Longview lawyers want to practice peace as well as the law

Partners at home and in the office, attorneys Jeff Petersen and Jami Pannell have opened up a peace-centered law firm in Longview.

John Markon / The Daily News

Calling themselves peacemakers as much as lawyers, a Rose Valley couple said they’ve opened a different kind of law firm.

After working in more standard litigation in Oregon, Jeff Petersen and Jami Pannell decided to open a more “peace centered” firm in Longview. The idea is to look for solutions rather than scoring victories. And they said that often can be cheaper for clients than billing for lots of hours in court.

Squaring off in court often “just exacerbates the problem,” Pannell said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. That’s always the last resort.”

The married couple, who have a young son, moved to Rose Valley from Portland last fall and opened the Three Rivers Law Center with the slogan “Practicing Peace.” They’ve decorated their office with pictures of Longview scenes, saying they want to promote the positive in their new hometown.

Their practice focus primarily on collaborative divorce, mediation, family law, estate planning and business advising. They offer sliding scale fees based on income. They also bill some cases at a flat fee, so clients can feel comfortable calling back with questions and not worrying about running up costs. The business is a non-profit, which lets them apply for grants to help veterans and domestic violence victims with legal needs.

The couple met at Chapman University School of Law in Orange, Calif., where Pannell says Petersen was known as the surfing student who was always calm in stressful situations. Pannell, Petersen notes, was voted by their law school classmates as “Most Likely to Save the World.”

Pannell calls handling estate planning “sacred work” and said the goal is ensure everything is settled and resolved so that relatives and grieve instead of worry about taxes or paperwork. Proper planning, Pannell said, also can help prevent arguments between heirs after the fact.

“It’s really a way of passing down family values and strengthening the overall community,” she said.

Petersen works as both a lawyer and a certified mediator and said he tries to help divorcing couples get past their anger and hurt by first recognizing those feelings, then looking for solutions together.

In one case they’re particularly proud of, a local couple decided they weren’t ready to divorce after working out some of their problems through mediation. Petersen said mediated child custody agreements are especially effective in ensuring both parents will be an active part of their child’s life post-divorce.

Mediated or collaborated divorces are often cheaper and quicker than the more traditional route, and the couple said they’re better for all involved. Often, getting orders from a judge isn’t as satisfying as coming to mutual solution, they said, and appearing in court can be scary and stressful for already emotional clients.

“We try to keep people out of court if at all possible,” Petersen said.

The Three Rivers Law Center is located at 1655 Hudson Street, Suite 1, Longview. Petersen and Pannell can be reached at 360-442-4101 or www.3Rlaw.org.

Barbara LaBoe covers courts and law enforcement for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2539 or blaboe@tdn.com.

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