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An Interview with Mike Winslow ‘80

April 06, 2010

  • Mike Winslow '80

Mike Winslow, a 1980 graduate of the Law School, is the 2010 Distinguished Business Law Graduate. His career is a stellar example of the congruence between business law and environmental law.

“I went into corporate law shortly after graduating, working for a number of companies including Freightliner, Mercedes/Benz Credit Corporation, and PacifiCorp Financial Services. In 1995, I was hired by PacifiCorp as Assistant General Counsel. It was at PacifiCorp that I first had the opportunity to become involved with a variety of environmental issues. What was noteworthy about these efforts – at least in my mind – was that they involved intense yet successful collaboration among diverse and sometimes adversarial stakeholders. It was a defining experience for me.”

In July of 2001, he joined StanCorp Financial Group, Inc. as its General Counsel.

While there, he had the opportunity to formally introduce sustainability into the corporate culture by creating a Sustainability Steering Committee made up of executive managers.

“(W)e launched a vibrant and effective all-employee (and all-volunteer) Green Team, and hired an exceptionally talented woman to lead and coordinate our overall efforts. Significantly, all this was done with the blessings of our CEO and senior management committee. As a result, I think it is fair to say that Standard has become known in a few short years as one of the leaders among Portland businesses in sustainable practices. In addition, and as a result of my position with The Standard, I was able to form a sustainability committee at the Portland Business Association, and served on an Oregon Business Council task force for sustainability.”

In the past thirty years, there have been significant changes in law and business, he says. “Big business is getting to be much more complex in nearly every way. Analytics, metrics and traditional organizational structures and mores do not seem to be up to the challenge of meeting these new complexities. That’s why attributes like creativity, intuition, pattern recognition and empathy are becoming more important… business schools, like PSU, are offering MBA programs that address broader concepts like leadership, innovation and sustainability.”

He also sees business playing a bigger role in society, and suspects that, “We on the verge of embracing new, more encompassing organizational structures as a viable alternative to the traditional corporate organization and governance models.”

On a personal level, Mike has also been very involved with a number of local environmental organizations, serving as past President and board member of Forest Park, championing the Forest Park Conservancy, SOLV, Northwest Earth Institute, as well as employee volunteer activities at The Standard. He also is an accomplished artist.

Mike’s advice to today’s law students is to be patient, and take the long view in building a career: “Be humble…Don’t assume you know more or are smarter than the people you work with — it’s a good bet that you don’t and are not. Be ready to learn from anyone and everyone. Build enduring, trusting and meaningful relationships with your co-workers. The lone wolf won’t make it very far. Find mentors — formal and informal — to help guide your way. Know your personal “bottom-line” regarding integrity and doing the right thing. Be opportunistic — learn to spot and capture opportunities as they are arising even if it seems somewhat risky to do so. And have some fun along the way. If you’re not having some fun, what’s the point? Do something else.”

Mike will be honored at the annual Business Law Spring Luncheon on Friday, April 23 at noon at the Governor Hotel.

To reserve a seat and for more information, contact Shanelle Honda at 503.768.6639 or

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