January 29, 1990 12:00 PM

Robert Nordyke, an attorney—a rather flamboyant attorney—was looking for new office space in Salem, Ore., where he practices. At that time, about three years ago, a savings and loan vacated a ground-floor branch office in his building. Despite the steel vault and a few other unusual extras, the space seemed perfect, so Nordyke, a one-man law firm who specializes in matrimonial matters, rented it. Of course, that left him with the bank’s drive-through window, with its microphone, retractable drawer and inch-thick bulletproof glass.

Eureka! Salem now has its very own Drive-Up Divorce service, for splitting spouses who don’t want to get soaked in the process. “In Oregon,” says Nordyke, 44, “we have a lot of rain. Some people don’t want to get out of their cars.”

Actually, Nordyke mostly uses the window for serving legal papers. When a client is ready to serve papers on his or her spouse, the spouse is advised to drive up to the window. There, one of Nordyke’s two secretaries, safe behind the bulletproof glass, serves the papers through the drawer. The spouse then drives away. No muss. No fuss. No process servers. “We consider it a more friendly way of dealing with that service,” says Nordyke. “It’s a lot less painful and a lot less embarrassing, plus it saves the $15 or $20 the sheriff would charge.”

Nordyke jumped at the idea of drive-through divorce because he had been toying for years with notions of novel legal services, such as a $10-a-question law booth in a shopping mall. He says the window is sometimes used several times a day and sometimes goes several days without a taker. To make it a little less institutional-looking, Nordyke had an artist paint the law firm’s shingle that hangs above it and had the whole office decorated in Art Deco, complete with glass blocks, 1930s lamp and clock-design wallpaper, all visible through the window. “I decided to offset whatever tackiness might be associated with that window by having a nice-quality decor,” he explains.

Nordyke, who went solo after his first law firm objected to his moonlighting membership in a rock band, specializes in low-cost divorces starting at $100, with $100 added if there are kids and another $100 for divvying assets. Nordyke, who was himself divorced in 1988 after a 12-year marriage, estimates that he has handled 4,000 divorces—about 10 percent with the help of the window.

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