McGrath North the ‘Creighton-est’ Law Firm Serving Omaha


McGrath North executive vice president Bill Hargens, left, and chairman and president Roger Wells, right, pose for a portrait. (Courtesy Creighton University)
By 
Micah Mertes
Creighton University

Creighton University’s School of Law and McGrath North share a long history well-known to anyone who’s gone to the school or worked at the Omaha firm.

It starts with the firm’s name.

The McGrath of McGrath North is founding partner Ray McGrath, who was a 1930 graduate of Creighton Law.

The North of McGrath North is Jack North, a 1948 graduate and  a former Creighton law professor, to boot.

Former law professor Rodney Shkolnick was also a named partner at one point in the firm’s history.

North co-founded McGrath North 60 years ago, and by the late ’70s, he had established a firm of about a dozen attorneys – mostly locals who attended high school in Omaha and law school at Creighton, all top of their class.

“Jack took that core group of people and built the firm into what it is today,” said Roger Wells, the firm’s chairman and president and a 1981 Creighton Law alumnus. “We’ve continued to build on that.”

Today at McGrath North, every five in seven attorneys is a Creighton law graduate. One in three attended the university as an undergraduate student.

Much of that’s due to proximity – the firm and the university are right down the road from each other. Much is owed to the firm’s clerk program, which remains a strong, steady pipeline of prospective employees. Many of the students who work as clerks become associates after law school.  

This was the path taken by Stacey Shadden, a 2013 Creighton Law graduate who has been with the firm since interning as a clerk the summer after her first year of law school.

“Creighton’s Jesuit values become ingrained not only in who you are but in what you look for in your life after Creighton,” Shadden said. “McGrath North has the values and culture I was looking for.” 

For Shadden, the firm feels like a warm, comforting continuation of her Creighton experience. The university’s core beliefs are baked into McGrath North’s DNA.

It’s interesting, Wells said, but no one’s ever done an accounting of Creighton and McGrath North’s shared values. Not until recently, when Wells looked at them side-by-side. The amount of overlap was striking.  

“You look at Creighton’s mission statement, which says that it’s a university ‘committed to excellence,’” Wells said. “Then you look at our firm’s commitments statement. The opening line is, ‘Our firm’s core guidepost is excellence, and we’re committed to pursuing and rewarding excellence each day and every day.’

“‘You look at cura personalis, which means ‘respecting each person as a child of God.’ Then you look at our firm’s commitments, one of which is ‘We will treat our team and clients with genuine respect. We will work hard to earn the same from you.’

“It’s really remarkable how much we share,” Shadden said.

No one ever consciously tried to make the firm’s values align with Creighton’s beliefs. It just happened naturally. The firm’s all the better for it, Wells said.  

As the university continues to shape the history, culture and makeup of McGrath North, the firm continues to support Creighton as well.

McGrath North has contributed significant amounts to the law school, including gifts toward a legal research center, an endowed chair and an endowed scholarship fund that provides two law students with 505 tuition. Many of the firm’s Creighton alumni have made gifts to the University over the years, as well.

“We’ve always done what we can to keep the law school vibrant and moving forward,” said McGrath North executive vice president Bill Hargens, a 1981 Creighton Law alumnus. “The alumni have remained committed to the law school. Because we know that without Creighton law school, Omaha would be a very different town. We’ve got to do what we can to preserve that.”

 

A version of this story first appeared in Creighton’s alumni website, alumni.creighton.edu.

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