|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JANUARY 2009|
Gerry Gaydos has seen the future, and he wants you to see it, too.
"It’s easy to do what we keep doing," he says. "I would like to change the way we look at the future."
Rather than dwelling on how the practice of law once was, the profession needs to accept the present and find ways to be efficient in the new environment, says Gaydos, the Oregon State Bar’s president for 2009.
"The practice of law is going to change and is changing," he says. "Do we put our heads in the sand, or accept that the world is changing?"
Gaydos, a Eugene lawyer, was a catalyst behind organizing the OSB’s Futures Conference, held last September in Bend. Technology was a big focus of that meeting, and he believes one of the OSB’s objectives should be to assist its members in preparing for such imminent events as state court electronic filing.
"Some lawyers don’t have computers. The courts are going to say, ‘You’ve got to file electronically.’ The bar is going to have to be there to support them," he says. The OSB has established a committee and is working with Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. De Muniz to determine how best to implement such a system.
Gaydos says attorneys he has talked with all around the state are interested in learning about e-filing, although some also are apprehensive. Helping members prepare for and adjust to the changeover furnishes a good example of "where the bar itself is so important to practitioners," he adds.
"Everybody’s Go-to Guy"
People who know Gaydos marvel at his energy and willingness to become involved in professional and community activities.
"Probably the thing that stands out most about Gerry is, he has a real passion for people and for public service," observes John B. Arnold, a neighbor of Gaydos for two decades and a member of the Eugene law firm Arnold Gallagher.
"I don’t think there’s anybody in the Eugene area who has given back to the community more than Gerry. He really has given enormously of his time and talent to the community. He’s not just a member of everything, but he always ends up in leadership positions."
Many say Gaydos knows everyone in town — and that everyone taps him when they need something done.
"From a community volunteer-leadership, professional view, he is everybody’s go-to guy," says Dave Hauser, president of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce. "He packs an enormous amount into every, single day."
"He never seems to get tired; he has extraordinary energy," confirms Sheryl Balthrop, a member of Gaydos, Churnside & Balthrop. "He sure can run circles around the rest of us." Balthrop attributes Gaydos’ success as an attorney and volunteer to his ability to inspire confidence in others, and to "relate to such a broad spectrum of people.
"He has a gift of being able to show interest in you and what your background is," she says. "Gerry always seems to have time for the person in front of him." His leadership ability is evident in his knack for putting together a team of people, each of whom excels in particular areas, Balthrop says.
"He is selfless in his service," which inspires others, she adds. "We all want to do better because of him."
If one word defines Gaydos it is "service," agrees Lane County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia D. Carlson. "He is the most dedicated person I have ever met in terms of service to the bar and the community in Eugene."
Carlson notes that Gaydos long has had a particular interest in addressing racial and ethnic issues in the judicial system, and has served on and chaired the Lane County Bar Association’s Racial and Ethnic Bias Committee and acted as a trained facilitator for Uniting to Understand Racism. He also has been a member of the OSB’s Affirmative Action Committee and the OSB’s Diversity Section.
"Diversity has been important to this bar for a long time," explains Gaydos. "For 30 years we assessed ourselves a fee to more reflect diversity. All of us have had different upbringings and overcome barriers."
Gaydos is an example himself, for instance. He was raised in a small, steel-mill town outside Cleveland, the grandson of Eastern European immigrants on both sides of his family. Growing up in a Slavic neighborhood and Russian Orthodox Church, he heard a lot of "broken English" spoken in his and others’ homes and understood what "being different, not being part of the crowd" feels like, he says.
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1958, when he was 11 years old, which "really made it not a good situation, because the Russians had beaten the United States in space." He subsequently observed "antagonistic" attitudes toward those like himself who were of Eastern European ancestry.
His mother, "one of the great influences in my life, encouraged us in education. My mom wanted to go to college. She was going part-time when I was growing up. My dad supported her in that." She eventually obtained her master’s in library science, did work toward a doctorate, and became a school librarian.
Gaydos’ brother earned a masters in business administration, and Gaydos, whose interest in science during his school years made him initially aspire to become a research biologist, changed his mind once the upheavals and unrest of the 1960s hit.
"My sense of the ideals of this country were exciting
to me," he says. "The civil rights movement was very important
for me in a personal sense." That movement caused him to switch his
political science during his sophomore year at Ohio State University.
A constitutional law professor suggested to Gaydos that he should aim for law school, Gaydos saw his grandfather lose his house of 40 years after it was condemned for the building of a freeway, Gaydos thought at the time that the action was unjust.
"I felt there was a need for me to understand more," he says. "I started thinking more and more about law school."
Gaydos was in the Air Force ROTC, which gave him a scholarship to study at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He served four and a half years in the Air Force, as an assistant staff judge advocate.
He liked the work, and might have made the Air Force a career, but establishing a stable home for his family was more important. He married during his third year of law school, and the couple were raising two boys. His wife, Jill, was a California native and wanted to return to the West Coast. They chose the Pacific Northwest and Eugene.
"At that time, I still wanted to be in politics," he says, deciding that becoming a prosecutor would be a good road to that field. He became an assistant district attorney in Lane County for a year, and then went into private practice with Thomas H. Hoyt & Associates for a dozen years.
He still expresses gratitude to Tom Hoyt, now of the firm Speer Hoyt, for helping him enter private practice and learn the ropes of practicing in Oregon.
