Barnes H. Ellis “The role of a lawyer is to be a good citizen”

Breaking the Logjam

In the early 1970s the Portland City Club twice failed to get the required 60 percent vote to admit women.  Barnes, along with several others, withdrew from the club in protest, but rejoined in 1973 once women were admitted.  The 2005 book Stoel Rives, LLP: A History, describes the  transition in the 1970s involving the addition of numerous women lawyers and Barnes’ role in the process.  He worked closely with Karen Creason, who defined the role of  paralegal while she was working her way through law school. After getting her degree summa cum laude from Lewis & Clark Law School in 1974, she became an associate and later a partner. Barnes and Karen teamed up on several major cases together before she pioneered a practice in health care law.

According to the firm history, “This chauvinistic logjam at the Davies Biggs firm and its predecessors did not break up significantly until the 1970s, when the dam burst.”  Barnes was a member of the hiring committee for four years in the late 1970s when he and other committee colleagues hired many members of the pioneer generation of women lawyers, including Susan Graber (a future Ninth Circuit judge), Susan Hammer, Chris Kitchel, Joyce Harpole, Ruth Beyer, Peggy Noto, Lois Rosenbaum, Margaret Baumgartner,  Nancy Cowgill, and later Margaret Kirkpatrick, Joan Snyder, Bev Pearman, and Katherine McDowell, to name a few. When Davies Biggs merged with the Rives firm in 1986, Pam Jacklin and Gail Achterman became partners. “I was just blown away at the quality of young women coming out of law school wanting to enter the legal profession. And we hired a significant number. Not out of any sense of political correctness, not out of any sense of ‘I’m gonna right a wrong.’  It was strictly, these were the best qualified people in the market. So, it was not hard.”

Susan Hammer, now a mediator, recalls her 1977 hiring.  “My first impression of Barnes was that he was joyful and optimistic….The greatest gift that a partner can give to an associate is giving her challenging, meaty, interesting work that will help her grow as a lawyer…. I learned from Barnes how to find the interesting parts of every case and how to dig into it, to be somewhat of a quick study, and try to figure out how to solve a problem.” Hammer also recalls that if one of Barnes’ clients was reluctant to have a woman lawyer, “He dealt with it swiftly and unequivocally…. I think it really helped the women that he was working with to know that they had that kind of support.”

Future Federal Judge Anna J. Brown came to know of Barnes while she working as a law clerk (1978-80) for Multnomah County Circuit Judge John C. (Jack) Beatty Jr. during the day and attending Lewis & Clark Law School at night. Judge Beatty heard a wide range of cases and Judge Brown remembers: “He took a lot of care in training his law clerks to be lawyers, so when he saw a lawyer doing something noteworthy in performance or in the way that a lawyer was representing a client, he would always point the lawyer out. And that’s when I first heard of Mr. Ellis, which is how I knew him then.  He was admired by the judge I worked for.”

After receiving her law degree, she remembers seeing Barnes during her early years as an attorney. “He was always very encouraging.  He would see me on the street, ‘How are you doing, are you trying cases, are you getting chances to do what you wanted to do?’ That meant a lot.” Brown became a district court judge in 1992, a circuit court judge in 1994 and joined the federal bench in 1999. “Seeing how he treated everybody with respect, if at arm’s length, you know, if it was an opponent. There was always a fundamental professional courtesy. If a witness was sneaking away from him on a line of questioning, he managed to bring him right back with a document, page 4, line 2. He would never raise his voice, he wouldn’t get upset.  He was just a good example of what you would hope would happen in a courtroom. A really earnest and hard-fought presentation of conflicting arguments and facts. But then accepting what the outcome was.”