Feature

Moving Forward

With commitment, hard work and a smile,
Ed Harnden prepares for OSB presidency

By Paul Nickell and Cliff Collins

Oregon State Bar members can be assured that issues involving access to legal services will receive great attention, with the elevation of Edwin A. Harnden as the new bar president.

'He's worked effectively to make access to justice the bar's top priority,' observes Linda Clingan, executive director of the Campaign for Equal Justice. Harnden has worked on the campaign as a volunteer since the nonprofit organization's inception nearly a decade ago. He also chaired the OSB's first access to justice committee, helped organize two statewide conferences devoted to the issue and chaired last year's landmark statewide legal needs study (see OSB Bulletin, December 2000).

One summer he even volunteered his daughter, Brooke, who is fluent in Spanish, to help with the campaign's migrant program. 'He paid her salary, and she worked for us,' Clingan says. 'He's a guy who goes all out' for things he believes in. 'He really is committed.'

Consider that Harnden's first law-related jobs were during two summers he spent while in law school working for Marion-Polk County Legal Aid in the early 1970s. Now Harnden has been part of the Campaign for Access to Justice's success in raising $6.2 million in nine years.

'At first the legal community was skeptical (about the campaign), but now we can't imagine our state without it,' he says. Harnden recently met with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and the chair of the national Legal Services Corp. about increasing national funding for the cause, and Harnden is optimistic that more money is forthcoming. 'Oregon is nationally known for its innovative approaches to funding legal services,' he says, noting that he speaks often to ABA groups and related organizations about how states can better fund legal services.

Growing up in rural Oregon, Harnden had no attorney relatives. 'There wasn't anyone in my family involved in the law, the good side or the bad side,' he says. Born 54 years ago in Medford, he was raised in Philomath, which at the time had a population totaling about 900. He participated in school government and civic groups, and although he does not advertise the fact, he raised prize-winning hogs for the 4-H Club.

Hard work and long hours were a way of life for his family. His father worked in a sawmill, while the family maintained a dairy farm. Young Ed did everything at the sawmill and on the farm while growing up, from shoveling sawdust, to milking cows, to working the 'green chain' at the mill - one of the toughest jobs, where workers hand-pull lumber into stacks. A good student, he aspired to law school. Early influences he recalls while growing up were lawyers Jim Walton, a longtime Corvallis attorney who died in 1993, and Bob Ringo, another longtime Corvallis lawyer who represented his parents (and who at age 76 still practices is a good friend).

Walton told Harnden that he considered Columbia University to be the best college in the country, so when the time came for Harnden to apply for schools, he applied at the University of Oregon, Stanford University and Columbia. He was accepted by and chose Columbia without ever seeing the school or ever having been to New York, let alone east of Idaho. He received a much-needed scholarship and supported himself by working 20 to 30 hours a week as a bartender for a private bartending agency he founded; later during law school, he averaged 40 hours a week as manager of the agency. Ed had accepted a loan from a hometown lumberman, whose only stipulation was that Harnden work full-time to help earn his way through school. At Columbia, Ed was on the track and cross-country teams (and he admits now to wishing he was even close to being being in the same shape today).

Harnden completed his undergraduate degree in American history and political science, then finished law school at Columbia as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. 'There was never a thought in my mind that I would do anything other than move back to the Northwest and practice law,' he says. 'The East Coast remains a vibrant place to visit, but the practice in Oregon can't be matched anywhere. The bartenders here aren't bad, either.'

Harnden spent the bulk of his career - 26 years - at Lane Powell Spears Lubersky in Portland, where he was managing partner at Spears Lubersky both before and after its merger with Lane Powell of Seattle, then was managing partner firmwide for five years. In 1998, he helped form and became managing partner at Barran Liebman, which specializes in representing employers in labor and employment matters.

Harnden's intellectual abilities, legal skills and love of life and the law were evident early on to his colleagues. Paula Barran, who has practiced with him for 20 years, admits, 'I have been in awe of him from about the day I met him.' His energetic capacity for doing legal work is off the charts, she feels, having observed him come in at 6 and leave at midnight, even while rarely looking tired and maintaining a youthful, almost boyish appearance.

'He had braces when he started practicing law,' she remembers. 'He looks like a little kid anyway; straight out of school, he looked 12 years old.' But Barran, a partner at Barran Liebman, says Harnden's youthful appearance often fools people until they become aware of his ability and 'enormous depths of knowledge.' After serving in a senior management capacity in both firms, Harnden has developed a strong expertise and interest in teaching other lawyers and firms the leadership and management techniques and practice skills that are often not taught in law school.

