Longtime attorney shifting his practice



Paralegal Robyn Clark, left, and attorney Nathaniel R. “Nat” Fenton with their dogs on a recent Friday in their Cottage Street office. Fenton is moving and joining the firm of Eaton Peabody. PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

Paralegal Robyn Clark, left, and attorney Nathaniel R. “Nat” Fenton with their dogs on a recent Friday in their Cottage Street office. Fenton is moving and joining the firm of Eaton Peabody.
PHOTO BY LIZ GRAVES

BAR HARBOR — Nat Fenton and his late father, Bill Fenton, have logged a combined 102 years of legal practice serving the people of Mount Desert Island. Fenton is not retiring quite yet, but he is joining the statewide firm Eaton Peabody and moving his offices to Ellsworth. He says a primary reason is an easy transition for his clients in the future when he’s no longer practicing.

Fenton learned about how much work it is to close down a solo law practice a few years ago, he said, when his friend George Kesaris died. He wants to avoid that situation if something happens to him.

“He was a sole practitioner like me,” he said, “and had picked me to close his practice. He died, and it was up to me, basically, to see that [his clients] got their files back” and any pending matters went to another attorney.

“Some of his clients came to me and some went elsewhere, which was fine. It was a difficult process, and it would have been easier if he’d had a partner or other people who could step in right away.”

He has been talking with friends at Eaton Peabody for several years about joining forces. Kesaris’ death and closing that practice “was one precipitating event,” he said. “And I’m getting older as well and hoping I can slow down a little bit at some point. So we finally decided this would be a good time to start that process.”

Fenton has had a working friendship with Eaton Peabody attorneys dating back to 1978 when he worked on a case about an airplane crash.

“One of the attorneys I worked with in that case was [Eaton Peabody shareholder] Berney Kubetz. Later, I got to know other lawyers in the firm and would refer matters to them.”

He stresses that clients always have a choice of where they can go, so he’s not “giving” his current clients to his new firm.

“The major thing was to make sure that my clients would be covered with competent counsel,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can continue to represent them, but if something happened to me, they would have any choice they’d want to make, but my hope is they’d be well represented by the people at Eaton Peabody, who I feel are competent to handle their affairs.”

For many years, Nat and Bill Fenton worked together at the firm on Main Street in Bar Harbor now known as Fenton, Chapman, Wheatley & Kane. At the time, it was Fenton, Chapman, Fenton, Smith & Kane, he said.

That firm traces its roots all the way to its 1884 founding by L.B. Deasy, but Bill Fenton and Ed Smith started it in its current form in 1947. It was housed on the second floor of the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust building until 1969 when it bought the Main Street building across from the First, Fenton said.

“It’s strange to me,” Fenton said, that few new attorneys have come to town. “Certainly I think there are opportunities now here on the island with a lot of people retiring, like Chad Smith here and Phil Worden in Northeast Harbor. There’s a lot of work to do.”

Fenton’s longtime paralegal Robyn Clark will move with him to the Ellsworth practice. Fenton’s son Toby, also an attorney, has been part of the Bar Harbor practice in recent years but is now in Boston.

Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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