Katherine H. O’Neil Volunteer Service Award
Kathryn was a founding board member of OWLS and in 1989, at a time when few women and minorities served in the judiciary, organized the group’s first seminar on how to become a judge. She was a founder and president of a political action committee organized by OWLS members called Justice Endorsed by Women Lawyers. After five years as a board member of the OWLS Foundation, she became chair of the Foundation’s advisory board, a position which she still holds.
Kathryn has practiced family law for over 25 years and was named a shareholder of Gevurtz Menashe Larson & Howe, PC in July 2014. In addition to her work with OWLS and the OWLS, Kathryn has been a leader in a variety of other state and national professional organizations. She has served as chair of the International Law Committee of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section, chair of the Oregon State Bar Family Law Section, president of the Oregon Academy of Family Law Practitioners and president of the Lewis & Clark Law School Alumni Board.
OWLS Workplace Leader Award
The 2014 Workplace Leader Award Recipient is McDowell Rackner & Gibson PC.
The firm opened in 2006 and was founded by Katherine McDowell, formerly a partner at Stoel Rives, who was soon joined by Lisa Rackner, formerly a partner at Ater Wynne. They were joined by a third partner, Kirk Gibson, in 2010, also formerly a partner at Ater Wynne. The firm specializes in Energy, Environmental and Administrative Law. The firm is certified as a Women Business Enterprise by the Oregon Office of Minority, Women and Emerging Small Business.
In forming their firm, the partners consciously sought to create a firm that fully reflected their values and identities. They sought to shed some of the hierarchical structures common in traditional law firms, and to create a practice that is more cooperative and collegial. Junior lawyers are encouraged to take on greater responsibility, and to have more client contact as early as possible rather than being hindered by the career and ego needs of the more senior lawyers. They created a work environment where lawyers at all levels of the practice, as well as staff, participate significantly in all types of management decisions on a consensus model, and where all are encouraged to develop their skills in a way that honors their potential.
Lawyers with families and outside responsibilities are encouraged to be vocal about what they need in terms of work hours and resources, and the firm has accommodated the need for some team members to work part-time in the short-term or longer term.
The firm sets high standards for work quality and responsiveness. The firm has a variety of major energy, telecommunications and utility clients, more typically represented by much larger firms.
Finally, the firm has made a priority of civic involvement. Team members are encouraged to serve in a host of community organizations, particularly some that relate to the firm’s practice specialties, and the firm donates a significant portion of its income to a number of important public interest projects.
The approach that the firm’s partners have chosen has led to a group of very happy lawyers who work well together and are invested in the firm’s long-range future. Clients are well-served by the firm’s approach, and the lawyers are happy, too.
The award was presented during OWLS Fall CLE on Friday, September 26, 2014 at The Embassy Suites Hotel, Portland.