Harnden's own management style is 'consensus building,' observes Barran. 'but at the same time he does what is right and fair. He's not a hierarchical type person,' is easy-going and possesses an 'inbred optimism and cheerfulness.' She calls him 'a truly happy person. He's a good person to know and work beside.' Barran adds that Harnden is a master at celebrating the good things of everyday life.

'I enjoy and love what I do, and I hope it shows,' Harnden says. 'I try to work hard at it, and if it means a little less sleep, so be it.' A little less than what is hard to determine: Growing up in the farm life and working in the mill as a youth, he got little sleep. He still doesn't, averaging only four or five hours a night. 'In my mind, we only have so much time allotted to us to make a positive difference, and therefore need to make every minute of every day count.'

Harnden's volunteer commitments outside of work are almost too numerous to recount comprehensively. But they include the following: Besides serving now in his fourth year on the OSB Board of Governors, he chaired the board of the Professional Liability Fund; served on the Board of Bar Examiners; and served as president of the board of the Multnomah Bar Association, along with myriad other volunteer duties with that bar, including mentoring young attorneys.

'He's the kind of guy whose focus is not limited to just his cases,' but who has a broader vision of 'what's best for the profession, what's best for the bar,' notes Don Marmaduke, a partner with Tonkon Torp. 'He's engaged in giving, not just getting. He's given a lot to the public and profession and will continue to do so.'

Barran points also to Harnden's active support of Lincoln High School and young people, especially in sports activities such as coaching Babe Ruth baseball. Harnden and his wife, Emily, both are strong supporters of the American Cancer Society's Camp Ukandu, a camp for children who have cancer. His activities represent 'an enormous amount of time commitment,' observes Barran. 'He carves up his life and says, 'I have to readjust this or maybe just get less sleep to do what I have to do.' He doesn't give things short shrift. We can expect that, as bar president, he will take on every' issue or problem that comes up.

Harnden dabbles in golf and enjoys photography, but admits his biggest passion is for his civic activities. 'What I consider my hobby is the time I can donate to others,' he reflects. He credits Emily for supporting his many interests, and says she 'helps me get by with doing a lot,' emphasizing that she is active and well-known in her own right as a volunteer in the schools and coaching youth sports, including championship golf teams at Lincoln. Their daughter, Brooke, recently completed her master's degree in teaching at Willamette University, after being captain of the nationally ranked Ultimate Frisbee championship team at Carleton College; their son, Brandon, is a junior majoring in business at the University of Oregon and captain of the golf team.

'I wouldn't consider taking on more if I didn't enjoy it,' Harnden says. 'You can sit back and let someone else take care of it, or you can jump in. I like to jump in and help.' He argues that you can't be over-committed 'if you believe in what you're doing and that what you're doing is making a difference. That's my goal.' He quotes Margaret Mead, stating his lifelong philosophy: 'We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.' 'That's where I come from.'

In his practice, litigating employment cases is his specialty and major interest. What he calls 'a close second' is 'working with management groups and moving them to a place of accepting new ideas, putting in place long-term solutions that represent the best current thinking in management. I enjoy solving the most complex corporate, management and personnel issues - from mergers to startups, you name it.' Corporations are now driving the positive changes that are taking place in employment law, he says, with the emphasis turning away from litigation to advising clients ahead of time about solutions to head off problems. 'Litigation is at times a good solution, or the only solution, but it uses up a lot of resources. Instead, where possible, we should be looking forward, planning ahead, looking for ways to avoid the problems in the first place. The best lawyers offer solutions, not just automatic trips to the courthouse.' Harnden has several objectives as OSB president. 'My goal in being involved has been to do as much as I can to make the profession better and play whatever role I can do to enhance the profession's and individual lawyers' roles as leaders in the community.' He believes attorneys 'have a key role. The bar gives us the vehicle to do that.' From his service with the Multnomah Bar Association, Harnden says he 'gained a clear understanding of the valuable role local bar assocations can and do play.'

He considers his involvement with the OSB's Board of Bar Examiners one of the most rewarding experiences of his career thus far. Members put in hundreds of hours writing questions, preparing model answers, grading exams, evaluating applicants and ensuring that the application and acceptance process works. Immediate past-president Larry Rew appointed Harnden to chair the oversight of the recent legal needs study. 'That study, we hope, will be the center stone for a resurgence of energy and funding to close the huge gap in the ability of poor and modest-means people to access justice,' he says.

Harnden's presidential priorities (see sidebar for details) will include promoting: access to justice and the bar's role in that, part of which is to make sure the legal needs study gets implemented; the OSB's legislative program; the bar's commitment to enhance professionalism; and 'my role as spokesperson to the public and legislature for the bar, and as a direct ear to the membership to find out what they believe our priorities should be.' +


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Nickell is editor of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin. Cliff Collins is a Portland-area free-lance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin .


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