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Lawyers' Row not what it used to be

 

Hector Olvera and Charles Schippel, with GoBox, work to clear some bricks at Will Cooper’s new law office on Main Street. The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center can be seen in the background. Cooper has joined a growing trend among local attorneys who are converting downtown storefronts into offices.

Hector Olvera and Charles Schippel, with GoBox, work to clear some bricks at Will Cooper’s new law office on Main Street. The Tennessee Williams Welcome Center can be seen in the background. Cooper has joined a growing trend among local attorneys who are converting downtown storefronts into offices. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff

 

Sarah Fowler

 

Columbus, like most towns, has seen businesses over time spread from its downtown to main thoroughfares. Locally, this has happened along Highway 45 North and Alabama Street. 

 

One profession, though, has and likely always will have a downtown presence -- the practice of law. There are more than a dozen law offices in downtown Columbus and that number seems to steadily grow. 

 

For years, most attorneys had offices adjacent to the Lowndes County Courthouse along Second Avenue North in a stretch known as Lawyers' Row. That is decidedly no longer the case. While they have fanned out a bit from there, they still prefer to be downtown in close proximity to the courthouse. But local attorney Carrie Jourdan, whose offices are on Main Street, says having her office downtown is about ambiance as well. 

 

"I have always loved being downtown and we primarily moved to have more room, but the reason we chose to stay downtown, for me, it's a couple things," she said. "The first one is the convenience to the courthouse. I know it sounds silly but we have a lot of volume and I love the convenience. The second is I love the architecture and the buildings and the spaces downtown." 

 

Jourdan said working in the downtown area is like being a part of a close-knit community. 

 

"When we moved in, The Purple Elephant ladies brought us an office-warming gift," she said. "Plus, all of the people dropped in to say hello...It's almost like a neighborhood. I feel a sense of community." 

 

Attorney Joe Studdard also loves the downtown atmosphere. Studdard has been practicing law for 27 years. In that time period he has worked in the downtown area for all but six months. When it came time for him to set out on his own, there was, in his mind, only one option. 

 

"I first made the decision to move to my current location because of the building coming open at what I thought was the best location possible -- the corner of College Street and Catfish Alley," he said. 

 

Studdard Law Firm has been at that location for 10 years in a building that once housed a pool hall. Studdard feels his location sets him apart. 

 

"My current location is also within walking distance of the post office, all of the downtown restaurants and retail and the Riverwalk," he said. "Having watched the transformation of the Alley over time, I thought this location would be perfect, and so far, it has been." 

 

Around the corner from Studdard, the law offices of Dunn and Hemphill are located on Fifth Street South next to J. Broussard's. 

 

Attorney Chris Hemphill said the location is not only a matter of convenience to the courthouse, but also about tradition. 

 

"I've been in the downtown area since June of 1992," Hemphill said. "You have the convenience factor of being able to walk to the courthouse and file something. I think when you're downtown you're kind of in the center of business. As time progresses things are certainly spread out but we're established downtown and lawyers, well, like most people, we resist change." 

 

If Hemphill was ever faced with having to move locations, he said he would pick downtown Columbus every time. 

 

"If I were opening my office and there was a space available downtown, I would put my office there," he said. "Absolutely."

 

Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.

 

 

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