Small law firm uses its advantages

Being a small law firm in a small city has its advantages.

For one, Jonathan Butterfield, Fred Holland and Jeffrey Rowe of Murphy, Butterfield & Holland, P.C. enjoy the flexibility of what law they can practice.

“One of the advantages and joys of being a smaller city lawyer is that you don’t have to specialize too much, so you don’t spend time (being bored)…but it wouldn’t be unusual for me to address 30 different matters in the course of the day,” Butterfield said.

The firm, which was started in 1988 by Holland, Butterfield and the late Bert Murphy, handles 14 areas of law and sees a wide range of clientele. Rowe joined the firm in November 2011. In addition to the three lawyers, they employ 8 staff members, five of whom are paralegals.

Butterfield, Holland and Rowe each focus on a different set of practices, though they all are well-versed in multiple fields and bring something unique to the table. Holland works with school boards, real estate, preparing wills and helping people with estates after their family members have died. Butterfield handles many social security cases and worker’s compensation. Rowe, who has a background as a public defender and defense attorney, has gotten the firm into defense representation.

“I think basically we’ve had a pretty good foundation of an existing client base because of Bert’s clients. And we’ve had a law firm that’s been involved in the general practice of law basically trying to serve the needs of members of the community. Bert had a lot of individuals and businesses, school districts, that he represented. We tried to build on that and I think we’ve built on that over the years,” Holland said.

The law firm keeps that clientele base coming back by building and maintaining relationships. One way they do this is by giving back.

Murphy, Butterfield & Holland represent a host of charitable organizations, pro bono, including Habitat for Humanity, Hope Enterprises and arts organizations like Billtown Blues Association, the Williamsport Chamber Choir and Orchestra, and Williamsport City Jazz Orchestra.

Throughout the firm’s 26 years, technology has brought a few changes on the practice.

Where word of mouth and the Yellow Pages used to be the firm’s main form of advertising, the internet has changed the forum of reaching customers. The firm now has a website,, and a Facebook page to keep up with its client base.

“I guess there’s also a change in that there are more…internet purveyors who make it easier for people to take the dangerous step of trying to do their own legal work,” Holland said. “And that always happened to some extent, but that’s a more prevalent thing. People get some knowledge or some information through internet sources and therefore think they can navigate well enough without having a lawyer involved in things in which lawyers were traditionally involved.”

Because of this issue, the firm recently dealt with a will in which the deceased had failed to name any beneficiaries.

Still, the lawyers find much of the work they do to be rewarding.

“I had a social security case not long ago that was probably the most rewarding experience that I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Rowe said.

Rowe was able to secure a man with a challenging set of tick-born illnesses the money he needed to pay for his medical treatments.