Local attorney John Wittwer moving to Morley Thomas firm

Sean C. Morgan

After 42 years of operating his own law firm in Sweet Home, local attorney John Wittwer is joining Morley Thomas Law Firm.

“I’m going to become, in legal terms, ‘of counsel,'” Wittwer said.

That means Wittwer will have a relationship with the law firm, but will not be an associate or a partner. According to the American Bar Association, “of counsel” lawyers often are those who, like Wittwer, are looking to cut back on their workloads due to age or other circumstances.

Wittwer will serve as senior counsel with the firm.

“We will share resources and files,” he said. “I will continue to represent the people who have open files.”

The arrangement is open-ended and will last as long as Morley Thomas and he want it to.

At age 70, Wittwer said he has been cutting his workload, but he continues to enjoy working with his clients.

“I’m feeling good,” Wittwer said. “I’m in good health.”

He looks back at his history in Sweet Home fondly.

Wittwer, who originally is from Bay Area in Northern California, has spent his entire 42-year career in Sweet Home after passing the bar exam in 1975. He studied law at the Willamette University Law School.

Bill Lewis hired him as a law clerk after law school, and Wittwer moved to Sweet Home with his wife, Mirja, whom he met on a mission trip to Finland, and oldest son, J.K., in August 1975.

They have one other son, Kai.

When Lewis became a judge, he left the practice to Wittwer, who later served as a municipal court judge in Lebanon, from November 1980 to September 1999. Wittwer also served as a pro tem judge in Brownsville and Sweet Home.

“It’s just been a great experience,” Wittwer said.

After working with thousands of people over the years, “if I dropped dead tomorrow, it would’ve been a great ride.”

He said he hopes that his legacy is that he will have been true to the idea that the legal profession is a noble profession, where the client comes first in a manner that is compassionate and wise.

He will continue to focus on the things he’s good at, he said. At the top of that list is child adoption.

Wittwer has served on the Oregon Law Commission Adoption Law Work Group to reform adoption law and is part of the Standing Committee on Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Law with the Oregon State Bar Family Law Section.

He also works in real estate, estate planning and probate and providing business advice.

Sarah Kessler, who works with Wittwer, will become an associate with Morley Thomas, which opened a branch in Sweet Home, at 1001 Long St. in early 2015.

Kessler will continue to work out of the Sweet Home location, Kennedy said, and additional staffing is likely.

Partner Tre Kennedy said that the firm will move from its location at 1001 Long Street to Wittwer’s office, 1019 Main St.

Wittwer will work again with Morley Thomas partner Rachel Kittson-MaQatish, who worked in his office after earning her law degree.

“I think it’s great,” Wittwer said. “I think it’s wonderful how she’s progressed.

“I’m definitely excited about working with them. They’re good lawyers, and they’re fine people.”

He has had experience working with Kittson-MaQatish – obviously – as well as partner Jessica Meyer.

“Tre Kennedy is a fine fellow, a good technical lawyer and a good man,” Wittwer said.

Kennedy said the partners were “excited” to get Wittwer.

“He’s kind of an icon in Sweet Home. We appreciate that. We have lots of clients in Sweet Home. We have a presence. We’re excited to expand. The team also includes associate attorney Tammy Schilling.

The transition officially is set for Dec. 31.

Wittwer and Morley Thomas will celebrate at an open house from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14 in the Sweet Home High School Commons.

For more information, contact Wendy Richards at (541) 367-5195 or email her at [email protected].