Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, & Oswalt Offer Array of Legal Services

By: Linda Hudkins - Blair Business Mirror

Take one step inside the door at 414 North Logan Boulevard, Altoona, PA 16602, and you instantly know that the law firm of Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper & Oswalt has been around for a very long time and that the people who work there are community-minded.

Perched atop the reception desk sits a Loyalty Award, bestowed by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce in 1998. It recognized the business for being a member for 80 years.

Founded more than a century ago as Scheeline and Smith, the law firm later became Scheeline and Leopold and evolved to its current identity in 1992.

On that same reception desk, fliers tout public service events that are pet projects of the attorneys and staff. On a blustery winter day, one flier promoted a Rotary event, while another plugged “basketball for kids.”

But a further step inside the office opens the door to the working world of Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper & Oswalt, a place where they handle the legal needs of people and businesses in Blair County, as well as the surrounding counties of Bedford, Cambria, Centre, and Huntingdon.

“Most people don’t have a need for an attorney,” said Terry Goldstein, one of the partners. But when a person is in need of legal assistance, his firm offers a well-rounded array of services.

“I think it’s important when someone does come to our office, that they should have a good feeling when they walk away – that they were treated with respect and their legal needs have been met,” he said.

The firm is not heavily involved in criminal cases, but rather specializes in about a dozen areas ranging from personal injury and corporate law to real estate, municipal and family law.

As Goldstein puts it, every lawyer seems to find his or her own niche.

“I like transactional-type of law,” he said.

His background in accounting, tax law, real estate, and corporate law define what he currently does in the firm. Other attorneys, he said, prefer courtrooms and trials.

One of those who prefers trial work is Karen Steele. She studied criminology in college before earning a law degree and working a couple of years as a prosecutor.

But today, her specialities are personal injury – which means issues stemming from auto accidents, malpractice and defective products, workers’ compensation cases and civil litigation.

In a soft-spoken manner, she expressed concern that people in need of compensation are afraid to become involved with personal injury lawyers, because of a perception of the field as being based in greed.

“You can’t always be looking at just the money, but at the service you provide,” she said. Her philosophy is to do “whatever it takes” to prepare a good document, even “if it takes all day.”

Steele is invested in the Blair County court system in both pro bono and low-paying transactions.

She’s part of the pro bono mediation panel, appointed by judges on a random and rotating basis to settle cases to avoid costly trials, she said. She’s also a master for juvenile hearings.

The firm of Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, & Oswalt, in addition to its headquarters in Altoona, operates a Tyrone office at 1051 Logan Avenue.

Beyond the five partners, the firm employs one associate attorney and a support staff of 12, which includes legal secretaries and paralegals.

In addition to Goldstein and Steele, the other attorneys – all members of numerous professional organizations – and their areas of expertise are as follows:

John W. Heslop, Jr., specializes in civil litigation, personal injury, estate litigation, workers’ compensation, Social Security, and real estate and boundary disputes. He formerly served as a law clerk in York County in 1980 and joined the firm in 1981.

Larry Crea Clapper represents numerous municipalities and does estate work and will preparation. He as a member of the Duquesne University Law Review from 1984 – 1986 and authored “Eminent Domain: Judicial Interpretation Abridges a Constitutional Guarantee.”

W. Lee Oswalt, III, handles corporate and business law, municipal law, and employment law. He was a law clerk in Blair County from 1985 until 1987.

The list of services provided by Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, & Oswalt includes working for “just compensation” for people who’ve been injured or died from accidents and defective products or services, business and commercial issues, estates and insurance defense. The attorneys also handle trial and appellate work from county to federal, as well as administrative and arbitration hearings.

The lawyers serve as general counsel to corporations and businesses, both large and small.

“We understand the urgency of business and provide timely and efficient service,” Goldstein said.

On an individual level, the law firm handles real estate transactions, from buying and selling, to mortgage loans. They also give advice on appropriate legal documents necessary for dealing with future events, such as death, illness and incapacity.

The firm handles estate administration and probate matters and heirs and beneficiaries in estate contests and disputes.

“We are sensitive to the needs of our clients and their families, as they deal with the legal issues and estate matters involving the death of a loved one,” Goldstein said.

As municipal lawyers, Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, & Oswalt are adept at interpreting and applying municipal law. In family practice, they handle divorces, custodies, support, asset distribution, children and youth actions and adoptions.

For those who are not familiar with the legal trade, members of the firm make sure clients understand how long it may take for a case to reach resolution and how much it’s likely to cost, Goldstein said.

Costs are calculated three different ways, he said. Some cases, such as incorporations, wills, powers of attorney, and deeds are billed at a flat rate. Others are billed by the hour while personal injury and workers’ compensation cases are based on an agreed-upon percentage of money recovered.

The members of the legal team at 414 North Logan Boulevard, and in Tyrone, are also known for their community involvement and charitable works. As individuals, they are involved in their own churches and in civic organizations, Goldstein said. They also perform pro bono legal work for charitable organizations.

“We have been here a long time and take pride in the work product that comes out of here,” Goldstein said. “We don’t manufacture something. We don’t sell a product.”

“Legal services encompass time and documents and a lot of interaction with people and treating them with respect and taking care of their legal needs,” he said. “That’s what an attorney’s product is.”

Goldstein, Heslop, Steele, Clapper, & Oswalt has been a Chamber member since 1917.