Joel Christiansen



Hi, I'm Joel Christiansen. I mostly represent plaintiffs (i.e., employees) who need advice and representation in work-related legal matters. I also represent some small employers, usually ones facing unfounded employment claims that are looking for alternatives to large law firm representation. I accept cases all over Oregon and I especially love traveling to work in the rural and frontier areas of our state where access to legal specialists is limited.

Some recent work I'm most proud of is: (1) successfully advising clients in countless employment contract negotiations and resolving employment disputes without costly legal proceedings; (2) helping reinstate a rural public utility manager fired for opposing unlawful practices; (3) helping a southern Oregon volunteer fire fighter who was wrongfully removed from service become remployed and promoted, resulting in stabilized operation of a rural fire district; (4) representation of a nursing assistant wrgonfully fired for reporting patient neglect; (5) obtaining one of the largest emotional distress jury verdicts in an Oregon employment law case; and (6) defending numerous small businesses throughout the state against unfounded employment law claims in court and before the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

I am a big proponent of resolving disputes outside of court. But I also have many years of litigation experience and enjoy going to court in the increasingly rare occassion a case requires it. My employee clients range from executives, physicians, professors, lawyers, and scientists to firefighters, farmers, teachers, nurses, and restaurant workers. I have also represented small businesses all over the state. One of the best parts of my job is meeting and working with really interesting and smart people from all walks of life.

Areas of Expertise

If it has to do with the laws that apply to work and workplaces, I probably have some experience with it. My main practice areas include: (1) employment contracts, policies, and handbooks, (2) employee wage issues, (3) wrongful termination disputes, (4) whistleblowing matters, (5) medical leave, disabilities, and other leave statutes, (6) competitive restrictions (e.g., noncompetes, NDAs, trade secrets, etc.), and (7) employee safety.

I keep cases out of court as much as possible. In a perfect world, every case would be resolved reasonably and amicably and my clients would never need to resort to formal litigation. However, when the need arises, I do not hesitate to litigate or arbitrate cases. I have handled several such cases recently, including: Scott v. Zayo (Multnomah County, 2017); Eggers v. Tractus (Deschutes County, 2017); Ikonomou v. Evolution Ventures (D. Or., Pendleton Division, 2016); Molina v. Healthcare at Foster Creek (Multnomah County, 2016);  Roberts v. Lakeside Rural Fire Protection District (Coos County, 2016); Easter v. B-Stock (Deschutes County, 2016); Qiu v. DY Brothers (Marion County, 2016); Farmers Insurance Exchange vs Samsung Electronics America, Inc., et al. (Multnomah County, 2016); Cartmell v. Meditherm et al. (Multnomah County, 2016); Zweizig v. Northwest Direct Teleservices, Inc. et al. (D. Or., Portland Division, 2015); Nguyen v. Columbia River People's Utility District (Multnomah County, 2015); WebMD v. McCulley (Multnomah County, 2015); Davis v. Lithia (Klamath County, 2015)

Legal Experience

I have been in private practice for just under ten years. I've worked independently and with partners, colleagues, and friends. I respect and rely upon my clients' expertise and experience in their fields because in most cases they will know more about the intricacies of their work than I ever will. I've never been a big law firm kind of guy and I enjoy being able to assemble teams on a case-by-case basis. Working this way saves my clients lots of money and results in better outcomes.

Earlier in my career, I learned some valuable life and career lessons working as an associate attorney  at a high volume plaintiff-side employment law firm. During law school, I was a law clerk at a class action firm called Nicholas & Butler that handled the trial court and 9th Circuit appellate litigation in a case that became known as AT&T v. Concepcion. I worked on product origin fraud cases (e.g., foreign-made consumer products sold as “Made in the U.S.A.” and foreign grown produce sold as “CA Grown”). One of our most interesting cases involved a class action lawsuit against a large manufacturer that was selling Chinese-made power tools in boxes with a graphic of a bald eagle holding an American flag with "Made in the U.S.A." prominently displayed below the flag. After significant litigation, the case settled for several million dollars. 

Before law school, I was a staffer and later Director of the Milwaukee Bar Association‘s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS). That job taught me the importance of access to the justice system and the extent of diversity among those who most need the justice system. I also worked very briefly as a conflicts of interest analyst at Foley & Lardner, LLP where I learned that I have no interest in working in stuffy law firms.

Growing Up

I grew up in West Bend, Wisconsin - a small working class town. You may have heard of the West Bend Company, which manufactured popcorn makerscan openers, and other small appliances until they moved overseas. My dad was a draftsman raised on Long Island, NY and my mom is a teacher in the school district where I grew up. I worked from age 14 through 18 as a bus boy, dishwasher, and line cook at a  Greek diner. 

I went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I graduated cum laude with a degree in political science. During college, I volunteered as a paralegal at the UW-Milwaukee University Legal Clinic. After a short-lived grad school stint, I moved to southern California for law school at California Western School of Law. I lived in North County San Diego, worked as a law clerk, and surfed a lot.

Outside the Office

Outside the office, my hobbies include the backcountry, cooking, gardening with my partner Sarah and our dogs Milo (Shepherd mix) and Gus (Malamute/Collie mix). I am also a hobbyist computer programmer (Ruby, Python, and JavaScript). I avoid golf courses, networking events, and wearing a suit when I’m not in court. The John Day is my favorite Oregon river. I am a volunteer mock trial coach at Reed College.