A Vow to Justice
Always in pursuit of justice, Hala Gores is an accomplished personal injury attorney in Portland. Born in Nazareth to a Palestinian Christian family, she was 10 years old when she moved to the United States. Unashamed to speak about her modest beginnings, she explains how growing up in poverty helped her to connect with those who struggle in society. An alumni of Lewis & Clark Northwestern School of Law, she is a force to be reckoned with and powerhouse of the community.
What type of attorney are you and what type of cases do you handle?
First and foremost, I consider myself a lawyer on the side of people because I represent individuals, not corporations. My practice is limited to representing innocent victims who have suffered serious personal injury or have lost a loved one as a result of the negligence of another person, a company or a governmental agency. I’ve handled many types of negligence cases, including bus crash cases, semi-truck crash cases, serious car crash cases, bicycle crash cases and cases against bars whose owners and their employees who over-served drunks who go out and maim or kill innocent members of our community. Many times, I get called right after a tragic event like the loss of a spouse or the loss of a child. I find myself going through the grieving process with the family. My work is not easy, but I love it. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars for the privilege of doing the work that I do.
You started your practice in 1989. Can you tell me more about that year?
I’m feeling really old now (laughs.) Starting out in 1989, I did an office share with several other lawyers who were much older. My father gave me all the money he had in the world so I could buy a typewriter and a computer. When I started my practice, I wasn’t worried about whether I was going to be successful or not because I knew If you show people that you will always put them first, people will come to you for help.
Being that you maintain your own practice, can you tell me more about that in terms of office size and the number of employees you have?
We’re a really small, boutique personal injury firm with a dedicated group of three women, myself included, focused on helping our clients navigate the legal system and get fair compensation for their injuries. By choice, I am the only attorney in my office. This allows me to provide my clients with direct accessibility and a high level of attention.
What has driven you to become so successful?
Growing up poor and feeling like an outsider really planted the seed in me to pursue social justice. I really became more attuned to people who are marginalized and always will choose to represent the underdog. In terms of what has made our office successful, we work hard, hire the best investigators, the most qualified experts and only take cases for deserving clients.
Seeing that you are a part of so many organizations such as Oregon Women Lawyers, founder and two time past president of the Arab American Cultural Center of Oregon, and past president of The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association to name a few, what do your titles mean to you?
The titles themselves mean very little. It’s the work that’s important. Being active in the various organizations really taps into my need to be of service and give back. I feel like what I am is somebody who is able to do a lot of things at the same time and loves it (laughs). I like being busy all the time and I feel good that I’m able to give back.
I want to congratulate you on receiving the Public Justice Award.
Thank you so much. I am humbled to receive an award named after Arthur H. Bryant, a lawyer who has dedicated his life to fighting for the right of people to have access to justice, consumer safety, product safety and patient safety as well as civil rights and liberties. The Oregon Trial Lawyers Association presents this award each year to an individual or group who uses creative litigation and innovative work for the best interests of the community.
Who would you say were your greatest inspirations in achieving this award?
My clients are my heroes. I draw inspiration from their courage and their ability to overcome the most severe injuries or to deal with the gut-wrenching loss of a loved one. Over the years, I have learned some of life’s most valuable lessons from my clients: tomorrow is not promised to anyone so live each day to the fullest and nurture your relationships with others.
Tell me more about the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association. When and how did you become a part of it?
I had the honor to serve on the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) Board of Governors from 2005 to 2013, and was president of OTLA 2012-2013. OTLA’s mission is to ensure access to Oregon’s justice system, and to promote juries and jury service. For over 60 years OTLA and its plaintiff attorney members have promoted safety and accountability by representing Oregon consumers.
In my 25 years of helping Oregonians in serious injury cases, I saw how devastating brain injuries can be not only to those injured but to the whole family. During my Presidency of OTLA, I wanted to leave behind a sustainable safety program for our community, so in 2013 we established the Trial Lawyers for Bike Safety program. We partnered with the Legacy Trauma Nurses through the Trauma Nurses Talk Tough Program. OTLA donated $20,000 in 2013 and $20,000 in 2014 which paid for 8,000 helmets which the trial lawyers helped distribute and properly fit for kids and adults. We did this at Good in the Hood annual event, an outreach program for underserved children and families in North Portland. We also took this safety program to other areas including the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District.
Did you ever imagine obtaining such an outstanding achievement and having such a huge impact?
I pinch myself every day. You see, as a young girl, my only dream was to become an attorney. A quarter of a century into living my dream, I continue to be extremely proud of being a member of what I consider a noble profession. For me, being a trial lawyer means protecting and preserving the rights of Oregon’s citizens. By representing victims of individual wrongdoing and corporate abuse, I feel that I am on the side of David fighting a righteous battle against Goliath.
What advice would you give to someone who wishes to achieve what you have achieved?
Always be dedicated, honorable and committed to the rule of law. Always, always, always put your clients first. Learn to develop meaningful, down-to-earth connections with people in our community and with your clients. Your reputation means everything so develop a reputation for honesty, hard work, integrity and compassion. Last but not least, learn to laugh at yourself. Having a sense of humor will help you get through some of the most stressful times.
If you had to pick one word that describes you, what would it be and why?
One word that describes me best is passionate. I have a passion for pursuing justice on behalf of my clients. I come into people’s lives at the most difficult time, when they have suffered a devastating injury or have lost a loved one due to someone’s negligence. I stand up for them and help them navigate to safer shores.
What is a moment in your life that changed everything for you?
Coming to the United States of America. I have to tell you despite my criticisms of some of our policies, this is one of the greatest countries on Earth. I am so grateful for what this country has provided me. That is an about face moment. It changed everything.