Like many other elements of our regional economy, the legal services sector is going through generational change. A reasonable estimate of lawyers actively practicing in Clatsop County is 45. Those include two flagship firms that are decades old and a broad array of newer firms of solo practitioners and partners. In our survey, it is also apparent that Portland law firms are a growing presence here.
Snow & Snow of Astoria and its predecessor partners are the county’s oldest firm (see cameo, p. #). Campbell Popkin of Seaside (see cameo, p. #) similarly goes back decades.
Blair Henningsgaard exemplifies the longtime solo practitioner. In practice here since 1983, Henningsgaard is Astoria’s city attorney. He also does contract law, real estate, land use, estate planning, business law and bankruptcy.
Newly minted lawyers are finding their way here. Lawrence & Lawrence of Gearhart (see cameo, p. #) are in their practice’s third year. Christian Zupancic’s Seaside practice specializes in real estate and business. Zupancic hung out his shingle in 2013.
In an era of specialization and dense regulations, it is no longer feasible to find a full-service law firm in small towns. Thus a number of county businesses use large Portland firms. For 25 years, the Columbia River Bar Pilots have used Mike Haglund (Haglund, Kelley, Jones & Wilder), whose specialty is admiralty law. Since 1985, Eric Paulson, CEO of Lektro, has used Jim Zupancic (Zupancic, Rathbone Law Group) for all services but patents. He uses Klarquist, Sparkman for patents work. EO Media Group, parent of The Daily Astorian and Chinook Observer, uses Tonkon Torp for human resources and benefits law and regulations and also for acquisitions. Bornstein Seafoods’ corporate work is done by a Bellingham firm. For waste water issues, it uses a Portland firm.
Two county firms are prominent for their work in personal injury, workers compensation and Social Security. Joe DiBartolomeo of Astoria has maintained his practice since 1991. Martin Alvey of Portland maintains an Astoria office with the same specialties.
Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis runs one of the county’s larger law firms, with six deputies and six trial assistants. Two of the candidates for the open seat on the county Circuit Court are Marquis’ former deputies, and a third candidate currently is in Marquis’ office.
The main players in the Clatsop County criminal defense bar are Kris Kaino and Mary Ann Murk. They hired under public defender contracts with the State Public Defense Commission. Newer members of the county criminal defense bar are Jeremy Rust, Ashley Flukenger, Lane Wintermute and James Von Beckman.
The comparatively smaller legal community in Pacific County, which has an overall population roughly half Clatsop’s size, also has seen both generational change and considerable stability. About 22 attorneys are in active practice in the county. There are other part-time attorneys.
On the Long Beach Peninsula, the most longstanding civil law firm was established by Guy Glenn Sr., with Nathan Needham taking on an increasing proportion of the caseload. Glenn has served in a variety of prominent local roles, including Ocean Beach school superintendent. The firm handles personal injury/wrongful death cases, DUI and other criminal-defense matters, and estate/medical planning and estates.
Also in south Pacific County, Nancy R. McAllister, a Willamette University Law School graduate, started her local practice in 1992. Her preferred areas of practice are all types of criminal law and family law. She is a member of the board of trustees for Columbia Memorial Hospital.
“I appreciate the rural aspect of practice in both Pacific and Clatsop County. I enjoy working with my clients and understanding that an attorney/client relationship can affects all aspects of a client’s life,” McAllister said.
Kris Kaino is better known as an attorney in Clatsop County, but lives in Ilwaco, and serves on the Ocean Beach School Board.
Doug Goelz, a long-time attorney on the Long Beach Peninsula, representing clients including the city of Long Beach, is now seeking election to the Pacific/Wahkiakum Superior Court judgeship being vacated by incumbent Michael Sullivan. Goelz currently is South District Court judge.
Comparatively new faces among south county lawyers include Nicole T. Dalton in Long Beach. She practices criminal defense, divorce and child custody cases, accidents and personal injury, and immigration law.
Jonathan H. Quittner, also based in Long Beach, is a 2015 graduate of Seattle University. He has set up a “low bono practice in Long Beach, Wash, with the goal of assisting the unserved population in Pacific County, where there are few attorneys. He will focus on elder law because of the large percentage of elderly people in the area, as well as landlord/tenant, criminal defense, and family law,” according to the university. “Low bono” means serving clients of moderate means by offering reduced-fee legal services.
Serving both south and north Pacific County, Penoyar Law is five separate law firms all headed by members a well known family of attorneys. The senior members of the groups are retired Washington State Court of Appeals Judge Joel Penoyar and Betsy Penoyer, who is the part-time North District Court judge in addition to handling private civil cases. (see cameo, p. #)
“There are probably more lawyers in Pacific County now than when we first moved here in 1975, but most are in government work, or on private contracts, and very few are doing general private practice,” the Penoyars observe.
Michael Turner in Raymond works as an administrative hearing officer for Pacific County in addition to practicing in various areas of law. Like Goelz in south county, Turner is seeking election to the Pacific/Wahkiakum Superior Court judgeship.
Scott Harmer, based in South Bend, largely concentrates on a criminal defense practice.
Pacific County Prosecutor Mark McClain employs three other attorneys: Eric Weston is dedicated to a full-time civil caseload for the county. Don Richter prosecutes felonies, in addition to juvenile criminal cases. Haylee Mills has a District Court caseload, which includes misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, citations and code-enforcement cases.
McClain said four Superior Court-appointed attorneys are often involved in cases: David Hatch, David Arcuri, Harold Karlsvik and Nancy McAllister. “Scott Harmer handles North and South District Court, with Edward Penoyar and Jonathan Quittner doing conflict cases where Scott cannot hear the matter or has a co-defendant case,” McClain said. “McAllister and Turner serve as court-appointed legal counsel in juvenile matters.”
From their position as some of Pacific County’s most experienced lawyers, the Penoyars offered some observations that apply generally on both sides of the Columbia River:
“The practice of law has become more compartmentalized, all areas of practice have become more complicated and it is difficult to be a generalist any longer.
“The lawyers are all very congenial and cooperative and of course we all know all of them. I think that is one of the more enjoyable parts of practicing in a small county. We try to work with each other’s schedules and the court’s schedule, so that lawyering is for the most part fairly low-key and not antagonistic. Occasionally, that doesn’t happen.
“None of us are practicing here with a goal of becoming rich. It’s hard to charge friends and old schoolmates at all, much less high city-type fees. But in exchange we’re able to help so many people, quickly, relatively inexpensively and usually without stressful court hearings.”