Raymond D. Givens has been a lawyer so long he can remember when the profession was treated with dignity, when attorneys were considered community leaders and the ones to call to get something done.
Givens, who is retiring after 50 years of practice, doesn’t know how things changed. But he suspects TV was a major factor.
“I think television had a great deal to do with it. Trial coverage is available to everyone without much effort,” he says. “The horror stories are the ones with the maximum amount of coverage, the old horror stories involving lawyers.”
Givens, 81, is one of the state’s longest-practicing lawyers. He was admitted to the Idaho Bar in 1947. Another lawyer admitted at the same time, Robert E. Smylie, went on to become governor from 1955 to 1967.
The Givens family has been prominent for more than a century. His grandfather, Dr. John W. Givens, arrived in Idaho in 1887 to become head of what was then the new Blackfoot asylum.
His father, Ray Givens, served in the Idaho Legislature, as a district judge and on the Idaho Supreme Court before joining his son in a Boise law firm until his death in 1972.
Givens’ son, Ray, is a lawyer in Coeur d’Alene.
When he started practicing law a half century ago, he knew every lawyer in Ada County and most of the lawyers in surrounding counties.
“It was a much tighter group than it is now,” he says. “We all were on a first-name basis.”
He remains highly respected in the legal community.
“He’s a lawyer’s lawyer,” said former partner Charles McDevitt, now an Idaho Supreme Court justice. “He’s the guy you turn to as a consultant on water law issues and transportation issues.”
Givens has spent many years working out water laws. He helped Boise lawyer Maurice Green represent the Boise Project Board of Control decades ago, and he later represented the New York Canal District. Both projects - among the first to develop hydroelectric generation along with irrigation and flood control - helped southwestern Idaho farming prosper.
As attorney for the Idaho House of Representatives in the 1950s, Givens worked out the details allowing natural gas pipelines to reach the Boise area.
He also represented one of the defendants in the scandalous “Boys of Boise” case. He thinks many of the allegations of homosexual activity, which received national media attention, were overblown and sensationalized.
“The press was more than stirred up, you could say.”
Although many people went to jail or prison, Givens’ client, Paris Martin, was acquitted.
Givens pinned prosecutors down on exactly when the alleged offense occurred, then dug up phone records showing Martin was on a long-distance telephone call with his brother-in-law in California at the time.
Modern law practice involves the use of computers to look up legal precedents and decisions, but Givens will have none of it.
“I’m still in the old days. I still look it up in the book,” he says. “You still have to winnow it out.”
Givens’ advice to those thinking about the law as a profession? There’s no easy way to do it right.
“It’s a time-consuming profession still,” he says. “You can’t really do much in it unless you are willing to accept that.”
Now that Givens has time to spare, he’ll keep pursuing a lifelong passion.
Family lore has it that he got his first set of golf clubs at age 5, and he’s been at it ever since. He’s played some of the famed courses used for the British Open, including St. Andrews, and hopes to play even more golf in retirement.
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