RIPLEY - When people return to their hometown after over a decade spent getting an education and experience in their field, the reasons can vary drastically.
For 1999 Ripley High alumnus Seth Harper, the reasons are actually quite simple.
"Coming home and doing things on my own terms has been on my mind for several years. The timing was right and I seized the moment. I love this town and I love its people," said Harper.
"My parents (Curt and Vickie) are just happy to have someone help out in the garden," he joked.
Harper's journey through undergraduate studies at Marshall University and law school at West Virginia University's College of Law took him far away from the Ripley Health Center where at 6-foot-4, he used to bang bodies in the paint for former Viking coach Randy Anderson and for one season, current Viking head coach Craig Harmon.
"Harper was a big athletic kid who knew how to use his size to his advantage. He was a smart player," said Harmon.
Smart he is. Harper graduated with honors in Morgantown and took a job as a Law Clerk for The Honorable Gary L. Johnson, the Chief Judge of the 28th Judicial Circuit Court in Summerville. While he held the position for a year in 2006-'07, the experience has been invaluable.
"Looking back, I wish I had stayed there for another year. You can't put a price on learning the other side of the courtroom. It gave me perspective and knowledge that I still apply in my work. It was a great experience for a young attorney," said Harper, whose office in Ripley will focus on criminal and civil matters.
From 2007 to 2009 he sharpened his skills as an Associate for Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe and worked from their Morgantown and Charleston offices. With this position he gained experience in all areas of litigation and worked in state and federal courts.
"As an associate you pick up the scraps from the partners but it was good for me and I felt like I was able to consistently produce quality work."
In 2010 Harper took a position with Spilman, Thomas & Battle in Morgantown and gained large, higher profile experience involving legal malpractice, coal and gas contract disputes and litigation involving other minerals.
"It was during my time there that I really started longing to practice in Ripley and I began to put the wheels in motion while planning my strategy. I really wanted to work more directly with people. Working for myself was always a goal of mine and it feels good to see it come to life," said Harper.
"Right now I don't even have a secretary and I am a one man show. I realize this will have to change soon enough. I am a practical guy and I think that helps me relate to people and I enjoy helping others."
Page 2 of 2 - Harpers office is located in the Carson's Corner Professional Building at 101 North Court Street in Ripley.
With a "soft opening" two weeks ago Harper has been busy organizing his office and working on his web site, which will launch in the coming weeks.
"I really have no plans for a ribbon cutting or anything like that. People are starting to know I am here and open for business. I feel that there is enough work here to keep me busy without hurting any other attorneys in town," he said.
Harper feels he has something unique to offer and looks forward to reconnecting with the community.
"The old saying used to be that you just needed a phone and a legal pad to practice law. Now it has become a computer, a cell phone and a wifi connection. I feel that my experience working for Judge Johnson gives me something unique and special. That experience was so important in shaping and developing how I approach my work," added Harper.
So, will the former Viking post-man catch some hoops action this winter?
"Absolutely. I look forward to watching some basketball. I was setting up a business account at the bank the other day and ran into two old classmates. That is what brought me back to Ripley - The people."
You can contact Harper's office directly at 304-372-1199