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Lawyer offers drive-through divorce

By
ETHAN RARICK

SALEM, Ore. -- Lawyer Robert Nordyke says only one person has objected to his office's drive-through divorce window: his in4jer.

'I've never gotten a negative comment, except from my mother,' Nordyke said. 'She wanted me to be a corporate lawyer. She was embarrassed by it.'

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But most people have been intrigued or charmed or amused by the window, which Nordyke opened almost three years ago when he moved into his present office.

'Right off the bat a couple of people came in and were interviewed for divorces in it,' Nordyke said. 'They were real simple cases - uncontested, no major assets. One lady drove up in her pickup.'

Since then the window has mainly been used to pick up or drop off legal papers, but it remains a source of fascination.

'Most people's reaction is, 'Are you serious?'' Nordyke said. But once people get used to the idea, he said they generally think it's an interesting promotion.

'The benefit has been that I'm noticed,' said Nordyke, who has practiced law in Oregon'30cEpital city since 1970. 'I've been in Salem all my life, but that has gotten me more notice than anything else.'

He said it also helps to relax his clients, most of whom are seeking a divorce or bankruptcy.

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The idea for a drive-up legal window occurred to Nordyke years ago, when he concluded that the increasing number of simple divorce cases and America's 'fast-paced society' might make the plan viable.

When office space in a former bank building opened up in 1986, Nordyke saw his chance, and rented the end of the building where the bank's drive-up window had been located. Except for hanging up a sign, little was required to transform the window from a place where peopl?*could get some money to one where they could lose a spouse.

Today the window still has a buzzer to warn of arriving customers and the bank's old mechanical drawer that can transfer things to people waiting in a car. About the only changes are the presence of the office stereo system and Nordyke's golf balls and putter, used for occasional practice sessions.

But after a flurry of publicity and a few early cases when the window first opened, people quickly stopped using it for extensive legal work.

'I don't think people want to conduct intimate business through a drive-up divorce window,' Nordyke said.

But people do stop to ask simple questions, sometimes deciding to park their cars and go inside for a consultation.

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Nordyke said his fellow lawyers have never complained about the window, although he admits some are probably less than thrilled.

'I would have to believe that some of them think that's tacky and beneath a lawyer, but some of those same lawyers still wear white shirts to work everyday,' said Nordyke, who looked very unlawyer-like in a purple shirt and purple tie.

'Whatever tackiness the window might have is hopefully offset by the deluxe art deco decor inside,' he said.

Indeed, Nordyke's office of glass bricks and fashionable furniture looks more like the set of 'Miami Vice' than 'LA Law.' Behind his desk sits a 1925 art deco clock that includes a sculpture of a reclining, partially dressed woman holding a bow.

'Being a divorce lawyer you can get away with being a little more flamboyant,' Nordyke said.

But are there any other lawyers flamboyant enough to have opened a drive-up divorce window?

'Not in th$ nown universe, I hope,' said Nordyke. 'Everybody wants to be unique for something.'

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