Established in 1960 in Portland, Oregon, Sussman Shank is a team of over 30 experienced lawyers dedicated to delivering exceptional legal services to businesses and individuals throughout the Pacific Northwest. We provide a full spectrum of legal services from business law and litigation, to complex trials, and everything in between.

How We’re Different

Our tagline says it all – “Your legal advantage point.” At Sussman Shank, we know that there are often many roads to achieving our clients’ goals. But our approach starts with looking at the pathway, and end-goal, from your point of view. It’s not just about achieving your objective, it’s about achieving it in a way that aligns with your unique vision, culture, and ideals. That’s the difference, and advantage, that we bring to every client representation.

Client Service First

A drive for exceptional client service that provides continuity for our clients as they – and we – grow, serves as the foundation on which our firm was built. We genuinely care about our clients, the work we do, and the results achieved. We draw this spirit of exceptional service from our founding partners, who practiced law with the idea that treating their employees, clients, and competitors with respect was at the center of the legal advice they provided.

A Reputation That Precedes Us

Whether individually or as part of our amazing team, we’ve been recognized for excellence by clients and peers in and numerous business publications – such as Chambers and Partners USA, Oregon Business Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and Best Lawyers, to name a few. But perhaps more importantly, our reputation within the legal community is one of legal excellence. Sussman Shank lawyers are well-known as outstanding legal practitioners with a high level of integrity and trust both inside and outside the legal community.

Our People are Our Culture

At Sussman Shank, teamwork is the name of the game – and our group of passionate, capable, and truly helpful lawyers and business professionals are ready and willing to serve our fast-moving, growing, successful businesses and individuals. We hire people who are responsive problem solvers and business builders, who thrive on new ideas, challenges, and opportunities.

Mackrell International – An international association of independent law firms

Sussman Shank LLP is a proud member of Mackrell International, one of the world’s premier networks of independent legal firms. Our membership in Mackrell enables us to provide our clients with efficient access to high quality law firms located throughout the world. With 90 firms in 170 offices and 60 countries, Mackrell provides access to more than 4,500 lawyers worldwide.

Founding Partner Gilbert Sussman’s “Simple Truths”

Gilbert Sussman 1905 – 1985

Gilbert Sussman was the founder and senior partner of Sussman Shank LLP until his death in 1985. Mr. Sussman attended the University of Oregon and Columbia University School of Law. From 1929 to 1934 he was a member of the staff at Yale Law School. He went on to become Senior Attorney for the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and NRA in Washington, D.C. After his return to Portland in 1935, Mr. Sussman was Regional Attorney for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Assistant General Counsel, Bonneville Power Administration. In 1946 he entered private practice in Portland. In 1960 he founded our firm.

Gil was recognized as a dean of the Oregon bankruptcy bar. During his career, he was involved with many of the largest bankruptcy and reorganization cases in the state.

Gil was a leader and innovator in both national and local legal organizations. It was a testimonial to his standing with the bar and in his own community that his point of view was so readily accepted on several issues of the times.

Gil was also an officer and member of the Portland City Club and a director of the Portland Chapter of United Good Neighbors. He was also active in many other civic and religious organizations, yet still found time to indulge his enthusiasm for gardening.

Gilbert Sussman’s Simple Truths
By Howard M. Levine and Kevin D. Padrick

When Gilbert Sussman founded the firm in 1960, he brought with him a philosophy of conduct that earned him great respect among clients and colleagues alike. Today, Simple Truths form the foundation of honorable legal work and serve as the credo by which the firm continues to practice.

A Lawyer Trades on His or Her Reputation
A baker has his bread, a furniture maker has his chair, but a lawyer’s product is the elusive and intangible word. Gil understood that the value of a lawyer’s word was directly related to his or her reputation in the community and the esteem in which the listener held the speaker. Esteem is earned over time, but can be lost suddenly and permanently if the speaker is caught in a lie. Gil taught us that no client or case is worth the cost of losing our reputation. He did not manipulate the concept of truth. Not only did Gil always give us the truth, he gave us the whole truth.

When asked about his willingness to exploit another lawyer’s misunderstanding, Gil would patiently inform the questioner that trust and respect are not fostered by the mere avoidance of dishonesty. Gil wanted his listener’s trust and respect and knew that momentary gains resulting from exploitation of another lawyer’s failures would at best provide only a short-term benefit to his present client. He knew that keeping the trust and respect of his foes would ultimately be more advantageous to his present client and all future clients.

Let Your Adversary Walk Away with Dignity
Human beings are vulnerable and have emotions. Gil read his adversaries, as would any excellent attorney. He sensed their weaknesses and evaluated their strengths. But Gil never attacked another lawyer personally to gain an advantage for himself or his client.

Gil liked being a lawyer. He believed that the practice of law was a dignified profession. He believed that to destroy the dignity of a lawyer would be to destroy the dignity of the profession. He treated even the most junior lawyers with courtesy and respect. Gil rose above his adversaries’ weaknesses. He fought hard, but he fought fair. When he won, he seldom rejoiced in public, and he never reminded an adversary of his defeat. Experience had taught Gil that he was most effective in advocating his client’s position (either in court or through his usual course of negotiating an advantageous settlement) if his adversaries knew that even if Gil “whipped the pants off them” he would always leave them clothed in their own dignity.

