introspections & reflections
Davis & Young is recognized for 100 years of loyal service to the Greater Cleveland Community.
Davis and Young’s President Thomas W. Wright, left, and Vice President Dennis R. Fogarty.
Davis and Young’s 100-year-old legacy continues in Willoughby Hills
After being in Cleveland for 93 years, the law firm relocates to Chardon Road
For the leaders at Davis & Young, A Legal Professional Association, now celebrating 100 years of being in business, they say a legacy has been created that is recognized statewide when one of their attorneys enters a court room.
“Davis & Young is a name that is recognized in the legal community throughout Ohio,” said Vice President Dennis R. Fogarty, a managing partner who has been with the firm since 1990. “When you come into a court room and say you’re an attorney from Davis & Young, everyone knows what that means. We’ve been as big as 28 lawyers and as small as three, so we’ve contracted and expanded over the years.”
Founded by a pair of law school classmates in 1922, Rees H. Davis Sr. and Fred J. Young, the firm existed in downtown Cleveland for 93 years prior to relocating to 29010 Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills.
“(Willoughby Hills) is still close to Cuyahoga County,” said President Thomas W. Wright, managing partner alongside Fogarty and who has been with the firm since 1983. “Most of us (staff) are east siders. I had recently purchased a home on the lake in Euclid and Dennis had moved to Mentor, and now he’s a little further in Concord.
“The landlord from our buildings downtown found this spot and that’s what brought us here,” he added. “I grew up in Mentor-on-the-Lake and I’m a Mentor High School graduate, so it was a natural fit.”
Over the century the firm has been in business, the legal industry has changed to the point where geography is not as important as it used to be.
“The practice of law has become remote, so we’ve tried to stay at the cutting edge of technology even though we’re a 100-year-old law firm,” Fogarty said. “We try to pay close attention to the evolving industry changes in terms or remote hearings and depositions. Being downtown no longer seemed to be the necessity anymore, so we brought our legacy to Willoughby Hills. For that, we were recognized by the Willoughby Hills City Council and the mayor. They have embraced us as we have embraced them and the community here.”
Wright recalled that when he started his career with Davis & Young, it wasn’t unusual for him to be in the courthouse downtown five or six times a day.
“To illustrate Dennis’ point that how things have changed — if I’m in that courthouse five or six times year, it’s something,” he said. “We do most of the work by phone. Trials have largely, in the civil litigation, been replaced by mediation. We still do trial work, but they’re fewer and further between.”
In addition to staff members living on the east side of Cleveland, some members reside on the west and south side, making it easy for them to access the Willoughby Hills location through Interstate 90 and state Route 91, Fogarty said.
“When the pandemic occurred, being in Willoughby Hills and having staff located in other areas didn’t impair us at all,” he said. “We were well-placed to respond to the changes the pandemic brought in terms of remote offices and remote interactions with the court by Zoom. The business of litigation and law goes on.
“The courts had to adjust, the firms and lawyers had to adjust,” he added. “It’s been painful, but I think the industry responded well. Law is like medicine. It’s always there and you just have to respond to the changing developments, and evolve.”
Davis & Young can be characterized as “hardcore” litigation centered in the areas of catastrophic losses, construction defect and employment law, Fogarty said.
“We’ve had some very successful jurists who were alumni of Davis & Young over the years. They add to the legacy,” Fogarty said. “One of them is a current Ohio Supreme Court justice. We have an Eighth District Court of Appeals judge, a federal court judge and two Summit County judges who are alumni. Back in the ’60s, we had J.J.P. Corrigan, who was an Ohio Supreme Court justice and Ralph Locher, who was a mayor of Cleveland and a Supreme Court justice.”
While both Fogarty and Wright started out as law clerks for the firm, the two have a contrast between one another. Fogarty came from a family of lawyers and Wright’s father worked for Caterpillar in Mentor his entire life.
“At age 10, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I followed that, but I didn’t really know what it was other than what I saw on TV because I didn’t have any lawyers in the family,” said Wright, who studied at Ohio University and then made his way to Case Western Reserve University. “My father was working for Caterpillar and all of a sudden, Caterpillar is closing in Lake County. That was always my lifeline if I needed it and I was like I gotta get a job. I just did a cold call, I interviewed and got hired.”
Being brought up recognizing and being involved with lawyers, and understanding law firms and things alike, Fogarty gained his inspiration to become a lawyer. Fogarty said what drew him to Davis & Young was the fact that the firm’s lawyers actually do what people think lawyers would do — go to trial, court and represent people before juries.
“That’s what I was excited about,” he said.
Both Fogarty and Wright credit Marty Murphy, as well as George Lutjen as being their mentors. Murphy and Lutjen took over for Davis and Young, and created a family, work hard and play hard atmosphere at the firm, Wright said.
“George has passed, but Marty is still alive and actually was coming in until about two or three years ago,” Wright said. “A lot of times, not to degrade lawyers, lawyers like their own names on things. We’ve always avoided the temptation of making it Wright and Fogarty or Fogarty and Wright. It’s the name Davis & Young that has the value. We hope it’s here long after we’re no longer a part of it.”
Reviewed and edited by Matthew P. Beringer. Esq. - 10/30/19
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