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The Winding Vines of Post-Grad Life

Credit: Illustration by Bea Crespo

While a majority of Lewis & Clark Law School graduates become practicing attorneys, some notable alumni have used the rigorous skills they gained in law school to branch off in other directions. These six alumni remind us that the Lewis & Clark community includes people of many different callings.

Toija Beutler ’81Toija Beutler ’81 Credit: Keene StudioToija Beutler ’81

Attorney/Owner, Beutler Exchange Group, LLC

What do you do?

We are a team of seven, including two other attorneys, facilitating IRC §1031 tax-deferred exchanges. We do not provide any true legal service, but consult on the exchange structure and provide documentation.

How did you go from law graduate to this position?

It certainly wasn’t intentional. Initially, I was hired as an associate by a solo practitioner. When he got the opportunity to join a title insurance company as general counsel, he closed his practice and threw my name in the hat for an opening in his new employer’s exchange operation. Twenty-seven years later…here I am and loving it!

Was there a special moment or epiphany along your career path?

For the first eight years I pondered, “What am I going to do when I grow up?” Then I heard another attorney, also facilitating exchanges, say, “I don’t know how many times I will be able to stand explaining the 45-day rule.” (This is the time frame in which taxpayers must identify replacement property, and we need to explain it countless times a day.) It dawned on me that I had never once tired of educating people about this rule and all the others that go with 1031.

When you were a law student, did you ever consider that you would be doing what you do now?

No, never. My focus in school had been family law. I pushed federal tax law to my last semester, dreading the thought. Turns out, I quite enjoyed tax law and absolutely remember the 10 or 15 minutes that Professor Larry Brown spent covering 1031. Nevertheless, if anyone had told me at graduation that my future would be facilitating 1031 tax-deferred exchanges—which weren’t even a thing in 1981— I would not have believed them. A whole career out of a few minutes?! In reality, though, our work draws on tax law, real estate law, business law, and, yes, family law. The other attorneys and I find this to be very satisfying and a great use of our law degrees.

Patricia Halsell ’82Patricia Halsell ’82Patricia Halsell ’82

Artist

What do you do?

I’m a classically trained oil painter and I do a lot of commissions. My work can be seen at PatriciaHalsell.com, on my Instagram account, and in various juried exhibitions, museums, and galleries.

How did you go from law graduate to this position?

I worked for a trial court judge and then joined one of the public defender firms in Seattle, where I worked in the felony unit for many years. In 1989, I accepted an assistant attorney general job with the Attorney General’s office in Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, where I was put in charge of immigration and worked as a hearing officer for the Labor Department. I eventually entered private practice and, with my law partner, built a successful boutique law firm. We had an exciting practice that took us to Hong Kong, Brussels, and Paris.

After 13 years, I decided to return to Seattle to try something new. I went back to school and then spent the next several years writing and working as a freelance editor for novelists. When I started feeling artistically blocked, I began taking drawing classes. I was delighted to discover what a great challenge fine art is. Learning how to draw is like learning a foreign language. I spent 11 years training as an artist and have been working full time as a painter ever since.

Was there a special moment or epiphany along your career path?

Twenty years ago, when I was at the height of my legal career, I realized that I wouldn’t be capable of becoming the kind of person I wanted to be unless I explored my creativity. It required a great deal of curiosity, humility, and setting aside my ego.

When you were a law student, did you ever consider that you would be doing what you do now?

I won several drawing awards as a child, but I never seriously considered art as a vocation. It kept sneaking into my life in law school. I took Len DuBoff’s Art Law course and became one of his student assistants, jogging with him and helping edit one of his textbooks. The skills I learned practicing law have helped me immensely in my career as an artist.

David Howitt ’94David Howitt ’94David Howitt ’94

CEO and President, Meriwether Group

What do you do?

We’re a boutique consulting and investment banking group that focuses on serving disruptive, iconic, and authentic consumer brands.

How did you go from law graduate to this position?

During law school, my partner Heather and I became cofounders of Oregon Chai. Heather focused on the brand, consumer, and overall experience, and I helped with the legal and business side of the company. At the beginning, we were putting any earnings back into the company for growth, so I took a job as an attorney. I worked at the DA’s Office; in the environmental practice group at Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt; and finally as an in-house corporate counsel at adidas. All the while, I was continuing to support Oregon Chai and its growth. In 2004, we sold the company and started the Meriwether Group.

Was there a special moment or epiphany along your career path?

While at Schwabe, it became clear to me that my idea of “highest and best” didn’t include billing in six-minute increments, and that a more holistic and strategic approach to business was going to be a better path for me. I also learned that my strength is in toggling between left and right brain. I am really good at combining artistry and analytics, even if I don’t excel at them individually.

When you were a law student, did you ever consider that you would be doing what you do now?

No. I was pretty focused on being a “save the earth” environmental lawyer. Having said that, there is no question that my legal training has been a huge asset for me. The ability to think in a disciplined and linear way, and to reduce that thinking to careful and succinct writing, has been important for me and my firm.

