A local law firm celebrates its 150th anniversary with a name change.

Finch, Covington & Boyd, Chartered, 101 W. Second St., Ottawa, will change its name to Harris Kelsey, Chartered. The new name reflects the firm’s historical partners, said Blaine Finch, owner and president of the firm.

In conjunction with the name change, the firm developed a new logo and launched a new website at www.harriskelsey.com.

“2020 is an important year for our firm,” said Finch, who joined the firm in 2001. “It will make our 150th year as a law firm serving the people of Ottawa, Franklin County and Kansas. We wanted to return to our roots and honor the founders of our firm, celebrate their dedication to their clients and the profession and create a brand that our community can continue to rely on for decades to come.”

 

The roots

The firm started in 1870 by Alford W. Benson, who served the community as a lawyer, Ottawa’s mayor, county attorney, a state legislator, district court judge and eventually as a Kansas Supreme Court justice.

In 1898, Benson partnered with Fred M. Harris, who helped move the firm to the building at Second and Main Street in downtown Ottawa, where it has operated for the past 121 years. Harris led the firm for 52 years and served in the Kansas Legislature while maintaining his practice in Ottawa. One of his abiding passions was the promotion of education.

He was a member, and twice chairman, of the Kansas Board of Regents and played a prominent role in the creation of the University of Kansas Medical Center. Throughout his career, Harris took on special assignments, such as serving as a special prosecutor in numerous local cases as well as prosecuting the famous Finney Bond Scandal case at the personal request of Gov. Alf Landon.

In 1931, Harris hired Basil “Bas” Kelsey and the firm became known as Harris & Kelsey. The two practiced together for nearly 20 years until Harris’ death in 1950. He was best known for his work in the utility field and was statewide general counsel for Kansas City Power and Light.

In 1957, Kelsey brought in a young attorney named Winton “Wint” Winter and they practiced together a short time until Kelsey’s passing in 1960. Winter hired Robert W. “Bob” Green in 1968 before Winter left the firm to take over People’s Bank.

Green led the firm for more than 40 years until his retirement in 2017. He partnered with Thomas Sachse until he took the bench as a district court judge and later partnered with Finch, who serves as managing partner today.

“For a firm to have 150 years of continuous operation through just six generations of partners is incredible,” Green said. “It is a testament to the commitment to the firm’s clients and a dedication to get it right for the people who have come to us for help.”

 

The firm today

The firm is recognized throughout the area as a leader in the industry. The firm won The Ottawa Herald’s Best of the Best award the past three years and saw its practice grow over the past decade with the addition of John A. Boyd, one of the region’s premiere criminal defense attorney’s, and BreAnne Poe, who has developed a practice in the area of family and child custody law.

Finch serves as speaker pro tem of the Kansas House of Representatives and balances his public service role — like many of his predecessors — while serving clients in the fields of municipal law, contract law, real estate, estate planning and probate law. He also serves as city attorney for the City of Ottawa. Finch began his service to the community as a teen when he was elected to the Ottawa City Commission and became one of the youngest mayors in the nation.

Dan Covington is active in estate planning and business planning, business and commercial law, real estate, and litigating civil matters. He has experience representing business clients ranging from banks to farms and dairies, and from cities to telephone companies and commercial toy and novelty distributors.

Boyd practices primarily criminal defense and family law. He served for more than three years with the Johnson County Public Defender’s office, where he represented hundreds of felony defendants on charges ranging from forgery to first-degree murder, and he won a number of felony jury trials.

Poe, a lifetime Franklin County resident, has represented many clients involving divorce, paternity, child custody and guardianship cases.

Finch said the law firm is dedicated to keep the same philosophies and goals of its founding fathers.

“While our name is changing, our focus — delivering the highest quality legal representation and best possible service to our clients — remains the same,” Finch said. “We have been here for a century and a half and we look forward to serving our clients for the next 150 years.”