Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl
Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl with their Lynn Allen Awards (Photo: Lincoln Potter/Samaya LLC for the Northwest Progressive Institute)

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].

Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl
Paul Lawrence and Joni Earl with their Lynn Allen Awards (Pho­to: Lin­coln Potter/Samaya LLC for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute)

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.

Yet, as a cit­i­zen activist for more than half a cen­tu­ry, he left a big­ger foot­print on Seat­tle and King Coun­ty than per­haps any oth­er sin­gle indi­vid­ual.”

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.

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