Dean Shotwell / Louis Goodman – Podcast

Dean Shotwell / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript

[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. Where we talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers and what their experience has been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.

A true son of Alameda County. He has lived, worked, studied, played competitive sports and raised a family in California.

Now practicing criminal law with an emphasis on juvenile justice. He has substantial prosecutorial experience with a ready smile and great courtroom presence. He effectively represents his clients in all stages of criminal proceedings, Dean Shotwell. Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Dean Shotwell: Good morning. Thank you so [00:01:00] much for having me.

Louis Goodman: I’m very happy that you’re joining us today, Dean. Where’s your office located now?

Dean Shotwell: I’m located in Pleasanton.

Louis Goodman: How long you been there in Pleasanton?

Dean Shotwell: About 20 years prior to that, I was in sharing office space in Livermore with a attorney by the name of James McGrail, the late great James McGrail.

Louis Goodman:

Absolutely. You’re from that area originally. Aren’t you?

Dean Shotwell: I am, yeah. I was actually born in Livermore a long time ago and a family moved to Pleasanton when I was about three years old and lived in Pleasanton primarily my whole life.

Louis Goodman: Where’d you go to high school?

Dean Shotwell: I went to Amador Valley high school.

Louis Goodman: How was that experience for you?

Dean Shotwell: It was good. You know, the town has changed a lot over the years. It was a very small, primarily agricultural area at the time. But yeah, growing up in Pleasanton, it was a lot of fun, Amador was a lot of fun. [00:02:00] I had a lot of history with the town and the school, since my dad actually moved here. His family moved here in 1931. So all my uncles, my aunts, my dad, they all went to Amador.

Louis Goodman: What sort of activities did you participate in when you were in high school?

Dean Shotwell: I played basketball and baseball. Primarily baseball was my main sport, but I played a little bit of basketball.

And a little bit involvement in student government.

Louis Goodman: Well, you were like really a pretty good baseball player. Weren’t you decent?

Dean Shotwell: Yeah. Decent enough to keep me interested for a while and keep me in school long enough for me to grow up and mature and figure out that I needed to emphasize or put a little more emphasis in my schoolwork to the end up in a profession that I wanted to spend some time in and have some passion.

Louis Goodman: What position did you play in?

Dean Shotwell: I was a pitcher in college.

Louis Goodman: So when you [00:03:00] graduated from Amador, where did you go to college?

Dean Shotwell: First, I went to Chabot Community College. Primary focus was baseball. That was what led me to Chabot. Very good baseball program there. At a pretty good success as a team.

Louis Goodman: So you ultimately graduated from where, what


Dean Shotwell: Cal State University, Sacramento.

Louis Goodman: And where did you go to law school?

Dean Shotwell: I went to law school at a UW University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

Louis Goodman: Did you go directly from, from college, into McGeorge?

Dean Shotwell: I did. Yes. I. My undergrad took five years. I was two years at Chabot and then three years at SAC State. And then when I graduated with my degree in criminal justice from SAC State, I went straight to McGeorge.

Louis Goodman: So how was that experience?

Dean Shotwell: It was very good. It was a very small law school. [00:04:00] It’s part of a University of Pacific out of Stockton, but the law school is actually in Sacramento. So that’s a heavy emphasis on government. A lot of ties to the state government, a lot of professors with ties to government.

So it was a very good experience for me there.

Louis Goodman: When did you first start thinking about going to law school?

Dean Shotwell: It evolved. I was a criminal justice major, but I did not want to be in law enforcement per se. I then started thinking about the FBI. Then I realized to be a field agent you needed primarily to have a law degree.

And I figured, well, if I’m going to go to law school, I wasn’t going to go to the FBI. But then my thoughts, Lee Steinberg spoke. I think it was my senior year of college. I saw him speak at least Steinberg was a sports agent out of Cal Berkeley. So he gave a speech and then I thought about the becoming [00:05:00] a sports agent, then that’s kind of what initially drove me to law school.

