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Firm History

The 21st Century
From the first half of the last century, Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt grew from 14 attorneys in one city to 157 attorneys in six cities. The firm currently has offices in Portland, Bend, Salem, and Eugene, Oregon; Seattle and Vancouver, Washington; and Washington D.C. In recent years, the practice has evolved from a predominately trial practice to a broad-based business practice, including business litigation.

During the last three decades, women became more involved in firm leadership, with Neva Campbell becoming the first woman partner in 1981. The firm has dramatically increased its commitment to diversity by focusing on the hiring and promotion of women and minorities.

Dave Bartz
Mark Long

David F. Bartz, Jr.

Mark A. Long

In 2001, Walter Grebe stepped down after seven years as Managing Partner, and was replaced by dual attorney leaders, David Bartz, President, and Mark Long, Managing Partner.

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt encourages attorneys to participate in community activities, professional affairs, and nonprofit service. The firm was the first Northwest law firm to sponsor a legal clinic for low-income families. Nearly one hundred attorneys volunteer their time at the clinic. Firm members help support charitable organizations, including the Red Cross, Loaves & Fishes (food for the housebound), and Blanchet House (food, shelter, and other services to the needy).

Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt has grown to be the seventh largest law firm in the Pacific Northwest, and the second largest in Oregon. The firm's practice represents the region's major employers in banking, healthcare, wood products and manufacturing, and includes a broad base of small and entrepreneurial businesses and individuals. Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt remains deeply committed to service and to continuing its tradition of leadership in the Pacific Northwest.

The Beginning
Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt marks its beginning from December 21, 1892, the date its founder, Ralph Wilbur, was admitted to the Oregon Bar.

Wilbur was a native of Vermont who received his law degree from Boston University in 1892 and immediately moved to Portland at the urging of his brother Earl. Wilbur began law practice during a time of growth and optimism in Portland and Oregon. In the early 1900s Wilbur developed a practice based on trial work dealing with insurance claims, and had offices in the Labbe and Sherlock buildings. The firm has built upon and greatly expanded the practice that Wilbur established.

Like Ralph Wilbur, Schuyler Spencer moved to Portland in 1892. Wilbur joined Spencer in the Board of Trade Building in 1909 (where the firm stayed until 1963), and they formed a partnership, Wilbur & Spencer.

Wilbur, Spencer & Beckett
In 1913 Harry Beckett joined Wilbur & Spencer and in 1915 the name was changed to include him. Beckett was several years younger than his partners. He was from Kansas and obtained his law degree from the University of Missouri in 1907. Beckett was remembered by one friend as a man with a "beautiful character" and a "delightful sense of humor."

Some years after becoming a partner, Beckett established the firm's corporate practice. He was a close friend of a vice president of Pope & Talbot, a lumber company based in San Francisco. Beckett did the Portland legal work for that company and its subsidiary, McCormick Steamship. Pope & Talbot, which moved its main offices to Portland in 1963, may be Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt's oldest continuous client.

Beckett also represented the claims department of the Portland Railway, Light & Power Company, a predecessor of the Portland General Electric Company. Portland Railway operated the city's trolley system and was at one time the largest property owner in Portland.

Wilbur, Beckett & Howell
Another lawyer from Missouri, Franklin Howell was admitted to the Oregon Bar in 1910, and began work with Wilbur and Spencer in 1912. His name was added to the partnership by 1920.

In 1918 Howell was elected to the Oregon Senate from Multnomah County, winning as a write-in to fill a vacancy. He was elected in 1919 to the regular session. Howell left the firm in 1944, when he was appointed a Multnomah County circuit judge by Governor Snell. Howell was described by his colleague, Robert Mautz, as "a tall, benign gentleman" who probably never "had an unkind thought or said an unkind word in his life."

Wilbur, Beckett, Howell & Oppenheimer
A native Portlander born in 1890, Eugene Oppenheimer studied law at the University of Oregon law department, which was then in Portland. He was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1915, but soon after enlisted in the Navy and served in France. After returning to Portland in 1918, Oppenheimer went to work at Wilbur, Beckett & Howell for $125 a month. He later said he thought at the time he had the world by the tail.

In 1924 the firm became Wilbur, Beckett, Howell & Oppenheimer. This name lasted through World War II. In 1951, he accepted an appointment by Governor Douglas McKay to serve as circuit court judge. Oppenheimer was a circuit court judge for thirteen years.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the Depression affected Portland severely because both wheat and timber sales had been declining since 1927. During this period, the practice of the firm grew, but slowly. However, the business and friendship ties that developed during the Depression laid the foundation for a second generation of strong leadership for the firm. On January 1, 1934, the friends Calvin Souther and Robert Mautz became associates of the firm. They always worked well as a team, and their dynamism propelled the firm to unprecedented growth after World War II.

Wilbur, Beckett, Oppenheimer, Mautz & Souther
Before Robert Mautz became a lawyer, he gained national fame as a football player at the University of Oregon. A fine student, he graduated from Oregon Law School and passed the Oregon Bar in 1927. Personal injury defense cases formed the basis of his practice. He had a distinguished career as a trial lawyer, and became the firm's acknowledged leader.

Calvin Souther grew up in Portland and earned his B.A. and J.D. degrees from the University of Michigan. As part of the Souther and Mautz team, Souther handled the brief writing and Mautz did the trial work. Gradually their career paths diverged, though they remained lifelong friends and law partners.

Mautz, Souther, Spaulding, Denecke & Kinsey
Bruce Spaulding joined the firm as a partner with twenty years' experience in criminal and civil litigation. He concentrated on insurance defense, developed specialties in forest fire litigation and medical malpractice, and on occasion handled criminal defense cases.

Before joining the firm in 1947, Arno Denecke practiced law in his native Illinois. He taught at the University of Oregon Law School and Northwestern School of Law. In 1959 Denecke was appointed to serve as a circuit court judge, and in 1962 he was elected to the Oregon Supreme Court, where he served for twenty years, including six years as chief justice.

William Kinsey came to the firm in November 1947 after graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, serving in the Navy, and working briefly for a New York law firm.

Mautz, Souther, Spaulding, Kinsey & Williamson
Wayne A. Williamson joined the firm in 1948, after attending the University of Oregon and Stanford Law School, and active duty in the Navy. His starting salary with the firm was $250 a month, which Beckett growled was too much because Williamson, just out of school, wasn't worth anything, but it would reflect negatively on the firm if his kids went around with rickets.

Schwabe, Williamson, Wyatt, Moore & Roberts
John Schwabe came to the firm in 1952, after distinguished military service during World War II, winning two Silver Stars in the Pacific, graduation from Ohio State University Law School, and four years of practice in Silverton, Oregon. Schwabe's practice focused on antitrust, securities and exchange, condemnation, contract and general business litigation.

The growth begun after World War II accelerated through the 1950s, as firm members began to specialize. Gordon Moore worked in negligence defense. Kenneth "The Admiral" Roberts became an expert in admiralty and maritime law and professional liability.

In 1975 Wendell Wyatt joined the firm, after serving in the U.S. Congress since 1964. Wyatt's early practice focused on natural resources, and he represented the National Forest Products Association.


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