Frank Neville was only a college student when he first met Houston Williams and Dick Day. He had recently gotten into an automobile accident and was sued because of it. Mr. Williams was hired by Neville’s insurance company to represent him, and it was during that process that Neville fell in love with the idea of practicing law. He saw Williams capture the attention of an entire courtroom, he saw the respect of the judge and he saw, quite literally first-hand, how important an attorney that actually cares about his client can be. It was during that time, a time that should have been one of the worst experiences of his life, that Frank Neville realized exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
He wanted to be an attorney.
That was more than 50 years ago, and, in those 50 years, Neville has gone from being a scared kid totally out of his element, to one of the most respected attorneys in the entire state of Wyoming. He is a named partner in Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville, and, as any of the other attorneys will tell you, he is the firm’s rock, and he has been since 1970.
Neville went to school at Casper College, before receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Wyoming. He then went on to UW’s law school, where he received his JD (Juris Doctor) degree in 1970. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Houston Williams, with whom he had kept in touch over the years. This was back when WPDN was simply known as Wehrli and Williams and, as luck would have it, the firm was looking for a young, eager, hungry young associate to come on board. Neville fit the bill and started almost immediately upon graduation and his passing of the bar exam.
Seven years later, Neville was made a partner.
A lot has changed in the 50 years that Frank Neville has been practicing. Some changes have been good; others, not so much. But, through it all, WPDN has remained one of the most respected firms in the region, due in large part to the precedent that Houston Williams and Dick Day set, all those years ago.
“Houston Williams always told me that ‘Your word is your bond,’” Neville said. “If you say something, and you commit to something and you find out later that you were wrong, you don’t try to back out of it. You stick with your word. You gave your word, so you go through with it.”
That has been the mission statement of WPDN for years, and it is something that the partners impress upon any new associate that may walk through their doors.
“We pass that on,” Neville continued. “From a firm that had a total of five lawyers to a firm that now has 22 or 23 lawyers- we pass that mission statement on to every single one of them. We are the largest firm in the state. We’re the most successful and the most respected firm in the state, not only by other lawyers, but the judiciary as well and the reason for that is because we have impressed upon all of our lawyers that you have to be ethical, your word is your bond, and you have to be prepared.”
Those are all messages that were imprinted on Neville’s conscience right from the start. Preparedness, specifically, was a big talking point. Luckily, in the fifty years that Neville has been practicing, it has become a lot easier to come to court prepared.
“When I first started, the practice of law was somewhat of a leisurely process,” Neville revealed. “You had time to go for a coffee in the morning with other lawyers and you had time to go for a coffee in the afternoon with other lawyers but, now, things are a lot busier and it’s all due to technology. Instead of writing a letter and putting it in the mail and waiting for a response that could come two or three days later, now you can send an email and get a response within minutes. And now, instead of having to haul all of your law books to court, now you just take a little computer and it has all of your briefs and cases on it.”
Technology may have changed, but the mission of WPDN has not, and that mission is to serve clients as best they can, whatever the circumstance.
Neville said that “A lawyer represents persons who cannot represent themselves. They can’t adequately speak for themselves because, basically, understandably, they don’t know what’s going on. So, you stand in their place; you speak for them; you act for them. And that’s a big responsibility. In doing so, you have to keep in mind that the client comes first and that you should ethically represent your client to the best of your ability.”
Frank Neville has been doing that for fifty years and he’s been doing it at WPDN from the very beginning. To say that Neville takes great pride in having his “name on the door,” so to speak, would be a vast understatement. He loves what he does. In fact, Neville revealed that he may have loved it a little too much.
“I’ve loved practicing law from the first day I started,” Neville said. “It’s been so exciting and so challenging. Looking back, I didn’t really have any struggles, per say. But the only regret that I have is that [the job] took a little bit out of my family life, which is something you can’t get back.”
That’s how it was for hungry lawyers back in the day. These men and women would work around the clock, sometimes putting in 12- or 16-hour days. It was something of a rite-of-passage for many lawyers but, thankfully, those expectations have softened considerably in recent years.
“These younger lawyers, these new lawyers- they have a different perspective,” Neville stated. “They put a lot more value in time with family and they don’t make the job something that totally encompasses their lives, day and night. And I’m very glad about that. I’m very glad to see that.”
Work/life balance has become immensely important to the most recent generation of career-men and women, and that includes the staff of WPDN. When they are home, they are devoted to their families. But, when they’re on the clock, they are devoted to their clients and that is something that will never change. They are also devoted to the community in which they serve, which is why they spend so much time trying to give back to their neighbors in Natrona County.
“There are a lot of members of our firm that are on various charitable boards,” Neville revealed. “They donate a lot- not just their money, but their time, their advice, and their participation. I think that speaks very well for us and it’s something we’ve done consistently throughout my fifty years of practice with the firm.”
Members of WPDN have served on the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), the Defense Research Institute (DRI), USLAW, the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association, the Wyoming Bar Association, and more. WPDN partner Stuart Day is the President of Equal Justice Wyoming, which is a state-funded civil legal services program that works with Wyoming legal aid providers and community organizations to help people with limited income find help for their legal issues. Every year, WPDN lawyers take part in ‘The Summer Trial Institute,’ which serves as an experiential, immersive ‘dress rehearsal’ for college students, detailing the ins and outs of trial law. Instructors from all over the state provide guest lectures, answer questions, and share their experiences. Judges, lawyers, and many others involved in the world of trial law speak to the students and offer insight into the courtroom. Additionally, Scott Murray, another WPDN attorney, serves on the Board of Directors for The Lyric, for CASA of Natrona County and the Casper Boxing Club. All of these endeavors are efforts to give back to the community for allowing WPDN to remain in business for more than half of a century.
When a firm has been around as long as WPDN has been, the word ‘legacy’ gets thrown around a lot. Every day, the men and women at Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville strive to honor the legacy that Houston Williams and others created more than seventy years ago. Frank Neville has been a part of WPDN almost since its inception and he wants his legacy to be the same as that of his firm.
“As far as ‘legacy’ goes,” Neville stated, “I want both my legacy and the legacy of the firm to be that we are known for being honest and ethical and that we represented clients to the best of our abilities.”
If those three characteristics are what Neville wants himself and his firm to be known for, then it’s safe to say that the legacy of WPDN is etched in stone.