In 1881, a young man named Bennett R. Wheeler came to Topeka, fresh out of Boston University, to establish a law practice. At that time, Topeka was booming. People were coming from all over to settle in the state thanks to the “Ho, for Kansas” campaign and the migration of freed men and women from the South. Construction on the Capitol dome was beginning and the State soon adopted the prohibition amendment.
During the following 140 years, the firm Wheeler started grew to become today’s Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds and Palmer, LLP, a highly respected health care, business law, and civil litigation firm in the State of Kansas. Several highly respected attorneys have passed through their offices, including Assistant U.S. District Attorney John L. Hunt, Margaret McGurnahan, who was honored by Washburn University with the Law Lifetime Achievement Award, and Judge Marla Luckert, the second woman to be appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court.
“It is an honor to be a part of Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds & Palmer, and very exciting to be able to be a part of the 140th Anniversary,” says partner David O’Neal. “All of us are standing on the shoulders of some of the best attorneys to have practiced in Kansas, and I was fortunate enough to have been able to work with and learn from several of them. This firm has prospered for so long because of its dedication to its clients and the community.”
The firm was a part of two high-profile lawsuits to come out of Topeka. One was the 1933 Finney bond scandal when member Sardius M. Brewster exposed the bond forgery operation of Ronald and Warren Finney. The Shawnee County Attorney at the time, Lester M. Goodell, went on to join the firm after Brewster’s death. He went on to play a key role in the second high-profile lawsuit—Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1952. He was the attorney for the school board.
“It is always positive to be a part of something bigger than just you, and it pulls out the best in you,” says partner N. Larry Bork. It makes you want to do what it takes to maintain that reputation and perspective, and hopefully, even enhance it.”
Partner Miranda Carmona adds, “I am proud to be a part of this firm and hope to keep building on its reputation for quality.”
Goodell Stratton Edmonds and Palmer LLP lists its core values as being satisfaction, leadership, excellence, professionalism, trustworthiness, collegiality, understanding, competence, generosity, and balance. Along with pledging to provide superior legal services, the firm's members also commit to spending time focusing on their families, friends, and the community, which they feel makes them better lawyers.
Managing partner Timothy A. Shultz notes, "The future of the firm will continue the incredibly high level of legal expertise, professionalism and community involvement that was established in the past while rising to the challenge of changes in technology, society in general, and the ever-evolving laws and legal requirements of modern and progressive business. The incredibly bright and talented attorneys and staff at Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds & Palmer, LLP will continue to carry the torch handed off by the legal greats of the past that so amazingly served the firm and its clients.”
Historic prints in the office from when this firm was created show people traveling down a dirt Kansas Avenue outside the office by horse and buggy. Partner Cynthia J. Sheppeard says, “The law office probably relied on gas lights and the office typewriter was a very new invention. Today we have computers and internet access in every office, and on our cell phones, and we conduct much of our work by Zoom. We do not know what Topeka or the practice of law will be like in another 140 years, but we are planning and working so GSEP will still be here taking care of our clients for at least that long.”
Partner Susan L. Mauch adds, “We look forward to continuing the tradition of the past 140 years and embrace the opportunity to provide quality legal services to the firm’s clients for the next 140 years.”