It is the 1970s and the Washington legislature has just granted full collective bargaining rights to professional educators. School districts and parents are suing the state of Washington for ample funding of public schools. Schools are grappling with the complexities of desegregation and the integration of diverse communities. This is when Jim Dionne moves to Washington and meets a school district superintendent on a sailboat in the Port Angeles harbor. From that chance meeting, Jim started to build a law practice based on collaborative relationships with school districts on the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas.
In the 1980s, Jim expanded his practice east across Puget Sound to represent school districts and other municipal clients in King and Pierce counties, and opened an office in Seattle. In 1993, Mike Rorick added his public sector litigation experience to the practice, and Buzz Porter joined the practice directly out of law school. The trio expanded the firm’s reputation for personal and practical representation of public schools in labor negotiations, student civil rights, school construction, and special education. The firm also continued to grow with more and larger school district clients and crossed the Cascade mountains to represent public schools in the Yakima Valley and Tri-Cities.
In 1999, Cliff Foster brought his established school law practice to the firm, and by the end of the next decade, the firm doubled in size in both number of attorneys and number of school district clients. Throughout the 2000s, the firm played a bold role in representing schools across the state in school finance litigation, complex labor negotiations, and the ever-expanding number of special education issues. After Jim’s retirement in 2012, the firm re-branded as Porter Foster Rorick LLP.
Today, Porter Foster Rorick represents more than 100 public school districts up and down the entire length of the I-5 corridor and on both sides of the Cascade mountains. Forty-seven years after Jim Dionne met his first school superintendent, PFR attorneys continue to help school districts navigate important challenges with the state’s funding of public schools, close the achievement gap for students of diverse demographics, and build positive, productive relationships with their labor partners. As long as these challenges remain, PFR will continue to develop new generations of school law leaders to provide responsive, practical, cost-effective service—as litigators, as bargainers, and most of all as trusted counselors to public schools.