Washington Trust Bank
Tom McLaughlin seldom needs to bring in outside counsel. And when he does, he’s extremely particular.
Tom is Vice President of Washington Trust Bank’s Commercial Real Estate Group, and focuses on lending to mid-and-large sized construction companies in Washington and Idaho. The bank has a strong in-house legal team that handles most transactions, “but when we bring in outside help, we call Keith and Paine Hamblen.”
That’s Keith Trefry who’s on Tom’s speed dial – and actually a three-minute jaunt by elevator. Trefry is called upon “when there’s a transaction that’s just not the norm,” Tom said, noting they also tend to be the large, complex deals, which can’t be handled with standardized forms or pre-fab contracts. While Keith provides specific skills and knowledge to Washington Trust, the foundational reason the oldest and largest privately-held commercial bank in the Northwest relies on Paine Hamblen is that the firm and the bank have strongly shared values and principles.
Washington Trust opened in Spokane in 1902, and has four generations of successful leadership from the Stanton family. It steadfastly operates by its mission, “to focus our unique strengths as a community bank on serving customers who perceive a distinct value in building long-term relationships.” Tom frequently works with a client who’s banked with Washington Trust since 1953, including through the Great Recession. “When times are tough is when the character of who you’re working with comes to the front,” Tom said.
Keith has been with Paine Hamblen since 1982, and has served Washington Trust since the beginning. While some in the lending business tend to be “gunslingers” and move from bank to bank, Keith appreciates the customer-service approach and officer longevity at Washington Trust.
Those relationships are important to the bank and the people who work at Washington Trust, and nurturing them is integral to the bank and how it operates. “You can ‘legal-up’ things to the point it actually causes problems, but we don’t have that worry with Paine Hamblen,” Tom said.
“This isn’t litigation” Tom stressed describing Paine Hamblen’s work for Washington Trust. “There’s not a winner and a loser. Keith understands that and knows how to structure each deal to benefit both us and our client.” Tom added, “Our job is to mitigate the risk and do so while keeping the borrower in mind. Keith does a very good job of recognizing there’s a client on the other side of this issue, and he often knows them personally.”
In fact, oftentimes it’s the borrower or the borrower’s lawyer who asks Washington Trust if Keith can represent the bank on a deal. “It’s almost like we’re one team, rather than taking an adversarial approach,” Keith said. “Every lawyer structures these a little differently, but in the end, what’s important isn’t whether it’s written my way, the way I’d say it, but rather that it’s a collaborative effort. Their interests are protected, and everyone shakes hands and walks away happy.”
Valley Drug, Kettle Falls Pharmacy & Lake Spokane Pharmacy
When Kevin Herda’s parents decided to sell him their two rural pharmacies, they weren’t certain the best way to formulate the transaction. “My parents and I had numerous questions, how should the businesses be sold, should I buy just some of the shares, or all of them? Should there be separate LLCs for the buildings?” Kevin said.
Having seen other families’ business deals go badly and strain relations, the Herdas knew it was important to do it right. After all, it wasn’t just some drugstores they were passing along to Kevin; it was their life’s work, a livelihood that had started when Kevin’s grandparents moved to Chewelah in 1945 and bought Valley Drug. “We worked through everything and concluded it was best if I bought all the shares,” said Kevin.
Kevin’s parents relied upon Eric Sachtjen’s counsel for their sale to Kevin. A few years later when Kevin was looking to open a third pharmacy, that decision was made with the multi-faceted counsel of Eric Sachtjen, his attorney at Paine Hamblen.
Most small business owners have little margin for error – and little margins, period. In this era of mega-superstores and virtually everything available online, operating pharmacies in rural Eastern Washington requires knowing every detail matters and every customer is important. Federal health care reform laws and reductions in insurance reimbursements add to the challenges faced by the Washington State University business management graduate. Also, with 29 employees including seven pharmacists, there are families and communities that depend on Kevin’s business success.
That’s one reason he relies on Paine Hamblen attorneys for advice, whether it’s insurance, liability concerns, or crafting an employee handbook. But it’s the personalized business counsel that is most comforting for Kevin. Eric Sachtjen has become a family friend, and he and Kevin meet regularly to conduct what Kevin terms his yearly business review, “where we meet to make sure we’re on top of everything and doing it right.”
The three stores – Valley Drug in Chewelah, Kettle Falls Pharmacy, and Lake Spokane Pharmacy in Nine Mile Falls – are what are called independent pharmacies and run under the Health Mart franchise banner. “As an independent, there aren’t as many resources available to you, so you need to pay attention and be extremely careful,” Kevin said. Knowing your customers is one way to offer better, more personalized service, and to have a leg up on the competition.
“It’s very rewarding, seeing patients coming into our stores for advice from our pharmacists, knowing they’re viewed as trusted members of community,” Kevin said. In fact, it’s a lot like working with a lawyer who’s helped your family make the right decisions, year after year.