As an undergrad, Joshua Lute studied communication and aspired to enter the world of mediation and dispute resolution so he could help people solve problems. When he was looking into grad schools, a favorite professor recommended that if he really wanted to pursue this course, becoming a lawyer was the best way to do it.
Lute took that advice to heart. After a few years in the “real world,” he made the jump to Willamette University College of Law, which was in the same city where his extended family lived, providing much-needed support to his wife and three children.
Although Lute never became a mediator, he has used his legal skills to help people work through issues—and work together—throughout his career.
He spent his first two and a half years after law school as a law clerk in the US District Court in Portland, followed by two years as an associate at Perkins Coie.
“I ended law school with five kids, so I was looking for a good job,” Lute shares. “I did well in law school, so it opened some doors I never really thought about. While I was working as a litigator, I realized I wanted to help build something that was bigger than myself—more on the constructive side of law.”
In 2012, he was hired as general counsel of Dutch Bros Coffee, based in Grants Pass, Oregon, where he continues today.
Landing the job was something of a full-circle moment for Lute. When he was sixteen, he worked at the local Dutch Bros coffee shop. Back then, it was a small-town mom-and-pop business run by two brothers, and Lute loved the culture.
Over the years, the business started growing and franchising, and Lute even worked at a franchise while studying for the bar, reconnecting with the family. So when he got a call from them about the general counsel gig, he knew it was meant to be.
In his role, Lute provides timely legal advice and assistance that helps Dutch Bros Coffee fulfill its goals of providing unparalleled service to customers and a compelling future for both employees and franchisees. Lute embraces the mission of the company as a “fun-loving, mind-blowing company making a massive difference one cup at a time.”
“Every day that our company responsibly spreads its mission to a new location is another day that I get to join in making the world a better place,” he says.
The company has plans to continue growing—with a goal of eight hundred shops—and Lute is playing a big part in that expansion. He’s hired a senior paralegal and two real estate attorneys and continues to acquire key talent.
He starts each day by checking in with his team and advises the board of managers and executive team on strategic issues and plans.
“While I was working as a litigator, I realized I wanted to help build something that was bigger than myself—more on the constructive side of law.”
“My leadership style is that I really want people around me who are professionals and work as part of the same team,” Lute says. “When I hire someone, I want them to be the expert in their job. If they need resources or help from me, they just need to ask, but I want them to be the professional. I’m the opposite of a micromanager.”
What Lute loves about the job is that he is charged with dealing with a wide variety of issues on a daily basis and has the team in place to make it all a reality.
“Our company is so multifaceted. We have roughly five thousand employees in seven (and soon nine) different states,” Lute explains. The company also has franchises across various states, which employ another seven thousand people, as well as a roasting plant where Dutch Bros manufactures its own coffee and develops its own product lines.
Another well-known facet of Dutch Bros is its community involvement. Annually, all the shops donate a day’s profits to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Also, on February 14, or Dutch Luv Day, the company donates a portion of drinks sold to local food organizations. And a program is in the works that will allow a franchisee to sponsor an organization for a grant through the Dutch Bros Foundation.
The legal team plays a major role in these philanthropic efforts. Lute and his colleagues are responsible for drafting contracts and checking the verbiage on marketing materials to ensure help gets to those who need it most.
“We are a culture-first company, and we are about impacting our communities and supporting our employees,” he says. “If you look at the number of organizations that we or our franchises are supporting in the communities, it’s in the hundreds. We want to make sure we make the best impact. I know at the end of the day, this is something I believe in—giving back to the community and connecting with people. I know this is the right job for me.”
“Josh exemplifies the strategic vision and leadership that are critical to the general counsel role. He capably navigates complex legal and business challenges and instills a culture of collaboration and excellence among his team.”
–David McManus, Partner