The 21st Century
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 and Salem, 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
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.
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).
Attorneys currently with the firm include the national
president of Sigma Chi Fraternity (Bob Joseph), Portland's
First Citizen for 1993 (Jack Faust), and the president
of the Port of Portland (Jay Waldron).
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.
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.
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
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."
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
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
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
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.