Tom is primarily an appellate attorney, although he often appears in trial courts in matters that involve legal issues and are likely to be resolved by briefing and argument rather than the presentation of witnesses and evidence. During his career, he has handled over 400 appeals in various appellate courts, including the Oregon Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, the Washington Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and the United States Court of Appeals. He also argued one case in the United States Supreme Court (Vernonia Sch. Dist. 4J v. Acton).
Tom usually represents defendants in civil cases, often on behalf of their insurers, and sometimes represents the insurers themselves. But a large part of his practice, maybe a quarter of it, is pro bono, representing nonprofit organizations or their members in constitutional, environmental cases, and land-use cases.
In 1991, Tom’s eighth year of practice, the Supreme Court appointed him to serve as a pro tem judge in the Multnomah County Circuit Court. The court re-appointed him every three years thereafter, each time after a favorable review by the local bar’s judicial-screening committee. He sits at least one day each month, hearing motions in civil cases, usually motions for summary judgment. Listening to the arguments of other lawyers, seeing what works and what doesn’t, improves his own arguments, when he’s on the other side of the bench.