Leave Your Adversary Cab Fare Home
Gil believed that every dispute was capable of a negotiated settlement. Gil’s settlement technique was simple. He evaluated a matter thoroughly to determine a settlement advantageous to both sides and then proposed the settlement to his adversary. Gil’s settlement technique demanded that he develop empathy for his adversary’s position. By understanding his adversary’s needs and goals, Gil could effectively maximize his client’s position while also allowing his adversary to satisfy some of his needs and realize a number of his goals. He would often say to his adversary that “a settlement that is good for my client is not necessarily bad for yours.” Although Gil was not formally trained in psychology, he had an instinct sharpened through experience that allowed him to evaluate his adversary better than any psychologist employing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. To Gil, a good settlement was not one where everyone was equally dissatisfied with the result. Instead, a good settlement was one in which everyone believed that they had won.

Pay Attention to the Economics of the Case
Gil always tried to find solutions that made good business sense. When a particularly self-righteous adversary insisted on taking undue advantage, Gil might be heard to remark, “Look, does your client want blood or money? If he wants money, we can help him.” He had a knack for making people focus on workable plans, rather than on winning or losing.

If You’re Going to Stab, Stab in the Chest, Not the Back
Dark alleyways were not Gil’s hangouts. Lighted stadiums were more characteristic of his style. Gil had supreme confidence in himself and his arguments. He did not need to take advantage of his adversary’s lack of attention.

Gil liked the challenge of a fair fight. Fairness demands knowledge, fair warning, and an opportunity to protect oneself. Gil always gave his adversary such knowledge, warning, and opportunity. Gil believed that justice was dependent on a complete examination of all facts. If one party was not given an adequate opportunity to explore the facts, justice might not be done. He believed that when injustice occurs, appeals result, costs and expenses multiply, trust is destroyed, communications cease, battle lines are drawn, and the negotiated solution is lost forever.

Gil was in it for the long haul. Clients sought him out because of his reputation, the product of many years of consideration, honesty, and integrity. He was an effective advocate who earned our respect and admiration. All of Gil’s Simple Truths boil down to the ultimate simple truth: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Editor’s Note
This article was first published in 1986, shortly after Gilbert Sussman died. At that time, co-author Howard M. Levine was an associate with Sussman Shank LLP and worked closely with Gilbert Sussman. Kevin D. Padrick was with the Portland law firm of Miller Nash LLP and frequently represented positions adverse to Mr. Sussman’s.

In 2010, Sussman Shank proudly celebrated 50 years of commitment and service to our community. The firm was established in 1960 as a small business firm by Gilbert Sussman and his brother, Maurice. Gilbert Sussman began what has become our long history as a successful business, litigation, and bankruptcy firm. Through the years the firm has grown to over 30 attorneys and 12 different practice groups. Our success can be attributed to the foundation Gilbert set with his “Simple Truths.” Our dedicated attorneys and staff continue to follow these truths conducting business with consideration, honesty, and integrity.

To mark our 50th anniversary, we honored our founders and community by celebrating with our “Giving Back to the Community” campaign. We partnered with the Oregon Food Bank, Loaves & Fishes, the American Lung Association of Oregon, EarthShare of Oregon, and SchoolHouse Supplies. The campaign included volunteer or service-type projects where everyone at the firm had the opportunity to contribute his or her time, talent, or treasure in a diverse range of activities. “We wanted this to be more than just a simple celebration or a cash donation made by the firm,” said Robert Carlton, Managing Partner of Sussman Shank LLP. “Everyone really embraced this opportunity, and the excitement has carried all of us into activities and places we may not have gone otherwise.” More than 100 employees, as well as family and friends of the firm, participated in the planned activities held throughout the year.

“Fifty years is an extraordinary accomplishment for our firm,” says Carlton. “Our success and longevity are attributable to the values on which we were established, and continue to maintain, as well as our dedicated employees who strive to provide the highest quality of service to our clients each and every day.”

Sussman Shank was founded in 1960 by Gilbert Sussman and his brother Maurice, as a small business law firm in Portland, Oregon. Today, we have grown to 35 attorneys, as a full-service firm, serving a diverse range of clients in business, litigation, and commercial restructuring and bankruptcy.

Throughout the years, Sussman Shank has demonstrated excellence through our legal services, client service, and our commitment to community. The firm has grown to be nationally recognized in several practices, serving as counsel to public and private companies, government entities, institutions, non-profit organizations, and individuals.

As we reflect on the past 60 years, through the growth of our firm and the ever changing business landscape – some things remain the same – our emphasis on employees and our workplace values. This dedication has allowed us to achieve the highest standards in workplace practices. In 2020, we have once again been named one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, for the 14th year.

Thank you to our clients, colleagues, employees, and friends for being a part of our journey. We look forward to having you be a part of our continued success.