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Bar News - May 18, 2012

New Lawyers Column: A Sit Down with Mr. Bradley


Homer S. Bradley
Itís 5:34 p.m., and a glance into the adjacent office reveals a man hard at work, surrounded by volumes of legal literature. Every square inch of his desk is covered. He clicks and clacks on his keyboard, clearly unhappy with the last typed sentence as he stops and starts again, reading the sentence out loud several times over. His face is hardened and determined, yet any interruption from a passerby would elicit an exuberant "come right in" response that is every bit as pleasant as his everyday disposition.

His name is Homer "Sam" Bradley. The founding partner of Bradley & Faulkner is 50 years my senior, and in his 53nd year of practicing law. At a momentís notice, Sam happily put aside his work to converse with me for this article.

Going back to your early years, what influenced your decision to pursue a career in this profession?

I donít recall giving much thought to my career choice. My father passed the bar in 1943 in the middle of World War II when I was 11 and he was 48. I gradually became aware that becoming a lawyer made my father very happy and improved the familyís economic situation. (We lived in West Swanzey which was a small mill town outside of Keene where nobody - including us - had any money.) I also gradually became aware that my father had become a much respected member of our small community as a result of his profession.

My three older brothers went in different directions, but I sort of "fell into" becoming a lawyer. Without giving it much thought when I was at Dartmouth, I decided to apply to law school. Becoming a lawyer was fortuitous because it seems to suit my personality.

What was it like back then preparing for the New Hampshire Bar?

I graduated from law school and returned to Keene in late May, 1959. Three evenings each week during June my wife and I traveled to Manchester to attend a bar review course conducted by Jack Middleton and two other young lawyers. In 1959, there was no multi-state bar exam. If I recall correctly, it was all essay questions. The exam was six hours per day for three days. In 1959, 24 persons (all men) took the New Hampshire bar exam and 11 of us passed.

I imagine a much different New Hampshire Bar Association in 1959?

It is my recollection that there were only about 700 or 800 active lawyers in New Hampshire in 1959, so it was a very collegial bar association. Everyone knew everyone else and the summer bar meetings were very social affairs that were generally attended by many of the practicing lawyers. Maybe itís just my age, but the bar meetings seem more sedate now [smiling].

Did you intend to always practice in the Keene area?

To be honest, I never thought about it. This is where I was born and where I grew up. Sometimes I envied what lawyers in the big cities earn, but I donít believe I would have been happy in a large firm in a large metropolitan area. Years ago, after satisfactorily concluding a business transaction for a client with a multinational firm with headquarters in a Manhattan tower, I was offered an opportunity to join their legal department. I was too entrenched in Keene to give their offer serious consideration.

In your early years of practice, who did you most admire and respect in the profession?

My father, of course, and Kenneth A. Brighton of Peterborough for whom I worked part-time in my early years. George Hanna comes to mind, as well as Dick Fernald of Peterborough. Dick is only a few years older than I am and has been a friend from the outset. He was practicing with my father in 1959 and he taught me a great deal. Most of the lawyers who were a few years older than me served in World War II. They were and still are entitled to a great deal of respect for their service. (My father served in World War I.)

Have you remained in contact with any of your early contemporaries who are still practicing law?

Contemporaries who come to mind are, of course, my brother, David Bradley, who is in active practice in Hanover. (I believe he is the oldest lawyer in active practice in Grafton County and I am the oldest lawyer in active practice in Cheshire County.) Dave Nixon, Ed Bureau, Charlie DeGrandpre and I all attended the University of Michigan Law School at the same time and we are all still friends after all these years.

What are some of your most memorable moments through the years?

Off the top of my head I canít think of any spectacular successes or devastating defeats. I am proud of the stability of my practice and my life. My wife and I will be married 54 years this year; one of my first and best clients is a friend from high school; I have been a member of the same church and the same Rotary Club for over 50 years; and my faithful secretary, who is retiring, stuck with me for over 40 years.

Itís hard to imagine all those years in practice. Do you ever think about retiring?

No. I am very fortunate to be in good health and I feel I am very fortunate to have a place to go every morning where I can still make a contribution. If I didnít have this job, I wouldnít have anything to do.

And what would be your advice for practitioners reading this article?

Work very hard to stay current in your practice areas, and recognize that you cannot successfully practice in all areas. Itís also important to remember that your clientís best interest is paramount. If you always put your clientís best interest ahead of your own, you will no doubt make a reasonable living.

At the conclusion of the interview, I thanked Sam and returned to my office next door. Hanging on my wall, alone in a corner is a 2012 Norman Rockwell calendar given to me by my father. As it has done in each year prior, the calendar displays four Rockwell images capturing lifeís moments. It is a throwback to "the way things were;" the sentiment so many share in the generations before me. I imagine Sam on the calendar: head tilted, sleeves rolled, and palm pressed firmly against his temple as he studies a tattered treatise. Sam, like this image, is representative of all that is good in this profession; he is honest, compassionate, and steadfast in his daily pursuit. Rockwell once said, "Here in New England, the character is strong and unshakable." That is Sam.

Quinn E. Kelley is an associate at Bradley & Faulkner, P.C. in Keene. He practices in the areas of civil litigation, business law, real estate, and municipal law. He is a member of the New Lawyers Committee of the New Hampshire Bar.

If you are in doubt about the status of any meeting, please call the Bar Center at 603-224-6942 before you head out.

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