Robert Morris wasn’t supposed to have a legal career in the Glens Falls area.
The son of a prominent Utica barrister, Morris came to Glens Falls after graduating from Albany Law School to get some experience before returning to Utica and helping run his father’s firm. But after three or so years in Glens Falls, when his father asked when he was coming back to his hometown, Morris realized he had no desire to leave Glens Falls.
He had married and started a family in town, and gotten to like the community, his work and fellow lawyers.
“We really got very comfortable here,” he said.
Fifty years later Morris, 75, is still a player on the local legal scene, working with the Glens Falls firm he helped found 27 years ago and helping to guide the local industrial development agencies. He said he still enjoys his part-time work “of counsel” to FitzGerald Morris Baker Firth PC, and remote access allows him to work from Florida several months a year.
His status as one of the Warren County Bar Association’s senior practicing members prompted a reception honoring him earlier this summer. But despite that celebration, Morris said he plans to continue the work he loves, albeit on a part-time basis at this point of his career.
“It’s really hard to believe it’s been 50 years. How did that happen?” he asked.
Much has changed over those decades, technological advances chief among them. The local bar association has grown exponentially, and younger lawyers don’t enjoy the same social scene in which older members took part.
He said it is particularly interesting to see the reaction of some of the new lawyers when he explains how long he has been practicing in local courts.
“Some of the younger associates, you could see it in their eyes when you tell them ‘50 years,’” he said.
Morris carved out a legal niche in representation of municipalities and local economic development and industrial development entities. Many of the biggest development projects in the region over the past three-plus decades featured Morris behind the scenes, steering the legal process.
He was city attorney for then-Mayor Ed Bartholomew in the 1970s and 1980s when the Glens Falls Civic Center landed the contract as home to the Detroit Red Wings’ top hockey farm team, the Adirondack Red Wings.
“That was a big deal. It was exciting,” he said.
His years as deputy Warren County attorney and counsel for local economic development and industrial development agencies put him in the middle of projects such as the moving of Namic’s headquarters to Pruyn’s Island; National Grid’s move to Quaker Road; Irving Tissue’s expansion; and the negotiations in the 1980s to get former Warren Street fixture Ciba Geigy to help the city of Glens Falls build a new wastewater treatment plant.
He speaks proudly of the municipal efforts to turn a former junkyard on Broad Street in Glens Falls into the shopping plaza where Hannaford now sits.
“What a difference that has made,” he said.
He helped bring together lawyers Peter FitzGerald, Carl Baker and Peter Firth in the late 1980s to create the firm that their names still grace and which remains one of the most prominent in the region.
He semi-retired from his managing partner position in 2008 but has stayed on in a part-time “of counsel” capacity. He has also been involved in many civic organizations, among them the Glens Falls Planning Board, Warren County chapter of the American Cancer Society, Chapman Museum, Glens Falls Masonic Lodge and Glens Falls National Bank regional development board.
“In his 50 years of practicing law in Glens Falls, Bob has played integral roles in the advancement of the profession and the development of our community,” said John Aspland, managing partner of Fitzgerald Morris Baker Firth. “His dedication to the people who are his clients, his friends and his colleagues is beyond compare. I can only hope that we all aspire to reach that pinnacle one day.”
A resident of Cleverdale, Morris said he is mulling his next career move and whether to scale back work so he can enjoy more golf, pickleball and time at Lake George Club.
“I’ve had a great career. This is a great firm, the people are like family,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”