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From Public Service to Private Practice - YLS Member Spotlight



This interview was originally published in the March 2015 issue of Multnomah Lawyer, the official newsletter of the Multnomah Bar Association. Miller Nash Graham & Dunn partner Jeanne Sinnott serves as president of the MBA's Young Lawyers Section and served as the interviewer for this article.

Megan McGuire and Cody Berne, first-year associates with Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP’s litigation department, followed unique and interesting paths to the practice of law. After earning her degree in English Literature from the University of Connecticut, Megan joined the Texas Army National Guard as an intelligence analyst and was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. She later worked for a private civilian contractor, and was stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After growing up in Portland, Cody Berne attended Pomona College in Claremont, California. After college, Cody returned to his hometown and spent six years with the Portland Police Bureau. During his time with the Bureau, Cody worked with HEAT (Hotspot Enforcement Action Team), a unit that was created to address gang violence in Portland, as well as with the downtown bicycle patrol. I recently sat down with Megan and Cody to discuss their respective backgrounds.

Megan, why did you join the National Guard?

A primary motivation was financial assistance for school. I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college, I paid my own way, and the National Guard has a great tuition waiver program. My other primary motivation came from my family’s history of service and sense of patriotism. My grandfather served in the Navy during the Korean War and my dad was in the Air National Guard Military Police. So, I was always fascinated with the armed services and even more motivated to serve after September 11, 2001. I ended up in the Texas Army National Guard because I wanted to be a Military Intelligence Officer and the Texas Army National Guard at the time had an entire Military Intelligence Battalion. Plus, my mom’s side of the family is from Texas and it seemed like a great adventure.

What about you, Cody? Why did you join the bureau?

I joined the bureau because I wanted to have an immediate and positive impact on the community where I grew up, and I wanted to see public policy in action from an “on the ground” perspective. I wanted to see how directives and legislation from our political leaders and legislature were actually implemented, and be the person carrying out the charge.

Cody, can you describe a specific instance when you had immediate and positive impact on the community?

Sure. I speak a little Spanish, and I remember a call where an autistic child who spoke no English was wandering the streets. After a few hours, we found out where he belonged, and we were able to reunite him with his family. It felt good - it was a situation where I had some background that was useful and I was able to help. Also, while working with HEAT, my partner and I would talk regularly to kids who were at high risk of becoming gang members. I got to know many of these kids, and cared about them, and hopefully they cared about the choices they were making in part because of us.

Megan, what were the most notable parts of being stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq? 

The most notable part of being deployed to Iraq was experiencing how hot it can really get - even having lived for years in Texas. The best description I have is being in a dry sauna, filled with sand and dust blowing around in wind that somehow is hotter than the stagnant air. The most notable part of Afghanistan was the rice. I know, odd. But I had the best rice I’ve ever eaten purchased at a bazar in Kabul. I still think about that rice. I wish I could recreate it.

Cody, what is the biggest misconception that the public has about police officers?

The biggest misconception is probably about what motivates the officers. Most go to work every day to do the right thing. But sometimes the dominant narrative in the news does not reflect that. It can be frustrating for a lot of police officers. Certainly bad things happen, but people forget that police officers must make very difficult decisions very quickly. People don’t often hear about the good decisions or about the events that resolve without a major problem. Misconceptions can cast a pall on police, which can make it more difficult for them to do their jobs.

How did your respective backgrounds help prepare you for the practice of law?

Cody: Working as a police officer, you learn to deal with all different types of people: good people, bad people, and everyone in between. Policing also gave me perspective. Some of the difficulties that lawyers think are a huge pain aren’t such a big deal, in the grand scheme of things.

Megan: Being an intelligence analyst has three major components: sorting through large amounts of information, analyzing that information, and drawing conclusions and making predictions based on that information. Based on my experience so far, I can see a lot of similarities between being an analyst and practicing law; notably, synthesizing large amounts of information. Also, I learned in the service that being part of a strong team is the best way to be successful. Probably the most important way that my prior experience has helped prepare me for the practice of law is that it gave me tools for managing time and stress.

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