BY BRANDON SAWYER
A conversation with leading partners at Bend’s largest law firm and a midsize firm in Portland, plus rankings of Oregon's top law firms in 2013.
Executive Committee Chair
Karnopp Petersen LLP, Bend
OB: What is your firm most focused on right now?
JOSH NEWTON: As we come out of the downturn in Central Oregon, the main change [is] the emerging business sector as something that is growing and dynamic. We are very focused on serving emerging business and the intellectual property issues. It’s related to the fact that OSU Cascades is becoming a standalone four-year university and a much more important presence in the region.
OB: Are you still seeing consequences of the real estate downturn in Central Oregon?
JN: We’re still seeing a significant number of judicial foreclosures. But we are also seeing Bend working its way out of it. You’re seeing subdivisions on the west side of Bend, where there are a lot of new housing starts. You’re seeing the median home price increasing. Everything we’re hearing is the banks have money available to lend and want to lend, so that’s a good sign.
OB: Is business litigation up or down?
JN: What we’re still seeing is that predominantly lawsuits are credit-related, whether they’re foreclosures or consumer-credit type. Before the downturn, you saw more business litigation; you have not seen that rebound. What happens is businesses’ ability to pay legal costs goes down in the downturn. Probably the type of business litigation that increased during the downturn was some breach of contract but more securities litigation, as much as anything, where the investors are saying to the promoters: “This isn’t the deal we signed up for.”
OB: Is it harder to get a job as a lawyer nowadays?
JN: It is harder. I spend a lot of time reading what’s going on with the industry, and nationally the industry has shed legal positions and laid off lawyers, and it is difficult to get jobs right now as lawyers. In fact, you’re seeing law schools are now reducing the sizes of their incoming classes.
OB: Where do you see Bend’s legal
industry in five years?
JN: You’re going to see technology continue to drive how legal services are delivered, and within Bend, I think you’re going to continue to see more dynamic startup businesses with discrete legal needs, like intellectual property. You may see Bend’s legal industry also have more lawyers living here and providing legal services elsewhere. There’s more telecommuting for lawyers; that’s one of the ways the industry’s evolving.