Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JUNE 2011

More Trials Not Necessarily for the Better
I read Richard Birke’s article “The Case for Trials” in the April 2011 issue of the Bulletin, but I do not understand what his point is.

Many of us have known for years that big firm lawyers do not try cases. We have wondered for years why clients involved in litigation hire firms that do not try cases. I have always said that I would rather have a lawyer experienced in the district attorney’s office try a case for me than a big-firm civil lawyer. Of course trying cases makes one a great experienced trial lawyer able to engage in credible negotiations based on trial experience.

However, the reasons advanced by Birke (expense, risk and unpredictable jurors) for settling cases remain. Are we to sacrifice a client’s interests (without the client’s informed consent) to those unpredictable factors so that we can gain civil trial experience? Obviously not.

I disagree with Birke’s suggestion that a lawyer who uses mediation to orate and attempt to try to persuade an opponent of the risks of not settling does a disservice to his or her client. That is what mediation is all about. A mediator cannot decide anything. He/she can point out risk.

If a lawyer’s posturing at mediation costs him/her credibility that is something that the mediator or the lawyer’s opponent can point out. If a lawyer needs trial experience, he/she should volunteer at the district attorney’s or public defender’s office. Some civil cases have to be tried, but more civil trials for the sake of having more civil trials is not the answer.

Peter M. Appleton, Salem

Remembering John Schwabe

John Schwabe’s obituary in a recent Bulletin (May 2011) missed an important part of his life, probably because the author was unaware of it.

John was without a doubt a tremendous war hero and person, but he was also a very important civic and bar leader of the ’70s and ’80s. It started when he was a principal in the historic urban renewal development of downtown Portland. He was the lawyer selected by the city to condemn all of the land in south Portland that now houses many of the city’s important buildings and structures. The development was one of the country’s earliest and received national acclaim for the city.

John was elected president of the Multnomah County Bar Association about that time, and this was followed by his elevation to the Board of Governors of the Oregon State Bar and his ultimate election as bar president. While president of the bar, he also served as president of the Multnomah Athletic Club, two positions that many thought could not be held simultaneously. But they didn’t know John, who served both capacities with honor.

A few years later, he was elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and he came within a gnat’s eyebrow of being elected president at the end of his term.

John continued to be a leader in community and bar activities until his retirement. He was also selected as a diplomat of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. I wanted the bar members to know what we senior members remembered about John’s life and about his contributions to the city and the bar during that time.

Jerry Banks, Rancho Mirage, Calif.

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