Earlier this year, both John Cooney and Ken Harrigan reached their 50th year of practicing law with Modrall Sperling.
Of course, much of the reason for their lengthy tenures with the firm has to do with its values and commitment to ethics. Both John and Ken agree it has been rewarding to work on some of the most challenging legal issues in New Mexico, and especially being able to do so in an environment of civility, collaboration with clients and co-counsel, and most especially, good humor.
But there is another commonality both partners have enjoyed – the long-lived dedication of their legal assistants. Sharon Gralow has worked with Ken since the moment she walked in the door 45 years ago, and Jan Valentine worked hard to become John's assistant back in 1979.
Sharon admits she never intended to stay 45 years.
"When I started, my husband had two years left in law school, and I really planned to stop when he graduated. However, Ken is one of the reasons I have stayed with Modrall Sperling all this time. His professionalism and attention to detail has always been amazing," says Sharon. "We've worked hard, and I don't think anyone else could give their clients more than Ken did."
Ken feels the same regarding working with Sharon, noting "I have truly been fortunate to have had Sharon Gralow as my assistant for the last 45 years. She has been my right hand during our long career together and deserves high praise for putting up with and meeting my demands and helping me manage the demands of a busy and stressful litigation practice. Sharon's skills, disposition, dedication and loyalty made my job so much easier. She was always ready to do what had to be done to represent our clients and to meet our professional expectations."
"Her abilities were not only recognized by me and by firm clients but by others as well," he says. "After the conclusion of a long and difficult trial, several of the jurors astutely commented in a post-trial questionnaire that Sharon was 'extremely efficient, knowledgeable, and quite impressive', and remarked that when I needed something, she was 'always there'."
Jan, who came to Modrall Sperling straight out of college in 1974, worked for several partners until Halloween of 1979, when John's assistant went on maternity leave. She lobbied to secure the empty spot and has not moved since.
Here is why: "I feel so fortunate to have worked with John and been part of his team for so many years. His guidance and style of working helped make me a good assistant. I always wanted to help him succeed in whatever project we were working on," says Jan. "His clients are extremely loyal and continue to come back—because he does such great work and because his clients know he genuinely cares. In fact, he is more in demand now than he ever has been. He's just the best of the best."
For his part, John says, "I could not have survived these 50 years of practice without the assistance of Jan Valentine. I have been privileged to have Jan as my assistant since 1979. She has kept me out of trouble during all that time, which included the time I was Bar president and then president of the law firm. I don't think Jan has missed a day during those 36 years. She always shows up early and stays late, and everyone in the firm knows they can count on her to do what needs to be done; no one has ever heard Jan say 'that's not my job.'"
"Jan on several occasions has travelled with me to long trials, requiring extended time away from home," John continues. "These trips included four weeks in Durango, Colorado, in the middle of a hot summer, and three weeks in a Raton, New Mexico, right after the holidays and during an icy cold January. On each occasion she was responsible for setting up a 'mobile office' with computers, printers, fax machines, and copy machines. She also supervised the transfer of thousands of documents, deposition transcripts, and exhibits, and made sure they were all available on a moment's notice. In addition, she cheerfully coordinated the travel and hotel reservations of many witnesses, and generally did what she could to calm everyone's nerves. All involved—clients, witnesses, and especially we lawyers trying these cases—remember and greatly appreciate those long hours Jan spent away from home on our behalf, always on a voluntary basis."
Congratulations to all four of Modrall Sperling's finest!