Though he died as head of a 625-lawyer firm, centenarian lawyer Christian Peper started as a solo. As described in St. Louis Today, Peper, along with his friend Malcolm Martin and Martin’s father started a law firm in a four room office back in 1941. Three months later, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Peper, determined to help the war effort, continued to build his firm even as he worked several hours each night at a defense plant making weapons parts. Seventy years later, Peper continued to go into the office until three weeks before his death on July 11, 2011.
Despite his enormous success, Peper never viewed law as a business. Instead, Peper called the legal profession a “community of scholars,” and fostered a tradition of support for scholarship and the arts within his firm.
Could a Century Solo like Peper survive in the Twenty First Century — where blogs and twitter-sound bites have rendered law journals obsolete, and where lawyers drop in and out of the profession instead of sticking with it for seven decades. Who knows? But these elder statesman of our profession still have much wisdom to offer – and we need to try to capture those lessons before these lawyers fade away.