Welcome to our latest post from Homegrown in the Heart! Today, I’m talking with Paul Larson, one of our three main partners here at LGP Law. Paul will be offering us some valuable insight into his personal and professional development as a lawyer in the Yakima Valley – a community that cultivates not just world class fruit and produce, but some truly exceptional individuals.

We’ll discuss:

  • From Tacoma to Yakima
  • Paul’s Journey in the Field of Law
  • Reflecting on the Field of Law
  • Words of Wisdom | 3 Tips for New Lawyers
  • Transaction & Mediation | Paul’s Main Areas of Legal Practice
  • Beyond Law | Leaving a Legacy in Yakima

From Tacoma to Yakima

Paul originally hails from Tacoma, Washington. He first experienced Yakima through sports trips during the summers. Paul first met his future wife while studying at Stanford University in California. His wife was an Eisenhower High School graduate from Yakima. It was Paul’s wife who deepened his connection to our Valley, as they often came to Yakima to visit her family.

After getting his law degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane and practicing law in Tacoma for two years, Paul decided to move to Yakima in 1976. His familiarity with the eastern side of the state, combined with his wife’s roots in Yakima, contributed to this decision. Since then, Paul has been an active member of the Yakima community.

Paul’s Journey in the Field of Law

Paul began his career as most young lawyers do – handling a wide variety of cases. His early years were marked by a broad spectrum of experiences, from representing indigent defendants in criminal matters, to trying various types of cases. However, Paul’s passion always lay in commercial law. Having a broad foundation has allowed him to gain valuable insight and skills that would later guide his specialized focus when he moved to Yakima.

Co-Founding the Brooks & Larson Law Firm

Paul first partnership was Brooks & Larson, a firm he co-founded that played a critical role in shaping his legal career. During his time teaching tennis in Yakima, Larson met Terry Brooks, who later invited him to establish a law practice together; they started operations on April 1, 1976.

At Brooks & Larson, Paul began honing his focus on business transactions and commercial law, a departure from the general legal practice he had been engaged in. His work mainly involved representing creditors in bankruptcy matters and civil trials, demonstrating his commitment to providing comprehensive legal support to his clients.

During his time at Brooks & Larson, Paul also refined his courtroom skills, gaining experience at every level of the judicial system:

  • Municipal Court
  • District Court
  • Superior Court
  • Court of Appeals
  • Supreme Court
  • Federal District Court
  • Federal Court of Appeals

Paul remained with Brooks & Larson until around 1986, almost a decade.

Joining Bogle & Gates

Paul eventually became the chairperson for the Business Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association; he became very sought after by large firms in Seattle.

It was Bogle & Gates who won Paul over, accepting his condition to remain in Yakima. Despite joining one of the state’s three major law firms, Paul faced challenges. The firm frequently urged him to relocate – to Seattle, Tacoma, Anchorage, Vancouver, and even Canada.

However, Paul’s affinity for Yakima Valley prevailed. His children were attending local public schools, receiving an education enriched by diversity — something Paul valued greatly. After approximately a decade with Bogle & Gates, the pressure to move became too much. He decided to amicably part ways with the firm and remain in Yakima.

From Larson & Perkins to Larson Griffee & Pickett in Yakima

After parting ways with Bogle & Gates, Paul took the bold step of establishing his own firm in Yakima. Named Larson & Perkins, the firm was co-founded with his most senior associate from Bogle & Gates, Jim Perkins.

Ten years later, Larson & Perkins expanded with the addition of another partner, Jim Berg. They rebranded to Larson, Berg & Perkins. This growth mirrored Paul’s dedication to building a trustworthy team in Yakima that could offer comprehensive legal services to clients.

In the past year and a half, the firm underwent yet another transition. I expressed interest in joining the team, and Paul’s younger partner, Ryan Griffee, also stepped up. At the same time, two of the original partners moved towards retirement and smaller counsel roles.

We renamed the firm Larson, Griffee & Pickett (LGP) Law to reflect our evolving leadership.

