Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JULY 2009
Profiles in the Law
The Great Connector:
Don Krahmer blends vocations to bring people together
By Cliff Collins

Coming out of high school, Don Krahmer Jr. narrowed his career choices to three: becoming a lawyer, a businessman or a Lutheran pastor.

Those might sound like incongruous occupations for the same individual to consider. But the way things turned out, Krahmer sees his work as a meld of the three paths: all three vocations focus on building relationships with people, helping people solve their problems, and making the community better.

Everyone who knows Krahmer — he of the foot-long Rolodex — can testify that these three elements form the theme of his life and career. It is why he is widely and warmly known as “The Great Connector.”

“I can’t think of anyone who has his hands in more things to move the state forward,” says Patrick Reiten, president of Pacific Power. “He’s the quintessential community-glue guy. He connects people who need to be connected because it needs to happen. He seemingly is in touch with everybody all the time, mentoring people in different ways. When he sees a need, he steps up and fills it.”

A Native Oregonian
Donald L. Krahmer Jr. is a fifth-generation Oregonian, born and raised in Hillsboro. In high school, he delivered newspapers and cleaned linotype machines for the Hillsboro Argus. He also served as editor of his school paper, which “taught me about organization, people and asking lots of questions,” he says. “It also taught me to look for the common good when building community.”

His mother, a social studies teacher at the school, taught him that you can make a difference in the community by getting involved.

Krahmer interned for then-Sen. Mark O. Hatfield in Washington, D.C., and worked for U.S. Bank. He found he liked both government and business, and came to the early realization that the two spheres need to work together to solve problems.

He majored in economics at Willamette University, where he also then obtained a master’s in business administration and a law degree. He clerked with the law department of U.S. Bank and, “for a while, I thought I was going to be a career-long executive there,” he says.

Instead, his first law job after passing the bar was as a business analyst for PacifiCorp. But a month or so after being hired, Krahmer became PacifiCorp’s manager of mergers and acquisitions, where he helped the company’s senior management team build a $2.2 billion company in two and a half years.

During all this business activity, Krahmer got to know a large number of people around town, and attorney friends such as Steve Wynne started encouraging him to move into full-time legal practice. His wife, Suzanne, was pregnant, and “I was figuring out what to do with my life,” he says. “I probably talked to a hundred people” in making the decision.

Black Helterline hired him, and Krahmer claims that the firm’s move was somewhat of a risk, because he had not gone through a formal clerkship and learned the practice of law. He particularly credits the firm’s John McGuigan, Steve Schell and Rick Roskie with helping him learn the ropes.

Ever since, Krahmer has valued, and tried to model, the mentoring of attorneys who are just starting out, or students who are considering law as a career.

“I tell them my story,” he says. “My career has been very eclectic. Twenty-one years later, I love my job. I’m one of the luckiest guys around.”

Giving Navigational Advice
Since 2002, Krahmer has been a shareholder at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, where he co-chairs its technology and business practice. He advises many Pacific Northwest entrepreneurs and companies, as well as boards of directors and executives.

A special emphasis of his practice is corporate and securities law, particularly for technology and growth companies. He serves in a non-legal capacity on the board of directors of Pacific Continental Bank, where he chairs the bank’s audit committee.

Krahmer is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, and in 2002 received the James B. Castles Leadership Award from the Oregon State Bar Business Law Section for excellence in the practice of business law, professionalism among fellow business lawyers and outstanding community leadership.

“A lot of what a good business lawyer does is give navigational advice,” he says. He sees his role as a connector or weaver in “learning the fabric of the community and state well enough … that I can be helpful in what (clients) are trying to achieve.”

Krahmer has long been locally renowned for his prolific use of e-mails to network with others. Through these communications, he shares personal reflections on topics such as leadership, economic development, higher education and recently, the Oregon Business Hunger Initiative.

He has founded or participated in numerous civic and business groups, and particularly is devoting time right now to, Jesuit High School, Portland Business Alliance, Greenlight Greater Portland, Oregon Innovation Council and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.

“Ultimately, Don’s activities have been good for the firm because of the connections Don brings and drives. But that’s not why he’s doing it,” Reiten observes. “He does these because he believes it’s good for the state.” Krahmer devotes business and personal time to individuals and organizations “because he thinks that’s the right way to develop leadership in the community.

“Don is an incredibly caring person,” adds Reiten. “I’ve seen him go out of his way” to help “if someone is hurting.” If someone is having “family or business difficulties, Don is one who steps up and tries to help.”

Mark Long, managing partner of Schwabe, says Krahmer uses his “unique personal characteristics” to assist “people in need,” by putting them into “contact with someone who can serve their need.” If Krahmer sees “someone struggling or underachieving,” he will strive to help that person improve. “It’s just part of who he is,” says Long. “He is incredible about how much of the day he gives to his profession, his community and his job.”

Krahmer is grateful to the firm for giving him “this wonderful platform to do these things,” and Long says Schwabe was fortunate to land Krahmer. By the same token, Long candidly admits that when the firm brought in Krahmer — “someone who is a larger-than-life-character” — many members wondered if he would fit in.

He “very much has,” says Long. “He’s incredibly into team ball. We have a culture here that very much elevates collaboration. He stepped into that, and was very well-received in the firm because of that.”


Cliff Collins is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.

© 2009 Cliff Collins

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