In 1989, Gaydos and Donald J. Churnside formed Gaydos & Churnside in Eugene, which later became Gaydos, Churnside & Balthrop after Sheryl Balthrop joined the firm as the third shareholder.
A friend and colleague, Donald A. Gallagher Jr., of the Eugene firm Arnold Gallagher, calls Gaydos "a straight-up guy," and says that as a lawyer, Gaydos seeks resolutions rather than confrontation. "He’s a pragmatist, looking to find a solution to the problems," says Gallagher. "Some lawyers are not always looking for an agreement where both parties can move forward."
Gaydos, a former chair of the OSB’s Business Law Section, focuses his practice on assisting clients who want to start, purchase, sell or reorganize a business, as well as helping family-owned businesses with succession planning. His practice also emphasizes estate planning, mediation, arbitration and dispute resolution. Both he and Churnside have attained AV ratings from Martindale-Hubbell.
"That culture of community stewardship runs through their organization," the chamber of commerce’s Hauser says of Gaydos’ firm.
"We have been lucky enough to work with long-term clients," and to rely on referrals for the firm’s business, Gaydos says. "In a small town, your practice really is one that emphasizes human relations." He has gained great satisfaction from developing extended relationships with businesses and families, as well as with law professors and administrators at the University of Oregon.
"It’s a good place to practice. It’s not the same amount of money (as in a larger city), but has a good balance in life-quality issues," Gaydos says. "You can bike or walk to work, and participate in community organizations and events. You can concentrate not just on making money, but in making the community better."
His memberships on boards, committees and commissions are too numerous to list, but include belonging to, often in leadership positions, groups such as: the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, the Eugene Family YMCA, the City Club of Eugene, United Way, Downtown Eugene Inc., the Eugene Planning Commission, First Congregational Church, Metropolitan Affordable Housing Inc., Eugene Southtowne Rotary, the Eugene Library Foundation, the Eugene Budget Committee and the Lane Transit District.
"We watch him with amazement," says neighbor and friend John Arnold. "He leaves the house at 6, and sometimes rolls back late at night. He keeps a busy schedule."
Gaydos credits his wife of 37 years, Jill, who works in hospital administration, with being "extremely supportive of me, through each opportunity I’ve had. I hope I’ve been supportive of her as she has of me." Arnold notes that Jill Gaydos also is very active in the community.
The couple have two grown sons: Josh, of Boulder, Colo., and Geoff, of Portland, and two grandchildren. Gaydos coached his sons in basketball and football during their school years. His own hobbies have included fishing, hiking, biking, gardening and "drifting" on the McKenzie River. He also is an avid reader, with Thomas Friedman’s "The World Is Flat" a recent favorite; and for music, he favors R&B.
Building Toward the Future
Gaydos is in the final year of his second, four-year term as a member of the OSB Board of Governors. Serving two full terms instead of one is without precedent in the bar’s history, among members of the board who are lawyers.
"It’s an honor to represent other people and to participate in the direction of this fine organization," says Gaydos. "I have an innate desire to serve others. When you come on the board, your motivations are to serve the profession and to serve others."
He says the profession has been good to him, and he wants to give back, as well as to encourage others to get involved. "Part of leadership is to try to inspire bar service, and belief in the profession and the rule of law."
Gaydos stresses the importance of having OSB members from outside the Portland area participate in the governance of the bar.
One of his goals as president is to continue the OSB’s efforts to bring services to members in every part of the state, and to ensure that their perspective is taken into account when decisions get made. "We do a pretty good job. I want to do a better job."
Serving on the board is both a time and financial sacrifice, and for those in Eastern Oregon, even more so, he says.
"The people who are willing to do it truly care about the organization, and also want to help the bar understand what’s important to them. The organization is better because of people like Carol (DeHaven Skerjanec, of Vale) who are willing to spend that time. They bring a perspective that is truly valuable."
Gaydos also praises the contributions of public members of the OSB Board of Governors. "They make significant contributions to the way we view ourselves, and really represent the public interest. We’re just really lucky in who were interested enough to try to assist us to make sure the rule of law works and the organization works. I think we need to celebrate these people more."
During his tenure on the board, the membership confronted some "difficult issues," he acknowledges, "but there’s been a nice coming together of the leadership and the entire membership to resolve them. This organization has an outstanding staff, a well-led, loyal staff — talented individuals who care about the public and the profession. We also have an excellent relationship with the judiciary. I know the bar benefits from that."
Gaydos wants to expand the reach of continuing legal education, to include more participation and interactivity, whether through videoconferencing or some other method.
"We need to find the commonalities, the leverage that can be gained by different bars and sections working together," he says.
Future trends that already are occurring are the outsourcing of legal work to other countries, at lower rates — such as legal research in India — and the use of alternatives to hiring a lawyer, such as using the Internet.
"How is that going to affect us? It’s important for professionals to look at," he says. "We should be able to get ahead of this do-it-yourself mentality. We need to make sure we do everything we can to protect the legal system. Impartial people making decisions — we don’t want to lose that."
Another future consideration is bridging "generational differences," and he sees as a positive development the fact that the Multnomah Bar Association’s and the OSB’s younger lawyers divisions are "getting together now more often than in the past."
Civil rights and equal opportunity remain priorities with him. He wants "people to believe they can participate in this country," and some may not believe that "if you go into a courtroom, and see only white males," he says. "We should be interested in providing legal services to all in a way that people feel that they are being fairly treated."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
© 2009 Cliff Collins