Reflecting on the Field of Law

In the realm of law, longevity and experience are markers of success. Paul is approaching a milestone that few lawyers ever attain – 50 years in practice! In this time, Paul has had plenty of time to reflect on his career, and he’s seen significant changes to the field of law.

No Regrets | Reflecting on a Full Legal Career

Reflecting on nearly 50 years in law, Paul exhibits a rare contentment with his career trajectory. When I asked Paul if he was planning to retire, or if he would change anything about his career, his response was a resounding, “No.”

I keep telling people, “You have to work first to retire, and I’ve never felt like I worked a day of my life.” I’ve enjoyed every moment. Sometimes it’s a little more challenging. But again, one of the comments I make to people is, “I’ve had good days and better days.” That’s the way I look at my practice a lot.

Despite the challenges that come with any profession, Paul has always maintained a positive outlook.

Then & Now | The Practice of Law Has Changed Significantly

Throughout his nearly five-decade-long career, Paul has observed significant changes to the practice of law. One prominent shift he’s seen is the increasing trend of lawyers to specialize in specific areas. This contrasts his own, more multifaceted approach.

Paul’s practice has involved a lot of transactional work, a complex field that requires knowledge and expertise in various domains like:

  • Labor laws
  • Tax laws
  • Real estate
  • Asset sales

Despite this area of law becoming less popular among attorneys, Paul loves the intellectual challenge it presents. His willingness to navigate these complexities underscores LGP Law’s commitment to providing comprehensive, client-centered legal services in Yakima.

Words of Wisdom | 3 Tips for New Lawyers

Many young lawyers are trying to start their practice; they’re trying to do what lawyers do, and they want to help people. I asked Paul about the advice he would give – after nearly 50 seasons of being in this profession – to the young lawyers who may be reading. And more specifically, to the young lawyers who have decided to call the heart of Washington their home.

1. The Importance of Time Investment | Law isn’t a 9 to 5 Job

Practicing law is not a typical 9-5 job; it requires a significant time commitment. As a new lawyer, there’s much to learn and absorb, often outside billable hours. This additional self-education should not be viewed as a burden but rather as an investment in one’s own professional development. It’s essential to be prepared to dedicate time before and after standard work hours, and even on weekends, to serve clients effectively and grow as a legal expert.

2. Be Client-Centric | Treat Every Client Like They’re the Most Important One

According to Paul, every client, regardless of the scope or size of their case, should be treated as your most important client. He advises both young and seasoned lawyers to prioritize the needs of all their clients equally.

If that client is not your most important client, you’d better withdraw and have somebody else represent them. People don’t come to you to be a second tier client. You treat all clients, whether it’s a million dollar deal or a $100 deal, like they’re your most important one. You get whatever they need to have done…done.

Paul’s approach ultimately ensures that every client feels valued and receives the highest level of service.

3. Enhance Your Legal Practice Through Community Engagement

Finally, Paul encourages lawyers to actively participate in their communities. Many people enter the legal profession with a desire to help others, and community involvement provides an excellent opportunity to do so. Volunteering and engaging with community organizations not only benefits the community but also:

  • Helps establish your reputation as a lawyer
  • Allows people to get to know you
  • Allows potential clients to understand your scope and intellect
  • Helps the public locate your services

A little community involvement is a good way to prove your worth to the community without ever having to buy expensive advertising.

Transaction & Mediation | Paul’s Main Areas of Legal Practice

Paul has built a distinguished career as a transactional lawyer and mediator. His practice is marked by a meticulous approach to structuring, negotiating, and executing contracts and agreements, ensuring all parties’ interests are met. As a mediator, his fair-mindedness and deep understanding of the law have helped resolve disputes amicably before they enter litigation. Paul is dedicated to quality work, timely done; doing a good job and getting it done on time.

What is a Transactional Lawyer?

Transactional lawyers play a crucial role in the legal world. They’re invaluable to business owners looking to navigate deals legally, ethically, and responsibly. Their work revolves around facilitating and structuring business transactions to ensure they are legally sound and beneficial for all parties involved.

