The 1980s Part One: A decade of growth

The 1980s saw a number of attorneys join the Firm, many of which stayed for a number of years. These attorneys include Joel Gilbertson, Joy Wezelman, Larry Dopson, Dave Reich, Steve Easton, Jackie Pierce, Jerry Kettleson, Gary Thune, Larry Boschee, Lawrence Bender, and Janet Seaworth.

Joel Gilbertson began his legal career in private practice in Bowman, ND. He went on to serve as a staff attorney for the Joint Procedures Committee and the North Dakota Supreme Court before becoming executive director of SBAND. He was later president of SBAND, and at that time, was the first person to serve both executive director and as president in North Dakota. Gilbertson currently has a successful government affairs firm based in Bismarck.

Joy Wezelman was with the Firm for a short time before she went on to become a Supreme Court clerk and eventually a state administrative law judge. Wezelman was and continues to be involved in the community and has won various service awards throughout the years.

Larry Dopson began his career clerking for Justice Paul Sand of the North Dakota Supreme Court. He then transitioned into private practice in the Bismarck area before joining the Firm.

Dave Reich spent many years with the Firm before accepting a judgeship with the South Central District in North Dakota. He started Runners Against Destructive Decisions as a way to invest time in healthy alternatives to aid in ending the cycle of addiction. The group organizes the Santa Run each December to build awareness in the community.

Steve Easton has a background in both law and accounting. He was the U.S. Attorney for North Dakota and worked for the Firm both before and after his time there. Easton went on to teach law after leaving private practice.

Jackie Pierce began her law career with the Firm and has since become a successful mediator and arbitrator in California.

The 1970s: A decade of prominence

The 1970s ushered in an era in which many prominent attorneys and those who are the namesake of the Firm today joined. Both Harry and Bill Pearce, and Pat and Tim Durick joined, as well as the Firm’s first female attorney, Christine Hogan. Also, during this time, the Firm relocated to its current offices in the Downtown Office Building.

Harry Pearce originally wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force but found his calling in the legal profession, he practiced as a Staff Judge Advocate before coming back to Bismarck, he was with the Firm for a number of years before General Motors, a client of the Firm, recruited him as associate general counsel. He went on to become vice chairman of GM and served on a variety of boards throughout his career.

William “Bill” Pearce had intentions of being an astrophysicist and holds a Ph.D. in the subject. Though after beginning a Fellowship at Princeton, he decided that law was his desired career. He has and continues to write articles for various legal publications.

Together the Pearce brothers had some interesting cases and those in the legal community took note, after writing a two-volume brief, new statutes were introduced to amend the approved length of a brief. They also got a statute changed via amendment by the North Dakota Legislature to add an emergency clause to the Century Code so they could bring evidence into court for a case they were working on.

Pat Durick crossed paths with Harry Pearce when they were both in the Air Force Academy. After completing his law degree and clerking for a District Judge, he joined the Firm as has been with us ever since. He has served on several committees and boards during his professional career.

Tim Durick was a special assistant attorney general with the State Tax Commission prior to opening a firm with three other Bismarck attorneys. He served as a municipal court judge in Bismarck for a time during his career. He later came to the Firm and was here until his full retirement in 2018.

Christine Hogan was a law clerk and court planner for the North Dakota Supreme Court before she joined the Firm. Additionally, she was Governor Link’s legislative assistant for a period of time, serving as a liaison between the governor’s office and the legislature. Hogan was a nationally recognized product liability attorney and argued in front of the United States Supreme Court in 2000 on the case Weisgram v. Marley Company.

The 1960s: New attorneys and a new office

The 1960s saw those attorneys who had joined during the 1950s become Partners. During this time four new attorneys joined the Firm as well: William “Bill” Murray, Harold Anderson, Curtis Schmidt, and C.B. Thames, whom everyone called Tim. The Firm also relocated to the First Federal Bank building on 4th Street and Rosser where today stands American Bank Center.

Bill Murray served his country in the military for several years and spent time overseas during various wars. Murray also established the 309th Army Reserve Band in North Dakota. He practiced with his father, J.K. Murray, and served as assistant attorney general prior to joining the Firm. He left the Firm when he was appointed to the North Dakota Supreme court.

Harold Anderson enlisted in the military and fought in World War II. He entered law school upon coming home and had his own partnership prior to joining the Firm. He went on to open a practice with his daughter, the late Sonna Anderson.

Curtis Schmidt joined the Firm directly out of law school and practiced for a number of years before moving to a law firm in the Minneapolis, MN area. He also served as a municipal judge in Bismarck during his time with the Firm.

C.B. “Tim” Thames began his career as a geologist before reading the law under W.K. Austin. He was a municipal judge in Bismarck in addition to practicing with the Firm. He eventually went back to a career in geology with Keldon Oil Co. as an exploration manager coupling his geology and law careers.

The 1950s: The Firm adds young local talent

The 1950s saw three young attorneys join the firm: Myron Atkinson, John Gunness, and Edgar Rose. It was also during this decade that Edward Cox, founding partner of the Firm,  passed away.

