We are rooted in Wyoming and proud of our heritage. If you’re interested, we’d like to share it with you.
Ranck & Schwartz Come to Wyoming
Merle Ranck and Will Schwartz each came to Wyoming not long after statehood in the early 1900s. Merle ran a barbershop in Cody, while Will was a life-long railroader in Casper where he managed the Burlington roundhouse. Merle and Will each married strong women, Mina and Lorraine, and they all led honorable lives. For our purposes, their most notable contributions were their offspring: each had a son, and each of those sons forged distinguished and lengthy careers as Wyoming lawyers that eventually led to the formation of our firm.
Robert B. Ranck (11/12/29—6/11/2017)
In Cody, Merle and Mina had one son–and he turned out to be one of a kind. After attending high school in Cody, Bob Ranck attended the University of Wisconsin on a boxing scholarship where he became the only man in history to win the NCAA heavyweight championship in two consecutive years—a feat that landed him in the University of Wisconsin’s Athletic Hall of Fame and the Top 100 Wisconsin Badgers of All Time.
Upon graduation Bob served in Korea where he continued to box and won the US Armed Services Championship in the Pacific.
Following Korea, Bob became a special agent in the FBI, serving in Baltimore and Detroit under J. Edgar Hoover. After five years, not happy with Hoover, Bob wanted out. On the advice of former Wyoming Governor Milward Simpson, Bob (who by then had a wife, Avis, and four small daughters) attended night school at the Detroit College of Law, and upon graduation, returned to Wyoming to open shop in Jackson in affiliation with Simpson’s Cody law firm. Over the years, Bob served every role a lawyer in a small town can play—public defender, County Attorney, civil trial lawyer, community leader, and counselor to anyone in need. In 1977, Bob was appointed District Judge for the Ninth Judicial District of Teton County, a position he held in legendary fashion for 12 years until his retirement from the bench in 1989.
William T. Schwartz (7/28/1921—6/8/2008)
Meanwhile, in Casper, Will Schwartz, and his wife Lorraine, also had one son. Bill Schwartz attended Natrona County High School where he served as the Cadet Major of R.O.T.C and as a 130-pound “pulling guard” on the state championship football team. Bill then attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, graduating with a degree in geology. In 1944, Bill was called to serve in the U.S. Army Air Force and survived an extraordinary 50 bombing missions in Europe as a navigator of a “Flying Fortress” for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and other commendations.
The war caused Bill to change career paths and he decided to become a lawyer. After receiving his J.D. from the University of Nebraska, he returned with his new wife Anne to his home town of Casper. With Bill’s background in geology he was drawn to natural resources law and became widely acknowledged as one of the top resource lawyers in the region, serving as President of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and the Consolidated Oil Royalty Company.
But Bill wasn’t a one trick pony. He was the consummate “lawyer’s lawyer” being included in the prestigious publication Best Lawyers in America in seven different practice areas, serving as President of the Wyoming State Bar, and a founder of the Wyoming Bar Foundation.
Bill founded the law firm of Schwartz Bon Walker & Studer in Casper and practiced there until his death in 2008 at the age of 86. In honor of Bill’s legacy of professionalism, his family and the state of Wyoming endowed the William T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the University of Wyoming College of Law.
The Rancks & Schwartzes Join Forces
Bob Ranck and Bill Schwartz and their wives, Avis and Anne, each had four children. In 1980, two of those eight, Cheryl Ranck and Bill Schwartz Jr., landed in the same 1-L class at the University of Wyoming College of Law.
In Jackson, Bob Ranck told his daughter: “Keep your eye out for that Schwartz kid from Casper. His dad is a fine gentleman.” In Casper, Bill Schwartz told his son: “Watch out for that Ranck girl from Jackson. She might punch you in the nose.” Sure enough, the two law students found each other. On a spring day in 1983, instead of attending their law school graduation, Cheryl Ranck and Bill Schwartz were married in Jackson.
After clerking for judges in Cheyenne for a year, Cheryl and Bill moved to Salt Lake City where Bill had landed a promising opportunity with a top “boutique litigation firm.” Six years later, after having had two children and enduring two separate full-blown “boutique litigation firm” crack-ups—with fisticuffs and all—Bill and Cheryl decided they were ready to return to Wyoming. Learning of this in Jackson, Bob Ranck, who as noted had just stepped down from the bench, said: “Well, why don’t you come up here and open a law firm with me?”
Ranck & Schwartz, LLC
In February of 1990 Ranck & Schwartz opened its doors at 20 East Simpson in Jackson with Bill and Bob emphasizing civil litigation and Cheryl launching her career as a child advocate and family law mediator. Bob remained with the firm as its senior partner until he officially retired from the law in 1998. Bob passed away in June of 2017.
Over the years, the firm has partnered and associated with many great lawyers and staff. In particular, the incomparable Michelle Belleville Barry served as office manager, assistant, and paralegal for 16 years.Unfortunately, these professional affiliations ended abruptly in the Spring of 2006 when Bill succumbed to an especially virulent form of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) that rendered him paralyzed and unable to continue practicing law.
Bill’s illness required Cheryl to step away from her busy practice in order to care for him. With the extremely generous and able assistance of lawyer friends Mark Gifford, Brent Cohen and Jan Lewis, and the help of Michelle Belleville Barry, Bill wound down his litigation practice. Although the firm never formally closed its doors, for many years it became largely dormant.
Bill’s recovery from GBS was slow and difficult. Gradually he was able to resume most of his former activities and become more active in his law practice while modifying his focus from litigation to less confrontational activities, such as mediation, receivership work, and general business advice. Ultimately, Bill resumed consulting and assisting as co-counsel in selective litigation matters, including with his daughter, Leah Schwartz, who was associated with another Wyoming law firm. The success of that collaboration persuaded Bill and Leah that it was time to re-establish the legacy of the family’s law practice. In May of 2019, Leah Schwartz joined Ranck & Schwartz, LLC as its managing member and the firm renewed its specialization in all matters related to the resolution of civil disputes. Bill has resumed his roll with the firm as its senior partner. Cheryl Ranck Schwartz and Leah’s husband, Brad Adams, who also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, assist the firm in administrative capacities.
Our family history made us who we are. It inspires our practice.
RANCK & SCHWARTZ, LLC
20 East Simpson Avenue,
Jackson, Wyoming 83001
Telephone: (307) 733-5130
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The Wyoming State Bar does not certify any lawyer as a specialist or expert. Anyone considering a lawyer should independently investigate the lawyer’s credentials and ability, and not rely upon advertisements or self proclaimed expertise.