“Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.”
–Charles F. Kettering
Charlie Chapin knew he wanted to be an attorney since he was 8 years old. He watched his father, Don Chapin, with great admiration and knew he wanted to follow in his footsteps. He wanted to make a difference in the lives of others and provide a valuable and honorable service to the community, just as he watched his father do for many years.
Growing up with an attorney for a father meant time spent around dinner tables that were missing a chair, but Chapin understood how much time and devotion went towards making sure Don Chapin’s family was taken care of. In fact, Chapin said he had a very happy childhood and a wonderful home life.
“I grew up in Casper when it was a much smaller town,” Chapin remembered. “It was a safe place to be. Doors didn’t get locked, we were allowed to stay out and play kick-the-can until late at night, and parents didn’t worry when you were walking to school. It was a great childhood.”
Chapin’s parents remained happily married forever-after, and Chapin paid close attention to the type of husband, and father, the late Don Chapin was. He also paid attention to the type of attorney he was, which would serve him well in later years.
Chapin graduated from Natrona County High School, before attending Colorado College. He returned to Wyoming for law school, graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1981.
Fresh out of law school, Chapin began working his first real job. It was a good job, a good start to what would become an extremely prolific career. His first boss was somebody he could learn a lot from. Truth be told, Chapin had been learning a lot from this man his entire life.
It was his dad.
“As all lawyers start, I came in as an associate,” Chapin stated. “I drafted briefs and drafted complaints. It was kind of cool because Dad wasn’t afraid to let me work with the clients, so that was helpful.”
One would think that working for your father would result in some pretty lofty expectations; however, Chapin said he never felt like he was under any sort of undue pressure from his dad.
“I was excited to work for Dad,” he said. “He most assuredly didn’t put pressure on me; it was moreso me putting pressure on myself. But our working relationship was awesome. We probably got cross with one another only a couple of times over the term that we practiced together. But it was a great experience practicing with him and with Charlie Crowell. Between Dad and Charlie, they kind of indoctrinated me in estate work.”
Estate planning, along with probate law became one of Chapin’s specialties. This was especially useful in 2012, when, after 31 years, and after the death of his father, Chapin left the first and only other firm he ever practiced at, and came to work for Williams, Porter, Day, and Neville.
“It was an interesting opportunity,” Chapin stated. “At the time I came over, WPDN did a lot of insurance defense work and those kinds of things, but they didn’t have a transactional lawyer, per se. So that’s why I was offered the opportunity to come over.”
As with every WPDN attorney, Chapin said his favorite part of the job is working with, and for, his clients.
“First and foremost,” he said, “you’re dealing with clients – the highs and lows that they go through, the death of family members, business acquisitions, those kinds of things. I just like the interrelationship with clients, as compared to [working with] insurance adjusters and people that aren’t here.”
Chapin has been with WPDN for 9 years, working on a variety of cases, all with the intent of providing the best service he can for his clients.
“We’re just a bunch of people trying to do a good job for the public,” Chapin said. “It’s not overly-glorified. People have a misconception about professionals; that we have all the answers, or that we’re arrogant or high-handed, or a lot of other things. But we’re just people. That’s always been my view of this work. We’re all just people. We just try to do our best.”
More often than not, WPDN’s “best” is the best in the state because of attorneys like Chapin. In addition to estate planning and probate law, Chapin also practices in areas of estate litigation, transactional law, healthcare law, real estate, contracts, banking, and employment law. He is no longer the only transactional lawyer at WPDN, but he is one of the most respected.
He is also a husband and a father. Chapin and his wife have been married for 33 years and, together, they have two sons. Neither of them are attorneys.
“One of my sons is working on his second Master’s Degree in Philosophy and the other has a Master’s in Social Work,” Chapin beamed. “He just got done working with highly abused kids in Oregon.”
Chapin said he never pushed his sons into the “family business” because he wanted them to discover their own paths, as his father had allowed him to do. It’s just that his path led to WPDN.
“I didn’t not want them to be lawyers, but I didn’t sell it hard to them,” he said. “I wanted them to choose whatever they wanted to do, and their personalities are kind of a lot more…gentle. They’re still doing important work, it’s just a different kind of important work. I am very proud of both of them.”
Really, that’s all a father can hope for – that his children are doing work that means something to them, and that matters. The work Chapin does matters – to him, and, he hopes, to his clients.
It was because of his early years watching his father, that he realized how much his work in law really does matter.
“I watched the dedication he had for it and the selflessness he exhibited for the benefit of his clients,” Chapin said. “And because of that, I began to view being an attorney as being sort of a protector, somebody that stands up for their clients at times when their lives are turned upside down, explaining things to them and trying to help them through it. That’s been my goal.”
That perception has resulted in a long, rewarding, meaningful career. He has impacted many lives with his work, simply by doing the best that he could. Like father, like son.
So, if his father were still here and he could say just one thing to his son Charlie, what would it be?
“My father had a way of interacting with me where he would encapsulate his opinion in short sentences, and it would take you an hour or two, or sometimes days, to figure out what the hell he was saying,” Chapin said with a laugh. “My suspicion would be that he would not necessarily offer an opinion, but he would ask for my analysis. If he thought I was misperceiving or overstating things, or if my analysis was flawed, he’d point certain things out and tell me to think about it a little more. But, more than anything, he would just tell me there are good times and bad times in life. Some days, you’re at the top of your game and some days you’re not. But the most important thing is to just keep moving and do your best.”
For 30 years, that is exactly what Charlie Chapin has done.