Oregon State Bar Bulletin DECEMBER 2013
Within Oregon’s cadre of attorneys, there is a group who contribute innumerable volunteer hours every year to the boards, committees and agencies that manage and fine-tune the rules, regulations and other guidelines that drive the profession. Members of this dedicated group are rarely in the spotlight, instead working behind the scenes with the unified goal of ensuring that Oregon’s legal system and state bar operate as effectively and efficiently as possible.
From representing the bar in civil litigation cases and serving on its Disciplinary Board to providing pro bono services as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and working to strengthen Oregon’s laws, these volunteers have found an array of ways to give back to the profession and their respective communities. As Danielle Edwards, the bar’s member services manager notes, the bar is fortunate to have more than 400 members who volunteer to serve on its committees and boards alone.
Several of the Oregon attorneys who volunteer in these capacities shared with the Bulletin what drew them to contribute their time and expertise, what they enjoy about it and what they have learned through the work they do beyond the office.
Kathy Proctor Proctor Law P.C. in Beaverton
Kathy Proctor has been an active volunteer for many years, even while raising three sons, earning her law degree and establishing her own family law practice. Most recently, she completed a two-year term as president of the Washington County Bar Association and initiated its Young Lawyers Division. She joined the state bar’s Disciplinary Board last year.
Proctor, who graduated from Willamette University College of Law in 2005, became an attorney because she wanted to help people who couldn’t help themselves, primarily children. After earning her law degree, she joined a worker’s compensation insurance defense firm and worked there for about eight months before opening her own practice in 2006. Since then, she says, she has enjoyed the reward of helping people during some of their worst moments.
“When people first come to see me and they are in the middle of a divorce, many of them are anxious, stressed and scared. By the time a case is done, a large majority of my clients hug me and are much more relaxed,” Proctor says.
Family law presents plenty of challenges as well, particularly when it comes to serving as the messenger. “People often aren’t at their best when they are coming to see me, and sometimes it’s difficult to predict how they are going to react to things,” she says. “It’s difficult to give answers to people that they don’t want to hear. Sometimes there just really isn’t a good answer, and that’s a hard answer, too.”
While running a solo practice is consistently demanding, it also offers the freedom to do volunteer work, Proctor notes. “Because I’m self-employed I have the ability to control my schedule somewhat. I don’t have a boss telling me I’m doing too much pro bono work or too little. I can decide for myself which cases I want to take,” she says.
Volunteer work has created opportunities for Proctor to meet other attorneys in her community and learn from them. It also has allowed her to better understand her community and how to enhance it. And through the Oregon Law Center’s Pro Bono Program, Proctor has been able to help people who really need it and would be lost without someone willing to advocate on their behalf.
“I had a pro bono client who, after I helped her, sent me a thank-you card and a $5 Starbucks gift card. That meant a lot to me because I knew she couldn’t really afford it, but she wanted to thank me,” Proctor says.
Brian Cox Cox & Associates LLC in Eugene
Brian Cox grew up with an ethic of helping others and has found myriad ways to do that both personally and professionally. Before he became an attorney, he worked as a state trooper and a paramedic. While in law school at Willamette University, Cox was a founder of its Pro Bono Honors Program, which gives students real-world experience by participating in community-based legal service projects.
With the goal of obtaining an interesting and complex job that provided him with a toolset to help other people solve their problems, Cox earned his law degree in 1990. He began to specialize in landlord-tenant, eviction and real property cases while also providing pro bono services for the elderly in his community through Senior Law Service — volunteer work that he continues today.
“My life motto is to live intentionally, so I carry out choices to pursue that,” he says, adding that he raised three children as a single father and taught them about the importance of volunteering through leading by example. “I wanted to show them that we all have a social responsibility in our world.”
Cox took that to the next level by becoming a CASA volunteer, representing children in family law disputes. He is also a CASA peer coordinator, an appointed state commissioner and CASA advocate on the Oregon Volunteer’s Commission, as well as being a premier pancake flipper for the organization’s annual “Breakfast for Champions” fundraiser.
Cox credits his legal skills — from a knack for analysis and problem solving to the ability to work as part of a team — with his effectiveness at helping CASA and other organizations for which he has volunteered. “All those things that being a lawyer taught me to do have been a wonderful help in being able to do what I do on the Oregon Volunteer’s Commission and on other levels,” he says.
