LEXINGTON (March 3, 2017) — In 1897, a young man from Kentucky left New Haven, Conn. with a law degree from Yale and the notion that he’d practice in his hometown of Lexington.
He opened a modest office in downtown Lexington. Before the year ended, he was representing one of the largest banks in the Bluegrass.
Today, 120 years later, the largest law firm in Lexington still bears Richard Stoll’s name, serves clients from five offices in three states, and continues to represent the descendant bank of Stoll’s first client.
“By all accounts, Dick Stoll was a remarkable citizen, public servant and attorney whose impact remains visible and tangible today, nearly 70 years after his death,” said William M. Lear Jr., SKO’s chairman emeritus and former managing director.
Among Stoll’s career highlights:
• Fifty years of service on the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees, longer than anyone in UK history
• Served as a Fayette Circuit County Judge for a decade, with his decisions rarely reversed on appeal
• Began representation of Lexington Utility Company (now Kentucky Utilities Company) in 1909 and Lexington Water Company (now Kentucky American Water Company) in 1922, two of SKO’s current clients
• With his law partners, developed the organization that is now the Keeneland Association in 1935, creating a racetrack and sales company which is now the world’s leading thoroughbred auction company
Stoll also is credited with selecting the shade of blue that has defined Big Blue Nation since 1891, simply by wearing a blue neck tie.
“Although his early practice focused on the businesses on the commercial landscape at the time, Dick Stoll was building the foundation that formed the basis of SKO’s practice today,” Lear said. “He was committed to professionalism, civility, diligence and the public good, values that continue to drive our firm.”
From serving those core industries of Stoll’s day—banking, utilities, transportation and equine—key areas of law began to emerge. Financial restructuring, corporate governance, succession planning, and land use grew into practice areas. As client needs evolved, venture capital, labor and employment, and intellectual property practices developed in response.
Managing Director P. Douglas Barr says SKO’s future growth also depends on its continued ability to respond to changing client needs. “The pace of change today is faster than ever before,” Barr noted. “Sudden, dramatic change may also lead to sudden, dramatic opportunity, and the firm is prepared to help our clients capitalize on rapidly developing prospects.”
From the firm’s relatively simple beginning as a solo practice throughout its distinguished 120-year trajectory, client service is a cornerstone of SKO’s longevity.
Among the stories that have become firm legends is an account of an early partner Gayle A. Mohney, whose practice focused on the region’s robust thoroughbred industry. When Mohney was summoned to Keeneland for a 6 a.m. meeting, his wife, Ruth, asked why he was expected to meet a client at such an early hour.
Mohney responded that most attorneys in town would be glad to meet with Keeneland at 5 a.m., and he was doing his best to make sure they did not get a chance.
“Throughout our history, two things have remained constant: the need of our clients for excellent legal service and the ability of our lawyers to provide it,” Lear observed.
As a new chapter in SKO’s history begins, Barr believes the firm is positioned to shape a new era in legal services. “As trusted advisors, SKO is poised to play a vital role in our clients’ continued growth by providing effective counsel today and anticipating the opportunities that are ahead.”