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Alumni On The Move

Craig Sims
Photo by Matt Hagen

The Beethams: Scott and Brett follow in dad Craig's law school footsteps

Craig Beetham and two of his sons, Scott '06 and Brett '08, took the time to sit down for a conversation about what brought them all to law school. Craig, a member of the Law Alumni Board, addressed graduates at Commencement and had the chance to hood his second son. He works at Eisenhower & Carlson in Tacoma, and credits his wife, Vickie, for her support. Scott works at Malone and Associates in Seattle. He and his wife, Marianna, have a 20-month old daughter, Natalie. Brett just graduated May 17, and younger brother Ben graduates from college in June. It was a fun-filled conversation that often veered into sports and good-natured joking. Excerpts from their conversation follow.

What brought you to the law school?
Craig: I have always had an interest in the law. As an undergraduate student, I studied speech communication. I was on the debate team, which often inspires a legal career. But, I was out of money. I was married at the time, and decided to go into teaching, which I also enjoyed.

I was hired by Puyallup High school at 22 years of age in 1974. I became the speech and debate coach. The debate program began with about two kids and grew to over 100 students with about four classes a year. We invited everyone to be a part of the program. I had a phenomenal group of students, and had been encouraging them to reach their dreams. They were graduating and becoming doctors and lawyers. I saw them reaching their dreams.

I thought I should begin to step up and do something about what I had been talking about, my dreams. The law school was (then) only eight miles away from the high school. The law school was in the downtown Tacoma area at the time. I entered law school in 1985 in the evening program. I entered with the idea that I would pick up some skills and see where that led.

I graduated from law school in December 1989. The school did not officially sponsor a December graduation in 1989. I thought it showed strength, integrity and persistence, qualities you want in new attorneys, to come together to put on our own graduation ceremony. I was offered a position at Eisenhower and Carlson in Tacoma, before I graduated. I ended my contract with the high school in the spring of 1990. I've been at Eisenhower & Carlson ever since.

Brett Beetham
Brett Beetham '08 was hooded by his father during the 2008 Commencement Ceremony.

Did you decide to follow your dad?
Scott: Well that's part of it. My dad was a big part of what brought me to the law school. I remember conversations with my dad as an undergraduate while I was in the process of trying to figure out what I wanted to do. My father told me that as an attorney you learn something new every day, and you're always faced with new challenges and that was a big appeal for me. I found that to be true as I practice law.

Brett: When I was an undergraduate, I was interested in the law. I did look to my dad as well as Scott for advice and guidance. I like the competitive nature of the law, which my dad told me about.

Scott: The same goes for me. I like the competitive aspect. But I also love the idea of pushing yourself to always improve your performance. Dad has always been the best person for me to go to for advice. I like to look to the veteran's standpoint and they all seem to speak to the idea of learning more and pushing yourself to improve.

Craig: I agree. I enjoy all of those things. I love the competitive nature of sports and debate. I also think litigation is like chess. It involves a plan, strategy, tactics - you organize and anticipate the move of your opponents. It's all of those things. These are all a big part of litigation.

I come to the office and I am not sure what will happen each day. And, I like that. I love the fact that you are not sure what will happen. I love the creativity, challenge, intellectualism, oral argument that comes with the law.

The other aspect of helping people is quite rewarding. I practice in the area of family law litigation. People tend to shy away from this area of the law as it is often tumultuous. But, it is extremely rewarding to help people get through some of the toughest periods in their lives.

Scott, what area of law are you practicing in?
My practice is in estate planning and real estate. I am working for a small firm, Malone and Associates. I love negotiation in estate planning, coming up with creative solutions for clients.

Brett, do you know the practice you will eventually do?
"The law that pays me, we'll see," he says to laughter from his brother and dad.

What are your most memorable moments in law school?

Craig: Well, my most memorable moments come at the beginning and end of my academic experience in law school. My first with Professor George Nock was certainly memorable. He had quite a reputation. He gave us a 300-question, multiple guess/multiple choice exam. He warned there would be no way we would finish. I didn't finish, and received a decent grade. But I remember I had never been bludgeoned by an exam like that.

The second most memorable moment came at my commencement. The graduates came together and put together a wonderful graduation. I was the commencement speaker. The school considered not having a December graduation. However, the students came together to have a ceremony. I thought it showed the spirit and judicial power of attorneys who came together for something good.

Scott: Graduation was special. But it was a little tough to fully enjoy as there was a bar looming. I don't mean to scare you little brother. But, I looked out at my family and thought about what I've accomplished. It was comforting to see those closest to you who go through the experience with you, listen to the gripes. My wife bears the brunt of that. Dad and mom go through it with me.

I also had a fun study group my first year. I remember those years. We helped each other get through those tough years. There was a lot of camaraderie and we had a lot of laughs - a lot of good times too.

Brett: I loved the social aspect of law school, the school activities and associations. And I met my girlfriend and soon to be fiancée Thanh Tran in my first year. We had the same classes together.

How are the mission and the tenets of the academic experience realized in your every day life?

Craig: The mission is one of the things that attracted me back to the law school. The early graduates were not quite sure how to deal with the purchase of the law school. My law firm helped with the purchase of the law school. There was some disconnect. But, Dean Testy particularly has done a great deal to reach out to the alumni in Tacoma and educate us about the mission. I was really touched by that. Associate Dean Eric Chiappinelli also made a great deal of effort to talk about the mission. I really appreciated the appeal, which epitomized the strong mission of the law school. That is why I remain active as a Dean's Club member and Law Alumni Board member and part of this school in general.

My work in family law is people oriented. At the core it is about trying to help someone in a difficult situation realize their goals on a daily basis. It's a lot of work and pressure, but I try to keep in the goal in mind.

Scott: I agree with everything my dad says. The mission of the school is a source of pride that attracted me to the school. I love the fact that I have the ability to make a positive impact on the world. I also the love the fact that SU law balances the academic components of the law with debate regarding policy and rules of law in the classroom. I was also really drawn by the strong legal writing program.

Another aspect of this is - balancing academic components of law school in first year courses with debate regarding policy and rules of law. I was also really drawn by the strong legal writing program. I really have to credit my legal writing training. When I got out of law school, I was able to hit the ground running as a legal professional. I definitely had a leg up.

Craig: Yes, that was definitely a plus. He'll be published in the upcoming law review.

Scott: Yes, I will be published in an upcoming law review article with Justice Charles Johnson. I'm really excited about that.

Brett: I think I realize the mission daily with the people I've met here. There is just a whole different group of people with diverse backgrounds. My undergraduate experience was a bit more homogenous. SU Law has made a great deal of effort to realize its mission through diversity. SU has all types of clubs and programs. People can find their own niche.

Scott: When the law school was sold from UPS to SU, I was really excited about the current administration and the great strides toward bridging the gap. I recently attended the law school's 35th anniversary gala celebration. There were lots of alumni from the UPS days. I really think there is a strong sense of community starting to develop and it helps all involved, students, alumni, faculty and administration.

Craig: I agree. Of course we had the kick-off to the law school's celebration at the glass museum in Tacoma. That was wonderful! At the Lincoln Day Dinner celebration in Tacoma, Seattle University Law School was the largest supporter, more than any other organization.

Craig: I don't remember consciously talking about the law with the boys. But I did share my experiences and they must have picked up my passion for the law. I am more and more confident that Seattle University School of Law is a great institution at which to learn about the practice and I'm so proud of my boys for following in my footsteps. I want to add that I am also proud of my third son Ben, majoring in law and justice at the undergraduate level. Ben will be graduating from Central Washington University in June. Like my other boys, I love him and support him in whatever direction he wants to take his career.

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