A Love for the Law
Linda C. Love JD’81 interned for the Colorado Legislature more than 30 years ago, but she still wishes she could take a mulligan on the ballot measure she failed to get passed. “I was the Weld County campaign manager for the ‘Yes on 7’ campaign ballot,” said Love, who was a senior at the University of Northern Colorado at the time. “The measure would have increased taxes on a mining company and large corporations and removed the tax on food. It seemed like such a no-brainer.”
Love campaigned hard for the ballot measure, but the proposition failed to pass. “I was so naive back then,” she said, laughing. “Man, if I had do-overs — I could win that one now.” No doubt. An attorney and partner in Williams Love O’Leary Craine & Powers PC in Portland, Ore., Love has gone on to become a successful workers’ compensation and medical product liability attorney.
Love was born in Georgia but raised in Colorado. A political science major in college, she completed her bachelor’s degree in 1976. She then spent the next few years “being a ski bum” and working as a waitress in Colorado before enrolling in Willamette University College of Law. “At the time, I wanted to work as a legislative counsel, so I wanted to attend a school close to the state legislature,” she said. “Willamette was a natural choice for me. When I worked at the Colorado Legislature, we always looked to Oregon law for examples of progressive legislating.”
Following her first year of law school, Love worked as a staff writer on a special legislative supplement of Willamette Law Review. She followed the progress of specific pieces of legislation and wrote articles about their final outcome. Although both measures were passed into law, Love’s interest in the legislative process began to wane. “I got a little cynical,” she explained. “I enjoyed participating in the legislative process, but I no longer wanted to be in the middle of it.”
Interested in a career that would allow her to work closely with clients, Love turned to her friend Diana L. Craine JD’82 for advice. Craine persuaded her to apply for an associate position with Rolf Olson, a workers’ compensation attorney in Salem. Workers’ compensation law is written by the legislature, so the job seemed like a good fit for her. But Love was initially hesitant to join the practice.
“At the time, I had a very warped view of plaintiffs’ trial lawyers,” she explained. “I thought their focus was on making money, and I was interested in social change and making the world a better place. After I became a trial lawyer, I realized it’s not about chasing ambulances and getting one-third of the money. It’s about changing people’s lives for the better and changing the behavior of corporations and individuals.”
Following graduation, Love joined Olson’s firm and spent the next few years cutting her teeth in the courtroom. Over time, she built a reputation as a highly effective workers’ compensation attorney. From 1981 to 1989, she practiced with some prominent firms in Oregon, including Churchill Leonard LLP in Salem and the office of James L. Francesconi in Portland. Throughout her career, Love has represented more than a thousand injured workers and presented hundreds of cases before the Workers’ Compensation Board. She briefed and argued dozens of cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court. She also served as president of Oregon Workers’ Compensation Attorneys from 1991 to 1994.
“I found that I was able to help people in a real and immediate way,” she said of workers’ compensation practice. “When you’re hurt and can’t work, can’t pay your bills or support your family … you need real help. I was able to provide that for my clients and help them solve their problems.”
By 1989, Love was working for one of the largest workers’ compensation firms in the state, juggling up to 500 cases at a time. “I was handling a huge volume of cases and had lost the ability to have one-on-one time with my clients,” she said. Wanting more personal contact with clients and more time with her family, Love resigned her position and joined forces with her old law school classmate Diana Craine. The two formed Craine & Love, which Love believes was the first all-woman law firm in Oregon.
“At the time, we were considered radical,” Love said. “The general belief was that clients wouldn’t come to you unless you had a male partner, but we found that our male clients wanted women lawyers. One client told us he thought female lawyers would fight for their clients like a mother lion would fight for her young. And we did. We had no trouble getting clients.”
When the two partnered, Craine specialized in product liability and medical malpractice, and Love focused on workers’ compensation cases. Love enjoyed researching medical issues and interviewing doctors to gather case information. “If I wanted to get a doctor to help my client’s case, I had to do my homework,” she said. “I had to use all the people skills I learned working as a waitress in college to get them to talk to me. Over the years, I established a good reputation and earned their respect.”
Love and Craine collaborated on a breast implants mass tort with a Portland firm headed by attorney Mike Williams. Love and Williams married in 2001. That same year, the two merged firms and eventually became Williams Love O’Leary Craine & Powers PC. With the merger, Love gave up her workers’ compensation practice to focus exclusively on product liability cases.
Love has worked on a number of high profile cases over the years, including several involving “Fen-Phen,” a weight-loss drug reported to cause pulmonary hypertension (PPH). According to the March 2005 issue of American Lawyer magazine (Vol.27, No.3), more than 50,000 individual product liability lawsuits had been filed by alleged Fen-Phen victims, and the total liability cost was expected to reach $21 billion. To date, Love has successfully resolved 19 PPH Fen-Phen cases in more than 10 states; five more are still pending.
Past president of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, Love has been a member of a number of attorneys’ groups throughout her career, including the Mary Leonard Law Society and Oregon Women Lawyers. She believes these types of organizations provide a level of support to female attorneys more available now than when she entered the field. “When I first became a trial lawyer, I heard over and over again from my male counterparts that women couldn’t do it,” she said. “They had the idea that you had to be a bulldog and that it was a man’s domain. And it was for a long time.
“It wasn’t until Gov. Barbara Roberts started putting women on the bench in the 1990s that people realized there were few experienced women plaintiffs’ attorneys to choose from because female plaintiffs’ lawyers had not been widely hired or promoted up to that time,” Love explained. “That’s when things really began to change.”
Love’s advice to young lawyers entering the field today is to keep their options open. “Learn about as many things as you can, because you never know what might interest you,” she said. “My goal was to help people, and I was able to do that in a way I never imagined while in law school. The most satisfying thing for me has been to help people and have them appreciate it.”
Linda C. Love JD’81
“Willamette was a natural choice for me. When I worked at the Colorado Legislature, we always looked to Oregon law for examples of progressive legislating.”