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Century-old law firm stays relevant by focusing on clients’ needs

BILOXI — The Rushing & Guice law firm of Biloxi has been a mainstay of the state’s legal community for almost 100 years. Founded in 1908, it is South Mississippi’s oldest law firm and among the oldest in the state.

The third-generation Guice family member in the firm, William Lee Guice III, (Billy) says the venerable firm has endured for a number of reasons. “Part of it is the inherent flexibility of small firms. They are more capable of changing with the times. The size has helped,” he said. “Larger firms are more difficult to maintain.”

The fundamental presence the firm has is another reason for its longevity. “We always have one or two lawyers who have a commitment to the law. They love law,” he said. “We enjoy the practice and helping our clients; we love helping people and have more client contact. We get involved with clients’ families. We have represented some clients for four generations.”

Rushing & Guice currently has four lawyers in the firm and one of counsel. The counselor is Billy Guice’s 91-year-old father, Jacob Davis Guice, whose father founded the firm with Charles Rushing. William Lee Guice Jr. was Billy Guice’s uncle who was killed in World War II. Although there hasn’t been a Rushing involved since Charles Rushing, the firm maintains the original name in honor of the co-founder.

“We can call on my dad for advice,” Billy Guice says. He is proud of his dad, who was a Phi Beta Kappa at Tulane University and a graduate of Yale Law School. The elder Guice, however, took the Mississippi Bar exam and was admitted in 1938, before his law school graduation.

Billy Guice continued the tradition of attending Tulane, earning undergraduate and law school degrees at the New Orleans university. He spent his junior year abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris but other than that has lived in Biloxi all his life.

“I felt no pressure to go into law even though I’m the seventh or eighth lawyer in the family and the third one in this law firm,” he said. “You grow up with law and it becomes a part of you.”

His own two sons are not in the law firm, working instead in the maritime business.

To continue serving clients through the years, a law firm must remain relevant. Guice says the firm’s attorneys do that through continuing education and understanding clients’ needs. “We must anticipate changes and how they will affect our clients and society,” he said. “It’s more that just mechanics. The term ‘counselor’ means we must advise our clients and plan with them.”

He points out that the firm has had judges, mayors, state representatives and one of the founders of the Republican Party in Mississippi on staff. “We have participated in social changes even though they were not always popular,” he said.

The firm’s focus is always toward the business of clients and the individuals’ needs. “That’s the principal focus and that never changes,” Guice said. “We’re in the service business and try to maintain that focus. If that’s the focus, everything else falls into place. We’ve been very fortunate but try not to focus on just making money.”

Rushing & Guice represents businesses, banking, maritime and complicated real estate cases. Guice says they enjoy the heavy side of law; maybe cases other lawyers don’t want to do. “Sometimes it’s not the flashiest thing in the world,” he said. “We’ve represented a number of lawyers and judges from time to time.”

He feels the firm’s strength is its people. “At the end of the day, a lawyer has his reputation and a few clients,” he said. “The firm enjoys that and is mindful of that. Even when we’re doing the right thing, it might not always be the popular thing.”

Guice says the firm has short- and long-term goals. In the short term, being a part of rebuilding the Coast is important to everyone in the firm. For the long term, he and others involved hope to continue to provide high-quality service.

“There is no goal to be a large firm but I want to see the firm go on another hundred years,” he said. “We must mind our ethics, do the right thing and keep quality people. With all of that, there’s no reason why it won’t go on for another 100 years.”

The firm is involved in the area’s rebuilding in several ways. Although this lifelong Biloxi resident misses the smell of seafood factories, he recognizes that things change.

“The Coast is an area of interesting changes. It will be a different place but a better place,” he believes. “I’m happy to be from Biloxi, a city that’s leading the way. People in banking and finance are very happy with the way things are going here. I think we will see a strong economy in Biloxi.”

Rushing & Guice is helping some area architects with developing the modular homes concept and is participating in some large real estate developments. They also represent Harrah’s Entertainment, which owns the Grand Biloxi Casino and making plans for another large scale casino resort.

“Harrah’s is making good, sound business decisions and they’re taking their time doing it,” Guice said. “The dollar figure changes from time to time because they want to allow prices to stabilize. What they build on the Coast will be the standard by which everything else is going to be judged. It will enhance the area and be a driving economic factor.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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