florida and California and came to law later in life. “Law is a second career for me. I think I’m a much better attorney having had the experience from the business world.”
After being graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, which she admits she chose for the great skiing in the region, she began her career by teaching gifted children with learning disabilities. She eventually moved into the business world where she stayed for more than 20 years. She worked for a scientist who founded Allergy Research Group, a nutriceutical company, based near San Francisco, which conducted research on, developed, and produced vitamins, nutritional supplements and related supplies to be distributed worldwide through the medical community. In 2000, when she left the corporation as vice president of operations, she decided she was ready for a change. Being from a family with a long and distinguished heritage in law, she considered—and dismissed—the idea of becoming an attorney. But the law remained in the back of her mind.
“Even though I planned to go into law, at the time, I never intended on coming back to New Hampshire and taking up the family business,” says Jewett.
Her mother, Mary Orton, who is well known in Laconia for her active community service, convinced her daughter to give Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord a look. “I visited there to please my mother, thinking there was not a chance in the world that I was going to go there. Well, when I actually toured it and talked to the people there, I absolutely fell in love with the place.” Unfortunately, the timing was off and classes were full. She left New Hampshire and went back to San Francisco to consider other options. Less than a week before the school year began, Jewett received a call from a school official asking if she still wanted to be in the upcoming class. She jumped at the chance and quickly moved from California to her mother’s home in Laconia. “I loved Pierce because of the diversity there and I didn’t stand out as an older student.”
While at Pierce Law she completed a legal internship with the US Attorney’s Office, District of New Hampshire, through the Public Interest Coalition (PIC) Fellowship program and she says the experience provided her with valuable trial preparation skills she would not otherwise have had as a new lawyer.
Although she was financially secure for law school because of her previous career, she credits her mother for anchoring her through law school. “My mom provided a home base for me and she has always been very supportive of whatever her kids do.” She says that her mother and father both instilled in all four of their children, two of whom are now deceased, a strong work ethic, which she adheres to. “We always had summer jobs and had to earn special things that we wanted; we learned that any kind of job you do, whether you like it or not, you give it 100 percent.”
“I believed that once I finished law school I was going to go back to California,” she says. Destiny seems to have thwarted that plan. Longtime family friend Bill Philpot, asked her to join the firm and, to her own surprise, she accepted. She had come full circle in her career and landed at home.
Now a Gilford resident, Jewett is delighted to be at Haughey Philpot & Laurent, where she works directly with Philpot, developing a general practice mainly focused on civil litigation. “He has been a wonderful mentor,” she says. “He has zero ego and I am learning so much from him.”
One of the things she enjoys about working with Philpot is the depth of his knowledge of her family heritage. “He knows more about my family than I do,” she says with a laugh. “He is very loyal to my family and our legacy.” She says that Philpot has kept her father’s family artifacts in the Laconia office since her father’s untimely death of a heart attack at age 58 in 1976. “When my father died my mother trusted Bill to keep the family firm going.” Philpot was originally hired as a young lawyer to work with her father at Jewett & Jewett.
In a tour of the firm’s current office, now located at 816 North Main Street, Jewett proudly shows off historical items from the former offices that Philpot kept, including: framed certificates from Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Warren Harding, a sign and glass lamp shade inscribed with the original name of the firm, “S.S. Jewett,” named for her great-grandfather Stephen S. Jewett; a safe and sign inscribed with “Jewett & Jewett,” the firm when it was operated by her grandfather and father; and numerous other documents and items. Jewett says that someday she would like to see her family name back on the sign in front of the law firm. “I’m very privileged to be here and I work with some very great guys,” she says. “I feel that, here, the sky’s the limit.”
When asked who will pick up the torch of law for the next generation, Jewett, who has no children, says that it is up to her nephew and niece to carry on the family tradition if that is what they want to do. Her brother’s two children, Stephen, 21, and Abby, 18, are still uncommitted as to whether they will take up the law, she says.