Editor’s Note: Three weeks ago, NPI presented Pacifica Law Group senior litigation partner Paul Lawrence with one of the first Lynn Allen Awards at our 2017 Spring Fundraising Gala. Paul’s commendation reads:
A formidable attorney specializing in complex appellate and civil litigation, Paul Lawrence has ably represented public servants and working families in our courts for more than thirty years. During a five year stretch ranging from 2011 to 2016, Paul skillfully secured a series of landmark verdicts against a crop of right wing initiatives that gravely threatened Washington’s future. Prior to those cases, Paul defended Sound Transit against multiple lawsuits intended to weaken or destroy it. His mastery of constitutional law and sound trial strategy have repeatedly led to crucial victories for progressive causes.
Below is the text of Paul’s acceptance speech. We are pleased to be able to share Paul’s remarks with those of you who couldn’t be at the event. Enjoy!
Thank you to Andrew, the Northwest Progressive Institute and its partner organizations; it is an honor to be recognized by people and organizations so focused on improving our community.
I want to note it is a special honor to share the stage with Joni Earl – I have worked for Sound Transit since its inception – representing it in many of its bet the Agency Litigation – including successfully fighting Tim Eyman’s Initiative 776’s effort to cut back the MVET voted by the people to support Phase One of Sound Transit’s plan [Sound Move, approved in November 1996].
Working with Joni Earl and Sound Transit is emblematic of the partnership between my law firm and many of the public agencies that are so important to the quality of life in our community.
It is fitting this gala takes place on the one hundredth day of the Trump presidency. It is a strong reminder that NPI’s progressive activism is especially needed at this time and an equally strong reminder of the need for all of us to be part-time activists.
Being a part-time activist is a concept that I learned from one of the leaders of the first law firm I worked at here in Seattle: Preston Thorgrimson Ellis & Holman. That firm leader was Jim Ellis. He was an inspiration. I know that some of you in this room know about Jim Ellis. But I imagine that many of you do not.
Jim was a municipal bond lawyer; he never held public office, never headed a major corporation, and was never rich.
He was a leader in the campaigns to clean up Lake Washington; to finance mass transit, parks, pools, and other public facilities through “Forward Thrust” bonds; to preserve farmlands; and to establish the Mountains to Sound Greenway along the I‑90 corridor.
The concept of a part-time activist stems from the reality and importance of the commitments each of us have to our families and to our colleagues at work.
Those commitments can take up more than full-time, but we also have a responsibility to the community and we fulfill that community commitment by being part-time activists.
Being a part-time activist is not a solo activity. It is a result of being in a family that is supportive (thanks to my wife Cynthia Jones for that support!). Iit is a result of working with colleagues who are supportive – thanks to my colleagues at Pacifica Law Group – which was started by former members of the Preston Firm in part to carry out Jim Ellis’s vision of combining a law practice with civic work.
Being a part-time activist requires a vision.
As Jim Ellis said: “Try to imagine a future picture of your best hopes. This motivating vision should be thought through carefully and believed in deeply. It needs to interest and challenge you enough to sustain your effort over time.”
My vision was born of the civil rights struggles I observed as a child and the role of lawyers in that struggle and then expanded when I moved here in the 1980s to helping the community grow right and preserve and enhance its history of progressive values. Being a part-time Activist requires persistence and patience. The effort to overturn Eyman’s two-thirds tax initiatives took over twenty years.
Being a part-time activist requires a depth of commitment to fight hard, to fight well and to bring your best to the effort.
The satisfactions from being a part-time activist are great: to help with litigation to defeat destructive initiatives filed by Tim Eyman; to help to preserve the Pike Place Market and our public school system; to support the growth of Sound Transit; to help preserve civil rights and civil liberties through work with the ACLU, all have been rewarding enough without any additional recognition.
This award is appreciated, but truly one to be shared with my family, my colleagues at work and partners such as the Northwest Progressive Institute.
In closing, I would observe that now more than ever is a time to lead a resurgence of civic life by all of us serving as part-time activists.
As Robert Kennedy, another inspiration for me, said: “Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Here’s to all of us being part-time activists.