Gene Hallman has been making a name for himself, as well as other area trial lawyers, for 35 years.
Hallman, a long-time Pendleton resident, was recently named 2009 Distinguished Trial Lawyer by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association. The association is an professional organization with over 1,000 members throughout the state.
This award is well-deserved by Hallman of Hallman and Dretke Trial Lawyers, according to colleague Steve Hill, Pendleton attorney.
"I'm excited about him being recognized," Hill said. "He's extremely generous of his time and he has helped countless young lawyers become much better attorneys through his mentoring."
Hallman said he began practicing law in 1974. After graduating from Willamette University College of Law, he clerked for Oregon Supreme Court Justice Edward Howell who recommend Hallman go out to Pendleton.
"I wanted to go to a small town and I had never been to Pendleton, so I decided to give it a try," he said. "I've been here ever since."
That "try" has turned into over 500 cases, some precedent setting. His roster includes cases against Wal-Mart, Ford Motor Company and the United States Government. Hallman said one of his most memorable cases took place in 1991, when he represented the 1,300 inmates of Oregon Correctional Institute in an attempt to improve OCI's medical care system. Hallman won the case.
For Hallman, though, a large part of being a professional is acting as a resource for young trial lawyers in Oregon.
"When I started practicing lawyers could get plenty of trial experience because many smaller cases got tried," Hallman said. "There's not the opportunity today."
He said he felt the need to help newcomers to the profession get experience, so through the American College of Trial Lawyers, Hallman lead the Jury Experience Project. The project sets new lawyers up to assist public agencies, thus getting hands-on practice.
Also on Hallman's resume is a 2006 nomination for Oregon Supreme Court Judge. Though not elected, Hallman said he hopes he helped highlight a region of Oregon that is rarely seen by much of the state's lawyers.
"Oregon is more than the Willamette Valley. We tend to look to Portland, Salem and Eugene to solve all our state's problems," he said. "The issues facing rural Oregon need voices."
Hallman is most assuredly a representative for the region, representing cases state-wide and traveling throughout the region often.
Most of all, Hallman said he is humbled by the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association award and thanks his business partner, staff and family for their constant support.
He said he has many reasons to love Pendleton after living here for 35 years, one being the colleagues, such as firm partner Brian Dretke, he works with on a regular basis.
"Pendleton has one of the best bars in the state- and I don't mean the Rainbow," he said. "We have a high-quality collegial group of lawyers."