Founded in Seattle
Founded in Seattle by John T. Condon (after whom the former University of Washington Law School is named) and George Wright, the firm started off as Condon Wright.
Wright, Kelleher & Allen
The firm name changed to Wright, Kelleher & Allen with the addition of partner Edward Allen. Beginning in the 1920s, Edward developed a substantial fishing industry practice which ultimately brought him national recognition and a leading role in international fisheries control.
William “Bill” Froude joined the firm
Bill was fondly remembered for his photographic memory. It has been said that he could cite almost any decision of the Washington State Supreme Court by volume and sometimes even by page number, remembering the details of the decision and the writer of the opinion. Some referred to him as “a walking encyclopedia of legal knowledge in the State of Washington.”
A New Focus
Growth of heavy construction in the 1930s signaled new prosperity for the Pacific Northwest and a new focus for the firm. The firm became Allen, Froude & Hilen with the addition of A.R. Hilen.
Firm Grows its construction practice
During the 1930’s the firm began its extensive work in construction and government contracts law when it represented major contractors on the largest socioeconomic federal contracts of that era such as the Hoover and Bonneville dams.
As the firm’s construction practice continued to grow, Gerald DeGarmo joined the firm as a partner. His practice emphasized disputes involving the fishing industry with clients in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
As the region became a center for the development of hydroelectric power, Gerald DeGarmo rose to national prominence as counsel for the leading contractors on the most ambitious of these projects – Grand Coulee Dam.
Grand Coulee Dam construction, BLM 2000 Series, 1936-1938, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov, April 4, 2017.
Moving beyond a regional practice
By the time the dam was built, Gerald DeGarmo had established the firm’s reputation as the Northwest’s preeminent construction law firm and propelled the firm’s construction practice from regional to national prominence. Its prominent clients included Peter Kiewit & Sons, Morrison Knudson, Bechtel, and locally owned General Construction.
Shaping a growing city
Meanwhile, downtown Seattle was growing. The firm helped incorporate the Nordstrom stores and represented Alaska Airlines in the early years before both local companies had in-house counsel. These two steadfast Northwest businesses continued to grow and now serve regional, national and international markets with the firm playing an important role in facilitating their commercial transactions.
Expansion into Alaska
The firm became more involved in representing Alaska contractors on infrastructure matters in the form of roads and bridges, and on resolutions of claims with various government entities in the state.
Stuart Oles and Seth Morrison joined the firm
Augmenting the construction practice of Gerald DeGarmo, Stuart litigated some of the most prominent cases in the firm’s history. As a result, he developed a philosophy about the practice of law that contributed significantly to the firm’s success – the function of a lawyer is to help people who have a problem.
Bruce Rinker joined the firm
An accomplished litigator of construction disputes, he was the firm’s ethics monitor. His care in this regard was born out of his abiding concern for his clients as well as his interesting life experiences, which included being a prisoner of war from 1943 to 1945, where he is reported to have helped dig tunnels at one camp for what became known as “The Great Escape.” Bruce developed a significant construction law practice and oversaw the firm’s Alaska practice.
Landmark Labor Law Case
Over the years, Stuart Oles compiled a remarkable record of success litigating a series of high profile cases – including a landmark labor law case that he argued to the U.S. Supreme Court (Teamsters v. Lucas Flour Company). The oral argument audio can be heard here.
Sam Baker, Jr. Joined the Firm
Fresh out of law school, Sam Baker, Jr. joined DeGarmo, Leedy, Oles & Morrison. With a father that was a well-known general contractor, Sam naturally gravitated towards practicing construction law.
The firm represented Donald M. Drake Company over faulty design claims of the Seattle Kingdome roof. When the engineers refused to provide the contractor clear cut instructions on how to cope with what appeared to be a design failure which could lead to a collapse and a possible loss of life, the job was finished by Peter Kiewit & Sons Company. Problematic from the beginning, the Kingdome’s ceiling began to collapse in 1994 and the whole structure was demolished by implosion in 2000.
