Stephen Feinour Reflects on ‘Lawyer of the Year’ for Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law

On August 24, 2022, we shared the announcement that Nauman Smith Partner, Stephen Feinour, has been named Best Lawyers 2023 Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Harrisburg.

The following interview was conducted upon learning of this award.

QUESTION: Steve! We are so excited that this year you’ve been named as the “Lawyer of the Year” for Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. What was your response to learning about this award?

“I am honored and flattered to receive this recognition from my colleagues and peers with respect to a practice area that I’ve engaged in for quite a few years and really enjoy.”

QUESTION: How many years have you been practicing Business & Employment Law for this specific category of Closely Held Companies and Family Business?

“I’d say well over 30 years. I’ve been fortunate to represent a number of family-owned businesses and closely held corporations for many years and have dealt with all of the issues that from time-to-time arise with the operations of these types of businesses.”   

QUESTION: What are some of those issues that come up over and over again?

“Specific to family-owned businesses and closely held corporations, there are always business succession issues in terms of ownership and how ownership is to be passed to either the next generation of family members or to persons outside of the initial group of owners.”

QUESTION: What have you learned over time?

“I’ve learned that with closely held companies and family businesses, there is an emotional component to the decision-making aside from the legalities of the transactions that you’re dealing with. I’ve experienced times when the founders or senior management of the company are reluctant to relinquish control to a younger generation but understand the importance of that being done to ensure the survival of the organization over time.”

QUESTION: What do you believe makes a good Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law attorney?

“The individual has to have a clear understanding of the nature of the business they are dealing with, what issues arise for that particular business over time, and certainly a full understanding of the emotional dynamics and ideas that different stakeholders have. It’s also important to have a well-defined strategic plan so everyone is on the same page with handling issues.”

QUESTION: And what about the emotional role of the attorney in this scenario? Is there one soft skill that you’ve intentionally sharpened over the years?

“I think the most important skill is to be a good listener. I’ve learned over time the importance of understanding the relationship between the owners and being sympathetic to the opinions of the primary stakeholders. It’s not just, “Hey, this is the way to do it,” but it’s about listening to the client and making sure you’re on the same wavelength in terms of where the company is headed.”

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