|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JULY 2007|
Worthy of Recognition
I would like to respond to letters in the June issue of the Bulletin from Holger Uhl of Boise and Frank R. Papagni Jr. of Eugene. Both had complaints regarding an article about Oregon lawyers providing pro bono representation to individuals being held at the United States military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ("Uncharted Waters," April 2007).
It is not unusual for laypeople to often fail to understand some of the most basic principles of our system of justice, but for a lawyer who has presumably been to law school and perhaps even studied constitutional law to demonstrate so little understanding of these concepts is disturbing, to say the least. Providing representation to the poor, disenfranchised and unpopular is the bedrock of what the legal profession ought to stand for. It has nothing to do with ideology, right wing or left. It is what, at our best, we do as lawyers. That these lawyers did so on their own time and at their own expense is indeed laudable and worthy of recognition.
With regard to Mr. Papagni’s concern that the efforts of federal prosecutors in bringing to justice those conspiring to levy war against our country are not getting proper attention, perhaps he should be the one to write such an article. I would read it with considerable interest. I would note, however, that federal prosecutors, however capable they may be, are simply doing the job they are being paid to do. Having done a considerable amount of pro bono representation over the years myself, when prosecutors, federal and otherwise, are ready to take on difficult and demanding cases pro bono, I will be especially interested in reading about that.
Ronald G. Talney,
"Serving Justice" Redefined
The Board of Governors recently gutted our decade-old diversity policy to permit the military’s discriminatory advertising in a bar publication. The timing could not have been more ironic. Oregon lawmakers just passed the Oregon Equality Act to make our state a more just and inclusive place for all Oregonians. But at the same time a lawyer organization that represents itself to be at the forefront of "Serving Justice" in Oregon changed its longstanding bylaws to accommodate a discriminatory policy that runs counter to the most fundamental value of equality and justice.
Perhaps more disturbing is that the change was prompted by less than 10 percent of the bar membership. If discrimination could be enshrined in our bylaws at the drop of a hat, what does that say about the OSB’s commitment to diversity?
A Mistake to Follow East Coast Salaries
In response to "Salary Wars" in the May 2007 issue, I agree that Northwest firms make a mistake when they seek to match the billable hour demands of east coast firms. It is the potential for meaningful life in addition to, and outside of, work that makes our market unique. Associate salaries, and related billable hour expectations, should be set with that "priceless" amenity in mind.
In the mid-1980s, I worked on a case as local counsel with a junior partner from a large New York firm. When that partner bragged of an associate billing 3,500 hours annually, I responded that one of three things was occurring, each of them bad. First, the associate might be padding his or her hours and would then be a thief. Second, the associate could be reporting hours honestly but working inefficiently, taking 3,500 hours to perform 2,000 hours of efficient work, and reducing realization to 57 percent. Third, and most worrisome of all, the associate might honestly and efficiently be billing more than 3,500 hours annually.
Such behavior would reveal an appalling lack of self-discipline in the associate’s balancing of his or her own life, bringing seriously into question that person’s capacity to advise or advocate for others reasonably. And the capacity to reason lies at the very core of what competent counsel should possess.
Still in the Loop
I can relate to much of "Solos and the Virtual Practice" in the May 2007 Bulletin. I have spent the last four of my 20 years of practicing law working almost exclusively out of my home office. I rent a conference room in a friend’s office in the eastern part of the state three to four days each month and, the rest of the time, clients come to my home. One office phone number is actually a cell phone. No one has expressed dismay at my non-traditional office. Despite the long hours from steady business and the tug of household duties, I wouldn’t trade the jeans (when no clients are due), being available to my school-aged children or the low overhead, for a position with any traditional firm. Yes, it was scary at first, but I have wonderful colleagues and an online list-serve to keep me in the professional loop.
How am I confident that my clients are comfortable in my home office? When they arrive during mud season and instinctively remove their shoes at my front door, before consulting with me in their sock feet!
Kate Earley Downes,
Shelburne Falls, Mass.
Counting Bar Staff
Purely by chance (when contacting a bar employee via the OSB website and scrolling down among the names) my eyes caught an oddity in the list of OSB employees: Of the Bar’s 92 (92!?) employees listed on the online OSB staff directory, a scant 16 bear unambiguous male first names — or a piddling 17 percent. Even when one includes other gender-ambiguous first names, the percentage rises to a mere 24 percent of males. Some OSB departments have no male employees at all.
Can a "diversity"-obsessed OSB spell "hypocrisy"? I never practiced employment law, but it seems to me that at some threshold gender discrimination becomes a per se characteristic of an employee roster. But I’d love to read others’ thoughts.