in the state; the foundation of it was right
around statehood. The big development in
that firm’s history was the merger with the
Shidler firm—Bill Gates [Sr.]’s firm—in 1990.
That was a brilliant merger in those days,
because it brought the significant strengths
of the business practice of the Shidler Gates
firm, which already included Microsoft and
Starbucks … with the public and business
practice of Preston Thorgrimson.
I was the managing partner at Preston
Gates for five years. … We were very
successful at growing the firm. We had
become a large-sized firm nationally and had
very successful offices in Washington and had
developed a very significant practice in Asia
and up and down the West Coast … obviously
an attractive candidate for merger with an
East Coast firm that was interested in doing
a national, even a global, platform. After
the merger, [the] public-finance practice—
although very substantial regionally—was an
outlier in terms of the core practices of the
larger firm. I was kind of tied at the hip to that
[public-finance] element of the practice.
Q: That is a big part of the mission at your
new firm, Pacifica?
A: The public finance practice, the public/
private practice, and sophisticated litigation
not exclusively related to the public sector.
Q: Is there a favorite Seattle project that
you’ve worked on over the years?
A: It would be impossible to say. I’ve been
the general counsel to the public entity that
owns and operates the Pike Place Market. The
rejuvenation of the retail core with Nordstrom
and Pacific Place … was a terrific project and
obviously highly impactful. Chuck Goldmark
and I worked together on the original
downtown Seattle Art Museum project …
and I’ve counseled the museum with respect
to all of its projects since. The Museum of
History and Industry, I’ve just worked with
them on moving from Montlake to South Lake
Union Park. It’s perfect for that neighborhood
and will help that park a lot. And then the
baseball stadium in particular was a great
project; I represented and was lead counsel
for the development of Safeco Field and
also did some work for the public stadium
authority that owns the football stadium.
Q: Did you have to deal with controversy
involving some of these projects?
A: Oh, yeah! All of them. No major project
in this town is easy to accomplish. Highly
stimulating legal work, but also we have to
deal with controversy. For moving Nordstrom
into [the old] Frederick & Nelson [building]
and building Pacific Place, we had to go to
the voters to get them to approve reopening
Pine Street through Westlake Park. If that
vote had gone the wrong way, that project
would not have happened.
Q: Why do things take so long in Seattle?
A: It’s part of the culture. We have a
progressive, populist-era state constitution,
and aspects of that were reflected in the city
charter, so there’s lots of direct democracy.
That’s where you get initiatives and
referenda. But it’s also a town that people
care about, and that has its tremendous
benefits. That also brings some challenges
because everybody’s really invested, there
are plenty of opportunities for people to
get involved, and people feel passionate
about it. So there’s almost always lots of
discussion, not always friendly; occasionally
there’s litigation. That’s just part of the path
for getting anything done in this town. To
some extent it’s enormously frustrating. But
when something goes through all of that
successfully and emerges to actually get
done, I think there’s a decent argument to be
made that the project is probably stronger
and better as a result.
Q: Tell me about your involvement with
Pike Place Market.
A: It started when I was in college; the
Market [preservation] initiative was on the
ballot and I volunteered for that campaign.
They were going to demolish most of the
historic buildings and do high-rises. It was
really big and bad, and the voters stopped
it cold. When I came back to Seattle and
started practicing law at the Wickwire
firm, they were the lawyers for the Market
Preservation & Development Authority, so I
did lots of projects in connection with that.
Q: With all your involvement in city projects,
do you have any political aspirations?
A: Oh, no. No. Long ago, I passed on the
notion of elective office myself. I have been
lucky enough to have really great volunteer
experiences in which I can make a meaningful
contribution to things just as a citizen, and I
feel really lucky in that respect. I know, admire
and have worked for politicians, but I also
understand the sacrifices that they make.
I feel terribly that those sacrifices are so
undervalued in our culture right now.
Q: What advice do you have for young
A: It’s harder and harder to find the time to
do pro bono and civic service, but that stuff is
really, really important. Although they need to
build their hours and learn their trade, those
kinds of things are what makes it worthwhile
in a lot of respects. They lead to dimensions
of one’s practice that often are unanticipated
and end up being very fulfilling.