By Niv Joshi
Law, Societies & Justice (LSJ) alum Paul Heer graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor's degree in English and LSJ. Now an attorney at Foster Garvey, Heer has had quite a few opportunities to put his LSJ experience toward great causes. For example, he is Co-Chair of the “Opportunity and Progress Council,” which is Foster Garvey’s initiative to support national Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. According to their website, “The mission of the Opportunity and Progress Council is to champion opportunity, increase diversity and embrace inclusion to secure enduring progress towards a shared environment where everyone can do their best work together, both within our firm and in the communities we serve.”
Heer has served as legal counsel on $28.6 billion in investments by institutional investors across a range of alternative investments. Presently, he is serving as the President of the Board of Directors of the Seattle Clemency Project, where together with a community of over 200 pro bono lawyers and many more volunteers, stakeholders, and advocates, they have helped 65 individuals gain freedom from Washington prisons, 52 of whom were serving life sentences.
His current position at Foster Garvey and other engagements have largely been governed by his passion for the subject.
“After pursuing LSJ, I pursued law school,” Heer said in an email interview. “There were a lot of small reasons I pursued law school, but the theme behind the big reasons can be summed up as a need to understand the systems of power that we interact with daily, that dictate access to opportunity (or lack thereof) for those I cared about.” In a recent speaking engagement on campus, he mentioned how impressed he was by the quality of the students LSJ still attracts.
After law school, Heer joined Foster Garvey, an opportunity that provided access to a “well-resourced platform” to serve the business needs of communities while also living out his values through pro bono service.
“What motivates me to do clemency work is a sense of responsibility,” Heer said. “For context, Washington abolished parole in 1984, and now, 37 years later, our community continues to push forward a policy narrative that does not recognize reform, that does not recognize redemption. The more I learned about the need, I became determined to be a part of the solution.”
Over the years, Heer has gained recognition and appreciation of his services through many awards. In 2021, he received the APEX Award for Outstanding Young Lawyer, by the Washington State Bar Association. In addition to this, he also won the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award by the King County Bar Association this year.
“[I was] leveraging a large business platform and the resources and name recognition that comes with such a power structure, to meaningfully inform and make progress towards more equitable outcomes in our communities,” Heer emphasized.
Heer gives credit of his successes to his grandparents, whose continued support helped him throughout his journey from school to legal work today. The value he places on community and constant need to pass on the goodwill he has enjoyed drives him to persevere in the field.
“Take the time you need to build conviction in your pursuits,” Heer advises. “Determine what you value and then be thoughtful about how every step you take lives out those values. A values oriented process will help you make decisions in full faith and confidence in the midst of the constant “noise” one faces in modern society.”