Lawyers Continued: Summer Associates – Part I

In an August 2020 blog post I did an initial tribute to attorneys naming them Beerchaser-of-the – Quarter – Part I.   This was based on my forty years working with them – not as a lawyer, but as a legal manager.  After working with lawyers at both Clackamas County and the Oregon State Bar, the last twenty-five years of my career were spent at the Northwest Regional law firm, Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt.


While first serving as Business Manager, I retired after twelve years as the Chief Operating Officer of this 150 lawyer firm headquartered in Portland, Oregon which then had four branch offices, the primary one being in Seattle. (Oh yes, for awhile, we also had a lobbyist in Washington, DC. as well.) My beerchasing hobby started in August 2011, eight months after I retired.


Herding Cats – A retirement present – Look at the label on the bottles!

While most people really like their own lawyer, the group as a whole, seldom receives accolades and is often subject to stereo-typical and often pejorative labels.  

As is true in any profession, I know that a number of attorneys are egotistical jerks, flaunt the ethics of the profession and would not be good drinking companions.  That said, my 40+ years working with lawyers in three different organizations were rewarding and an opportunity to interact with ethical, smart, dedicated advocates who have amazing work ethics and elevated senses of humor.  Many cherished friendships resulted.

Wikipedia - Public Domain

“It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing and talk by the hour.” *1

(*1  Attribution for the photos not taken by Don Williams is at the end of this post.)

Below, you will glean some information about the amazing backgrounds, and without exaggeration, the incredible talents and abilities of the law students who would seek employment at Schwabe and other firms during the summers of their first two years at law school.  While we also hired both new lawyers and lateral attorneys who hadn’t gone through the summer associate program, it was the best source of new lawyers.

If they performed well during those summers and had positive personal interactions with attorneys and staff, they would be offered a job at the firm when they graduated contingent on their passage of the State Bar in their jurisdiction.

Competition among law firms was intense for the best students as these were the future of the firm.   And the law students also went into overdrive to get a cherished clerkship. A small number would eventually make it to partner – usually after about seven years – and others would enhance the economics of the firm and be esteemed colleagues until they moved on.  And while everyone worked hard, Schwabe was a very collegial firm with a great culture.

During the 1970’s and until economics and the changing practice of law dictated otherwise, we recruited by sending two of our lawyers to the top law schools to interview prospects on campus.  Most, besides Stanford, were on the east coast including the Ivy League Schools, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan (shown in the photo above).

If they were selected and chose our firm, the law students would spend the next one or two summers in Portland or Seattle demonstrating that they could explain the nuances of such stimulating topics as the Rule of Perpetuities or the five factors considered under the Daubert Standard, work well with others and that they had the personality and drive to ultimately bring in new clients.

For the most part, we ended this expensive east coast recruiting  practice in the first decade of the new millennium, realizing that most of the top students at these schools would take clerkships at the Wall Street firms or the mega-firms on the east coast where beginning associates who essentially had very limited experience would be making well over $100,000 per year (+ bonuses) even then!

Concurrently, we realized that those who excelled at good law schools in the Northwest might not have the sterling academic pedigree, but were just as smart and motivated as Ivy League stock.  Besides, they often had relationships with people on the West Coast that could become good clients.

These “kids” had a good situation.  Once they got to the firm, they were wined and dined at lunch and dinner, participated in lawyer-league athletics, got a lot of hands-on mentoring and attended professional sporting events and concerts where they had great tickets.   They were also paid extremely well for their efforts which did not require inordinate working hours.  (They would encounter these if they became associates……)

Before they arrived, we had them complete detailed questionnaires on their interests, experience, talents, etc. – information which probably didn’t arise in the personal interviews on campus where they were selected.  This was so the people at the firm would be able to get acquainted more quickly.  When they arrived in early June, we also gave them an all-day orientation about what to expect and tips on how to be successful.

Based on assertion in the memorable epigraph by eighteenth century English essayist and poet, Charles Lamb, at the beginning of To Kill a Mockingbird, I decided that for my thirty minute orientation spiel, rather than bore them talking about firm Management, I’d tell them a little about their summer associate colleagues – their lives and activities outside of law school and before they decided on that academic route.


Charles Lamb

Lawyers, I suppose, were children once. *8

Who were these elite students sitting beside them (or on video link from Seattle) and what made them interesting and worth joining at a bar after work for a pint of IPA?  For many years during the heyday of legal economics, we would hire about fifteen clerks each summer.

