Finley Law

Finley Law Firm Celebrates 100 Years

May 1, 2024

1 0 0  Y E A R S


Finley Law Firm History

On May 1, 2024, the Finley Law Firm proudly celebrates its 100-year anniversary. Law firms and lawyers from Iowa’s territorial days come close to the Firm’s pedigree, but the Firm’s lineage can be authoritatively traced to its dual origins. Two law partnerships: Carr, Cox, Evans and Riley, and Duncan and Hughes ultimately merged to form the present entity and its predecessors.

The firm of Carr, Cox, Evans and Riley originated on May 1, 1924. Members were George Carr, Clifford V. Cox, Donald Evans and William F. Riley. Carr died in 1926.John Ingraham joined that firm as an associate in 1928 and was active until his death in 1936. The county courthouse and the U.S. Court were closed for the afternoon for his funeral. Clifford Cox remained as a partner until his death in 1938. Donald Evans continued to head the successor firms until his death in 1954. At the time of his death, his father had the longest tenure of any member of the Iowa Supreme Court. William F. Riley resigned from the firm to accept appointment as U.S. Judge for the Southern District of Iowa in 1950. He died, while still in office, in 1956. Hubert C. Jones joined the firm in 1939 and Robert G. Riley in 1941.

In 1946, Ehlers English was admitted as a partner and the firm was rejoined by Jones and Riley after their return from service. The firm name was changed to Evans, Riley, English & Jones. In 1947 Mr. English resigned to accept a position as associate general counsel with Bankers Life Company, where he remained until his death in 1949. After his departure, the firm name was changed to Evans, Riley, Jones & Riley.

This latter firm merged in 1948 with the firm of Duncan & Hughes, which had been made up of Hearst R. Duncan and John N. Hughes. Duncan practiced law in Osage and also acted as special counsel for the Iowa Attorney General’s office. In 1941, he became a partner in the firm of Senneff and Duncan in Mason City. Hughes was the son of John N. Hughes who, with Willis J. O’Brien, and S.S. Faville, had made up the firm of Hughes, O’Brien and Faville from 1915 to 1940. When the merger was completed, the firm name was changed to Evans, Riley, Duncan, Jones & Hughes. This name was retained until Judge Riley assumed the bench and the name became Evans, Duncan, Jones, Hughes & Riley. Duncan was born in Center Junction, Iowa in 1905 and was a graduate of George Washington Law School. Jones was born in Marshalltown, Iowa in 1913 and was a graduate of the University of Iowa Law School. Hughes was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1910 and was a graduate of the University of Iowa Law School. Riley was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1916 and was a graduate of Drake University Law School.

In 1963 and 1966, the Firm was joined by new associates, Randy Duncan and Tom Finley. The son of Hearst R. Duncan, Hearst R. Duncan, Jr, known to all as “Randy,” had attended the University of Iowa where he was an outstanding college football quarterback. He was a graduate of Drake University Law School. Finley, born and raised in Mason City, Iowa, the son of an attorney, completed both his undergraduate and law studies at the University of Iowa. Jerry P. Alt and Glenn L. Smith were next to join the firm in 1968 and 1970, respectively. Alt and Smith both obtained their law degrees attending Drake University Law School.

When John Hughes was selected as a district court judge by Governor Robert Ray in 1970, the Firm name was changed to Duncan, Jones, Riley & Davis. Eugene Davis, who had joined the firm as an associate in 1952, remained a partner until 1972 when he withdrew to form his own firm. The partnership name was changed to Duncan, Jones, Riley & Finley.

From 1972 to 1992, Duncan, Jones, Riley & Finley experienced considerable change and growth. Between those years, the firm was joined by a complement of twenty-five attorneys to include future named shareholders, Steven K. Scharnberg (1974), John D. Hilmes (1979), and R. Todd Gaffney (1981). In 1986. the Firm adopted a corporate structure, becoming Duncan, Jones, Riley and Finley, P.C. Robert G Riley died in 1992.

In 1992, Randy Duncan and three partners withdrew to form their own firm. The Firm changed its name to Finley, Alt, Smith, Scharnberg and May, P.C. When David Craig joined the Firm in 1993, following 18 years at Brown Winnick, the name was changed to Finley, Alt, Smith, Scharnberg, May and Craig, P.C. In 1998, following further growth the Firm name was changed to Finley, Alt, Smith, Scharnberg, Craig, Hilmes & Gaffney, P.C., as it remains today. The Firm is now well known throughout the state and region as the Finley Law Firm.

Since 1998, the Firm has continued to add exemplary associates and shareholders. It has also come to the digital age, so the biographies of its attorneys and current Firm descriptions are all available with a single click: A new generation is recognized throughout the State as attorneys well positioned to carry on the exemplary work of the Firm.

Today, we celebrate by thanking all who have contributed to a century of success!

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