Protecting a vulnerable group

by Mike Russell,

Joshua Reams L’16 decided to become a lawyer so he could have a positive impact on his clients’ lives. He didn’t expect that his experience in law school would alter his professional trajectory.

Reams, a native of Nampa, Idaho, cites an especially memorable civil case that helped clarify his focus: younger family members had spent a widow’s $3 million life savings.

“Those savings were meant to take care of her for the rest of her life, and help her achieve her life goals,” says Reams. “Under Oregon law, we sued for treble damages: $9 million. The case was settled right before trial.”
Reams has worked on several such large litigation cases during his law school clerkship. “It's rewarding to get that money back for our clients, especially when they can’t help themselves,” he says.

Finding focus

Before his clerkship, Reams hadn’t had any exposure to estate planning or elder law litigation. He wanted to practice business litigation and transactions. He expected to endure elder-law cases, not enjoy them. But over the last two years, those were the cases he cared about most.

“I was just blessed to receive a clerkship with a local attorney named Greg Hansen, who specializes in financial elder abuse and trust disputes. He opened my eyes to a part of law that I’d never heard of,” says Reams. “Now I know this is what I want to focus on in my own career. Sometimes, it’s a thankless job. But in the long run, our clients are better off and taken care of. It’s the right thing to do."

In addition to elder-abuse issues, Reams also plans to serve clients who need help with estate and trust issues. Here again, Reams gravitates toward the “unique and powerful” opportunity to help people through difficult times and tough questions.

Greg Hansen has been impressed by Reams’ professional growth and demeanor. “During his clerkship with our firm, Joshua completed quality work in over 100 projects,” Hansen says. “Quality legal work often produces better results and reduced anxiety for clients and their families.”

A personal touch with a societal view

Business decisions. Money matters. Family ties. Reams enjoys the fundamental impact the law has on such interactions. He sees elder law as “an opportunity to help those who have done so much for us."

He also wants the public to become more aware of elder law issues.

“I’m surprised at how often family members feel like they can help themselves to an elder’s money,” he says “With the Baby Boomers retiring en masse, this issue isn’t going away any time soon.”

After graduating, Reams will move back to Boise, Idaho, to work for a law group with a regional presence. “Some of their clients live in Oregon, but only one of the firm’s attorneys practices in this state. Since I have been doing nothing but Oregon law for the last two years, I’m a natural fit,” he says. “But I am passionate about being part of the Idaho and Boise communities. That’s why I plan to practice in both states— as much as I don’t want to take two bar examinations!”

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Mike Russell is a freelance writer at Pivotal Writing.