July 2012 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Richard E. Mitchell

Architect of Change

By Carla Lee


A dynamic leader has many skills, including the ability to inspire and empower others. No one embodies this virtue more than Richard Mitchell, the King County Bar Association's president for 2012-2013. Richard is described by many as a great mentor and driven leader; I know from my own experience how passionate and giving Richard is about developing the next generation of attorneys.

Richard was born in London to immigrant parents, neither of whom attended college. His grandfathers immigrated in the 1940s to England from the West Indies and Guyana in pursuit of a better life for their families. Both of his grandfathers worked as laborers for years before being able to afford to bring their respective families to London.

Richard's family lived in a council flat, the United Kingdom's equivalent of public housing, on the east side of London in a poor, immigrant neighborhood called the London Docklands. Despite these inauspicious beginnings, he developed a love of learning, a willingness to be adventurous and a determination to give back that is evident the minute you get to know him.

At the age of 12, Richard immigrated to the United States. He earned a multi-year scholarship to attend a boarding school in Maryland, and went on to college at Cornell University. At Cornell, Richard earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree with honors and fulfilled a long-held dream of his maternal grandfather, who had always wanted to attend architectural school in the United Kingdom.

When I spoke with Richard, it was evident that his maternal grandfather's life as a manual laborer and inability to go to college had significantly shaped his life course. One of the most telling things I learned about Richard was that after graduating from Cornell, he returned to London and gave his undergraduate degree to his maternal grandfather.

After a short stint working in London as an architect in the very community where he grew up, and in an effort to better understand the challenges of building communities in urban environments, Richard returned to the United States and earned his Masters of Urban Planning degree as a Rackham Merit Fellow at the University of Michigan. Law school at Syracuse University soon followed.

Richard began his legal career in Seattle at the law firm of Bogle & Gates, PLLC, in its construction and design department. When Bogle closed its doors in 1999, Richard moved to Dorsey & Whitney, LLP. But it was not long before his civic-minded nature became very evident.

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