A LEGAL LEGACY
As Heidman Law Firm prepares to celebrate 125 years of service in Siouxland, partners of the past, present, and future share their insights into how the firm’s foundation set the framework for a legal legacy.
Every good story is steeped in rich history, and at Heidman Law Firm, located in the opulent Evans Block Building at 1128 Historic 4th Street in downtown Sioux City, history is where we start.
After graduating from Morningside College in 1952, Summa Cum Laude, with a Bachelors of Arts in Economics, Bob Eidsmoe knew he wanted to argue. He’d done well in debate competitions in both high school and college, plus he possessed a propensity for adventure.
“I wanted to win,” Eidsmoe said. “Some of the scariest times of my career and life were spent waiting for a jury to make a decision. Fortunately, I had fewer losses than wins.”
Eidsmoe attended New York University’s School for Law—a decision he made for the handsome financial aid package it offered. Between his second and third year of law school, he used the money he’d saved on tuition to hike around Europe, giving him a taste for travel. After graduating in 1955, Eidsmoe joined the Navy as an officer on USS Chevalier DDR 805. For three years, he fulfilled his service to the country with few expectations of what was next.
Eidsmoe knew he wanted to return to the Midwest. He hated the commute times of New York City, and saw it wear on lawyers he met while working for the U.S. Attorney’s office. He observed them nervously watching the clock trying to decide whether to call it a day or miss their ferry home to their families. Eidsmoe missed the people and pastures of his hometown.
His career as a private practice lawyer began at the firm in October of 1958, after being recruited by John Gleysteen. Back then, the firm had four partners and a different name—Harper, Gleysteen, and Nelson. Eidsmoe was hired as an associate and specialized in civil litigation, along with corporate, business, and real estate law. The offices were on the sixth floor of the old Security Bank Building in downtown Sioux City. There was a reception room, a secretarial room, a file room, a library, and six small offices for the lawyers. That was it. No lunchroom. No coffee room. In fact, no coffee pot.
“In 1958, the secretaries used new IBM electric typewriters, which were the best there were. Copies were made on carbon paper. Letters were taken by dictation and shorthand. Telephones were still of the rotary type. Phone numbers consisted of only five digits,” Eidsmoe said. “On Fridays, we’d close the office at 4 p.m. and have a drink together in the library. It built camaraderie.”
As it turned out, Eidsmoe had a knack for camaraderie. Previously, the firm did not actively recruit up-and-coming legal talent. In the 1970s and 80s, Bob made regular visits to the University of Iowa and Drake University Law Schools to scout out and socialize with graduating law students.
“I picked up good people by getting to know them over a pizza the night before the interview to determine if they’d be a good fit for the firm,” Eidsmoe recalled. “Al Fredregill, Dan Dykstra, Tom Plaza, and Lance Ehmcke were all hired this way. We liked each other and had confidence in one another’s capabilities.”
Eidsmoe’s most memorable case was when he argued and won before the United States Supreme Court. The case reversed the Iowa District Court in Sioux City and the Iowa State Supreme Court. A child had been adopted in Greece, but not yet brought to the United States to live with his adoptive parents when his adoptive father died without a will. Eidsmoe’s claim was that the child was entitled to two thirds of the estate. Eidsmoe and the entire firm were proud to have been asked by the Greek Consulate to represent this case and of this notable achievement. Corbett v. Stergios, 381 U.S. 124, 85 S.Ct 1364, 14 L.Ed.2d 260 (1965).
Eidsmoe retired in 1994 as senior partner after 36 years with Heidman Law Firm. He said he feels fortunate for the era in which he practiced law.
“New technology meant we were able to perform our legal business more quickly and efficiently, but all at a more hectic pace. I liked doing research with indexes,” Eidsmoe said. “We sacrificed personal contacts, camaraderie, and a more relaxing way of life.”
Eidsmoe and his wife relocated to the Southwest shortly after he retired, but moved back to Siouxland this summer. He said they missed Sioux City—particularly its people. Together, they’ve biked over 10,000 miles on international cycling trips. He remains a lifetime director of the Sioux City Symphony, one of many civic organizations he dedicated his time and talent to serving while practicing law.
Who We Are Today
Cindy Moser did not grow up in a family of lawyers, which is to say, a career in law wasn’t something she dreamed of as a young person. An influential history professor Moser had at Northwestern College in Orange City prompted her career path by encouraging her to take the LSAT exam. Moser’s high scores afforded her acceptance into all three of the law schools she applied to, including the College of Law at the University of Iowa.
“My husband, Dan, and I loaded up a little U-Haul and drove to Iowa City with $300 to our name. He didn’t have a job, and we didn’t have a place to live,” said Moser. “I started the University of Iowa College of Law in August of 1974. There were 200 students in my first year class; 20 of us were women. By the time we graduated three years later, we were down to 14 women.”
Things worked out well. By the time Moser finished law school, her husband had completed training at Iowa’s law enforcement academy and was a special agent with the Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI) in Des Moines, IA.
“From 1977-1979, I had an absolutely amazing opportunity to clerk for a federal judge, The Honorable William C. Stuart, who at the time was the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines,” said Moser.
It was her husband’s turn to choose where they would go next, and the DCI had an office in Sioux City. So the investigator and the attorney headed northwest.
While they both had careers anchored in law, Moser decided early on that she would not handle criminal matters in her law practice.