Transactions can take many forms:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Establishing new businesses or joint ventures
  • Selling goods and services

The value of these transactions can vary significantly, from multi-million-dollar equipment deals to thousands of dollars worth of agricultural produce, a common aspect of our Yakima community.

The importance of a transactional lawyer becomes evident when things start going wrong in a deal. Transactional lawyers ensure that every agreement is meticulously documented to avoid future disputes.

 I like to consider myself a deal maker, not a deal breaker.

Paul’s goal is to help clients’ business transactions come to life, while also avoiding potential litigation down the line. His proactive approach to law ensures a smoother, more secure path for businesses to operate and thrive.

Mediation | Saving People Time & Money

Mediation is a process where parties voluntarily come together to resolve their differences, often involving complex business or estate planning issues.

The value of mediation lies in its inherent ability to save time, money, and emotional distress compared to traditional litigation. Court processes can be long, costly and unpredictable. A case ready for trial can be delayed due to other court priorities, pushing resolution further away. Moreover, the appellate process can prolong the issue even more.

Mediation, on the other hand, offers an opportunity for parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution faster and more efficiently. Paul emphasizes that the aim of mediation isn’t about proving who has the smartest lawyer, but rather about reaching a fair agreement. His role as a mediator is to facilitate conversations and help parties find common ground. This approach helps people move forward in their life and endeavors.

Paul’s Journey & Involvement in Mediation

Paul’s transition into mediation was influenced by his experiences in commercial law, commercial litigation, and estate planning. Colleagues often sought his help to mediate and resolve matters, acknowledging his wide-ranging expertise. Paul began to see the value in mediation as an alternative to the unpredictable, and often costly, traditional courtroom battles.

You’re rolling the dice when you walk into that courtroom, and it’s an expensive way to roll your dice. Mediation has helped a lot of people resolve their differences. Not everyone’s 100% happy walking out of a mediation, but they know there’s a resolution, and they’re done with that issue or problem.

As a seasoned mediator, Paul finds satisfaction in offering this viable pathway to resolution, particularly for those who’ve experienced the rigors of litigation. His experience spans across various areas of law, including:

  • Probate
  • Custody issues
  • Commercial law
  • Real estate disputes

Despite starting his career with a focus on litigation, Paul’s interests have shifted more towards tax law, transactional law, and mediation. To him, these fields are more intellectual endeavors and ones he enjoys greatly.

Beyond Law | Leaving a Legacy in Yakima

Paul doesn’t just practice law. He has focused and built a legacy within our Yakima community. I asked him how a person can go about building a legacy of integrity, honesty, and “quality work, timely done” – a phrase he has so deeply embedded into our practice.

Paul believes that the key to building a meaningful legacy lies in caring deeply about your family, your community, and the advancement of your profession for the betterment of your community.

Education for Future Generations in Yakima

I asked Paul about what he views as a standout accomplishment in his career. His answer goes back to our discussion on the importance of being a part of the community you’re in.

In 2009, amid challenging circumstances like the housing market crash, Paul and his wife took up the mantle to lead a campaign for a new bond for the Yakima School District. Despite the odds, their tireless efforts and strategic campaigning paid off. They managed to garner over 70% of the votes in favor of the new school bond. This meant they had not only won over undecided voters, but they’d even managed to sway some of those who had initially opposed the bond.

Passing the bond lead to the construction of three new high schools in the Yakima Valley, significantly enhancing the educational infrastructure in our community. The success of this campaign was not a solo effort. Paul attributes it to the community, and to the team of dedicated individuals who worked with him – especially the younger generation.

This journey underscores Paul’s commitment to his community. It’s a testament to his dedication and an excellent example of how one person’s determination can bring about significant and meaningful change for future generations to come.

I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Paul Larson for sharing his wisdom and legacy with us for this article. His dedication to integrity and community has been such a blessing to the Yakima Valley and to our future generations. I would encourage everyone to reflect on this call to action:

Think about how each and every one of you can build a legacy; a legacy of goodness, a legacy of wholeness and completeness that enhances and continues to build this community – the Yakima Valley – which we know is the heart of Washington and a great place to live.

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