On the morning of Sept. 28, 1965, when Kitty Eastridge showed up for her first day at a law firm that would become part of McGuireWoods, Lyndon Johnson was president, gas was 31 cents a gallon and Americans were just getting familiar with an obscure nation in Indochina called Vietnam. Fifty years of outstanding service and countless friendships later, she’s still at it.
Kitty started her legal career as a legal secretary at Bauknight, Prichard, McCandlish & Williams in Fairfax and was quickly promoted to bookkeeper. In the 1980s, after her firm merged with McGuireWoods, several close calls in the ever-worsening traffic of fast-growing northern Virginia convinced her that the daily commute was too treacherous and she decided to quit.
When she informed partner Dennis McArver, he decided she was too valuable to lose. The merged firm was centralizing its accounting operations in Richmond, and McArver – who died two years ago – arranged for her to transfer to Virginia’s capital city in 1989. She remains there today after being promoted in 1998 to the firm’s records department, opening new client files, providing research, monitoring the records helpline and more.
As Kitty ponders the half-century sweep of her career and the technological advancements that were imaginable only as science fiction in 1965, she is grateful she has been part of it all.
“When I look at all of the changes that have taken place at the firm, I’m amazed that I was a part of it,” she said. “I’m honored and privileged to have grown with such a caring law firm. I consider McGuireWoods to be my family.”
As for retirement?
“I’m 74 and in good health. I have no plans to retire,” she said. “I would miss my McGuireWoods family.”
At the dawn of her career, manual typewriters and 10-key adding machines were the state of the art. Computerized office equipment consolidated and sped up payroll, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and other clerical and administrative work. She mastered each newer, faster, smaller and more powerful generation of technology, earning respect and affection throughout the firm.
“As one of our longest-tenured employees, Kitty’s dedication to McGuireWoods and her longevity of 50 years is truly remarkable,” said Chairman Richard Cullen. “Kitty is an inspiration to all of us, not only because she has been a loyal and valuable team member, but because of the positive way she performs her important job.
Kitty’s friendship with Tysons Corner partner Tom Brown dates to the early 1970s, long enough for him to borrow a nickname for her – Miss Kitty –from a popular television series of the day, “Gunsmoke.”
“The thing that stands out in my mind is that she has always been a model of what I would call calm, serene helpfulness, no matter what the crisis or issue,” Brown said. “Her waters run still but very deep, and she is an absolute treasure in the law firm.”
Retired partner Stanley Franklin recalled that Kitty was indispensable to running the office when he began practicing law in February 1966.
“She was, and is, the sort of person who tells the truth – unvarnished and with such reliability that she is the source of what, when, who and how much,” he said. “Everyone knew Kitty’s number and she always answered in such a way as to make even bad news pleasant.”
Rhonda Todd, Kitty’s manager, said, “We are so fortunate to have Kitty on our team. She is a true professional who genuinely cares about her colleagues and the success of the firm and it shows in everything she does. We are honored to be able to celebrate this special milestone with her.”