The attorneys rib one another with a
familiarity born of 30-plus years spent
learning the ropes and riding out hard
times. The group started when Greene and
Menashe first talked by the elevator of the
downtown Portland office building in which
they launched their respective firms—today
known as Greene & Markley and Gevurtz
Menashe. Markowitz, who practices business
litigation (Greene and Menashe practice
commercial and bankruptcy law, and family
law, respectively), was quickly invited into
“And I joined because I do employment
“These are the only guys I ever talk to
work,” says Harnden, managing partner
at Barran Leibman, “and they wanted to
know if they could pay their secretaries in
The laughter pings off the walls of the
dining room, which is decorated with stuffed
mallards and fishing rods. If today’s lunch is
not as critical as some early ones, when the
information exchanged could have a direct
impact on the day-to-day lives of the men’s
respective firms, the intimacy developed over
the years is very much on display.
about what I earn, what my partners earn,”
Markowitz nods. “Same here.”
“Whether it’s compensation or things
you’re doing outside, or support,” says
Harnden, “it’s good to have three people
to whom you can say whatever you need
to say and not worry that it’s going to hit
“Big firms have a battalion of people
doing that stuff. None of us had that,”
says Menashe. “We were all small firms
at the time, and we all trusted each other.
We shared information openly and never
How fast do you want to grow? What are the
divulged it to anyone.”
Like all small business owners, the four
attorneys had to make many moving parts
work in sync. How much do you compensate
people? What kind of benefits do you offer?
requirements for partnership?
“And there’s no book you can go to,
to figure out the answers to all of those
questions,” says Markowitz.
“I think it worked because these three
people—and hopefully me—are pretty
good at their craft,” says Harnden. “You’re
dealing with other people who you trust
to have made good decisions. If you can
pick up some of that information, it works
“What originally attracted the three of us,
and then Ed, was we all thought they were
pretty good guys and pretty smart. Plus, we
had practices that didn’t compete with each
other,” says Menashe. “I honestly believe to
some degree that the union of the four of
us, supporting each other, promoting each
other, and helping each other, has helped all
of us be even better.”
“Absolutely,” says Markowitz.
“These guys made me a better lawyer,”
Though Menashe is an oenophile, nobody
Menashe continues. “Just learning the right
way to do stuff from them. The byproduct,
which I don’t think any of us thought about
on day one, was we became friends.”
Lunch is ordered: crab salads and lingcod.
drinks anything stronger than iced tea; it’s
a workday. They talk about current cases.
Markowitz is representing the state of Oregon
against Oracle Inc., one of the entities in the
Cover Oregon health care debacle. Greene
was recently quoted in the Portland Business
Journal as saying that legal issues on the
upswing include “activity related to the
marijuana industry … and same-sex divorces
in the future.” The attorneys are all busy,
engaged, most billing as many hours and
bringing in as many clients as ever. Still, the
lunches are not, and never have been, for the
business of law, but, as Markowitz says, “the
business of business.”
“For us to come in as two- and three-
lawyer law firms and grow to 15- to
25-lawyer law firms, and take that market
share away from the big boys—that was
what we were trying to figure out how to do,”
he says. “And we’re four for four. All of us are
very successful boutique firms at the top of
our particular area.”
Growing essentially in tandem has been
tremendously rewarding. And when, in
Menashe’s words, “we stub our toe a few
times,” the opportunity to discuss better
outcomes with people outside their own
firms has been invaluable.
“The good news is,” says Markowitz, “that
“Please,” Greene says, and the others
hasn’t happened as much as you’d think.”
“Although in fairness,” says Greene, “we’re
not all married to the same people we were
married to when we started.”
“Good point,” says Markowitz. “Three of us
are on second wives.”
He seems to want to say something more.
break into laughter.
“He’s on his second if you don’t count the
two mulligans,” says Markowitz.
“The life stuff surrounding the firm, too,”
says Harnden, who is married to his first wife.
“It’s such a big part of all of our lives.”
“As you grow, it’s hard to keep that happy
“Over the years, we’ve grown and shrunk,”
says Menashe. “I think for a time Ward’s firm
was the largest, and then David’s got bigger,
and then ours got bigger.”
“Opened offices, closed offices,” says
Markowitz. “I think one of the most
challenging issues we’ve dealt with over
the years is how to bring new people into
the partnership. We were all founders, and
we took the risk and we had the ideas. And
then, 10 or 15 years later when everything is
stabilized, people who have been well paid
to be associates in the firm now want to be
owners. And if you don’t make them owners,
It is not, they stress, just about money
and equity; it’s about the culture of the
firm and who they want to help steer
where the firm goes.
culture,” says Menashe.
Yet they manage. Greene’s legal secretary
has been with him 34 years; Markowitz’s 35,
Harnden’s 37. Menashe’s paralegal has been
with him 31 years, and his secretary of 27
years retired today.
The cohesiveness of the group extends
beyond the professional to community
involvement. Together they support
dozens of civic, arts, education and
environmental organizations. Harnden
especially devotes his time serving on
the board of directors or as a member of
a dozen groups, from the Campaign for
Equal Justice to the Portland Business
Alliance to Camp UKANDU, a program for
kids living with cancer.
“This guy’s the Energizer Bunny,” says
Menashe, of Harnden’s endemic involvement.
“He shows up everywhere, for everything.”
“It’s almost creepy,” says Markowitz.
Harnden smiles. “We pretty much help
“Because Ward wants to pay in Canadian
everyone else in their endeavors,” he says. “If
Dave called and said, ‘I need X dollars for some
function,’ I wouldn’t have to second-guess.”
“Sometimes we can’t compete at buying
a table at an event, like a big firm can, so the
four of us will team up and share things,”
says Menashe. After a beat, he adds, “There
are downsides to it ... ”
“Why do I know this is going to affect me?”
dollars!” Menashe says.
And lunch is served.