Our law firm was established in 1978 by John Harris, John Dowell, and Ronald Fisher.
At that time, John Harris had been working in labor law for about 20 years, beginning with five years as trial counsel and chief trial counsel with the National Labor Relations Board, and continuing as in-house labor counsel for AT&T and chief trial counsel for two prominent St. Louis management labor law firms. He started his own firm in 1973, quickly building a strong practice with many clients the firm continues to represent today.
After returning from service in Vietnam, John Dowell began practice in 1969 with another prominent labor law firm in St. Louis. He was a pioneer in defending discrimination cases, representing United Parcel Service against numerous discrimination charges in the early 1970s. Ron Fisher joined John Dowell at that firm in 1970, after three years with a Chicago-based union.
In 1978, John Dowell and Ron Fisher decided to start their own practice, joining John Harris to form the Harris, Dowell & Fisher law firm in October 1978, with offices in the rapidly growing Chesterfield area of St. Louis County.
The new partners envisioned the firm as based not on delegating as much work as possible to less experienced attorneys, but on directly applying their experience and expertise to performing most of the client services and legal work themselves.
In 2013, we expanded our service to employers when J. Bradley Young joined our firm, adding Workers Compensation Defense to our employment law practice. National Employment law firms never handle workers compensation defense, and few workers compensation defense firms have any expertise in the area of labor and employment law. And yet, we have found that with the complexity of today’s employment litigation, employers need attorneys with experience in ALL aspects of law, not merely one isolated area.
For over 40 years, the firm has remained true to this vision. As presently constituted, we have eight highly experienced partners and associates who can handle all aspects of employment law and workers compensation defense.
Michael F. Harris came to the firm in 1984, from a top international law firm. Mike is also a Certified Public Accountant, giving him a more diversified background with which to represent his clients. In addition to traditional labor and employment law matters, Mike represents numerous employers in OSHA and multi-employer plan withdrawal liability matters.
George L. Lenard came to the firm in 1985, becoming a partner in 1993. George brought to the firm excellent legal research, writing, and analytical skills, which complement the trial and client counseling skills of the other partners. The firm’s clients benefit from the fact that George continues to skillfully perform research and writing work that many firms would delegate to less experienced junior associates.
Elizabeth A. Rice Johnson came to the firm as an associate in 2001, following two years as a Staff Attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Elizabeth works closely with all the other attorneys in the firm and their clients.
Fred A. Ricks came to the firm as a partner in 2003. Fred had previously practiced management labor and employment law for many years with another St. Louis labor and employment law firm. Fred has much experience in traditional labor law representation, including collective-bargaining negotiations, arbitrations, and NLRB proceedings, as well as all other areas of the firm’s practice. He also defends employment discrimination cases throughout the country for a prominent securities firm.
Peggy Hecht joined the firm in 2013, bringing her more than 25 years of workers compensation defense experience with her. Peggy has worked at the Second Injury Fund, as well as with countless insurance carriers, third party administrators, and self-insured employers in both Missouri and Illinois, fighting fraudulent claims and ensuring that injured workers do not abuse the workers compensation system. Peggy has developed an insightful perspective on not only the needs of adjusters and claims’ managers, but also how to work directly with insured employers to smoothly manage a workers compensation claim from beginning to end.
Don Balfour joined the firm in 2016 with over 30 years of experience in defending Employers and Insurance carriers in workers compensation claims. He was the managing staff counsel for Travelers insurance for 8 years, and was then the managing staff counsel for CNA Insurance for almost 20 years. Don has defended workers compensation claims at every level, from pro-se settlements to arguing before the Court of Appeals, defending claims in both Missouri and Illinois.