Keeping it in the family

Sheehan & Sheehan is a third-generation law firm

By Scott Reeder

For Sheehan & Sheehan, Lawyers P.C., law is a family affair.

“I can’t think of any other law practice in Springfield that has lasted three generations, yet alone one that has had two sets of brothers from each generation,” said retired Sangamon County associate judge Roger Holmes.

Holmes said Sheehan & Sheehan, stands out from their peers because of the way they go about practicing law.

“They are proof that you can practice law with respect and dignity and be as effective – or more effective – than some of these scorched-earth type lawyers,” he said.

Even the non-lawyers in the firm bear the name Sheehan.

“I think my mom (Carla) is really the CEO of the operation,” said Catie Sheehan, vice president of advocacy and communications for Hospital Sisters Health System. “She's running everything. She's helping them with the calendars, people coming in the door, getting lunch. I mean, she is taking care of everything like a mom, but also like the rockstar executive assistant at the front desk.  She knows the clients and knows the work product. She's helping in so many different ways. I feel like she's really running the joint.”

Carla’s husband, Patrick Sheehan Sr., is the senior attorney in the firm. Their sons, Patrick Sheehan Jr. and Willie Sheehan, are the other lawyers in the practice. Peter Sheehan, another son, does tax preparation for Sheehan & Sheehan clients from January through April. He is a registered agent with the IRS.

For decades, Patrick Sr. practiced with his brother, Bill, who retired in 2017. The practice was founded in 1960 by their father, William P. Sheehan, and his brother, John C. Sheehan.

Some areas of concentration for the firm include wills and estate management, adoptions, business law, real estate transactions and agriculture.

“We try to give our clients as much personal attention as possible,” Patrick Sr. said. “We understand that every client that comes in has on their mind what is the most important thing for them in the world at that moment. And we appreciate that and react accordingly. So, we provide the personal touch. We try to be very approachable and make people feel comfortable when they come, because we know they're usually here for something that they're anxious about.”

Patrick Sr.’s sister, Anne Antonacci, said the practice of law was like a religious calling for her father and brothers. She noted that when she was teaching at St. Aloysius School, she frequently encountered children whose adoptions were facilitated by her family.

“They are lifelong Catholics, just very kindhearted, good people who want to do well for the people who need their help,” Catie said. “The basis for that is our Catholic faith. So, they treat others the way they would want to be treated. I think they're doing that every step of the way.”

Catie said the “personal touch” goes a step beyond what one typically expects from a law firm. That can even include grocery shopping for a client.

“My dad writes a lot of wills. Sometimes if someone can’t get around so well and just lost a loved one, they may go out and buy them groceries. They have frequently taken (clients) under their wing. … I remember my mom going to Shop ‘n Save to look for a breakfast treat that this client really, really liked.”

Bill Sheehan, who retired in 2017, said the remarkable thing about the practice made up entirely of family members is that everyone gets along.

“I often tell my friends that I practiced law with my big brother for 39 years before I retired.  And you know, we got along great. It certainly doesn't seem to be the norm that two brothers practicing law would continue that long. … In our case, I think that it's because Pat and I are in many ways – despite being brothers – we're very different individuals. Pat was always very passionate about the practice of law. I almost feel like with Pat, he doesn't really think of it as work. It's kind of his hobby as well as his profession. And he loves every minute of it. On the other hand, I always had passion for music and guitar playing.”

Patrick Sr. said his brother was the premier adoption attorney in central Illinois. He noted judges often sought his counsel when pondering legal matters concerning adoptions. The firm continues that legacy.

“My nephews, Patrick and Willie, still handle a fair amount of adoption work, and once in a while, they may bend my ear,” Bill said.  “My father taught me you'd always end up being better prepared for whatever it was you were dealing with just by conferring with someone else. I'm glad to throw in my two cents worth with the younger guys whenever they give me a call and say, ‘Hey Uncle Bill, what do you think of this situation?’”

Patrick Jr. and Willie said since the firm is a family operation, there is greater flexibility in addressing both work and family issues.

“I think because we all are family members, we don't have some of the traditional potential personnel problems,” Patrick Sr. said.  “There are things that we need to get done at odd hours. Or sometimes we have odd deadlines. I’ll say, ‘Hey, guess what, Carla? We're going to the office tonight.’ Or she'll stay late to get stuff done for (Patrick Jr. or Willie). It's just a very unique, very blessed situation.”

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected].




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