The Washington Capitol in Olympia

Washington’s 2023 Legislative Session: What’s in Store at the WSBA

The 2023 session of the Washington State Legislature began with lawmakers returning to Olympia for the first in-person session in two years. Legislators will consider a variety of issues this year. However, a primary focus of the 120-day “long” session is to pass a state budget for the next two years. The first day of session was Jan. 9 and it will continue through April 23. Between now and then the Senate and House of Representatives have important dates ahead of them.

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Dueling lightsabers in space environment

A Star Wars Exploration of the Law of Armed Conflict—Part I

With dozens of large-scale armed conflicts going on in the world, in Ukraine and elsewhere, a prospective client is bound to walk through your door one day, accused of war crimes. Well, the chances are at least higher if you practice this area of law. Should you receive such a client, this article will prepare you for your first war crimes case by exploring the violations of the law of armed conflict (LOAC) committed by everyone’s favorite war criminal, Darth Vader.

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Federal Court Disqualifies Law Firm for Conflict with Key Witness

The federal district court in Spokane recently disqualified a law firm for a conflict with a key adverse witness. Caldwell v. United States, 2022 WL 17408818 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 9, 2022) (unpublished), was a malpractice case stemming from the plaintiff’s treatment at a government medical facility. Although the U.S. government was the sole defendant, the focus of the case was on the doctor who allegedly failed to diagnose the plaintiff’s cancer. The plaintiff’s law firm had also represented the doctor in an unrelated employment matter.

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Digital icon of the balance of justice. Concept of legal advice, law and defense.

How Amazon Went Global with Pro Bono

Amazon recently released its first ever Pro Bono Report, which describes some of the pro bono work provided by more than 700 Amazon lawyers and legal professionals across dozens of countries since the program’s formal launch in 2014. In total, Amazon lawyers and legal professionals have provided over 40,000 hours of service through Amazon’s pro bono program in that time. Amazon Associate General Counsels Sean Croman and James Cuneo answered a few of our questions about how Amazon’s pro bono program was created, how it creates meaningful opportunities for Amazon employees around the world to engage in pro bono service, and how other corporate legal departments might replicate their efforts.

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A lawyer questioning a witness in front of the judge in a courtroom.

Federal Court Rules Tardy Disqualification Motion Waived

The federal district court in Seattle recently issued a pointed reminder on disqualification motions: move promptly or risk waiver. Olson Kundig, Inc. v. 12th Avenue Iron, Inc., 2022 WL 14664715 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 25, 2022) (unpublished), involved patent and trademark claims between the plaintiff designer and the defendant manufacturer. The plaintiff’s law firm had done transactional work in the past for the defendant, but that work had concluded, and the defendant was a former client of the law firm.

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Lady Justice

Court of Appeals Discusses Professional Judgment Rule for Legal Malpractice

Division I of the Washington Court of Appeals in Seattle recently discussed the professional judgment rule in Dang v. Floyd, Pflueger & Ringer, PS, Wn. App.2d, 2022 WL 9732289 (Oct. 17, 2022). Under that rule, a lawyer is generally not liable for legal malpractice if the lawyer was simply exercising reasonable professional judgment. The plaintiff doctor in Dang argued that his defense counsel in a regulatory hearing before the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission made decisions on witnesses and exhibits that led to an unfavorable outcome. The defendant law firm in the subsequent legal malpractice case moved for summary judgment relying on the professional judgment rule. The trial court granted the motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

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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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Shot of a young male lawyer standing by his desk in the office

Should I Open My Own Law Firm?

How do you know if going independent and starting a law firm business is the right choice for you? In this article, I’ll give you some of the tools you need to determine whether it’s time to ditch a traditional office role and strike out on your own.

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Who We Are movie poster

WSBA at the Movies: Who We Are

In the documentary “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America”, Jeffery Robinson takes his audience on a time-traveling journey from slavery to post-reconstruction and from the Civil Rights movement of the mid-century to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. The film, which is streaming on Netflix, follows a narrative thread laid out in Robinson’s 2018 talk to a live audience at the New York Town Hall theater. It intersperses footage of that talk with interviews between Robinson and figures who have emerged from modern struggles of racial equity; figures like Darren Martin, who was suspected of burglary while moving into his New York apartment; Tiffany Crutcher, whose brother, Terence, was killed by Oklahoma police despite being unarmed with his hands in the air; and Viola Fletcher, the last known survivor of the Tulsa Massacre.

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Cherry blossoms near people at the University of Washington

Meet the Law School Representatives of 2023

Consider that a student who expects to graduate law school this year will have spent most of their education amid a global pandemic. Their legal academia would have taken place during historic global protests, a historic attack on the U.S. Capitol building, and the reversal of massively controversial legal precedent. In all, law students today are looking at a world full of inflation and, arguably, some of the greatest challenges for our legal system in modern history. Each year, the Washington State Bar Association partners with our state’s three law schools and selects a law student representative from each. These student representatives both serve as liaisons who communicate issues facing students to the WSBA, and who share WSBA resources with their fellow students.

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Green ethical business preserving resources, reducing CO2, caring for employees.

ESG and Law Firms Part 2: Understanding Emissions and Where to Start

In the first part of this series, we explored Environmental Social, and Governance (ESG)—what ESG is and the basics of what lawyers and law firms need to know about ESG. After reading part 1, you may be thinking: How will ESG impact my practice and my firm? We will answer that question here by exploring one of the ways that ESG may impact your law firm operations: client requests for ESG metrics and, specifically, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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Vintage illustration of President James Buchanan meeting chiefs of the Pawnees and Poncas in 1858.

A Reservation Attorney’s Thoughts on the Castro-Huerta Decision

Several members of the U. S. Supreme Court deem themselves originalists or strict constructionists whose duty it is to decide cases based upon constitutional intent at the time of its adoption as reflected in its original terms. This nation could not have made it through its formative years without recognizing its dependence on what were then powerful sovereign nations with whom a solemn pact was made and never to be broken. The recent Castro-Huerta decision bodes well for the elevation of state sovereignty. For tribal nations, not so much.

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