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Outside the Law

A Balanced Hand

Ted Runstein is part of a cadre of attorneys who find analytical bliss within Portland’s competitive bridge community.

An impressive roster of lawyers, politicians and businessmen make up the ranks of bridge devotees: U.S. Supreme Court justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer, President Dwight Eisenhower and billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova credits the game with teaching logic, quick thinking, patience and partnership skills. “No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table,” she has said. Ted Runstein JD’66, a founding partner of Portland’s Kell Alterman & Runstein, discovered the benefits of bridge while majoring in business administration at the University of

44 | Willamette Lawyer

Washington. He and his friends would gather regularly in the school commons to play, a habit he continued at Willamette University College of Law. “It was a good way to meet people. We didn’t have the Internet and social networking back then, so this was a way we could socialize while also challenging our minds,” he said. Runstein and several law classmates would spend afternoons playing in the cafeteria. Some evenings, they would visit the Knights of Columbus Hall, where they often encountered local judges like Val Sloper who would invite them to join their games.

Runstein quickly learned the nuances of the game, in which four players sit at a square table and the players across from each other become partners. Each player is dealt a hand of 13 cards, and each set of partners tries to win as many “tricks” as possible. “Bridge is like an onion. You think you’ve learned something and then you peel a layer back and there is another level. You’re constantly learning new things,” Runstein said, adding that if four bridge experts are asked how they would play a certain hand, they respond with four differing opinions. Despite his love of the game, Runstein quit playing entirely upon graduating from

Willamette Lawyer | Spring 2013 Vol. XIII, No. 1