Growing up in Clark County, Earl Jackson Jr. had an intimate relationship with his father’s law practice.
His first job, at age 10, was cleaning his dad’s office. By 12 he was working as the bookkeeper, and throughout his high school years he spent his summers working as the secretary. In 1976, after thoroughly catching the law bug, he graduated with his own law degree. And in the 1980s, two of his younger siblings, Peter Jackson and Jill Kurtz, had also finished their law degrees and joined him in forming Jackson, Jackson & Kurtz in Battle Ground.
“I’ve been involved in this my whole life,” Jackson Jr. said. “And I now have three nephews that have come in.”
His nephews, David Kurtz, Ryan Kurtz and Jacob Jackson, all joined the firm over the last five years. And they also caught the bug from working as kids in the family business, Ryan Kurtz said.
“To me it was always just – get picked up after school, get dropped off at the office after school and do things for a few hours before going home,” Ryan Kurtz said. “Law was the only thing I ever really wanted to do. It wasn’t just continuing on the family legacy. It’s just something I really enjoy.”
His brother David and cousin Jacob feel the same, he added.
“Jake just started and he loves doing it,” Ryan said. “It also really helps being in a family like this where you’re not apprehensive about going into your uncle’s office or your mom’s office. It’s nice to have less pressure that somebody is going to yell at you.”
The firm specializes in several areas, but the most predominant are estate planning, real estate, and probate and trust. That tradition also goes back a long ways, Ryan said.
“Estate planning is very big here, in addition to real estate law,” Ryan said. “Estate planning is something my grandfather did way back when, and something we’ve all done throughout.”
The estate planning also leads to a good deal of probate work and trust administration, Jackson Jr. added.
“We have a niche,” Jackson Jr. said. “We do a considerable amount of trust and probate work with clients we’ve represented for years. We’ve certainly been here in Battle Ground the longest of any law firm.”
In fact, the family history goes back to the beginning of Battle Ground, he said. Earl Jackson Sr. helped Battle Ground incorporate as a city in 1951.
“My father went to the University of Washington and graduated early – at age 21 or 22 in 1931, in the middle of the depression,” Jackson said. “He represented the city of Camas as an attorney before World War II, and after the war he set up with a Ridgefield bank office, which he represented for years. He came to Battle Ground in 1951 and also set up his practice then.”
Jackson Sr. died in 1985, not long after his children had set up their practice, Jackson Jr. added.
“He always encouraged us to stay the course – continue directly through law school even though we wanted a break,” Jackson said. “He wanted us to keep up the momentum.”
Now that the next generation is stepping up at the firm, Jackson Jr. is starting to consider his own retirement. But it’s not that easy to leave, he added.
“I’m working a little less than I used to,” Jackson said. “I’m coming in three or four days a week. But it’s kind of invigorating to have younger attorneys on board.”
And for his part, Ryan said he hopes his older relatives stay at the firm as long as they can.
“We don’t want them to go anywhere,” he said. “There’s so much to learn. It’s very helpful to us to learn from them and take on clients of our own.”
One of the biggest challenges as a young lawyer is learning how to stay organized to meet client’s growing needs, Ryan added.
“As you gain more clients, you get busier,” he said. “That means more work, and it becomes a challenge at times to have that work accumulate. But you have the same duties and you find a way to get through it.”
For Jackson Jr., the challenge is pulling back and learning to share work with others in the firm, he said.
“The main challenge on my plate is being able to delegate fast enough,” Jackson said. “I’ve had clients for years. Keeping up is sometimes a challenge.”
Asked for advice for others in the field, Ryan quoted a law professor from his freshman orientation.
“Be able to compartmentalize and stay focused on what’s in front of you,” he said. “Get that done right and then move on.”
Jackson Jr. agreed.
“In other words, multitasking doesn’t work all that well,” he said.
So what does a family of lawyers do for fun in their spare time?
“We like to have family get togethers for Christmas and holidays, of course,” Ryan said with a quick laugh. “Those are always litigious – back and forth. Of course nobody really wins like they do in court. But it’s hard not to stay close when you all work in an office together.”
And hopefully, one day when the three younger firm members have kids, there will be yet another generation entering the family business, Ryan said.
“I think I’d like to see that, and I know my mom would like to see that,” he said. “But it’s still a long way off.”