Myron Atkinson was a man who had a mind for both law and business. After his time with the Firm he went on to have his own practice in addition to being involved in broadcasting and television, real estate development, and banking. Atkinson was one of the founders of North Dakota Guaranty and Title.

John Gunness was heavily involved in oil and gas law. He served as the executive director of the North Dakota Petroleum Council for a time which gave him exposure to many decision makers in the industry. He went on to work for the American Petroleum Institute after leaving the Firm.

Edgar Rose had served as a county auditor for a while prior to joining the Firm. He went on to have his own practice in Bismarck for many years.

The 1940s: A new partner joins the Firm

William R. Pearce joined the firm in 1944 as a namesake partner after a period of time as an assistant attorney general. Pearce did not attend law school, but rather read the law under A.P. Paulson of Valley City, ND. He was one of the first lawyers to argue before the North Dakota Supreme Court with no formal law education.

Pearce gave the Lincoln Day speech to the joint session of the Legislature for years and did so entirely from memory. He was a very talented orator and scholar, participating in debate when he studied briefly at the University of Kentucky.

Pearce was instrumental in the expansion of the Firm, identifying many candidates to join the Firm as well as adding the oil and gas practice during North Dakota’s first oil boom.

His sons all came to work for the Firm at a point during their career as well. Harry and William as attorneys and Murray as business manager of the Firm.

Vukelic to speak on Special Education

Pearce Durick PLLC attorney Meredith Vukelic has been invited to speak at the National Business Institute’s upcoming seminar titled Special Education Laws Made Simple.  The seminar is designed for professionals who work with children with special needs in the school setting. Attendees will learn about schools’ obligations under special education laws, including requirements for IEPs, FAPE, LRE, options for dispute resolution, and issues surrounding discipline of special education students.  Meredith will also present on bullying and harassment, discrimination under Section 504, and other school actions or inaction that can result in lawsuits.  The seminar is being held at the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center in Fargo, North Dakota on Wednesday, November 20, 2019.  If you are interested in registering, you may use this link to do so.

Attorneys Bruner and Vukelic speak on transgender student rights

Rachel Bruner and Meredith Vukelic, who lead Pearce Durick PLLC’s Education Law Group, were invited to speak at the North Dakota School Boards Association’s Law Seminar on October 24, 2019, on the topic of transgender student rights. As society continues to address issues affecting people who identify as LGBTQ, schools become a place where evolving opinions are explored and tested. In turn, school boards and school staff must balance competing opinions while transgender or gender non-conforming students assert their civil and educational rights at school. Rachel and Meredith enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the current legal landscape surrounding these matters with the several hundred seminar attendees.

The 1930s: A new associate joins the Firm

Herbert O’Hare retired from the Firm in 1939 after the tragic passing of his wife in a car accident. He spent the rest of his life with his son in Seattle.

Later in 1939 a new associate, E Forsyth Engebretson, was also added to the Firm. Engebretson was a new graduate and O’Hare, Cox & Cox was the first Firm he joined. He was with the Firm for a short period of time before he received his commission as an officer with the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served as a PT boat captain in the Philippines. Upon coming home, he rejoined the Firm and shortly after became a Partner.

Engebretson was with the Firm until his retirement in 1971. Upon his retirement he and his wife Elizabeth opened Swans of the North, a Scandinavian specialty shop.

The 1920s: A brother joins the Firm

Gordon Cox had been living in Bismarck for a number of years working as an attorney for the State Tax Commission before he joined O’Hare and Cox in their practice in 1925. He brought his experience from the State to the Firm and tried many cases related to tax law in addition to other defense work. When he had been with the Firm for five years, he became a namesake partner and the Firm name was changed to O’Hare, Cox & Cox.

Cox was also invested in the community and served on for-profit and nonprofit boards in the area. He also was a member of the North Dakota State Legislature for a number of years.

He stayed with the Firm until his retirement in 1966.

Where we’ve practiced through the years

Before O’Hare and Cox partnered to create the Firm, O’Hare practiced in the First National Bank building which was located on the corner of Main and 4th, where today stands the BNC National Bank building. Cox joined him in this location and they practiced there until the completion of the Little Building the following year. The Little Building is located on the southwest corner of Broadway and 3rd next to the Logan Building. The Little Building housed a dress shop, Hall’s Drug Store, and an extension of the Logan Building’s Logan Grocery which included a candy factory and bakery. The law offices were located on the second floor along with other professional services.

In 1963, the Firm relocated to the First Federal Bank building on 4th Street where today stands American Bank Center. During this time the MDU building was being constructed across the street and it was a frequent topic of conversation in the office. Less than a decade later the Firm relocated to its current offices in the Downtown Office Building, which was once the Montgomery Wards building. Prior to the current building being the local Montgomery Wards store, is was Lahr Motor Sales Co. Major renovations were done to the building between each transformation from car dealership and shop, to department store, to professional offices.

Today, we still practice in the Downtown Office Building.