By Cliff Collins
Henry Hewitt credits his volunteering
with learning "how you get more
than you give" in life.
In 1991, when legal aid lawyers asked corporate attorney Henry H. Hewitt if he thought private lawyers would contribute money to legal aid, he answered in the affirmative; but he went a step further.
He agreed to help lead the effort, by chairing what became The Lawyers’ Campaign for Equal Justice. And he continued in that role for 15 years, during which time the organization and the state have been emulated by many others facing the conundrum of providing access to justice for all residents, regardless of resources.
Sandra Hansberger, the campaign’s executive director, says Hewitt’s "steady, calm and quiet leadership" has been key in building support across the state. This year, he became the inaugural recipient of the Henry H. Hewitt Access to Justice Award, marking a year in which the campaign raised $1 million.
"From time to time, this has been painted as a liberal issue, but it’s not," asserts Hewitt. Instead, the effort has been bipartisan, and has included firms of every size and lawyers of every stripe. It also has succeeded in gaining support from Oregon’s entire congressional delegation, which in turn has helped generate federal support for legal aid, he says.
Hewitt, who has spent nearly all his legal career at Stoel Rives — chairing the firm for a total of about 13 years — last year received the Oregon State Bar’s Award of Merit, the OSB’s highest honor, given to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the bench, bar and community, and who exhibit the highest standards of professionalism. He also has received the OSB Business Law Section’s James B. Castles Leadership Award (1999) and the OSB President’s Public Service Award (1998).
Hewitt’s community involvement has been both wide and deep, beginning from the first days of his job as a young associate at what is now Stoel Rives. He credits David Lloyd Davies, then-managing partner, with making it clear that all lawyers in the firm should be involved in the community.
So after a long day at work, Hewitt would head for a storefront legal aid office on North Williams Avenue in Portland. He also volunteered for the board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund of Oregon (in 1969), and the board of a mental health clinic, rising to chair. Such involvements led to another and another.
"Those experiences taught me that you get more than you give," explains Hewitt. "I was encouraged early in my family to participate in the community." His neighborhood fostered "a culture of being involved in things," he says.
For the past 20 years peers have selected Hewitt in The Best Lawyers in America, and during his career he has served as principal legal adviser to large companies such as Tektronix, PacifiCorp, Fred Meyer, Electro Scientific Industries and Sequent Computer Systems.
Excelling was an early habit. A native Portlander raised in Northeast Portland, the Madison High School graduate considered going to in-state schools, but applied and was accepted to Yale after encouragement from his school guidance counselor. "I had never been east of Pendleton," says Hewitt, who notes that his acceptance at the Ivy League college represented what was "diversity for them then: a public school graduate from Oregon."
He took part in extracurricular activities, especially singing: During his senior year, he was chosen to sing for the Yale Whiffenpoofs, which he describes as "a world-renowned singing group." "Singing afforded me many great opportunities," including travel, he says. "It was a great experience."
After graduating, he joined the Army, spending two years in military intelligence, mostly stationed in Germany. After the service, he aspired to graduate school, but was uncertain whether to pursue a degree in economics, business or law. Several ancestral relatives had been standout attorneys and were Willamette University graduates, but Hewitt personally knew no lawyers and had none in his living family. Nevertheless, he decided a law degree would be valuable no matter what he pursued, and he entered law school at Willamette. Hewitt was shy in class but was a top student from his first semester, finishing his degree with highest honors.
Hewitt clerked at Davies Biggs — later to become Stoel Rives – and then accepted a permanent position with the firm after passing the bar. From the first he has concentrated on business and corporate work, and he emphasizes general business advice, acquisitions, financings and corporate governance. He now heads the firm’s business services group.
Despite his packed schedule, family is a priority to him. His son just graduated from college, and his daughter is a college freshman. Hewitt’s wife, Sharon, is from Medford, and they recently bought a home in Bend, which he notes with a chuckle, means he now has "most of the state covered."
Hewitt names The Lawyers’ Campaign for Equal Justice as the most gratifying volunteer work he has done. "But a whole bunch of people raised the money," he stresses. "We have a great partnership with the Oregon State Bar, and lawyers all over the state have supported the Access to Justice initiative."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer..
© 2006 Cliff Collins