My life as a Country Lawyer
I grew up in Eastern Washington in the small town of Moses Lake. My dad was a lawyer there. I remember as a youngster raising chickens in the backyard of our rural home as a food staple. I never had a key to our house. It did not even dawn on me that a key was useful for any purpose as our front door was never locked. My mom stored the keys to her car in the cars ignition so she always knew where they were. We had party lines, black and white TV’s that we covered with a rainbow colored sheet of plastic to make it a color TV. We rode our bikes all over the neighborhood and played outside well past dark without any care or concern. When I went to visit my girlfriend my mom would know because the neighbor lady would call her. If I was in trouble at school the principal would usually tell my dad when they were playing golf on Saturday. Mom would drop us off at the pool in the summer time and leave us there most of the day. Living in a small town was an idyllic life.
It was in this same wonderful small town that I started my law practice. While eventually I developed a litigation practice, when I first started I handled everything from Adoptions to Wills. We handled family law issues and were often paid in poultry or vegetables. You handled whatever came through the door. In the first few years of my practice I handled a wide variety of civil and criminal cases. In my first 5 years of practice I handled a First Degree Murder trial (Court Appointed) and a federal criminal trial that ended up arguing before the United States Supreme Court (U.S. v Powell, 423 U.S. 87 (1975). Practicing in a small town allowed me to take cases that were not available to my classmates who set off to the big cities to make their fortune.
My father had unsuccessfully run for Superior Court judge. I also ran years later against a 10 year incumbent and was elected and proudly served as a Grant County Superior Court judge. I retired from the bench to return to my first love, trying cases. I developed an active trial practice trying cases in nearly every county in Washington. I was fortunate to have tried over 100 trials to verdict.
I am now on the back nine of my legal career and looking back I am grateful that I was raised in a small town and have worked for over 40 years as a simple country lawyer. My law firm now includes 6 lawyers, in offices in Moses Lake, Ephrata and Seattle. One of my son’s is in my practice and one of my daughters is studying the law with me as a Rule 6 Clerk.
Our practice remains varied although we have developed a substantial litigation practice representing school districts, cities and counties is a variety of civil cases. It is my country roots that cause me to reflect today on the high cost of attorneys and of civil litigation and to formulate strategies where we can effectively represent individuals, farmers, ranchers and small businesses in all phases of litigation at a reasonable price. We employ fixed fee agreements and limited representation agreements (aka bundled legal services) with some of our clients to create affordable representation. Our overhead is lower than the big cities and our hourly rates are correspondingly lower. My rural upbringing has influenced how our firm is developing its business. We have to come up with strategies that open the door to every day folks to access high quality legal services at an affordable price. Many of our future blogs will focus on this important goal.