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McLane Middleton Celebrates 100 Years

Published Friday Mar 8, 2019

Author Judi Currie

John McLane (pictured) opened his law firm on Feb. 18, 1919, in a small office on Elm Street in Manchester. One hundred years later, the firm, still bearing his name, is headquartered on four-and-a-half floors—about 65,000 square feet—in the tallest building in NH, across the street from where it began.

Executive Director and CEO Cathleen Schmidt says McLane probably could not have imagined the firm would go on so long, but she says his founding principles—the three “C’s” of community, clients and colleagues—are why it has endured through the depression, recessions and a century of change.

“We are writing a book about the history of the firm. We’ve got old journals of his, little handwritten journals. He was talking with other firms and they couldn’t come to agreement with the terms so he said, ‘I guess tomorrow I will hang out my shingle.’ And the next day, he opened in the Amoskeag building at 875 Elm Street,” Schmidt says.

In getting ready for the celebration, the firm interviewed colleagues such as longtime partner in the firm, Jack Middleton (pictured), who Schmidt says explained that McLane’s first mission was the community. Schmidt says McLane was involved in the founding of Waypoint (formerly Child and Family Services) and worked with the United Way and the Palace Theatre. “Commitment to the community was there from the very start and has continued on. It is a big part of our onboarding process today,” Schmidt says.

Barry Needleman, managing director, says next come the clients, for everything they know about the founder demonstrates that McLane was dedicated to his clients.

Cathleen Schmidt, executive director and CEO, and Barry Needleman, managing director of McLane Middleton. Courtesy photo.

As to the third “C,” colleagues, Needleman says, “It comes down to the people. If you looked down a list of partners, you would see that a lot of them have been here for a very long time. A lot of them have only ever practiced law here.

We have a secretary who has been here for 50 years, and Jack [Middleton] has been here 60.”

When McLane founded the firm, he handled a variety of cases. “John might have worked on wills in the morning and helped a client with a problem or defended him in court in the afternoon.” Today, the firm has 105 attorneys with locations in Manchester, Concord, Portsmouth, and Boston and Woburn, Mass.

While the work is both serious and stressful, the firm stills thinks about fun, Schmidt says. “We changed one of our sterile conference rooms into a relaxing lounge; we call it the Jack Middleton Sidebar.” Needleman says it helps people in the firm get to know each other better, develop trust, and, in turn, be better at their jobs.

In the spirit of giving back, a year long series of donations, suggested by employees, is under way. In January, the firm gave 100 blankets to Cross Roads House shelter in Portsmouth; and Lazarus House in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

As part of a special year-long series of donations, McLane recently donated 100 blankets to Cross Roads Shelter in Portsmouth. Courtesy photo.

In February, 100 books and journals were donated to the Farnum Center in Manchester and Megan’s House in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Schmidt says the firm will host celebratory events all year, including a party in April for colleagues and alumni like U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and former U.S. Sen. and NH Attorney General Kelly Ayotte.

“We may be the only law firm in the country that has three former AGs” says Needleman.

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