Spokane Journal of Business

Winston & Cashatt reports growth with booming economy

Winston & Cashatt plans to increase staff, expand its office in Coeur d’Alene

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-LeAnn Bjerken
Kammi Mencke Smith says Winston & Cashatt Lawyers is hiring associates to work in areas of personal injury, elder law, and as general associates. The firm also is always on the lookout for experienced attorneys.

Spokane-based law firm Winston & Cashatt Lawyers PS says it’s seen growth in both staff and business this year that appears to be fueled by the region’s current booming economy.

“The law is always changing, and the growth of the economy has brought new legal issues and challenges of its own, that have resulted in more business for us, which is a good thing,” says Kammi Mencke Smith, a partner and board chairwoman at the firm.

Mencke Smith says the firm has seen a growing number of its older staff retire, with at least one attorney retiring each year for the past five years. As a result, the firm has consistently tried to hire one younger associate and one more experienced attorney each year to keep up.

“Recently there’s been a bit of an upswing in law school admissions, which is a good thing because many older attorneys are retiring and we need new candidates to choose from,” she says. “We’re currently hiring young associates to work in the areas of personal injury, elder law, and as general associates, and we’re always looking to hire lateral attorneys.”

Mencke Smith says the firm also has a mentorship program that pairs young associates with several different experienced partners, giving them more opportunities to learn.

While she declines to disclose annual revenue, Mencke Smith says it has been increasing steadily each year.

“This year’s revenues are already better than last so far,” she says.

Founded in 1971 by Patrick Winston and Leo Cashatt, the firm has grown to include about 50 employees, 47 of whom work at its main office in the Bank of America Financial Center, at 601 W. Riverside. The firm occupies the building’s entire 20th floor and part of the 19th floor, which totals about 19,500 square feet of space.

Two attorneys and one paralegal work at the firm’s 1,600-square-foot Coeur d’Alene office at 250 Northwest Blvd.

As most of the firm’s attorneys are licensed to practice in both Washington and Idaho, Mencke Smith says many will occasionally work from the Coeur d’Alene office, or use it to meet with Idaho-based clients.

She says the firm plans to double the size of the Coeur d’Alene office this summer, by leasing the adjacent office space and expanding into it.

“Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls are both growing rapidly, with real estate , property law, and employment issues on the rise. People are moving there to retire, meaning more elder law issues too,” she says. “With limited office space, it’s difficult for numerous attorneys to work in the Coeur d’Alene office at once, so expanding that space will allow more attorneys to work there to support our Idaho clients.”

Mencke Smith says the firm currently is working on signing a new lease for the Coeur d’Alene office that includes the new space and expects work on the expansion to begin early this summer.

“We don’t yet have plans for who will be completing the project, but we hope to be able to use the space by fall,” she says.

While the firm covers a multitude of practice areas, Mencke Smith says the majority of its cases are in the areas of personal injury, elder law, real estate and land use, and employment law.

“We added family law to our offerings three years ago and are now considered a full-service firm,” she says. “Right now, elder law and real estate are probably the areas we’re seeing the most business in. Because elder law includes trusts, wills, and estates, work we do for those clients also sometimes bleeds into our work with succession planning and business law.”

Mencke Smith says the area of elder law is expected to keep growing, as people are living longer and have more funds they’re looking to protect for themselves or their families.

“With the economy being so good, people have more assets they wish to protect using a will or a trust,” she says. “People are also living longer, so they’re looking at long term care and guardianship issues depending on their health care needs.”

Mencke Smith says her areas of practice include mainly education and employment law, the latter of which has seen significant changes in recent years. 

“Part of what I enjoy most about employment law is that it’s always changing, so I’m able to have ongoing relationships with employers who need help navigating those changes,” she says.

Spokane’s current low unemployment rate means many businesses are having trouble finding enough people to fill their openings, says Mencke Smith.

“Employers know they need to be able to offer potential applicants competitive pay, benefits, and flexible work options,” she says. “We can help them with some of those decisions.”

She says work in employment law also has increased due to Washington state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, which the Legislature passed last year.

The new law will allow workers to take 12 weeks off with pay when they have a baby or take care of themselves or family members during an illness. Since January, workers and employers have been paying for the benefit with premiums that total 0.4 percent of wages. Workers will be able to take the benefits beginning in January 2020.

“The state is taking a greater hand in managing those policies than it has in the past,” she says. “Most of the issues I am seeing are just making sure that employers are compliant in their practices and policies, and that their staff are informed about the change in the law and the benefit that they will be entitled to in the year 2020.”

Mencke Smith says the changes taking place in Spokane’s housing market also have drawn more business for the firm in the areas of real estate and land use.

“Spokane is on the verge of a housing shortage, which brings with it many legal issues including zoning, easements, subdividing land, water and utility resources, and transportation services,” she says. “It’s a big area of focus right now and we believe it will only continue to grow as more people choose to move into the area and begin seeking housing or land to develop for business opportunities.”

Looking ahead, Mencke Smith says the firm continues to see both young attorneys and more experienced ones looking to make a lateral move.

“We’re looking for people who want to be part of a team and are willing to work hard and improve constantly,” she says. “I think that regardless of the industry, people are starting to recognize Spokane has quality professionals living and working right here who understand the unique issues businesses and individuals are facing, so there’s no need to look elsewhere.”

Mencke Smith says she first joined Winston & Cashatt in 2002 as an intern, was officially hired as an associate in 2004, and became a partner at the firm in 2009.

She says Winston and Cashatt has a long history of supporting women in leadership roles, going all the way back to its founding years.

“Vivian Winston, wife of our founding partner Pat Winston, helped to start the Women Helping Women Fund, and they named a scholarship after her,” she says.

In 1981, Winston & Cashatt’s Patty Williams became a partner at the firm, the first female to do so at a Spokane law firm. Today the firm has a total of 17 partners, seven of whom are women.

“We’ve always valued female workers, so having a larger presence of females on staff isn’t new for us,” says Mencke Smith. “For us, it’s about finding the best fit, someone who’s able to provide excellent representation to our clients and collaborate with us as a team.”

As its staff evolves to include more young associate attorneys, Mencke Smith says the firm also has noticed the increasing impact of technology on litigation styles and the practice of law.

She says younger attorneys also tend to have more electronic-based methods of practice.

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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