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Large urban law firms typically are housed on the upper floors of majestic skyscrapers with expansive views and have very impressive trappings – from the client reception area, to conference rooms, to the lawyers’ offices.
Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt PC, my law firm for twenty-five years – I retired in 2011 as the Chief Operating Officer – was no exception. When I left in 2011, the six floors occupied in the Pac West Center on floors 15-20 had a total footprint of just under 120,000 square feet.
They were well designed and scrupulously maintained – Schwabe took pride in the impression it presented. The Portland office was the anchor of our five other offices.
Legal economics and the pandemic have forced a dramatic change in professional service firms’ space configuration, however. For many large firms, the days of the expansive and plush partner offices are history.
For example, at Schwabe, associates and partners now have the same size and smaller offices except where the prior configuration precluded that such as in some corner offices.
Law libraries, which once housed hundreds of bound volumes, are skeletons of their prior capacity. While there are still some hard-bound volumes, case-law and written legal authority is primarily accessed from the lawyer’s office on-line. And oftentimes, word-processing and copy centers are now outsourced or located off-site in less expensive remote space.
This situation was exacerbated with COVID. Law offices locked-down and lawyers found out that working from home provided some real advantages – like working in sweats and the daily “commute” reduced to walking from the kitchen to the home office twenty-feet away – usually with coffee and pastry in hand.
What transpires, post-pandemic, in office leases is speculative, but most firms will probably reduce their space as hybrid arrangements replace the traditional fully-occupied model and the demand to reduce overhead expense continues. That said, most large firms will still have imposing reception areas and client conference areas.
Schwabe’s location and the quality and configuration of its facilities resulted in two major external requests to use its space in 1987 and 1998. The results were interesting and memorable and I’ll relate the stories in the next few posts of Thebeerchaser. While they provided great anecdotes and some ancillary income to the firm, in retrospect, if you were in firm management, you wondered if it was worth the disruption.
The filming of some scenes of “The Last Innocent Man” movie in 1987 and hosting the three-day West Coast hearing of former NBA star, Latrell Spreewell’s arbitration in 1998, brought some well-known celebrities, athletes and coaches to our offices. The latter garnered not only national, but international attention.Embed from Getty Images
Latrell Spreewell, who was drafted 24th in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors, built a solid reputation in his first few years in the League as a shooting guard and small forward. He was selected for the Western Conference All-Star Team in 1994, 1995 and 1997 and ultimately four NBA All-Star Teams.
After the Warriors, he finished his “checkered career” in 2005 after stints on the New Work Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. I state “checkered” – in part – because in 1997, this sizeable physical and athletic specimen at 6 feet, 5 inches and weighing in just under 200 pounds, proceeded to physically attack, choke and then punch his 6 foot 1 inch Warrior Coach, PJ Carlesimo at a practice session.
(Carlesimo was not only physically less imposing, but not as good a basketball player because this Fordham University guard went undrafted in the 1971 NBA draft…..)
“Sprewell was suspended for 10 games without pay. However, the next day, in the wake of a public uproar, the Warriors voided the remainder of his contract altogether, which included $23.7 million over three years, and the NBA suspended him for one year.” (Wikipedia)
Spreewell took the case to arbitration – the first step in a long line of litigation with the Warriors and the NBA. Schwabe hosted the first four days of this arbitration in our Portland office (the final four days were held in New York City) and in the next post, I will convey how we came to be the site of that hearing and some of the stories that surround it.
Lights Camera Action!
Phillip Margolin is a best-selling author of murder mysteries who until he started writing novels full-time in 1996, had a dynamic criminal law defense practice in Portland, Oregon.
He also had a solid reputation with Oregon State Bar members for his professional and civic activities including serving as President and Chairman of the Board of Chess for Success – a non-profit charity that uses chess to teach elementary and middle school children in Title I schools study skills
As stated in the biography on his website:
“…..I graduated from The American University in Washington, D.C. with a Bachelor’s Degree in Government. From 1965 to 1967, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, West Africa. In 1970, I graduated from New York University School of Law. During my last two years in law school I went at night and worked my way through by teaching junior high school in the South Bronx in New York City.
My first job after law school was a clerkship with Herbert M. Schwab, the Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals. From 1972 until 1996, I was in private practice specializing in criminal defense at the trial and appellate levels. As an appellate attorney I have appeared before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Oregon Supreme Court and the Oregon Court of Appeals.
As a trial attorney, I handled all sorts of criminal cases in state and federal court and I have represented approximately 30 people charged with homicide, including several who have faced the death penalty. I was the first Oregon attorney to use the Battered Women’s Syndrome to defend a battered woman accused of murdering her spouse.”
I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all of the 27 books he’s written. The Last Innocent Man was his second novel and rated a 3.91 out of 4.00 on the Goodreads literary website. Like any major best seller, reviews vary such as the two below:
“This book was on the chronicles list of best ever thrillers… Inexplicably. It reads like it was written by a second grader and the only reason I finished it was because I was too lazy to get up off the beach.” (2010)
However, I shared the perspective of this reviewer:
“Like always, the Portland, Oregon Author does it again!!! Very fast paced and the Trial of the crime, always so Awesome!!!” (2020)
An HBO “Classic” – set in Portland *5
HBO decided to produce a movie on the novel which is based on a fictitious Portland attorney. I don’t recall exactly how – probably at the recommendation of Margolin who knows a number of Schwabe lawyers – the network approached us about using our Portland office to film several scenes.
