Powerlist: Law Firms


A conversation with leading partners at law firms in Portland and eastern Oregon, followed by October’s powerlist.

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Lawyer’s Perspectives

PowerlistMorgan-Mike-Tonkon-Torp 250pxMichael Morgan
Managing partner, Tonkon Torp

Oregon Business: What is your firm focused on?

MM: We are looking at a lot of investment going on in the high-tech area and litigation that is likely to come out of those investments. We have a developing government relations practice  —  more and more clients are interested in understanding the political climate of where they want to do business. Our business immigration practice is growing substantially as globalization hits.

OB: What litigation do you expect to come out of the high-tech sector?

MM: They are mostly in the building phase right now and are bringing investment in. What we have traditionally seen in the past is that for rapidly growing industries that have a lot of investment, invariably some of these businesses will fail. Invariably, people who put money or bet on them will be disappointed, and to some degree that will result in litigation.

OB: What are the trends in immigration law? 

MM: As a result of globalization, a lot of clients have come to realize that the talent pool they want to draw from is a global talent pool. If they want to get the best in their particular field, they may need to go to another country to find those people. Some of the tech companies here say we are not generating enough engineering graduates to satisfy the needs of U.S. businesses. Clients doing business all over the globe want people from all over the globe who are working for them to circle through their U.S. companies and learn about the whole organization.

OB: Is business litigation becoming more complex?

MM: We are seeing a number of business litigation matters that are becoming more complex than they used to be. One reason is the transactions are becoming more complex. Financial instruments are more complex. Some of the joint venture arrangements and shared business arrangements have gotten more complex.

OB: Are there new areas of law that are growing?

MM: The renewable energy and high-tech sectors will keep growing. One of these days the marijuana business will get quite big. There are a couple of firms that are holding themselves out as experts in medical-marijuana law. We will continue to see entrepreneurial startups. We will see new developments in healthcare and demands put on lawyers to deal with healthcare issues. Inevitably, government regulation will grow.

PowerlistSteven-Corey 250pxSteven Corey
Partner, Corey, Byler & Rew

Oregon Business: What new trends in business litigation are you seeing in Eastern Oregon?

SC: Parties are looking at less expensive ways of resolving their issues, and they are turning increasingly to resolving issues themselves, or entering into mediations or arbitrations. We are seeing less major business litigation because of the costs. The economy is driving it. Businesses don’t want to get hung up for a long period of time in expensive court litigation.

OB: How is the business climate evolving in Eastern Oregon?

SC: Pendleton has been stable and has seen a pick-up in its economy. There are areas around us where we practice  —  Hermiston, for example  —  that are a hotbed of economic activity, because of ag-related business expansions. Boardman, which has the Port of Morrow, is an exceptionally busy economic area. Tillamook Cheese has moved in there. That has brought in a lot of dairies to produce the milk needed to make the cheese. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have become one of, if not the, major employer in the county where I live. By contrast, there are many communities in Eastern Oregon that have been struggling.

OB: Is the real estate market picking up in Eastern Oregon?

SC: Yes. We are seeing many more residential transactions. We are seeing many more commercial transactions. Because we are in an agricultural area, we are seeing several significant agricultural transactions that we haven’t seen since pre-2008. There has also been growth in value-added agriculture. That includes packaging of food products and the shipping of food products overseas, such as alfalfa.

OB: What land-use issues are arising in your part of the state?

SC: We don’t see as much land-use issues related to wind power and transmission. That was a hot industry until a year ago. One of the largest wind projects in the world is up in this area near the Columbia River, near Arlington. Those projects have absolutely stopped because of federal legislation that [stopped] a wind subsidy that gave wind power the ability to be equal to or cheaper than natural gas power. We see persons seeking to put new commercial buildings on residential properties. We represent farmers opposing the expansion of a rifle and shotgun shooting range.

OB: What legal work are you seeing in relation to water rights?

SC: Water is increasingly critical to agricultural businesses. The more land you can irrigate, the more valuable the land is. We see water-rights issues becoming more important. We also see issues between water districts that relate to salmon, steelhead and the tribes. The tribes are focused on restoring free passage for the salmon and steelhead. The government has enhanced the fish runs by investing money in hatcheries and fish runs for the returning salmon and steelhead. The farmers always want more water for crops.

OB: Are there more land-use issues arising from urban and industrial growth into agricultural areas?

SC: There will be issues related to Oregon’s right-to-farm laws. In counties that have adopted right-to-farm laws, there are exclusive farming zones; if you want to do anything different to farming, you can’t do it without first signing a sheet of paper to the counties to declare you won’t complain if noise or dirt or odors from farm operations adversely affect your property. We see tests to those right-to-farm laws occurring.


1Stoel Rives503-224-33801281907Corporate, energy, environmental, construction, real estate, land use, 
labor/employment, litigation,  tax, IP, health care, alcoholic beverages, estate
2Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt503-222-99811011892Business, health care, intellectual property, tax, estate, environmental, real estate, employment 
3Tonkon Torp LLP503-221-1440851974Business/corporate, litigation, bankruptcy, labor/employment, IP, government relations, real estate, environmental/natural resources, nonprofit, entrepreneurial services, wealth planning 

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