After 37 years representing the community in personal injury and wrongful death cases, I have decided to move to Of Counsel status with EPIC. Of Counsel means that I will still maintain an ongoing affiliation with EPIC but will work a substantially reduced schedule. I will still remain involved with the cases of my present clients and assist my colleagues as needed.
My journey to Of Counsel status started on January 31, 1984. At that time, I was in the middle of my second year of law school and looking for a law job. A friend advised me that the firm of Manza, Moceri, Gustafson and Messina was looking for a legal intern. I applied and partner David Bufalini hired me. I started on January 31, 1984 and have been with the firm since. Little did I know it at the time, but personal injury law was to become my lifetime calling.
Upon graduation from law school the firm offered me a job as an attorney which I eagerly accepted. I then spent several weeks studying for the bar exam, which I took in the summer of 1985. The bar notified me that I had passed and admitted me on November 4, 1985.
I began an intense term of working in the law department of the firm, drafting appeals, motions on other legal documents generated by the firm’s busy practice. I worked under the supervision of Michael Manza, the senior partner in the firm. He taught me how to frame legal arguments, how to persuade judges, and how to write and argue clearly and coherently.
In May of 1986, four partners in the firm decided to leave and start a new firm. They asked me to join them, and I accepted. The new firm became Messina Duffy, and included partners John Messina, J. Patrick Duffy, Jr, Richard Gustafson, David Bufalini and myself as the associate. With our excellent support staff, we hit the ground running and soon had established a busy and prestigious personal injury and wrongful death practice. We handled a wide variety of cases including auto collisions, product liability, medical negligence, government liability. I learned how to try cases by assisting the partners in trial. I eventually learned to arbitrate and to try cases on my own. I also handled appeals and most of the law work for the firm.
I also wanted to advocate for the preservation of the civil justice system after the legislature enacted draconian “Tort Reform” legislation in 1986. I convinced the firm to support the Eagle program of the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ, formerly the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association). After 12 years of active membership, I joined the WSAJ Board of Governors in 1998. I served 19 years, until 2017. I also served of president of WSAJ in 2013-2014.
Through the Eagle program WSAJ became an influential voice in Olympia through the Herculean efforts of our legislative staff and leadership. We effectively worked with the legislature to head off and subsequent efforts to gut the civil justice system. We also ran three statewide campaigns to defeat initiatives and referendums designed to restrict access to justice. All of these efforts came at great cost in time and money but through the Eagle program we helped defeat these schemes . I am very proud of our part in supporting these endeavors and preserving the rights to seek redress for the wrongs of others.
Over the years, lawyers joined the firm and also moved on. John Christensen joined us in 1994. James McCormick and Jeremy Johnston joined us in 2003. We founded Evergreen Personal Injury Counsel in 2015. We hired Neil Stubbs in 2019. Jeremy has moved on to become a schoolteacher and I have become Of Counsel. John, James, and Neil will continue our firm’s proud heritage of advocating for those wronged by others.
37 years have passed too fast. I am grateful for the relationships with my clients, my coworkers and my many friends in the legal community. Law opened up significant opportunities for personal and professional growth. Our practice never seemed like work to me. I am very fortunate to have found my dream job, and to serve others for 37 years.
Thank you to everyone who helped me on my journey. I view the future with excitement and some trepidation. I will still serve as an arbitrator and Guardian ad Litem. I will help out at the firm as needed. My wife Linda and I will have new horizons to explore and places to see. We will have more time to see our children and other family members. I see more travel in our future. The change will be challenging, but I look forward to it.