The payment of volunteer work is particularly enriching, Cox notes.
“The best payment is a heartfelt handshake or a hug from somebody my grandparent’s age, or cards from kids who don’t live in the back of a car anymore and they now have a successful childhood,” he says.
Kara Davis Intermountain Public Defender Inc. in Pendleton
Kara Davis was inspired to become an attorney by a photo of her father and another man who appeared to be Perry Mason that hung on the wall of her childhood home. In actuality her father, Jerry Davis, a farmer in The Dalles, was talking to John F. Kennedy and one of his staffers — it was the staffer and Perry Mason look-alike who caught Kara Davis’ attention.
Davis’ father had attended Willamette University’s law school for two years before returning to The Dalles to run his family’s orchard when his father was no longer able to do so. Jerry Davis remained politically involved and attended the Republican and Democratic party conventions, where he met JFK, Richard Nixon and both Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr.
Later motivated more by her father’s engagement and activism than Perry Mason, Kara Davis graduated from the University of Miami’s law school in 2002. She practiced in Washington, D.C., before returning to The Dalles in 2003. Davis joined Intermountain Public Defenders in Pendleton the following year.
Davis now chairs the Oregon State Bar’s Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee and its Minimum Continuing Legal Education Committee. Despite the time constraints of working full time and volunteering, and a major commute to participate in some committee meetings, Davis believes it’s her civic duty to do so.
“I feel like it’s something people should do, maybe not necessarily for the bar but if you have the ability to volunteer you should try to get involved,” she says.
Davis says she was especially motivated to join the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee because she has experience in writing jury instructions and does “a lot of complaining” about the ones she doesn’t agree with in her cases as a public defender.
“It doesn’t seem like I should be complaining about it if I’m not going to get involved in making changes,” she notes. “I also like meeting attorneys from outside Pendleton. We’re kind of isolated out here, so it’s nice when we can get together as a group.”
Bruce Rubin Partner at Miller Nash in Portland
Bruce Rubin began volunteering for the Oregon State Bar soon after joining Miller Nash in 1976. The Stanford Law School grad joined the profession because he likes the challenge of competition and the uncertainty of the final result.
“I like being just nervous enough to know it’s important to focus and concentrate and always compete at my best,” he says. “And from a broader, more societal aspect, I think — like most litigators — I like to solve problems that involve legal skills.”
For many years now, Rubin’s litigation experience has benefited the bar through his volunteer hours representing the bar in civil litigation and cases related to the unprofessional practice of law. Rubin says he initially got involved with volunteer work for the bar because it provided an opportunity to prosecute cases and gain trial experience. Over time, he has gained a more cohesive perspective on his volunteer work for the bar.
“I began to appreciate more so than when I started that I was actually doing a public service and that made me feel better about it, that I wasn’t just doing it to become a better trial lawyer,” he says. “I remain to this day impressed by the caliber of the lawyers I’ve worked with in the Disciplinary Counsel’s Office and, for the most part, the lawyers who are defending people who have been accused.”
Rubin says he has learned much through his volunteer work on behalf of the bar. The cases he has seen range from attorneys who simply ran afoul of rules that were difficult to interpret and they didn’t make the right decision to others who knew what they were doing and that it was wrong.
“It emphasizes for me the importance for a lawyer to not just have his or her antenna up for disciplinary problems but to talk to other people,” he says.
“You can always call the Disciplinary Counsel’s Office and get some kind of non-binding response, but whether you’re a lawyer in a big firm like me or a lawyer in a small practice, there is always somebody you can call and ask, ‘How do you size this up?’ ” Rubin says. “That’s a good indicator of someone who is being careful, and you can’t trust your own judgment in exclusivity with something that is that important.”
Phil Hung Duong Manzama Inc. in Bend
Despite leaving the legal profession three years ago to work for Manzama Inc., which provides software platforms for the legal industry, Phil Hung Duong continues to volunteer for the state bar and other legal organizations.
Formerly a prosecutor with the Deschutes County District Attorney’s office, Duong practiced in Portland before joining Manzama Inc. He served three years on the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee and then joined the Judicial Administration Committee earlier this year. Duong also recently began serving as bar counsel for Multnomah County.