And then in law school, I got very interested in the trial work and the criminal justice, part of my education there with the evidence in criminal procedure. And that’s where it kind of focused me to pursue a career in the criminal side of it. The legal work.

Louis Goodman: It’s really interesting how people evolve in terms of their interests and their careers all within the sort of general legal world framework.

Dean Shotwell: Yeah, it was, you know, when I got to law school, I think the mock trial and the trial work and things of that nature, it kind of satisfied my competitive urge. I guess that I maybe still have leftover from competing in a college athletics. So that I can have found an outlet for that. And you know, it did provide me with some success [00:06:00] in my trial work.

Initially, when I went to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office out of law school, I tried a lot of cases down there. Which given the volume that they have in Los Angeles County pretty well.

Louis Goodman: How did you go from McGeorge in Sacramento to Los Angeles County DA Office?

Dean Shotwell: Just you know, during the interview process I was interviewing with primarily District Attorney’s Offices and they had a Senior Law Clerk Program through the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

And they accepted me and had some other friends moving down to Southern California. I was married at the time. I had got married after my second year of law school. My wife ended up getting a job down in Southern California. So we decided to take a shot and move down there.

Louis Goodman: How’d that work out.

Dean Shotwell: It worked out very good.

It was a great office opportunity for a lot of experience. As I [00:07:00] mentioned, you know, quite a bit of volume of criminal cases coming through the office. So if you wanted to work, there was definitely the work there for you. It was fun. You know, you could just go down to one of the calendar departments, hang out, talk to the calendar deputies. They would tell you, hey, this case here might be going to trial this afternoon and you start reading it. And next thing you know, three hours later, you’re in trial. So it was a great experience, a lot of great training opportunities. The DA’s office at that time had some tremendous career deputy prosecutors just with some phenomenal experience.

So I enjoyed my time there immensely.

Louis Goodman: Yeah. There’s something to be said for working in a really busy, big city office.

Dean Shotwell: Yeah. Like I mentioned, the opportunity to sit down and speak to a DA fellow prosecutor who’s as you know, 30 years of experience, when [00:08:00] you’re in your second year in the office is a phenomenal opportunity.

Louis Goodman: How long were you at the Los Angeles DA’s Office before you came to Alameda County?

Dean Shotwell: Let’s see. I want to say I actually joined Alameda County the day before Loma Prieta. So I’m in LA for about two years. Came up here in October, started on a Monday, down in Oakland. And the second day was a PR that was the Loma Prieta first day of the world series.

And I’m sorry as game. Game three of the world series.

Louis Goodman: I think I remember that. So how long did you stay in Alameda County DA’s office?

Dean Shotwell: A short time, we were trying to sell our house down in Southern California. I was doing the Southwest Airline commute. So I was working up here. I’d fly home for the weekend.

My wife was still down there. We just had our first child, was about [00:09:00] five months, six months old. So that far was a little difficult. So I did that for probably about five months and we just never were able to sell our home down in Southern California. So eventually I went back to LA DA stayed there another five years and then eventually moved back to Alameda County and started my own practice at that time.

Louis Goodman: So your stint in the Alameda County DA’s Office was fairly short.

Dean Shotwell: Yeah, about probably five months, I would guess. I think it was from October to February of, I started in October of 1989. And then I think I went back to LA DA sometime around February or March of 1990.

Louis Goodman: Well, they must’ve really liked you in LA. If they took you back that easily.

Dean Shotwell: it was kind of a joke with my boss at the time. He said, when I left he said, if it didn’t work out, you know, to give him a call. And from the time I left [00:10:00] to the time I gave him the call back, he’d been appointed to Assistant Deputy District Attorney. So he was like the number three guy in the office, which kind of ease my transition back into the office.

Louis Goodman: It’s good to have friends in high places.

Dean Shotwell: It certainly worked out at that time for me.

Louis Goodman: What do you really like about practicing law?

Dean Shotwell: The opportunity I know in both sides, really as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney, the opportunity to help somebody when they’re in a tough spot. Given on the prosecutor side, you’re dealing more so with the victims, but it’s a difficult time in their lives for them.

