Before statehood, C.B. Stuart established a law practice which today is Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson, L.L.P. He was the first federal judge of the Indian Territory and the first president of the Oklahoma Bar Association. The firm’s early practice was mostly trial-related, but as the territory became a state and the state grew, Doerner became a full service law firm representing railroads, insurance companies, utilities, banks, hospitals, and oil production and service companies and their owners. In addition to its trial practice, the firm became an incubator for business growth and assisting these clients with access to capital and financing.
C.B. Stuart hired a young E.J. Doerner on the steps of the courthouse, and they forged a practice. Dickson M. Saunders was added in the early 1950s and Sam P. Daniel in the 1960s. The firm’s offices in this early era were located in what is now the 320 South Boston Building (formerly the National Bank of Tulsa Building). In the 1950s, the firm moved to offices in the Atlas Life Building, one of the firm’s good clients, where it thrived for nearly 40 years, growing from one floor to six floors of lawyers and staff. In February 1991, the firm moved back to the 320 South Boston Building, and in 2010 moved to its current offices in the Williams Tower II at Boulder & 2nd Street. With each move Doerner was able to advance its technical capabilities and stay in the forefront of legal support services.
The name of the firm changed over the years as partners joined or departed from the firm. It was named Stuart, Coakley & Doerner in 1927, and Stuart & Doerner 1936 until Judge Stuart’s death later that year. In 1950, the firm became Doerner, Rinehart & Stuart when Dickson M. Saunders, after serving as the first law clerk for United States District Judge Royce Savage, joined a group of five lawyers that included E.J. Doerner and Harry Moreland. In the 1950s and early 1960s, the firm had a branch office in Washington, D.C. that operated under the name Doerner, Rinehart, Stuart & Clammer.
Dick Saunders’ business reputation was a foundation for the growth of the business side of the firm. He was a founding director of Utica National Bank and Trust Co., a long-term director of Atlas Life Insurance Co. and Reading & Bates Offshore Drilling Co., and was counsel to both Parker Drilling Co. and Reading & Bates for their initial public offerings. In 1980, the firm expanded its representation of Public Service Company of Oklahoma and became its general counsel and was instrumental in the negotiations necessary to resolve the decision to suspend construction of the Black Fox Nuclear Power Station.
Dick’s reputation for being a thorough lawyer and for faithful service was called upon many times during his career, and is a legacy he passed on to those who worked with him. Mention of only a few of his experiences would have to include a multiple-month negotiating session in Iran to prevent expropriation of land drilling rigs shortly before the fall of the Shah of Iran in 1979. Dick also was counsel for the land acquisition for the Texas/Gulf pipeline, working almost continually out of state for over three months. In addition, he served as counsel in a special foreign payments investigation of McDonnell-Douglas required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, a project that involved nine lawyers over nine months during 1980. By 1965, Dick had become the managing partner of what was then known as Doerner, Stuart, Moreland & Saunders, and persuaded a promising young lawyer named Sam Daniel to join the firm. The name of the firm, which then had offices in the Atlas Life Building, was changed to Doerner, Stuart, Moreland, Saunders & Daniel.
Sam Daniel has participated in some of Tulsa’s most celebrated and publicized litigation, including his representation of now U.S. Senator James Inhofe in his successful suit against a family member regarding their family insurance company, and together with Dallas Ferguson, served as co-counsel with Gable & Gotwals and W. DeVier Pierson of Washington, D.C. representing Cities Service against Gulf Oil Company, resulting in one of the largest money judgments in Oklahoma history. Sam has been a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers since 1981 and has been listed in Best Lawyers in America since 1983. He is a certified Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and served as secretary, treasurer and in 1985, as president, of the Tulsa County Bar Association.
A short time after Sam joined the firm, Dobie Langenkamp was named a partner, and the name was changed to Doerner, Stuart, Saunders, Daniel & Langenkamp. Dobie remained with the firm until 1978 when he left to serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oil, Natural Gas & Shale Resources for the U.S. Department of Energy. Dobie later became a client when he retained the firm to represent him as the Bankruptcy Trustee for Republic Trust & Savings and Republic Financial Corporation.
The firm continued its steady growth up through the oil boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the firm doubled in size. By then, the firm was known as Doerner, Stuart, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson. The oil busts of the early 1980s and again in 2008 and their resulting shock waves throughout the Oklahoma economy created a different type of lawyer’s work, and the firm responded in each case by expanding its bankruptcy practice by acting as trustee’s counsel for the Republic bankruptcy, the Otasco bankruptcy, and as advisors to creditors and oil producers in the 2008 collapse.
Other notable engagements for the firm were the $60,000,000 and $80,000,000 judgments obtained on behalf of Southern Union Company and its affiliates by Tom Ferguson in the 2000s, the 1996 initial public offering for Heritage Propane Partners, L.P. by Larry Chambers, and the sale of the Chapman Barnard Ranch to The Nature Conservancy to establish what is now The Tallgrass Prairie.
The firm boasts a number of distinguished alumni. Stephanie Seymour, currently a senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, joined the firm and in 1975 became its first female partner. In 1978 she left to accept the appointment to the Tenth Circuit bench. Former federal Judge Sven Erik Holmes was associated with the firm, leaving to accept a position in Washington, D.C., where he practiced until his return to Tulsa in 1995 as a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma, later resigning to enter practice as chief legal general counsel for KPMG.
The combination of trial and business lawyers has given the firm its ability to be full service to its clients and fueled its growth. It also provided the ability to develop “renaissance” lawyers who were able to meet the challenges of changing laws, technologies and business cycles.
Expanded federal and state regulations of the environment and the workplace provided platforms for new legal services beginning in the 1960’s and today these areas remain important practices for the firm. Oklahoma has always been affected by the energy business and its cycles dictate the need for legal services. When there are downturns, the firm’s bankruptcy and reorganization practice lead the way, and when new and established businesses wish to grow, our transactional lawyers show clients where they can access growth capital and other financial resources. Trust and estate lawyers are always in demand and domestic matters always require the experience of our family law attorneys.
Doerner has fostered long term relationships with clients. Public Service Company of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority and the Sand Springs Home, to name a few, have been represented by Doerner for over 50 years, with perhaps the Sand Springs Home the leader in longevity at over 85 years.
Today, with over 50 professionals operating out of three offices, Doerner, as one of, if not the oldest law firm in Oklahoma, honors its past history and embraces the future.