“The beauty of it was he couldn’t talk about what he did, and I couldn’t talk about what I did, so we never took our work home, and it worked well for us,” Moser said.
Although Moser didn’t begin her career at Heidman Law Firm, once onboard she observed that Heidman had something special.
“I hope people recognize the quality of work and the level of sophistication that is delivered by the lawyers at Heidman Law Firm,” Moser said. “We routinely work with lawyers from all over the country—mega-firms with 300-400 attorneys. It is easy to become intimidated and buy into the idea that bigger is better. I quickly learned that we are every bit as good as they are. Every day, I’m in awe of my partners and the people I work with.”
Moser said Sioux City has been a great place to practice law and become an integral part of the community. A longstanding tradition at Heidman Law Firm is community service. Heidman attorneys have volunteered their time and knowledge and made donations to dozens of area organizations, including the LaunchPad Children’s Museum, Iowa Legal Aid, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Sioux City Symphony, United Way, Mercy Child Advocacy Center, local schools, and many others.
“I think there were three female lawyers practicing in Sioux City when I arrived. That has changed dramatically over time, even within the four walls of this building. Today the profession is pretty much 50/50,” Moser said. “It’s astounding to me. That’s a huge sociological shift in 38 years.”
One of the biggest changes Moser has seen during her time in Sioux City is the evolution of a downtown gem—the Evans Block Building.
When Moser and her husband married, the Evans Block Building housed a used furniture store where they bought their kitchen chairs. It changed tenants many times before sitting empty for years.
“Whenever my husband, Dan, and I would drive through this part of town, I would say, ‘that is the most beautiful building in Sioux City and it’s just falling in on itself,’” Moser said. “Heidman Law Firm was in the Pioneer Bank Building and in 2004 we recognized our need to expand further. We came over and saw some of the potential. It’s been a wonderful move for us, and really for the community—to have saved such a remarkable building from the wrecking ball.”
On the horizon of Heidman Law Firm’s 125-year celebration, it seems fitting its business is based in a building with as much history as its practice.
Built in 1890, the Evans Block is one of several buildings in Sioux City’s downtown district showcasing Richardson Romanesque architecture—a style identifiable for its rich rustication masonry, squat columns, and round-headed arches.
“We worked with an interior designer to develop an overall look for the building,” Moser said. “Bart Connelly, who was the developer, was absolutely wonderful to work with. He really wanted this building to be everything it could be—to find a tenant who would honor the history, but also make it function like a modern building. It was a dream.”
Upon entering Heidman Law Firm, one is almost immediately overwhelmed by the opulence of 19-foot ceilings and a historical law library lined with burgundy and hunter green book spines. A spiral staircase corkscrews through the center of the library. Rich woodwork and ambient lighting lend warmth to the space. It’s enough to make a book-lover weak in the knees.
Each partner’s office is decorated to illustrate individuality—and John Gray’s office is unique.
Antique collectables give a glimpse of what Gray enjoys outside of courtroom—history, bicycles, and breweries. One vintage sign stands out. It reads Gray & Gray Lawyers in weathered, hand-printed lettering.
“My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my great uncle, my father and two of my uncles all practiced law in Rockwell City, Iowa,” Gray said. “My father practiced until he was 86 years old.”
Gray attended the University of Iowa for both his undergraduate degree and his Jurisprudence Doctorate. He began working for Heidman Law in June of 1984 after completing two judicial clerkships.
“The most impressive thing about working for Heidman Law Firm is the way the lawyers work together,” Gray said. “There is this steadfast dedication to our clients and the clients’ best interests.”
Dedication is a quality Gray attributes to Heidman Law Firm’s longevity.
“Although we have a diverse group of folks with very different philosophies, everyone here has similar values and work ethic,” Gray said. “We dedicate ourselves to the profession of law rather than the business.”
From a past, present, and future standpoint, Gray said a lot of what attorneys do hasn’t changed—they are still counselors who offer expert knowledge and solutions to problems.
What the Future Holds
The first time Pat Sealey came to Sioux City was for his interview at Heidman Law Firm. Born and raised in Hastings, Nebraska, Sealey attended the University of Nebraska for his undergraduate degree in political science and the University of Iowa for law school. He had multiple job offers in law school, but his interview with Heidman Law Firm stood out.
“I was fortunate enough to graduate from college with a 4.0 grade point average, and at one point, Marv Heidman asked me if I had the work ethic to be a successful lawyer. Alan Fredregill blurted out an extremely candid retort about asking the obvious. I realized that these men were similar to the type of person I was,” Sealey said. “It was apparent there was a lot of love there. It was also apparent that this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Sealey and his wife moved to Sioux City in 1995. Twenty-one years later, they are still here.
“I’m a Midwestern guy, and Sioux City has always felt very comfortable,” Sealey said. “Although we are in a somewhat smaller market, we can continue to improve ourselves as legal professionals by taking on significant litigation.”
Recruitment continues to be essential to the continuity and legacy of Heidman Law Firm. “We understand the magnitude of hiring the right people. A candidate has to be someone who would not only fit into Sioux City, but the family here at the firm. I can only speak for the last 21 years, but if you go back, you would see the same values—integrity, work ethic, and dedication.” Sealey said. “We feel strongly about passing those core values on to the younger partners and attorneys, as they are the key to the longevity of Heidman Law Firm.”
To this day, the partners at Heidman Law Firm regularly wrap up early on Friday’s to decompress, discuss the week’s business, and foster the camaraderie so important to the firm’s future.