And then on the defense side, you’re again dealing with somebody who’s in a different, difficult position, and you’re trying to help them out as best he can. You know, protect them either from a victim standpoint. Or a woman who has been charged with a criminal act.

Louis Goodman: Well, at some point you left the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Where did you go from there?

Dean Shotwell: During my time in Alameda County, I met Jim McGrail, who I mentioned previously, and we’d run into each other over the years when I was still down in Los Angeles. And he said, if I ever come back to look him up. He had moved on to private practice. I gave him a call and that’s when I started my own practice and went out and started doing criminal defense work.

Louis Goodman: How did that go?

Dean Shotwell: Initially went well. For me, it was easier to deal with a criminal. There was some of the divorce people I was working with.

Louis Goodman: Yeah. Well, they say that in criminal law, you see bad people at their best. And in family law, you see good people at their worst.

Dean Shotwell: Yeah. But for me, it was easier dealing with the bad people at their best, I guess if that’s the same. You know, for the most part criminals, people charged with crimes [00:12:00] primarily, percentage-wise, they’re guilty. And when you deal with people, who’ve been through the system of few times, they know the game is probably in just about as well as you.

Louis Goodman: How do you feel about moving from being a criminal prosecutor to being on the other side of things?

Dean Shotwell: It was not that difficult for me. I made a commitment to my wife, primarily that I wouldn’t do a homicide as a defense attorney, but the way I viewed it is I believe in the system. And I felt my job primarily as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney is make sure the system works. It works the way it’s supposed to be.

I was trained as a prosecutor to always do the right thing.

Louis Goodman: Do you think the legal system is fair?

Dean Shotwell: Well there’s the human element involved, Louis, that always plays a significant role. The power of the government [00:13:00] is unmatched by a criminal defendant. No matter their wealth. And unfortunately we deal with a lot of people who don’t have the wealth to fight the governments.

Louis Goodman: The business of practicing law. How’s that gone for you? And how has it either met or different from expectations that you may have had about it?

Dean Shotwell: It’s been probably the biggest challenge. They don’t have classes in law school on how to run a business, from a defense practice or anything of that nature.

I think it was beneficial that I hooked up with the Jim McGrail, he keeps coming up in this conversation, but he played a pretty big role with me. Jim was a very successful businessman and attorney. So I think sharing office space with him for five or six years that I did, he helped me tremendously in that respect.

I’ve also been fortunate that my wife is also employed, so the financial pressures of [00:14:00] you know, just being solely placed upon me as I pursue my practice, was not always there. So that definitely made things easier for me.

Louis Goodman: How has practicing law affected your family life? I mean, you have a wife, you have kids.

Dean Shotwell: I think probably, well, it’s been probably there’s been some positives and probably some challenges. The positive says when I became a private defense attorney, it made it possible at times to control your own calendar. So I was able to manage that as best I could and be part of things. My kids were interested in growing up, coaching little league and things of that nature with my kids and being there for them as best I could.

So that was probably the main positive from a personal standpoint, was the ability to control your own [00:15:00] calendar and be there for my kids and my wife. As best I could.

Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now that you really wished you knew before you started the endeavor of practicing law?

Dean Shotwell: I think, you know, having spent the time in the DA’s Office as a prosecutor, you know, I dealt with a defense attorney, so I kind of had a pretty good idea. I think the main thing that I did not anticipate coming back from LA is that I did not have the professional relationships with the legal community here in Alameda County. You know, so I didn’t know most of the prosecutors. I didn’t know most of the defense attorneys. I knew very few of the bench officers. I think that that was a challenge for me in the early part. Obviously that has changed through the years, I have established those relationships. But I think initially that was probably one of the things I [00:16:00] did not anticipate. And I thought would be a lot easier for me, but there was definitely a period of transition there.

Louis Goodman: Having those personal relationships is really quite important. Don’t you think?

