Joel christiansen bio

Joel Christiansen


Phone: (503) 841-6722 ext. 2


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Hi, I'm Joel Christiansen. I advise and represent workers and small businesses in Oregon and elsewhere. My areas of focus include work-related contracts, noncompetes and other competitive issues, and U.S. work visas for artists, engineers, and other creative and technical disciplines. I occasionally handle cases involving lawsuits, arbitration, and agency proceedings. I also write a lot of computer code.

Below you will find information about my practice, experience, and background. I welcome and personally respond to inquiries using the contact methods above (email or contact forms are preferred, please).


I've practiced employment law in Oregon for over 11 years. I work on a 100% remote basis, meaning almost all of my work is done via phone, email, videoconferencing, and content collaboration tools. I have successfully handled a wide variety of employment-related matters, some examples of which are summarized below. For each of the last 5 years, Thomson Reuters has selected me to their Super Lawyers "Rising Stars" list.

I have experience handling a wide variety of employment-related legal matters in many industries, including technology, healthcare, arts, creative agencies, education, apparel, and skilled trades. I used to litigate more cases but these days I try to focus on lower conflict approaches to the law.

My personal interests include gardening, long distance cycling, and full stack software engineering. I especially enjoy the Ruby programming language. I also like to volunteer.

Practice Areas

Employment Agreements. I help clients strategize, draft, negotiate, and interpret employment-related legal agreements. I am experienced with all kinds of employment contracts, noncompetition agreements, compensation plans, nondisclosure agreements, severance agreements, independent contractor agreements, and written policies. I handle employment agreements on a remote basis throughout the state of Oregon.

Work Visas: I assist employers, agents, and visa sponsors with nonimmigrant work visas, including appeals to the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). I'm particularly interested in O-1 visas (for individuals with extraordinary ability in arts, sciences, business, education, and athletics), P-1B visas (for members of internationally recognized entertainment groups), P-3 visas (for culturally unique artists), and Q visas (for cultural exchange programs and participants). I handle work visa matters on a remote basis for clients in all 50 states.

Litigation. I used to litigate many more cases than I currently do. My past experience includes cases involving civil rights, contract disputes, minimum wage and overtime pay, discrimination and retaliation, medical leave and disabilities, and whistleblower cases. I have successfully handled cases in federal and state court, arbitration, and before government agencies (BOLI, EEOC, DOL, etc.). I am only accepting new litigation or government agency cases from referring attorneys.

Representative Matters

Reviewed, drafted, and negotiated employment-related contracts for employees and businesses in a variety of industries. This includes employment contracts, compensation plans, confidentiality agreements, nonsolitication agreements, and every other imaginable type of employment-related contract.

Reviewed, negotiated, voided, and enforced noncompetition agreements throughout Oregon in a variety of contexts including physicians, engineers, scientists, designers, technologists, executives, and many others.

Reviewed and negotiated a significant volume of healthcare provider contracts with private clinics and large healthcare systems.

Resolved numerous executive compensation disputes arising out of employment relationships.

O-1B Visa Approval (Los Angeles, CA)
Secured O-1B artist visa for video graphics engineer in collaboration with business counsel for boutique game development company.

O-1A Visa Approval (Austin, TX)
Obtained O-1A visa for co-founder of creative agency.

H-1B Visa Approval (Portland, OR)
Successfully satisfied USCIS Request for Evidence (RFE) issued to creative agency in response to petition originally submitted by large law firm.

O-1B Visa Approval (San Francisco, CA)
Secured O-1B artist visa for graphic designer on behalf of technology company.

O-1A Visa Approval (New York, NY)
Secured O-1A scientist visa for oncologist.

P-1B Visa Approval (Multiple Locations)
Secured P-1B and P-1S visas for touring performance groups.

H-1B and O-1 Visa Prototyping
Assisted post-accelerator, venture-funded started startup with development of software prototypes for H-1B and O-1 visas.

Obtained unanimous $1 million federal jury verdict on behalf of a New Jersey-based IT Director against CEO of former employer for retaliatory publications on the internet. See Zweizig v. Nw. Direct Teleservices, Inc., 331 F. Supp. 3d 1173 (D. Or. 2018).

Secured substantial settlement for executive of a Chicago-based biotechnology company in a post-acquisition breach of executive contract case.