We negotiated for the film-work to take place on nights and weekends and they used our law library and a partner’s office. Dick Templeman, our outstanding Director of Facilities and Support, remembers the location manager being “pretty demanding” but they left everything in good order, for example, repainting the library after they had transformed it into a color meeting their specifications.
When having preliminary talks with both the NBA and HBO, they advanced the assertion that having these events take place at the firm would enhance the firm’s status and reputation. One has to question, however, whether any potential clients would choose Schwabe just for the potential and unlikely opportunity to ride the elevator with co-stars Ed Harris and Roxanne Hart, both of whom continue to have good acting gigs in their early seventies.
That said, there may have been some clients and staff who would have loved to walk the halls and chat with Clarence Williams III (Linc Hayes of Mod Squad fame). In the movie, ee played D.J. Johnson and the only really memorable line uttered after he was advised he could remain silent, was: ” Fuck the right to remain in silence! Call Silverman!”
“Linc Taylor” passed away in 2021 at 81. *8
I have to admit that I never saw “The Last Innocent Man” (and will put it on my future list after “The English Patient”…), but what kind of critical acclaim did it garner? While getting six ACE (American Cinema Editors) nominations in 1988, it received no awards.
The IMDB (Internet Movie Data Base) reviewers were also not overly impressed and it chalked up 6.3 out of 10.0 Typical of the reviews was this 2002 comment captioned “Mediocre Perry Mason Stuff”:
“The Last Innocent Man” is a predictable, by-the-numbers journeyman tv flick with Harris playing a top criminal attorney. In it’s somewhat long two-hour run time, this-jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none flick, manages to squeeze in murder, investigation, trial, romance, sex, dirty cops, a pimp, a sting, a crazed killer, etc. without distinguishing itself in any particular way. Filler for late night cable”.
To show how culture has changed in thirty-four years, it should be noted that one rating database stated, “Warning to the faint of heart, this movie does contain a few nude/sex scenes!”
And if trying to decide whether to view it, I would not be persuaded by this somewhat ludicrous remark from a guy who had a “formidable” bias with his comment captioned, “I Was in This Movie”
“This excellent movie was filmed in Portland……A thriller to say the least with twists and turns. A must see. (I can be seen walking past Meshach Taylor (Crosby) at the motel murder scene, as I walk out of camera, I shun a reporter. I was a plain clothes detective (extra))”.
Now, I’m old enough to remember the comedy (1986-93) in which Meshach Taylor won an Emmy, but those who weren’t, will have to click on this link.
Before devoting the next Beerchaser post strictly to the Spreewell arbitration, I have to add one more story about Phil Margolin. Two years ago, I read Fugitive – one of his novels taking place in Portland that I had previously skipped.
One of the primary characters is a senior deputy district attorney, named Mike Greene – the boyfriend of protagonist, Amanda Jaffe, a criminal defense lawyer. I thought I remembered this character from a few of the other Margolin mysteries.
Mike Greene is one of my favorite Portland lawyers. Now retired, he was a national authority on legal malpractice and diabetes discrimination matters. We go to the same church and based on his work with the American Diabetes Association (Chair of the National Board of Directors from 1994 to 1995 and continued involvement since 1982), I asked him to speak to the firm about the disease.
Greene formed a legal advocacy program to fight discrimination on behalf of people with diabetes. He and former Portland Trailblazer, Chris Dudley, who also is a diabetic and active in this work, gave an impressive presentation. (Dudley also created the Chris Dudley Foundation, an Oregon-based group intended to improve the lives of diabetic children.)
(Greene top and Margolin bottom *10 -11)
Now the Portland Bar is a “small community” and Mike is about the same vintage as Phillip Margolin, so I e-mailed him and told him I was reading Margolin’s book, stating:
“I know that a number of novelists name characters after friends and/or colleagues and this seemed to be more than a coincidence.”
”Phil has been a friend for decades. I purchased at a Diabetes Auction, the privilege of Phil using my name. He liked the name and character he created to use the name. I am now in five of his books. What a purchase? A piece of immortality? It’s fun. I have been asked about this by many people over the years.”
So if you are reading any of the following Margolin novels, look for Mike Greene: Wild Justice (2000), Ties that Bind (2003), Proof Positive (2006), Fugitive (2009) and Violent Crimes (2016)!
External Photo Attribution
* 2 Wikimedia Commons: (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P._J._Carlesimo_2015_cropped.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: MavsFan28 – 26 September 205
*3 Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phillip_Margolin#/media/File:Phillip_Margolin_cut.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Author: UAwiki – 11 November 2011.
*4. Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/183404631782669/photos/pb.100050566242576.-2207520000../3564642426992189/?type=3)
*6 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ed_Harris_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Gage Skidmore – 22 July 2017.
*8 Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Williams_III#/media/File:Clarence_Williams_III_Mod_Squad_1971.JPG) Publicity photo of Clarence Williams III from the television program The Mod Squad. This work is in the public domain in the US because it was published in the US between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice.
*9 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meshach_Taylor_in_NY2011_photo_by_lia_chang.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Lia Chang -17 May 2011.