A 2006 graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, Duong became an attorney after participating in the Mock Trial program at Mountain View High School in Vancouver, Wash. “I had always really enjoyed that experience and it made me want to become a prosecutor,” he says.
Duong says his work with the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee allowed him to collaborate with prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to solve problems. It also gave him the opportunity to continue the public service he enjoyed as a prosecutor.
“I was always kind of interested in not just how things affected my case but also the bigger picture. Like, if I’m having this problem, other people must be having it too and let’s figure out how can we make it better,” he says. “I really enjoyed working at that level of service. When I was a prosecutor I was a public servant and I was working for the community. This is another way of working for the community.”
As his tenure with the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee came to a close, Duong knew his work was not finished. Ever since clerking for Michael McShane, now a U.S. District judge for the District of Oregon, Duong had been focused on revising Oregon’s jury instructions regarding reasonable doubt. (McShane had long felt the instructions were problematic and shared this sentiment with Duong.)
“While I was on the committee, it became apparent there was an interest in a much more comprehensive review of the instruction, but it was such a big instruction … that it ended up dominating our two-hour meetings. We would end up talking about this one issue for an hour and we wouldn’t get anywhere,” he says.
Duong initiated the creation of a subcommittee tasked with revamping and improving the reasonable doubt instruction. The committee is determining whether to undertake a revision or a complete redraft of the instruction, and Duong is enjoying the challenge.
“It’s actually quite fun. It involves interesting discussions that are really powerful and very intellectually stimulating. It’s the reason I joined the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee in the first place,” he says.
Duong says he remains in awe of the committee’s effort to continually make Oregon’s laws stronger.
“It’s a wonderful group to work with, and you can tell this group of prosecutors, defenders and judges really does believe in the law and what our roles are in the justice system,” he says. “Even though I haven’t stepped into a courtroom for three years, it’s something I’m still very passionate about, and it’s a way for me to give back to the profession.”
Bill Blair Beaverton Solo Practitioner
A longtime member of the bar’s Disciplinary Board, Bill Blair is credited with many contributions, among them educating the committee by crafting an invaluable outline for board members on how to write a quality opinion, says Pam Yee, 2014 chair of the Disciplinary Board.
“It is a wonderful guideline for writing the decisions of the hearings so that the supreme court gets what they need and a great analysis approach for the accused and the bar,” Yee says.
Like Kara Davis, Blair was inspired to become an attorney at an early age because of Perry Mason and other TV/movie icons of the legal profession. By the time he earned his law degree from Willamette University’s law school in 1969, Blair was more focused on public service and civic responsibility.
“I’ve always viewed the law as a calling, not a job. That comes from my parents, whose lives were a model of service. My dad told me that he never got involved in any organization that he could not take an active part in and be of service, and that always stuck with me,” Blair says.
He started volunteering for the bar shortly after becoming licensed to practice and joining the Salem City Attorney’s office. “That fleshed out and reinforced the concept for me of a lawyer giving service to a client, and if the client is the public, that’s a good thing,” he says.
Blair’s first volunteer position for the bar was a spot on its Ethics Committee. Since then, he has prosecuted cases on the bar’s behalf, served on the Uniform Criminal Jury Instructions Committee and served two terms on its Disciplinary Board. He says got involved because a strong legal profession is essential to a healthy democratic society.
“Human beings’ conduct falls below that which is conducive to good order in society, and it seemed to me that this is a kind of function that if the bar doesn’t do it itself and do it well, it will be done by somebody else poorly. So when volunteers are needed to that sort of function, somebody needs to step up to the plate, and I thought I would do it,” he says.
Blair retired from full-time legal work with Washington County in 2010, which opened up more time for his volunteerism as he continued to do some litigation work through his solo practice. As he lightens his caseload, time with his granddaughters is taking priority. Working on behalf of the bar continues to be important to him, just at a different level now. The great thing about volunteer work in Oregon’s legal profession is that no matter where you are, what your practice specialty is and how much — or little — time you have, your contributions are always much appreciated.
A description of many volunteer positions with the Oregon State Bar is available online at www.osbar.org/leadership/volunteering.html.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melody Finnemore is a Portland-area freelance writer and a frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
© 2013 Melody Finnemore