Represented Tibetan political asylee in claim to recover unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay from employer who housed employees in dormitory-style living arrangements.

Defended California technology company against former employee's Oregon claims for unpaid commissions. Case dismissed with prejudice without payment to adverse party.

Represented IT Director of a public entity in whistleblower retaliation litigation. Case settled in six figures and resulted in client's reinstatement and promotion.

Defended Wyoming bank against Oregon wage and hour claims brought by former contractor.

Successfully represented executive public employee in administrative proceedings and appeal to Oregon Court of Appeals in connection with unemployment insurance benefits.

Represented several crime victims in employment-related actions against employers who terminated employment due to crime victim status.

Defended Miami-based software engineering firm against claims from former remote employee.

Represented rural fire chief in whistleblower claim. Obtained cash settlement and reinstatement.

Obtained multiple unlawful employment practice substantial evidence determinations from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) on behalf of workers.

Some of client reviews are available here and here and press from a few of my litigation cases are here, here, and here.

Professional Background

I received my B.A. in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2004 and my law degree from the California Western School of Law in San Diego, California in 2008. I have been an active member of the Oregon State Bar since May 2008.

I started my legal career during college as a volunteer paralegal at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Student Legal Clinic, a student-funded, attorney-staffed, free legal clinic. We worked primarily on housing and landlord tenant matters against off-campus landlords. We also did campus-based legal education and collaborated on neighborhood initiatives with public officials and nonprofit organizations.

Also during college, I worked as an intake specialist at the Milwaukee County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRS). There I fielded 25-50 calls a day from members of the community seeking legal help and referred to a network of local attorneys, community agencies, government services, etc.

I worked part-time and later full-time during law school as a law clerk at a plaintiff-side class action law firm in downtown San Diego, California. I handled investigations, discovery, motion work, and trial preparation in commercial disputes, consumer class actions, and employment litigation cases in state and federal courts and private arbitration. Our cases included unfair business practices and product origin fraud cases against retailers and manufacturers under statutes, often including claims under California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), B&P Code ยง 17200 et seq. We brought claims in connection with foreign factory made goods falsely marketed as "Made in the U.S.A." and foreign grown foods falsely marketed as "Grown in California" on behalf of consumer groups. We handled the federal trial court and 9th Circuit appellate briefing in the case of AT&T v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011) (holding that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts state law prohibiting corporations from forcing consumers to waive rights to collective legal action).

After working for a year as an associate attorney at a Portland plaintiff-side law firm, I hung a shingle and have been happily self-employed ever since. I occasionally speak at bar association and educational events (see e.g., here and here). 

In addition to my legal work, I am a full stack software developer with over 15 years of experience. I recently contracted for a venture capital funded, post-accelerator startup developing immigration-related software prototypes. In 2016, I built a legal records automation system that used open source tools to scrape and organize millions of Oregon state trial court records. In 2004, I created an art sales website that attracted tens of thousands of artist users and was eventually integrated into another large art sales website. I originally learned to program in PHP on Debian but these days Ruby is my language of choice. I'm proficient in most forms of modern web development including back and front-end frameworks (primarily Rails, Ember, and Vue), SQL and NoSQL database management, cloud services, and modern collaboration and project management tools. 


I was born in San Diego, California and grew up in West Bend, Wisconsin. During high school, I worked for 3 years as a line cook in a Greek family restaurant. I studied political philosophy in college and also took foreign language and software engineering courses. I studied abroad at the University College of London.

I worked for a year after college and then moved to La Jolla, California to attend law school. After law school, I moved to Portland, Oregon, passed the bar exam, and began practicing law.

After a decade in Portland, I decided to slow life down a little bit and moved out to Walla Walla, Washington. I still work full time on a remote basis from a small office on Main Street.

In my free time, I enjoy distance cycling, reading, cooking, and backpacking.  I am an intern master gardener through the Washington State University Extension program. I volunteered as a college mock trial on a weekly basis for several years at Reed College (2015-2017) and Portland State University (2008-2013). In 2015, I volunteered with a humanitarian aid mission in Cambodia. 


Mail: P.O. Box 4120 #83585, Portland, OR 97208-4120
Office Addresses: 
6 1/2 2nd St., Ste. 200, Walla Walla, WA 99362 
812 NW 17th Ave., Portland, OR 97209