Cover of BarNews November 2022

WSBA Goes Rural in the New Bar News

In the latest issue of Washington State Bar News, we try to shed more light on the state of the legal profession in rural Washington. The November issue features a variety of profiles on rural practitioners, focusing on three law practices in Dayton, South Bend, and Colville. And you can learn more about the history of the STAR Committee and hear from past Committee Chair Hunter Abell, along with a primer from attorney Allison R. Foreman on 10 statutes to know and understand when going into rural practice.

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Downtown Colville under blue sky

Coming Back to Colville

Afew minutes after entering the offices of McGrane & Schuerman, PLLC, it occurs to me that Alison McGrane has barely sat down. Even on her first day back at work after a San Diego vacation with her husband, daughter, and son, she was scurrying from one end of the office to another, walking and talking, standing and talking, standing and reading, standing and signing.
Picture the high-velocity energy of a character in an Aaron Sorkin show.
Except that when you compare this image to that of a rural attorney stereotype, things don’t square up. McGrane has been on the receiving end of these stereotypes. Lawyers from big cities are sometimes prone to treating their rural counterparts as less capable in the law, simpler, less complex—in other words, stupid. That type of assumption is, of course, stupid in itself, and despite the extreme ruralness of the place McGrane calls home, she and the rest of the team at McGrane & Schuerman are anything but stupid.

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World's largest oyster in South Bend.

A Family of Lawyers in Oyster Country

It’s a brisk Tuesday morning in South Bend and the big case on the morning docket at Pacific County North District Court is a charge against four defendants for selling shellfish without a label. A few moments before, the state opted to drop charges on another case described as an assault “involving raw eggs.” Throughout the morning there are a few other cases to tie up, like a name change, and quashing warrants, possible probation violations. The Pacific County Courthouse sits atop a hill that offers wide views of the Willapa River, which bleeds into the Willapa Bay and out to the Pacific Ocean where it crashes against the shores of Long Beach, Klipsan, and other parts of south county that folks in South Bend simply refer to as “the beach.”

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Ryan Ortuno and Kim Boggs

Back By Dinner: Finding Work-Life Balance in a Rural Law Firm

If you ignore the weekly migraines, the debt, the stupidly high cost of living, and the fact that he barely saw his family, you could say that Ryan Ortuno had it all. In many ways—at least the ways you learn in law school, Ortuno explained—he had found success. Except the reality—most of his clients were insurance reps and business execs—fell short of the romantic ideal Ortuno had of being a lawyer who helps real people.

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Two farmers in a field, shaking hands with an attorney.

Far-Flung Places: A WSBA Travel Series on Rural Legal Practice

In 2019, a group of WSBA volunteers and staff began what was then called the Rural Practice Project (RRP) to analyze the state of legal services available in rural Washington, as well as other jurisdictions in the country, better understand the problems, and identify potential paths forward that the WSBA could take to address access to justice gaps in Washington’s rural communities. In 2021, upon the RPP group’s recommendation and with a unanimous vote and approved budget from the WSBA Board of Governors, the Small Town and Rural Practice (STAR) Committee was formed to build upon the work of the RPP as a long-term, multi-faceted endeavor of the WSBA.

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Cute pit bull dog

The Pitfalls of the Pit Bull Comparison

I adore pit bulls. With small exception, they are energetic, resourceful, agile, and loyal. They are an opposable thumb and bark translator away from making great attorneys. So why do I cringe when I am compared to one? The answer is not complicated. I cringe because I am a woman and because pit bulls are, well, dogs.

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Female lawyer smiling at camera during meeting

Building a Culture of Gender Equity: Insights from a Majority-Women-Owned Firm

I am the managing shareholder of a 50+ attorney business law firm with 29 equity partners: 16 women and 13 men. Stokes Lawrence was founded 40 years ago by two men. While we did not consciously seek to be majority women owned, we have always attracted and been successful retaining women lawyers. In fact, our firm was recently admitted to the National Association of Women and Minority Owned Law Firms

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A diverse group of attorneys

Mandatory Equity and Anti-Bias Training on the Table Again

Six months after an unsuccessful effort to incorporate new mandatory subject areas within the ethics education requirements for Washington legal professionals, the Washington Supreme Court MCLE Board has suggested a similar but more narrowly focused amendment that is so far being viewed more favorably by WSBA members.

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