Riddell Williams traces its roots back more than 100 years to 1906, when Charlie Riddell, fresh from George Washington Law School, returned to Seattle to "hang out his shingle.” Charlie went into practice with Hugh Caldwell for a few years, then became assistant District Attorney and later United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. Around 1914 Charlie left government service, returned to private practice and joined up with Richard Saxe Jones and Samuel Bracket. During the Depression, Charlie came back from a vacation to find that the firm’s business had virtually dried up – most clients could not afford the luxury of a lawyer in those years. From 1933 to 1941, Charlie Riddell practiced alone.
After completing Harvard Law School in 1941, Charlie’s son, Richard H. Riddell ("Dick”, as he was commonly known,) joined his father’s law practice, rather than joining up with one of the 11-member "mega” firms in Seattle. The firm name became Riddell & Riddell. But with just six short weeks of law practice under his belt, he was called to serve in the U.S. Air Force following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Dick Riddell had served his country well and returned to Seattle in 1945 to once again join his father in the practice of law. Also joining with them was Wylie Hemphill, just back from the Navy. The firm name was Riddell, Riddell & Hemphill, and it was located on the 18th floor of the Smith Tower, the tallest building in Seattle at that time.
A letter was delivered to Riddell, Riddell & Hemphill in 1948 from a fellow named J. Vernon ("Vern”) Williams, reminding the firm that he had dropped by for an interview the preceding summer. A recent graduate of Yale Law School, Vern Williams joined the firm in the summer of 1948. About the same time, Wylie Hemphill left the firm to take charge of his family businesses.
Donald S. Voorhees and Robert S. Ivie joined the firm in 1952, making a total of five attorneys. The firm changed its name to Riddell, Riddell & Williams and moved up 10 floors in the Smith Tower to take over the 28th floor.
Joining the firm in 1958 were William Golding and George Willoughby, together with Stimson "Stim” Bullitt, son of Dorothy Stimson Bullitt and A. Scott Bullitt. During Stim’s 38 years of practice at the firm, he served as chief executive of King Broadcasting and director of Harbor Properties, Inc.
Business continued to prosper, so in 1959 the firm located to the top floor of the 1411 Fourth Avenue Building, and the firm name became Riddell, Williams, Voorhees, Ivie & Bullitt.
Joining the firm in 1960 and fresh out of Harvard Law School was Stephen E. DeForest. Steve would later serve as President of both the Washington State Bar Association and the King County Bar Association and receive the Helen Geisness Award for distinguished service to the bar.
Bill Golding left the practice of law 1965 to take a position in business. He subsequently wrote a book entitled, "Inside the Nonprofit Boardroom: What You Need to Know for Satisfaction and Success.”
By 1969, the Riddell firm had once again outgrown its space. The firm relocated to Seattle’s new tallest building, the Seattle-First National Bank Building at 1001 Fourth Avenue. It has called the top floors of the building home since the building opened in 1969.
The Boeing recession hit Seattle in 1969-73, and had serious impact on most businesses in the Puget Sound region. Riddell, Williams, Voorhees, Ivie & Bullitt was fortunate in that their law practice during this time did not decline, but neither did it grow. Discussions of mergers arose and were hotly debated amongst the partners at a firm retreat in Vancouver. Subsequently, the economic conditions in Western Washington improved and the merger discussions were set aside.
In June 1974, Don Voorhees was appointed to the federal bench as a judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Northern Division. Judge Voorhees assumed senior status on November 30, 1986, and served until his death on July 7, 1989.
Walter Walkinshaw joined the firm in 1974, and George Willoughby left the firm to become executive of King Broadcasting. In the Fall of 1981, Bob Ivie retired and the firm changed its name to Riddell, Williams, Bullitt & Walkinshaw. Also in 1981, the firm elected its first woman Managing Partner, Lyn Tangen.
In the 1980s the firm represented two dozen Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming local governments or rural electric cooperatives involved in the WPPSS litigation, the largest securities trial in U.S. history.
Robert J. Bryan joined the firm in 1984. He was appointed to serve on the federal bench for the Western District of Washington in 1986.
Merger discussions were again on the table in the 1990s and in 1996, the firm entered into an affiliation with Graham & James LLP with the Seattle office being named Graham & James/Riddell Williams. The affiliation ended in late 1999. The Firm has since been known as Riddell Williams P.S.
Dick Riddell’s retirement was honored at a celebration on November 12, 1993. Dick passed away on May 29, 2000.
Vern Williams’ 50 years in practice was honored at his retirement party on September 19, 1998. Vern passed away on February 13, 2015.
On April 29, 2006, two hundred Riddell Williams lawyers, alumni and spouses/partners gathered at the Sunset Club to celebrate the firm’s 100th anniversary. Guests of honor included: Dolores Riddell, Vern and Mary Williams, and Walt and Jean Walkinshaw. The evening began with a cocktail buffet, followed by a program emceed by Karen Jones. Firm alumni Randy Gordon read a poem that he composed entitled: "On the Occasion of the First Century of Riddell Williams.” ...A century later, Riddell Williams still thrives...With our hearts ever thankful for those gone before, Let us toast with one voice: "One Hundred Years more.” The showcase of the program was a half-hour video commemorating the past 100 years. At the conclusion of the video, Mr. Williams gave the following toast:
"I am feeling like a very lucky puppy having about 58 years associated with the bright, energetic and caring group that’s represented in this room. How could I be other than feeling very, very lucky? My wish is that Dick and Don and Bob could be here tonight to witness what they built into this group over the years. On their behalf, if I may, and on mine, I would like to propose a toast to this unique group for the next 100 years and, as one of my favorite philosophers has said, ‘We ain’t seen nothin’ yet.’”