November 2, 2015 marks exactly ten years since ALO went through immense turmoil with the departure of three employees, (two lawyers, one paralegal) without notice, who took with them a substantial number of cases. The lawyers who left ended up paying a large sum of money for their departure, and ALO reorganized its operation with a new business plan. 10 years seems like a good time to evaluate the situation created by the split. In retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to ALO.
After years of taking in way too many cases to keep everyone in the office busy, ALO trimmed its operation to carefully selected cases with an eye toward efficiency. For years the better cases at ALO were used to finance less productive cases, and to pay enormous salaries for lawyers who were spending a lot of time without producing a lot of revenue. Now those same good cases are used to pay a much smaller staff, and a few talented contract helpers outside the office, and the difference has been dramatic. It has been, without a doubt, the best 10 years of ALO's long history.
The departure resulted in one big change that had immediate results. No longer were most of the court appearances farmed out to less experienced counsel. Clients immediately responded to having their cases handled by the old timer himself, and that generated more trial work. ALO has conducted many more major trials in the past ten years that in previous years, and most have been wins. Out of town firms have noticed that and have associated with ALO more frequently to do trials in the rural areas of Alaska. Some of the most satisfying wins were against the very lawyers who left 10 years ago. That firm has suffered a fair number of major trial losses during that time, and most of them were against ALO.
One of the biggest improvements has been in the area of case preparation. In the past that task was most often assigned to younger lawyers on the ALO staff, as is common with law firms everywhere. Unfortunately, ALO was not able to attract and keep talented lawyers in Bethel. Often case preparation was mediocre. Now, with contract lawyers doing the case preparation, it is possible to have very talented lawyers doing the work, and the results are significantly better. With internet connections, smart lawyers can work out of their home or anywhere else, and their work is sent to ALO as quickly as if they were in the next room. ALO doesn't have to worry about sick leave, vacation time, or office politics. Most important, ALO doesn't have to worry about employees plotting a late night takeover of ALO.
The change has energized the practice, and despite reaching possible retirement age, no such plan is in the works. In fact retirement is less of an option now than it was at the time of the office break-up, when it was seriously being considered. The last ten years were good, why not plan on 10 more?
ALO recently resolved a case in Ketchikan, Alaska, involving an injury to a long time auto mechanic who fell from an airplane pontoon at the Ketchikan airport. He was returning from a fishing lodge where he had earned a free trip from his employer for excellent job performance. The fall, from several feet above the tarmac, resulted in a broken wrist and prevented him from working. ALO worked with former Bethel lawyer John Cashion on this case. John is now practicing in Anchorage, and has combined with ALO on a number of cases.
Bethel guy Mike Hoffman made his first trip to Long Pond in October. It was a short visit and spent mostly outside, chasing birds and looking for deer. A few birds were harvested but many more got away. As many as 400 giant Canada geese have been hanging out on the farm, but they are smarter than they look. In addition to ducks and geese,
Mike got his first ever pheasant.
That good looking guy in the pheasant photo is Tanner. Mike was amused that instead of an airplane, to reach the hunting spots at the farm he rode a golf cart.
Perhaps the highlight of Mike's visit was the lutefisk dinner he attended in a nearby community. Every fall area churches put on dinners to raise money. It is hard to imagine raising money by feeding people lutefisk, but people actually drive miles to eat it. Mike tried a wad of it, and actually finished what was on his plate, describing it as "not bad".
Don Trump makes the ALO news for claiming to be a self-made rich guy. Here is a dose of reality on that subject. His stated desire to have Sarah Palin as part of his administration has late night comedians frothing at the prospect. Perhaps he will pick her to be his VP candidate. She has experience, after all.
Most who follow this page know of the passion for University of Minnesota sports at ALO. The recent loss to Michigan ranks among the toughest games ever for the long suffering Gophers and their fans. This time the refs actually signaled the winning touchdown only to reverse the call, leaving 19 seconds to score from ½ yard, which didn' t happen. Here is a cartoon that puts it in proper perspective.
This picture is not from the elk farm, but took some time to line up apparently.
Uriah Clarkson took this dandy moose picture, which makes the cut as this month's mandatory moose. It was taken on Powerline pass, in the Anchorage area.