Kingdome under construction, 1974, Found in folder “Stadium 1974,” Wesley Uhlman Subject Files (Record Series 5287-02), by Seattle Municipal Archives, is licensed under CC by 2.0.
Robert “Bob” Burke joins the firm
Bob was involved in claims on numerous noteworthy projects including the Boston Central Artery, Supercollider, Seattle Art Museum, Los Angeles Metro Green Line, San Francisco Muni Metro Turnaround, the Halawa Viaduct in Honolulu, and many others. Bob served as the firm’s managing partner, guiding the firm’s strategic vision, for over 20 years.
Douglas S. Oles joins his father’s practice
In 1979, Seattle’s floating Hood Canal Bridge succumbed to a windstorm. Stuart Oles represented J. A. Jones in rebuilding the west end. This was the first major matter on which he worked with his son, Douglas S. Oles, who joined the firm in 1981.
Continuing his father’s legacy, for more than three decades Douglas has participated in a number of high profile infrastructure projects. He has also worked on various commercial contracts in Europe, Asia and South America representing both claimants and respondents in resolving multiple disputes over $100,000,000 and in a wide variety of smaller cases. Douglas continues to be a leader in a variety of industry groups that keep him at the forefront of new developments in contracting and claim resolution.
Hood Canal Floating Bridge, 1965-1975, Clifford Ellis, General Subjects Photograph Collection, 1845-2005, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.wa.gov, April 4, 2017.
James F. Nagle joins the firm
A nationally recognized attorney and thought leader in government contract law, Jim has unrivaled experience working on supply, services, international, major systems and construction contracts. Over his career, he has authored seven books on federal contracting and more than 100 articles.
Seattle’s floating I-90 bridge
Seattle once again loses a floating bridge due to a large storm and a series of human errors. The firm represented the civil contractor on Seattle’s floating I-90 Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge and worked closely with the contractor to resolve claims with the Washington State Department of Transportation resulting in no loss for contractor.
Lacey V. Murrow Bridge construction, 1940, Washington State Archives, via Wikimedia Commons, April 4, 2017.
The firm opens an office in Anchorage
After decades of practicing law in Alaska, the firm officially opened an office in Anchorage.
Anchorage, Alaska during the summer, 2006, Aconcagua, via Wikimedia Commons, April 4, 2017.
Sam Baker, Jr. becomes a name partner
After twenty seven years at Oles Morrison & Rinker, Sam Baker, Jr. becomes a name partner in the firm. Throughout Sam’s distinguished career, he has represented some of the industry’s most accomplished construction firms, and has obtained numerous multi-million dollar recoveries on their behalf before administrative boards, arbitration panels, and courts.
Moved to Washington State Convention Center
Oles Morrison Rinker & Baker LLP moved into its current location in the Washington State Convention Center Tower at 701 Pike Street.
Expansion to California
The firm opened its first office in California to offer additional legal services to their existing and new clients in the state.
Cities by the Bay, 2013, Daniel Parks, is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Women Leaders in Construction
Committed to shaping the future of women in the construction industry, Meghan Douris, along with a team of female attorneys at Oles Morrison, founded Women Leaders in Construction. The organization brings together women who work in all sectors of the construction industry and provides a platform for networking and professional development in what is often a male-dominated field. Membership has grown to more than 900 women from several states along the West Coast, as well as 110 firms.
Angelia Wesch named the firm’s Managing Partner
The firm elects Angelia Wesch as the firm’s Managing Partner, the first woman in management in the firm’s 124-year history.
Home to more than 30 attorneys focused on construction and government contracts law, the firm continues to embrace the philosophy of its founders and its significant members, finding practical approaches to its clients’ legal issues. In recent years, the firm has expanded its representation to serve the growing regional, national and international activities of its clients. This practice encompasses all of the western states and occasionally other state courts, all federal courts and state and federal administrative and adjudicatory tribunals of all types. The firm is also involved in international practice extending from the Pacific Rim countries to Europe and the Middle East.