Foley & Foley is celebrating its silver anniversary in 2012. “When you have been in business for 25 years in Alaska, you start to feel like an institution,” said Richard H. Foley, one of the firm’s founders.
The firm had its beginnings in January 1987, when Susan Behlke Foley left her employment as an attorney with the law firm of Birch, Horton, Bittner, Monroe, Pestinger & Anderson and started her own office for the private practice of law. Nine months later, in September 1987, Richard H. Foley left his employment with Wade & DeYoung and hung out his shingle to practice law in the same office space.
The two practices started out as separate sole proprietorships that shared staff, space, and expenses, but the firms were merged the following year and officially incorporated as Foley & Foley, P.C.
“Initially, Sue wasn’t sure if it was a good idea for us to be in practice together,” Richard said. “She seemed to be having fun in her own company so I asked her if I could join her. We decided to share office space for a while and formalize a consolidated law practice if things worked out.”
Susan added, “In 1987, husband and wife law practices were a bit of a novelty for Alaska. Two-lawyer couples are now fairly common, so being in practice together has become more mainstream. Like other ‘mom and pop’ businesses, it just makes a lot of practical sense.”
In 1998, Foley & Foley limited its practice areas to estate planning, business planning, and probate work. By focusing on a narrow area of the law, the firm has been able to improve the level of service offered to clients.
The firm has been growing since 2004, when William M. Pearson joined the team as an associate attorney. Bill became a shareholder in 2010. The fourth attorney, Nikki C. Martin, came onboard last fall. The staff has grown as well, and currently consists of two paralegals, three administrative assistants, and a receptionist.
Over the years the office location has also changed. Originally located at 1400 West Benson Blvd. in Anchorage, the firm moved to the Denali Tower South in 1990; the Dimond Center Professional Tower in 1995; and the current location in South Anchorage on O’Malley Centre Drive in 2006.
As office locations, staffing, and are-as of practice have changed and evolved, the core values of Foley & Foley have remained constant. “Technical excellence, personal integrity, and service to our clients have always been our primary touchstones,” Susan said. “In addition, we’ve tried to foster a positive work environment for ourselves and our employees.”
There have been a lot of changes in the practice of law in the past 25 years, particularly regarding the use of technology. When Foley & Foley opened its doors, personal computers and laser printers had just be-come available, replacing typewriters and magnetic card systems. “The idea of ‘word processing’ was brand new at the time, and we were amazed how much the new technology eased the production of letters, wills, and other legal documents,” Susan said. “But there was still no email, no internet, and definitely no cell phones with email!”
In 1987, Alaska was in the middle of the post-oil-boom recession where a number of banks were failing and real estate foreclosures were rampant. “Looking back, we were pretty young and naïve when we decided to simply leap into private law practice,” Richard said. “As it turned out, it was probably a good time to start because office rent was inexpensive and we were able to keep the over-head low. It’s now twenty-five years later and we are still grateful we took that leap.”