|Oregon State Bar Bulletin JANUARY 2010|
The setup of the law office of 2010 Oregon State Bar President Kathleen A. Evans reveals a lot about her.
It is situated inside a white, 1911-vintage house with a blue roof and trim, on 13th Street in Salem, with a staircase leading up to a door on the right. On one side is her practice, Evans Batlan Attorneys at Law. On the other side is her husband Michael Batlan’s business, where he is a self-employed bankruptcy trustee.
At one desk in Evans’ office is associate Cecila L. Batlan, Evans’ and Batlan’s oldest daughter. Somewhere in the middle of all this is their 14-year-old Australian Shepherd, Murray, usually sleeping.
“It’s a very family-oriented place,” says Evans. “That’s been one of the joys of my life. It’s a pleasant place to spend so much of your life.”
Such a scenario is everything that Evans’ mother feared would never occur, after Evans made the decision to go to law school in the late 1970s. “She was horrified. She thought there was no way I could have a family. (But) she quickly came around.”
Evans (who goes by the first name Kathy) had a “very traditional upbringing” in Tacoma, as the oldest of four children. She also became the first in her family to attend college. Her mother, a nurse, always was encouraging of her pursuing higher education. But her father, a home builder, didn’t see much value in college, she says, although he became enthusiastic and helped his daughter financially whenever he could once Evans decided to go on to law school.
She remembers that a high school psychology class she took emphasized that “moving from one social class to another” could be done only by either “marrying into it” or through education. “I knew I was never going to marry anyone rich. I’ve always believed education is the key to transform anyone.”
She excelled in school at every level, finishing summa cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Washington State University, and summa cum laude from Willamette University College of Law. Evans had entered law school only sure that she wanted to obtain a graduate degree.
“I had no idea of what I wanted to do,” she admits, and she had applied for a joint J.D.-MBA degree but dropped the idea when she discovered that obtaining a master’s in business administration simultaneously with a law degree would take four years rather than three. “Once I got a taste of law school, it fit. I enjoyed it.”
Changing Practice Focus
She started working with Salem attorney William C. Crothers Jr., who hired Evans as a law clerk after her first year of law school. She then worked with him for nine years, as an associate and a partner. “He was always very encouraging and supportive and is one of the most creative lawyers I’ve ever met,” says Evans.
In that office she ended up handling hundreds of creditors’ rights cases, at a time when Chapter 11 was in its infancy. During those first years in practice, Evans began volunteering for bar activities, chairing the executive committee of the OSB Debtor-Creditor Section, and serving on that committee for nine years, as well as being a contributing author of the Oregon Commercial Practice Manual, published by the section.
She became an expert in that field, but Evans “made an intentional change to take me out of that adversarial role.” She decided to go out and start a practice that she now limits to estate planning and administration and business planning.
Although she has served as a mediator and continues to act as an arbitrator, most of her time is spent working with small businesses and clients whose estates range from modest to substantial.
She finds the relationships and friendships she builds through advising clients satisfying and intellectually stimulating. “What I like most is looking at a set of circumstances for a family and finding solutions that help them transition,” says Evans. The part she likes least is when clients die, an inevitable part of handling estate planning, and normally the time in which “we implement the plan we’ve worked on.”
She has had several different law partners and associates over the years, with the office generally averaging three to four attorneys. Evans, who is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, became a sole practitioner in 2005, until daughter Cecilia — who goes by Celia — Batlan joined her in 2008 as an associate.
Family Comes First
Evans met her husband, Michael Batlan, in Salem. He completed his MBA at Willamette the same year she finished law school, though they did not know each other at the time. Besides Celia, they have a younger daughter, Libby Batlan, The latter, who graduated from Linfield College in 2009, is a legislative assistant for Oregon Speaker of the House Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone.
Besides his regular work, Michael Batlan is a Pacific-10 Conference college football referee. (The referee is the official in charge on the field, who wears a white cap and announces penalty calls.) Now that their children are grown, Evans accompanies him more often for away games; in the past, sometimes the girls were able to go along, too, with trips such as to Arizona or Disneyland.
|Joining Evans here are (left to right)
daughter Cecelia (Celia) Batlan, husband Michael Batlan
and daughter Libby Batlan.
“It’s added a lot of nice things to our lives,” she says. At the same time, she concedes that being a major-college football referee nowadays places him and the other officials under a microscope. “It comes with a great deal of stress and pressure,” she says. He gets recognized in stores and other public places, and “we get e-mails from all over the place after a game.”
Evans was thrilled that Celia Batlan decided to go into law, and even to join her mother as an associate when she finished at Willamette in 2008. “I wanted her to know she had an opportunity and not an obligation,” Evans says.
Celia Batlan worked at the office during high school and some summers while in college, then clerked there all through law school.
She says she never felt any pressure to go into the profession, or to practice in Salem or with her mother. “I just saw what she did and the kind of life we had, her being able to spend time with us as kids,” Batlan says. “I think I always wanted to be an attorney. It’s actually very well-suited to my personality.
“Like a sponge, I try to soak up everything she does. She’s been there; I really respect her. I don’t think I would want to deviate from anything she does.”
Although the two have different last names, when people find out she is the daughter of Evans, “I hear nothing but glowing things about her,” Batlan says. “I feel very lucky in that way.”
