Appeals court isn’t the only place Bill Hickman is right on track
Published in 2008 Washington Super Lawyers magazine
By Paul Freeman on July 22, 2008
One of Bill Hickman’s most memorable experiences had nothing to do with his law practice. It came at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, when Hickman stepped onto the Olympic track to supervise the timing of the men’s 20K and 50K race walks.
“It was so incredible to be there with those amazing athletes from all over the world,” he marvels.
So how did Hickman, a partner in Seattle’s Reed McClure for nearly 40 years and one of Washington’s top appellate lawyers, wind up officiating at the Olympics? Three decades ago, Hickman’s older daughter, then in the third grade, joined a track team. Hickman was drafted to officiate, and from that moment he and his wife, Darlene, have been dedicated officials. Hickman usually is head starter for both indoor and outdoor track meets at the University of Washington. And he’s been invited to assist at the U.S. trials that will lead up to the summer Olympics in Beijing.
Though Hickman’s daughter is an adult and no longer involved in track, he never gave it up. In fact, Hickman spends more than 150 hours a year officiating. “The people who compete have talent, and I enjoy seeing what they can do,” he explains.
Like officiating, Hickman’s appellate practice was launched serendipitously. His first day at Reed McClure, a partner dumped a box of files on Hickman’s desk and told him to prepare a brief that was due in three weeks to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Hickman had found his niche and has been doing appeals ever since—more than 500, including about 100 before the Washington Supreme Court. He says he enjoys every aspect of appellate work: “reading, analysis, research, writing and argument.”
Many Hickman appeals have produced landmark rulings. In a 1986 case, trial lawyers tried to persuade the court to adopt a controversial California rule: namely, that when an insurance company disputes a claim about policy coverage, the insured has the right to hire a lawyer and have the company pay the legal fees. Hickman persuaded the court to reject the rule.
His appeals often involve insurance law. No surprise, then, that Hickman is also an expert in insurance coverage, which involves telling companies exactly what their policies mean. Like appellate work, coverage work requires superior analytic and writing skills. “I try to present a product to people who didn’t go to law school but have to make decisions based on what the law requires,” he says.
Hickman says appellate work and officiating have much in common. “Both are based on a set of written rules. A firm grasp of these is essential. Then you have to apply the rules in a common-sense, straightforward manner that leaves [everyone] with a firm conviction you’re correct.”
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