Nellie McAdams ’07Nellie McAdams ’07 Credit: Shawn LinehanNellie McAdams ’07

Oregon Agricultural Trust Manager, Columbia Land Trust

What do you do?

I am working to establish a new, statewide land trust dedicated to protecting land for farming and ranching.

How did you go from law graduate to this position?

My family has a hazelnut farm and my father was a tax attorney who specialized in estate planning. When I saw how my family benefitted from sound planning, I started to wonder how other farm families could navigate intergenerational transitions and prevent their farms from being divided generation after generation. I didn’t realize this would be my career path until well after I graduated. Right after law school, I served as legislative assistant to Representative (now Speaker) Tina Kotek. Then, I worked on farms here and in New Zealand and managed a farm store. From direct farming, I went on to work for an agricultural nonprofit. There, I learned about land conservation easements, which protect the land for agriculture and give farmers cash or charitable tax credits in return, helping with intergenerational transfers. I was hooked on the concept and created an organization to help Oregon farmers utilize this tool.

When you were a law student, did you ever consider that you would be doing what you do now?

I really had no idea how the passion I discovered on my PILP internship (at Ecologic, in Berlin, Germany) would turn into a profession. The person I was during law school could never have mapped my career path, but what once seemed haphazard now makes complete sense in retrospect. I gathered skills and made connections at each stage that have been critical to the work I now do. I was fortunate to have the community support and educational foundation to follow my heart.

Brian Ross ’94Brian Ross ’94Brian Ross ’94

Founder and CEO, GROW

What do you do?

GROW is an outsourced sales management and business strategy consulting firm focused on the organic food and beverage industry.

How did you go from law graduate to this position?

During law school, I realized that the practice of law was not for me. I began working on a business plan to manufacture and distribute plastic cutlery made from post-consumer recycled plastic. Although I did not move forward with that plan—biodegradable plastic developed into a better solution—it led me in the direction of entrepreneurship. Ultimately, I became a cofounder of Oregon Chai, kicking off my career in the natural food industry. After Oregon Chai, I got involved with many other exciting natural food and beverage companies, such as IZZE, Cheribundi, and Made in Nature.

Was there a special moment or epiphany along your career path?

Before I started law school I was on a camping trip and met a stranger. We talked all night about work and how what you do with your work can help define a life. After that conversation, I was determined to create a career that would make the world a better place. When you were a law student, did you ever consider that you would be doing what you do now? When I started law school, my plan was to become an environmental lawyer. By the time I was halfway through, though, I knew I wanted to do something else. I pursued a career in the natural/organic food and beverage industry because of my belief that if we could improve the food system and the way people eat, the world would be better off for it.

Ben Wolff ’94Ben Wolff ’94Ben Wolff ’94

Cofounder, Chair, and CEO, Sarcos Robotics

How did you go from law graduate to this position?

I practiced law at Davis Wright Tremaine for 10 years. I was a partner after three years, a member of the firm’s executive committee, and chair of the firm’s corporate group focusing on corporate transactions in the tech and telecom sectors. I was named to the “Top 40 Under 40” lawyers in America list by American Lawyer. Then, I was hired by a major client to become the president of a tech- and telecom-focused private equity firm. While doing that, I also cofounded and served as CEO and cochair of Clearwire, completed what was then the largest venture capital deal ever, took Clearwire public, and ultimately sold to Sprint for $14 billion.

After turning around a struggling publicly traded satellite communications company, I retired. My family started investing in and acquiring companies, and in 2012 we developed a thesis around the future of industrial robotics. That led us to finance a management buy-out of the robotics division of Raytheon in early 2015.

Was there a special moment or epiphany along your career path?

There were several, but perhaps one of the most significant was while I was a 2L. It was a great, several-hour conversation with professor Ed Brunet, during which he described the career path of a Lewis & Clark Law School alum. That path was inspirational and closely resembled the one I wanted to pursue from deal lawyer to entrepreneur.

When you were a law student, did you ever consider that you would be doing what you do now?

Not with any degree of specificity. I didn’t think I would practice law for more than 5 or 10 years and I was confident I would get into business, but beyond that, I didn’t have a clue. Robotics in the early 1990s was purely the stuff of science fiction.


Where Are They Now?

  • Public Interest Law Project at 30
    January 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Lewis  &  Clark Law School’s Public Interest Law Project (PILP), a student-run organization that rewards and promotes the service of developing public interest attorneys.
  • The Lasting Legacy of Scholarships

    Paul Casey, a longtime supporter of Lewis &  Clark Law School, has made it possible for dozens of students to attend law school.

  • Faculty, Staff, and Friends: Where Are They Now?
    Remember that professor or staff member who was so helpful to you in a moment of need? Or perhaps, someone who pushed you farther than you thought possible? We’ve used the fabulous caricatures by Professor Emeritus Ron Lansing to help your search.
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