“The most important thing in my life is my family,” emphasizes Evans, who says she was able to attain a balance between family and career, although she explains that, “over the years, that balance has changed.”
When the children were younger, she would drop them off at the YMCA’s daycare program. The middle-school and high school years were the toughest for her work side, when she wanted to be at home after school and be involved with their activities.
A Time Commitment
But Evans had participated in bar and community as much as possible. She was a co-founder and president of the Willamette Valley American Inns of Court, and served as president of the Marion County Bar Association, following three years’ service on that bar’s board. She was a member and past chair of the executive committee of the OSB’s Debet-Creditor Section and a past chair of OSB Continuing Legal Education Committee.
Her community service includes serving as a member and treasurer of the board of directors and board of trustees of the Salem YWCA, as well as a member, secretary and chair of the board of trustees for the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion, & Polk Counties Foundation. She also serves on the Distribution Committee for the Salem Foundation.
“I believe I’ve been really fortunate in life, and have an obligation to give back,” Evans says. “If one of the ways I can do that is volunteering, I think that makes sense.”
However, Evans had to weigh everything carefully before deciding to take the plunge and run for president of the OSB. The time involved, in particular.
“That was probably the hardest thing. When I decided to apply, I knew it would take a lot of time. It definitely will translate into loss of income and more time outside of regular business hours” to keep up with her workload. She adds that technology, in the form of her iPhone, has helped her be able to work without being at her desk. She plans to organize her weeks so that some days of each week are set aside solely for bar work.
Evans especially recalls two pieces of advice offered her when she decided to seek the post. Karen Garst, before she retired as OSB executive director, assured Evans, “You can do anything for one year.” And past-OSB President Albert Menashe told Evans that “this will be the best year of your professional life.”
“We’re really blessed to have her” as president, says Salem lawyer David A. Hilgemann, who has known Evans for her entire career. He noted that for an attorney in a sole or small practice, serving represents a sacrifice. “When she was considering this, I strongly urged her to do it, because she will make a wonderful leader of the bar association.”
Hilgemann, who has sat on arbitration panels with Evans, adds that she is “calm, a good listener and a great problem-solver,” someone he always can turn to for solid recommendations about how to tackle a complex legal problem.
Dick Carney, who sells life insurance and financial planning in Salem (and not to be confused with the Portland lawyer with the same name), has referred clients to Evans for 25 years. He says he has yet to hear a single complaint from her clients, and he attributes this to her superior communication skills and fair treatment of clients.
Carney says Evans “project bills,” letting clients know up front what their legal costs should run, a method he thinks clients appreciate, because otherwise they don’t know what total expenses to expect when they are simply shown an hourly rates sheet.
Former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Susan M. Leeson, a classmate of Evans during law school, admires her “remarkable” sense of balance in being a public-service-oriented lawyer who, at the same time, is so devoted to family. “Kathy has one of the most stellar characters I have ever encountered. She’s incredibly dedicated, and very smart.”
When Evans has any spare time, she enjoys quilting. She made a quilt for each outgoing Board of Governors member, and savors the color, texture and design of quilts. Most of her work is mental, she says, and the tactile nature of quilting is soothing.
Evans has set several objectives for her presidential year. Several involve following up on recommendations by task forces appointed by 2009 OSB President Gerry Gaydos. “One of the key issues I see is the sea change technology has brought about in the delivery of legal services,” she says. She wants to examine the bar’s response to how technology is used in legal practices. An example would be how CLE publications are disseminated. This may involve, for example, “a shift of the model of how we provide BarBooks,” a result of the fact that the Sole & Small Firm Practitioners Section “has asked us to restructure the cost.”
|He’s old, frail and deaf, but Murray,
a 14-year-old Australian Shepherd,
is always eager to come to the office each morning.
Another area of focus will be sustainability. A task force has developed a number of ideas to advance sustainability that the OSB will look at during 2010, she says. Third, she plans to emphasize issues surrounding and confronting senior lawyers, particularly those in sole practices. For instance, what should the bar do when cognitive impairment is evident in a sole practitioner? What is the process that should be taken? A fourth area is continuing to work on challenges and problems faced by rural practitioners. A goal is to make the ability to participate in bar activities easier for lawyers in small towns and rural settings, she says.
When Evans came on the board, she was surprised to discover “how much the bar really does for its members. From my perspective, learning what impacts lawyers the most, when you look at the (OSB’s) mission statement, these programs carry it out very well.”
Programs she is most proud of include those that entail “seeing individual lawyers helping other lawyers”: OLIO (Opportunities for Law in Oregon); LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program); the Campaign for Equal Justice; and the CSF (Client Security Fund). She notes that the Professional Liability Fund remains unique in the nation in the scope of its services to members of the bar.
Evans says a great personal benefit of her choosing to become active in bar service is the interaction with other attorneys. Particularly in her specialty area, that does not normally take place very often.
“I think lawyers are some of the most interesting people; I love other lawyers.” Being able to associate with attorneys all across the state is “one of the things I’m going to really enjoy,” she says.
One other objective is important to her, too. Evans wants to serve as a role model, to encourage young women who are considering a career in law that they can do that and also still be “a great mother. I would feel terrible if young women believed they can’t do both.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
© 2010 Cliff Collins