November 2015 Bar Bulletin
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Profile / Peter Roberts

Giving Lawyers a Leg Up

By George Tamblyn

November Caricature

I met Peter Roberts several years ago when he was presenting at the WSBA's annual statewide conference. Peter spoke about practice management in his role as practice management advisor with the Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP). That annual event was always an uplifting and unifying recharge for those lawyers in attendance.

Peter's undergraduate degree is from Mount Saint Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, followed by his MBA from The College of William and Mary. As induction into the U.S. Army loomed, Peter was able to finish his MBA thesis while in uniform. The thesis studied resale price maintenance in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The topic brought Peter into William and Mary's law library, which whet his legal appetite.

Peter discovered a military niche for himself at the Pentagon within the Office of Compassionate Review at the Department of the Army. With headphones on, Peter spoke to military personnel all over the world assisting with applications to be transferred to their hometowns to assist with grave family emergencies. He learned to listen carefully before giving advice in this job.

After he left the Army, Pete joined Hazleton Laboratories Corporation in Vienna, Virginia, as a financial analyst assisting a division scientific director and his department heads with the financial management aspects of corporate budgets and government contracts. The contracting aspect acquainted Peter with Hazleton's attorneys from Garvey, Schubert & Barer. Hazleton's chief executives were from Seattle.

In 1982, after six years with Hazleton, Peter accepted an offer for his first law firm position with Wilkes, Artis, Hedrick & Lane in Washington, D.C., then a recently merged law firm specializing in real estate and in need of its first professional manager. Peter was attracted to lawyers, finding them interesting people who were funny, smart, sarcastic and often ready to socialize after work.

Peter was drawn to Seattle from the East Coast by his wife, Yumi, whom he met when she was a student back east. They married in 1993 after a visit to Seattle during a sunny period in April 1992.

Yumi is native Japanese and asked Peter to see if he might find a law firm position in Seattle to allow her to be closer to Japan and because of her discovery of Uwajimaya, the Japanese supermarket. Yumi is responsible for Peter's increasing prowess on the tennis court as well as for Peter's deep appreciation of Japanese culture. They enjoy attending classical music concerts and concerts at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

In Seattle he had experience in several law firms, including Garvey Schubert. During this period, Peter was active on the board of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators serving as bar relations liaison to the Executive Committee of the WSBA's Solo & Small Practice Section.

In the fall of 1999, after six years with Garvey Schubert, the WSBA came knocking in the form of John Redenbaugh whom Peter had met on the Executive Committee. Redenbaugh was a senior CLE seminar planner and long-term employee with the WSBA and asked Peter to apply for the position of personnel manager. Peter eventually applied and assumed the role of personnel manager with the WSBA in the fall of 1999.

About a year later, the WSBA needed to replace the practice management advisor in LOMAP who had resigned. Peter got the job.

For Peter, whose law firm experience was solely "big firm," it was somewhat new territory assisting solo and small-firm lawyers. Peter remembers his first consultation in Bremerton with Edward Wolfe. Peter says he brought candy for the staff and frankly said, "I am not sure how to assist you. Let's just talk about you and your practice."

Peter says he continues to follow this introductory pattern of conversation because every lawyer is different, so a full understanding of context is important. For the next 13 years, Peter went on to build the WSBA's Law Office Management Assistance Program into a leading program of its kind in the nation. Peter hosted the famous LOMAP Traveling Seminar Roadshow visiting many smaller communities within Washington.

Peter retired from the WSBA in 2013. Now he continues privately to assist lawyers with practice management guidance and connections to resources. Peter has helped my law firm, Advocates Law Group, evaluate technology, systems and organizational options.

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