Most of these wiz-kids did very well and unlike at some big firms where they would cull substantially, Schwabe made associate offers to about 85% of its summer clerks and our acceptance rate was very high.  (It should be added that law would be a second career for a number of these individuals or they had worked for a period between college and law school.)

(Note:  With the pandemic, most of the summer associate programs were temporarily discontinued and before that, law firm economics significantly reduced the number of summer clerks in many firms to single digits.)

Below, I have combined the data on the summer associate classes at Schwabe for a three-year span (2005 and 2007-8.  I either lost the file for 2006 or they were a boring class.)  I think this will demonstrate the exceptional nature of these young students. 

I have to add, that based on their accomplishments, while one might expect them to be very confident and brash, they as a group, were almost without exception, well-rounded, modest and very personable.

Languages besides English

Spanish, French, Chinese, Italian, Hindi, Korean, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Persian (just learning….), Basque and Pig Latin (we loved this guy!).

Previous summer jobs or occupations

Waiter/waitress, receptionist, paralegal, English teacher, reporter (once interviewed Toni Braxton and Santana), AV technician, college admission counselor, life insurance sales (80-hour weeks for twelve weeks with top sales awards), risk analyst, consultant, co-director of Victoria Secret store.

Manager, engineer, barista, quality assurance analyst (in a waste treatment plant?!), UPS worker, chauffer, church youth director, customs broker, computer network engineer, manager of a wilderness backpacking firm, semi-pro football player, survey researcher (tracked Wisconsin vendors who sold tobacco to minors), Russian interpreter (dealt with international trade and environmental matters), high school vice principal of discipline and supervision, business manager at Party City.

High school chemistry teacher, credit risk analyst, personal banker, grass seed farmer, jewelry salesperson, drugstore clerk, general manager of Fun-time Fireworks, fire prevention specialist (coordinated Smokey the Bear appearances).  Fortunately, there were no sparks and we did not have to mediate any disputes between the fire prevention specialist and the manager of the fireworks operation.  

This post is getting too long and the other categories for which I have data were also very interesting and I’ll cover these in my next post.  So stay tune.  They include sports in which they participated, hobbies and interests, past volunteer or civic activities, education besides law school and foods they liked – or wanted to avoid.  Remember, they got to dine out just about every day because it was a good chance for our lawyers to meet them and see how they acted in an informal setting.  

I want to conclude this post, however, with a letter from one law school student – not from the summer associate program but who applied for a job upon his future graduation from law school.   

He was from a very good law school in the Midwest and his letter was unforgettable – at least to me – which is why I’ve kept it in my archives for thirty years.  The internet is a marvelous research tool and I have to admit that I did a successful search for the author of this missive.

I’ve decided to black out his name and most of the details although my instinct is that this guy just had a dry sense of humor and was trying to remedy an embarrassing error with jocularity.  Unfortunately, he did not get hired.   

That said, he’s done well during the ensuing years.  After graduating from law school and passing the state and federal bars, he’s had an impressive career in legal education, legal professional associations and a stint as consultant for an international mega-firm.  He currently works at a university on the east coast.

After consulting with some of my attorney friends, I may actually call the guy, introduce myself and just ask him how this happened and his thoughts about this long-ago missive.   If he’s like most of the lawyers I know, he would laugh about it and we might ultimately end up having a beer together at some point.

Law clerk letter 1

Bad judgement or a dry sense of humor?

Photo Attributions

*1.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Lady Justice 

*2.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – University of Michigan Law School

*3.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – PacWest Center 

*4. Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.- US Bank Centre Seattle – Author: Cumulus Cloud – 8/1/2008

*5.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Willamette University College of Law

*6.  Wikimedia Commons – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0Lewis and Clark Law School – Author: lbcstud – 6/3/2014

*7.  Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0University of Washington Law School – Author: Joe Mabel – 8/11/2009

*8.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – English Essayist and Poet Charles Lamb

*9.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Smokey the Bear

*10.  Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons – Fireworks show

You can Always Return to The Nest…and You Should!

The "New" Home of The Nest Lounge

The “New” Home of The Nest Lounge

Webster defines “nest” as “a place of rest, retreat or lodging,” and our recent visit to The Nest Lounge affirmed at least part of that definition.  It was a warren of nooks and crannies in a charming old house that makes a great neighborhood bar on SE Belmont.  It serves as another reminder of the vast array of quirky and fascinating Portland bars awaiting those willing to stray – even if just a little bit from the beaten path.

