Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2005

Profiles in the Law
A Zeal for Writing
By Melody Finnemore

Despite his blindness,
Leonard DuBoff reads and
writes at every opportunity.

One can’t help but feel like a bit of a slacker after reading Leonard DuBoff’s resume.

The 64-year-old Tigard attorney specializes in several areas of law, including business, intellectual property, high tech, and trademark and copyright law. He has argued before courts at the state, district and appellate level as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of International Trade, and the nation’s customs, tax and patent courts.

DuBoff’s expertise in art law garnered clients such as renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly who, along with other notable artists, expressed his appreciation by presenting original works that decorate DuBoff’s office. DuBoff’s interest in protecting the rights of creative types extends to writers, musicians, toymakers, photographers and others with concerns related to entertainment and publishing law.

A writer himself, DuBoff has produced scores of legal articles and books, including the "In Plain English" series of law guides for writers, photographers, gallery owners, small business entrepreneurs and craftspeople. His most recent guide is a book for restaurant owners. DuBoff spends most weekends updating books he has already written because laws change so frequently.

In between domestic gigs, DuBoff lectured before the World Congress in Poland, and at Sophia University in Japan and The Hague Academy of International Law in The Netherlands.

Not bad for a guy who planned to be a mechanical engineer before a horrible accident changed his life. An explosion in a college chemistry lab blinded DuBoff, cost him his right hand and caused such extensive internal injuries that he nearly lost his life. His recovery in the hospital introduced DuBoff to a few new realities.

"I became depressed, and that lasted for about a day," he says. "I had a talk with myself and decided all I was going to do was alienate people, and I like being around people too much for that."

It was during his recovery that DuBoff met his wife, Mary Ann, who was a registered nurse at the hospital while he was a patient there. Married now for nearly four decades, the pair has two daughters, a son and two grandchildren. Mary Ann manages DuBoff’s office, drives him to work and provides constant counsel on both professional and personal levels.

The explosion also changed DuBoff’s career path. He decided he wanted to follow in his father and older brother’s footsteps and become an attorney.

"My brother, who is now a lawyer in New York, was in law school at the time, and he said, ‘Try law – it’s got the same kind of mental challenges as engineering," DuBoff says, adding he nearly quit after a semester of Bs but rallied to graduate with the highest grade point average in the history of Brooklyn Law School.

He joined a New York law firm after earning his degree, but quickly learned he didn’t care for the machinations of such an entity. He began teaching at Stanford Law School but was prohibited from practicing law at the same time which, DuBoff says, made him feel trapped in a sterile, academic setting. He and Mary Ann had planned to return to New York so DuBoff could resume his old job when they stopped off at a teachers’ career conference in Chicago and DuBoff received an offer from Lewis & Clark College’s law school.

"Mary Ann said, ‘We’ve never been to Oregon so what the heck?’ There had already been a blizzard in New York and Oregon was having this wonderful Indian summer. The people at Lewis & Clark said, ‘It’s like this all the time,’ so we moved to Oregon. Of course, we soon found out that wasn’t the case," DuBoff says.

During his tenure from 1972 to 1994, DuBoff established the college’s first art law seminar, compiled a groundbreaking manual on art law and helped Sen. Ted Kennedy write the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. An active member of the Oregon State Bar, DuBoff served on task forces that crafted the Oregon Nonprofit Corporation and Oregon Business Corporation acts, and revised the state’s securities code.

Yet, despite his successes, the decade after his accident also dealt DuBoff a series of stunning blows. His father died of a heart attack shortly after the explosion. His sister, Candice DuBoff-Jones, also an attorney, was murdered by the estranged husband of a woman she was representing in an alimony suit. The tragedies strengthened DuBoff’s faith and taught him to make the most of life.

He reads or writes at every opportunity, using a Dictaphone to record his writing and scanning articles with a device that reads back to him. DuBoff is a self-admitted techno-junkie and corresponds in a flurry of e-mails each day, which come through to him as verbal messages via the telephone line. He also enjoys reading history and fishing for steelhead and salmon at his vacation home near Nehalem. And, DuBoff’s always thinking of his next legal challenge.

"I love the law in general. The smallest case for the small business entrepreneur is no less important than the biggest corporate case. They’re all important and they’re all unique," he says. "Each case takes on a life of its own with twists and turns you could never predict when you first start."

Melody Finemore is a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.

© Melody Finemore

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