Fourth generation Oregon attorney, Heather Turk, recently joined the law firm of Merrill O’Sullivan LLP in Bend where she joins her brother, Will Van Vactor. The two siblings are thrilled to have the opportunity to practice together and look forward to carrying on in the family’s line of business.
The siblings’ great grandfather, Sam E. Van Vactor, was an attorney in Heppner, Oregon. He became a lawyer even before law schools existed. He was admitted to the Oregon bar in 1895 after “reading the law” under an attorney in Goldendale, Washington. Sam practiced law so many years ago that at one point his legal services were advertised in the local newspaper alongside an article debating the importance of “fiery dragons” in European natural history.
Will and Heather’s grandfather, Sam E. Van Vactor, Jr., was a trial attorney and judge in The Dalles, Oregon. Sam Jr. passed along colorful stories to his family members about a bailiff who, if you were on his good side, would noisily stoke the courthouse wood stove at just the right time to distract the jury from your opponent’s argument. Sam Jr. was also known to practice his oral arguments in front of a mirror, where some of The Dalles’ toughest critics, his three sons, overheard him as they ate breakfast.
Sam Jr.’s stories of the law rubbed off, as two of Sam Jr.’s three sons became lawyers as well. Dan Van Vactor (Will and Heather’s uncle) practiced law in Deschutes County for almost 30 years. During that time he witnessed significant changes in Central Oregon and, as a land use attorney, played an important role in implementing the new land use system. Will and Heather’s father, Bill Van Vactor,is a retired attorney fromLane County, Oregon. There, he served as both county counsel and county administrator for the county. After retiring from the public sector, Bill practiced law at Leahy, Van Vactor & Cox. A sincere love for the practice of law certainly seems to run in the family.
While the practice of law and the needs of clients have evolved significantly over the last 120 years, just like their ancestors, Will and Heather still enjoy helping clients to navigate their various legal needs. Heather focuses her practice on estate planning and administration for both Oregon and California residents. She assists clients with business succession planning. Prior to moving to Oregon and joining the Merrill O’Sullivan team, Heather practiced law at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in Los Angeles for six years.
Will focuses his practice on land use and litigation matters. He joined Merrill O’Sullivan LLP in 2013, after practicing with Miller Nash LLP for six years in its Prineville and Bend offices.
Merrill O’Sullivan is a mid-size law firm located in Bend’s Old Mill District. The founding partners, Terry O’Sullivan and Max Merrill, formed the original partnership in 1974. The firm now also includes partners Dave Petersen, David Brown, and Steve Dixon and, in addition to Heather and Will, associate Pete Christoff.
Will and Heather are honored to be able to continue the Van Vactor family tradition in the practice of law with a steadfast commitment to protecting their clients’ interests.