Bogle & Gates, one of Seattle's largest and oldest law firms, dissolves on March 31, 1999.

  • By Cam Covington
  • Posted 4/15/1999
  • Essay 2250
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On February 4, 1999, senior partners of Bogle & Gates vote to dissolve the 108-year-old law firm effective March 31. The decision is precipitated by the defection of eight key lawyers to the Minneapolis-based firm of Dorsey & Whitney. The sudden demise of Seattle's fourth largest legal partnership stuns the local profession and leaves hundreds of lawyers and other employees scrambling for jobs.

The Law of the Sea

Bogle & Gates grew out of an admiralty law practice established in Tacoma in 1891 by William H. Bogle (d. 1927), a self-trained lawyer specializing in maritime matters. He was joined by his son Lawrence (b. 1883), in 1910. Cassius Gates (no relation to William H. Gates), a specialist in business and tax law, joined the firm in 1926. By 1999, the firm employed 191 attorneys in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Anchorage, Portland, and Vancouver, B.C.

The firm developed a reputation for skillful litigation and aggressive tactics in such high-profile cases as the defense of Exxon following the Prince William Sound oil spill and representation of Wendy McCaw in her divorce from cellphone billionaire Craig McCaw. Other major clients included former Seattle Mariners owner George Argyros, the accounting firm of Arthur Anderson during the Penn Square savings and loan scandal, Subaru of America, and the pharmaceutical giant Fisons.

A Fast Fall from the Top

Bogle & Gates ranked as the state's largest in the early 1980s, before being overtaken by the Seattle firm of Perkins Coie. The firm was hit with major court penalties during the 1990s for failing to disclose key evidence in its work for Fisons and Subaru. It was also embarrassed in 1998 when its information systems manager, Paula Baker, confessed to embezzling more than $2 million in office funds.

The beginning of Bogle & Gates' end began on January 21, 1998, when 16 of its lawyers, including Christopher Barry, Robert Kaplin, and six other senior partners, informed managing partner Richard Wallis that they were leaving to organize a Seattle office of Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney. After Wallis and Bogle & Gates chairman James Tune failed to negotiate a merger with Dorsey & Whitney, the remaining partners concluded that they could not sustain the firm and voted to dissolve it effective March 31, 1999.

In 1999, Dorsey & Whitney ranked among the nation's 40 largest law firms, with nearly 600 lawyers in 18 national and international offices. Its Asian practice is led by Walter F. Mondale, former U.S. Vice President and past U.S. Ambassador to Japan.


The Seattle Times, May 6, 1997; May 8, 1998; January 28, 29, February 4, 5, March 4, 1999; Puget Sound Business Journal, February 1, 1999; Law News, May 10, 1999; Clarence Bagley, History of King County, Washington, Vol. III (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1929).

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