Few things live to be 150 years old.
Some turtles and whales come to mind. A law firm? Not as much.
But there's such a long-lived company here in Harrisburg. This year, Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall LLP is celebrating its 200th anniversary, making it one of the city's oldest continuously operating companies.
Sarah Closet, Marketing and Communications Administrator, credits her company's longevity to its dedication to building and maintaining relationships.
"We are very proud of that," she said.
The city's oldest law firm was founded in 1871 when Nauman Smith began representing railroads, a booming business at a time when Harrisburg sat at the crossroads of the fast-growing freight and passenger rail system.
"Most of these relationships are still intact," said Closet. "Although the earlier versions of the railroad companies have changed hands and possibly changed names over the years, we have maintained those relationships and are still well known in the industry."
It takes integrity to work in the same city for 150 years, Cabinet said.
"The things that we did that got us to this point are the things that we will continue to do," she said. "That doesn't mean we're not old-fashioned at all, but we've proven ourselves."
The company's long history has enabled partners to understand the cyclical nature of the economy and the challenges small businesses in the region face.
"There's a lot of trust and a lot of trust to be found there," said closet.
Nauman Smith specializes in the law of small and medium-sized businesses, nonprofits, community zones, and regulations. To further strengthen its services, it recently brought bankruptcy attorney Ted Benchik to the area.
"Having a bankruptcy attorney and bringing this new practice into our law firm really offers a new way to serve our community and our clients," said Wardrobe. "So we're trying to show that help is available and that it doesn't have to be something you're afraid to talk about."
For over 150 years, Nauman Smith's attorneys have maintained another practice that is no longer as common among today's business leaders – civic engagement.
Each of the company's five current partners – Spencer Nauman Jr., Benjamin Dunlap Jr., J. Stephen Feinour, Craig Staudenmaier, and Joshua Bonn – are active community members in organizations such as the Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC) in Harrisburg Area and YMCA the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC among others.
"The partners are very respectful of each other and really look for consensus when making decisions," said closet.
Bonn, the youngest of the Nauman Smith partners, joined 12 years ago and is positioned to lead the company into the future. He said joining the company gave him immediate benefits.
"The partners have such a good reputation in the community that there is already a certain level of trust – they already know our high ethical standards," he said. "We want to build a relationship with our customers, find out why they are doing well, why their business is working, and how we can help them move them forward."
Bonn stated that both he and the other partners prefer to hear directly from their customers and seriously consider their recommendations.
"We never want to tell the customer that we're doing something because it's always been done," he said.
Bonn said he expects to spend the rest of his career with Nauman Smith and recruiting the next generation.
"We are not only happy to sit back and rest on our 150-year legacy, but look forward to being with us for another 150 years and finding young, diverse talents who want to work with us," he said.
Cabinet said an ongoing focus on employing good people and upholding high ethical standards has led the company to success for so many years.
"You don't live to be 150 years old and have some of the same customers you have had for decades and decades without even realizing that relationships are what bring you to this place," she said.
Nauman, Smith, Shissler & Hall is located at 200 N. 3rd St., 18th Floor, Harrisburg. Please visit www.nssh.com for more information.
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