Lawyers Are Heroes! Meet Clean Water Act Expert, Litigator and Legal Technology User Mark Ryan
Mark Ryan is an environmental attorney based in Winthrop, Washington. He is a founding partner of Ryan & Kuehler PLLC, a national law practice created by two former government litigators that specializes in Clean Water Act (CWA) counseling and litigation. Mr. Ryan previously worked as an attorney for the EPA from 1990 to 2014, where he was an active trial attorney and one of EPA’s leading experts on the CWA. Mr. Ryan and his law partner, Natalie Kuehler, decided to integrate lean legal technology when creating their small law practice. By employing LeanLaw’s remotely accessed, cloud-based legal software, they have discovered that they can spend more time lawyering and less time on unappealing law firm issues such as invoicing.
What made you want to be a lawyer?
I was going to get my PhD in limnology, lake ecology – this was early 1980’s and the job market for limnologists wasn’t very good. I thought I’d like to continue working with water and that as a lawyer I could have more impact, so I went to law school, and ultimately to work at the EPA as a water lawyer.
What is your area of practice?
My expertise is in the Clean Water Act. I spent 24 years at EPA, primarily as a Clean Water Act litigator.
Who are your clients, now that you’re in private practice?
I have both local and national clients. I recently represented an oil company in an oil spill case with the EPA. I am doing some work with a startup company in Idaho that wants to get into effluent trading – that gets into a cutting edge way to deal with nutrient problems in impaired waters. My local work is mostly related to land-use, real estate and water rights issues.
What are you most proud of on your resume?
I’m the editor of the ABA’s Clean Water Act Handbook. I’m also the author of the Clean Water Act Digest which is a 700-page compilation of all of the case law interpreting the Clean Water Act – all the cases. I litigated some of the biggest Clean Water Act cases in the country when I was at the EPA.
What’s the most valuable thing that you do for your clients?
I give them honest advice. I think often clients come in with very high expectations that are not grounded in the law. Some lawyers are willing to tell them whatever they want to hear. I don’t do that.
What’s something your clients would never guess about you?
Probably that I’m an avid mountain climber. My favorite route would probably be Prodigal Sun, in Zion National Park.
What are the freedoms that practicing lean offers?
Just making my bookkeeping simple. I want to practice law, not be an accountant. LeanLaw’s software makes it easy for me to minimize that part of my job so I can focus on the lawyering.
What’s the most important tool that you use?
For the lean tech products, certainly LeanLaw’s time tracking software. I use it every day. The most important thing is, it works.
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
I would probably be a limnologist.
What’s the last great book you read for pleasure?
The Boys in the Boat, (by Daniel James Brown). Aside from being a great book, my daughter is a rower in college, and that book gives me insight into her world.
LeanLaw believes that lawyers are heroes, critical to the rule of law in a free society. By using lean, legal technology, lawyers can find more time and resources to actually practice law. You can find out more about hero lawyer Mark Ryan at Ryan & Kuehler PLLC. If you know a heroic lawyer whom we should spotlight, please let us know in the comments below.
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Gary Allen, Founder and Practicing Attorney