Barkeep Alex tending to business..

Barkeep Alex tending to business..

Our bartender, Alex, was a nice chap, who haled from Minnesota and came to Oregon seven years ago.  He told us about the disastrous 2012 fire that resulted in the temporary closure of The Nest on NE Alberta and relocation to what was once the home of the Nine Muses Pub“…..with cozy hangout rooms throughout, and their signature ping-pong tables on the back patio.”

“For those searching the web, the place we visited is NOT the Nest Lounge “located on the rooftop of LeFenix Hotel in one of the coolest nightlife areas in Bangkok ,” nor is it the bars with the same name in Decatur Illinois, Omaha or Long Island, New York (TheBeerchaser’s birthplace)  – “…come on down and enjoy a night out that will offer your senses a bit more than you’re accustomed to – You’ll be ‘Nestling’ before you know it.”

A number of Nests ___ throughout the country

A number of Nests can be found throughout the USA and….

And then there is the Indian Wells Nest in the desert, where, “The Nest has long been a favorite of celebrities, golf and tennis legends and locals alike….It’s no wonder that the Nest is at the top of the “Things to Do in Palm Springs.“  As new owners, Dodi and Kevin Henry state, “At The Nest, life begins at five.”  (We assume they are talking about the time of day and not years after birth.)

Ham EmeryI was accompanied by my former Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt colleague, Hamilton Emery, now an Associate General Counsel at Cambia Health Solutions in Portland.  “Ham” the moniker by which he is known to his friends, received his law degree at Willamette University College of Law.  As is the case with Thebeerchaser, he  “married up” – in Ham’s case, to Rachael, a Portland physician.

Ham minding the Nest and contemplating various provisions of the Affordable Care Act

Ham minding the Nest and contemplating various provisions of the Affordable Care Act

He spends about 60% of his time working on health care reform issues and would not respond to Conan O’Brien’s  2012 comment regarding the Affordable Care Act

“President Obama says that Congress is very close to getting a new health-care plan, but due to compromises, it ‘won’t include everything that everybody wants……For instance, it covers everything except trips to the doctor or the hospital.”

Alex and Ham with Thebeerchaser logo

Alex and Ham with Thebeerchaser logo

Recreational opportunities besides or while raising a mug..
Recreational opportunities besides or while raising a mug..

Portland Bar Fly review  echoes our experience, “This place is AWESOME.  They’re super cheap…they have a pool table, arcade game, pinball, ping-pong table, juke box…..

Just like in college....!

Just like in college….!

…. also an outdoor – enclosed patio area, projector for movie nights, and some crazy local art.  I felt like I was at someone’s lake house. We kept discovering new areas and being more and more impressed.”

Cool local art located throughout

Cool local art located throughout

Aside from the quirky and interesting physical layout and the cool artwork, there are no other distinguishing characteristics, but they had a nice, albeit limited, selection of beers – P1010869

Ham had an India Red Ale and I had a Vaporizer, both from Hood River’s Double Mountain Brewery. Their food menu is also limited.P1010862


As an aside, it is interesting that  Bar Fly lists 198 “nearby bars” –although it should be noted that Bar Fly includes strip clubs and restaurants with bars such as Boogie’s Burger and other questionable venues that Thebeerchaser would never consider for his tour because they are restaurants or other establishments and not a bar per se’

For example, The Star Theater and now closed, Hamburger Mary’s.   One can also question the definition of the term “nearby” when the list includes Prost – one of Thebeerchaser’s favorite bars (see post from 11/24/12) – however, on the other side of the Willamette River on North Mississippi Avenue.

Some interesting specialty cocktails

Some interesting specialty cocktails

Ham and I enjoyed our trip to the nest and as we parted, he told me that in the spirit of the new Affordable Care Act and the New Year, he was willing to propose an innovative concept to management.

A Ping-Pong table in the cool (literally) basement
A Ping-Pong table in the cool (literally) basement

Consistent with his nickname, Ham —  he thought that motivating people to take their cholesterol medication by wrapping it in bacon could have a positive impact on patient care and health care expenses.

That idea rocks, Ham and this patio at The Nest will rock during the summer months.  If you’ve been there before – return to The Nest, and if not hatch a plan to try it out – you don’t have to go to Nebraska or Bangkok to make it happen.

Every nest should have a porch or balcony

Every nest should have a porch or balcony

The Nest Lounge    2715 SE Belmont