Written by: Ronald G. Birch
Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot (“BHBC”) is fast approaching its 50th anniversary. At a time when many established firms in Anchorage are closing their doors, I can’t help but appreciate how far we have come, and that we are still hard at work for our clients.
Joining with Bill Jermain, “Birch and Jermain” first opened its doors above a sporting goods store on 4th & K Street on February 1, 1971, a second story walkup two-bedroom apartment converted into a small law office (the Keyboard Lounge was later located in the same building). Within two years, Hal Horton, Bill Bittner, and Suzanne Cherot joined this great adventure, contributing to the firm’s success and rapid growth. By 1975, the firm had offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Washington D.C. While Bill Jermain left to start his own firm in 1976, Hal, Suzanne, Bill and I opened our office building in Anchorage in 1978, where the firm remained for nearly 40 years until moving to its new location at 510 L Street.
The D.C. office was opened because virtually everything impacting Alaska at that time necessitated federal involvement, including the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the D-2 provision amendments, the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act, and the development of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which is still crucial to Alaska’s economy today. As a firm, we have been involved, either through litigation or negotiation, with every major issue in the State since 1971.
The influence this firm has had on the legal landscape for Alaska has been remarkable. We have spawned trial and appellate judges, a U.S. Senator, and numerous excellent attorneys practicing in Alaska and beyond. It is a point of great pride that the firm’s attorneys have worked together on behalf of Alaska and its residents for over 45 years.
Among our major cases, we were retained by the State of Alaska to litigate the D-2 battle; we appeared before the Court of Claims arguing that precluding export of Alaska’s oil constituted a taking; and challenging the validity of the export ban as being in derogation of the Commerce Clause found in the United States Constitution. Each of these issues was eventually legislatively resolved, and the firm played a major role in working with the Alaskan Congressional Delegation to implement the resolutions.
Equally important, we have worked with Alaskans and Alaska’s business community on their continuing evolution and success, including Alaska Native Corporations and the unique SBA 8(a) program, Teamsters members, injured Alaskans, municipal governments, and leaders in industry, big and small, including telecommunications, natural resources, construction, healthcare, commercial real estate and housing. We truly have used our expertise to help the development and growth of Alaska.
Through the years our client base has expanded to the Lower 48, but we have never lost sight of the fact that Alaska is our base and our home. Virtually every member of the D.C. office is a member of the Alaska bar. The firm’s credo has always been to do justice, and as we enter our 47th year, the items I cherish most are the letters of thank you from people we have been able to help.
— Ron Birch