San Diego’s Venerable Law Firm
San Diego’s Venerable Law Firm
Higgs, Fletcher and Mack builds 75 years of illustrious legal service
By Manny Lopez
As the oldest law firm in continuous practice within San Diego County, Higgs, Fletcher & Mack has a rich and storied history of service to its clients, the legal community and the public since its establishment in 1939.
In a climate where law firms are merging and moving towards a more national and international identity, the company’s partners have chosen to buck the trend and remain committed to the goal of building what founding partners Dewitt “Dutch” Higgs, Ferdinand “Ferd” Fletcher and Henry “Pitts” Mack envisioned as San Diego’s law firm.
“We’re not just lawyers, but members of the community,” said Craig Higgs, son of Dutch Higgs and a partner in Higgs, Fletcher & Mack.
As the most senior member of the firm by years of service, Higgs explained that when the company was started in the Bank of America building on Fifth Avenue and Broadway, San Diego was a very different town legally and otherwise. He said the legal community was so small at the time that every lawyer who practiced downtown knew each other by their first name.
Higgs noted that among the distinguishing characteristics driving the success of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack, is a commitment to treating the court, clients and other attorneys with respect and honesty.
“If you treat other lawyers and clients with respect and honesty, you sleep better, you never have to remember anything and people will always trust your advice.”
Higgs is past president of the San Diego County Bar Association and the San Diego Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates. He was a member of and chairman of the California State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation as well as the University of San Diego, School of Law Board of Visitors. He has been the San Diego County Bar Associations Legal professional of the Year and was included in the Best Lawyers in America by his peers four years in a row.
“The reason we’re still around and continuing to thrive after 75 years is because we are focused on serving San Diego’s legal needs. We have a diverse practice filled with talent and expertise that is geared towards serving the regional community,” said John Morrell, managing partner of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack.
He said that every member of the firm is bound by a history past and future, as well as a culture centered on providing the highest quality representation based on ethics, integrity, care, and a commitment to delivering solutions.
Morrell added that in addition to getting top-notch representation, clients benefit from all of the long-standing relationships the firm has developed over the years in the community. He pointed out that Higgs, Fletcher & Mack attorneys are involved in the community and hold many leadership positions throughout the entire region.
“Although San Diego is amongst the top 10 cities in the country, we are still a small town,” Morrell said. “This is a city of relationships.”
Since its inception, a number of the firm’s attorneys have been appointed to various city, state and federal courts and have held positions including District Attorney, City Attorney, prosecutors, corporate counsel, educators and bar association presidents.
John Morris joined Higgs, Fletcher & Mack right out of law school in 1981 and has been practicing exclusively in the area of civil appeals for almost his entire career. Morris said that he is absolutely certain that there is something unique about the collegial and constructive atmosphere that exists within the firm.
“When I started, the founding fathers were still practicing, so I got to grow up as a young lawyer with their personal influence and their personal stamp of ethical propriety,” Morris said. “One way or the other, their spirit continues to imbue almost everything that we do around here.”
James Peterson, a partner with Higgs Fletcher & Mack and a self described “lifer,” said that he has spent the past 25 years at the same law firm with no looking back. He said that of the 75 attorneys practicing within the firm, a large percentage have done the same.
“What did it for me was the people,” Peterson said. “I could tell that they were intelligent, professional and dynamic. I felt the professionalism, honesty and ethics from everyone the minute I walked in the door.”
Peterson said that when mentoring new attorneys, he teaches them to never mislead or misrepresent any fact or circumstance to anyone and to always be honest and ethical in all dealings with clients, adverse council and the court.
“We want to develop good citizens and I think we do,” he said. “That concept of professionalism and a sense of family was something that Ferd and Dutch instilled in this firm 75 years ago and that’s one constant that’s never changed.”