Dean Shotwell: I do. And I think everybody has kind of a little bit different twist on how they approach the defense of their client. But I think it does start with those relationships. And that’s often why I’ve many times I’ve referred friends to seek counsel in a local community.

If they, you know, picked up a case some ways away, if I felt that there might be a better opportunity for a local attorney to provide a better resolution for them, I’ve just certainly discussed that with those people in those situations, but the relationships do play a pretty significant role, I think.

And I believe it’s been a big part of the success that I’ve had.

Louis Goodman: Yeah. I think that it has [00:17:00] to both for you and Anne and for myself. I mean, I think that knowing the people you’re dealing with and having some kind of trust and relationship with them, whether they’re DA’s or Co-counsel or Judges, it’s very important to have that understanding of the other individuals.

Dean Shotwell: Yeah. I, you know, I think as you go through the process with the local attorneys and the judges, as you mentioned, you get a feeling for what they value, what they believe is important. You’ve heard other counsel present arguments and defense of their client. You know, some prosecutors are more receptive to drug treatment programs. Some are not. So you get a feel for which ones may be receptive to certain types of arguments and you figure out the best way to present those to each [00:18:00] individual prosecutor.

Louis Goodman: Any travel experience outside the state, outside the country that you’d like to share.

Dean Shotwell: I was fortunate to have two of my kids play college golf.

Louis Goodman: Wow.

Dean Shotwell: So their travels or their careers is college athletes. And even junior golfers went on some pretty good trips. My daughter was invited to play in a tournament in St. Andrews Scotland. So we get to turn that into a family boondoggle, but my wife and I we’ve traveled a little bit, not nearly as much as we’ve liked to, but depending Europe, a few times would certainly help to do that.

What I was planning on it doing that last year, but that did not work out. And then we have a place in Maui. So we go to Hawaii quite a bit, try and get over there couple three or four times a year.

Louis Goodman: Nice. That’s great. Yeah. [00:19:00] What sort of recreational pursuits do you enjoy? I mean, I know you grew up playing baseball and your kids are involved in golf, but what about for yourself now?

Dean Shotwell: I play a little bit of golf, so that’s primarily my main activity. I’d like to go to Tahoe, do some hiking. And I used to hunt quite a bit with my dad growing up in Pleasanton. Well, we hunted quite a bit around here just to Upland game birds and then hunted out of town for quite a bit for, for deer. So I like to go into the backcountry either just hiking or I have a 1953 Willy’s.

Louis Goodman: Really?

Dean Shotwell: Yeah. So I like to take that back into the back country and just try and, you know, go some places where not too many people have been.

Louis Goodman: That’s one of my dream vehicles. Does it have the fall down windshield?

Dean Shotwell: It does. Yes, it does. So, yeah, that’s, my dad picked that up in the late sixties.

They bought that and so [00:20:00] we had it for a number of years and then he finally gave it to me.

Louis Goodman: That’s a very fun little vehicle. If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other job or profession that you think you would like to do?

Dean Shotwell: It might be that teaching I’ve enjoyed. I know you mentioned that at the top there, that I have a little bit of a focus on juveniles.

So that’s been something I’ve enjoyed working with. I’ve enjoyed coaching. And then I’ve enjoyed that. The juvenile part of my practice.

Louis Goodman: What’s it about the juvenile practice that has attracted you?

Dean Shotwell: Just, I think it’s just the opportunity to try and help somebody.

I certainly. As a young kid do, you know, made some poor choices and I try and do the best I can to make sure that the mistake that they made that brought them to that particular time and place that it [00:21:00] is, is it has a minimal impact on, on their future going forward.

Louis Goodman: Yeah, I think in the juvenile court, you really can catch people before they’ve moved into behaviors that are going to create criminal problems for them, for the rest of their lives. And I think it does feel really good to be able to intervene on some level at that point.

Dean Shotwell: Yeah. So that’s probably where I would have ended up as in teaching or some type of coaching. I coached when I left SAC State. My first year of McGeorge, I coached a freshmen high school baseball team up in Sacramento, and that was a lot of fun.

So. That may have been the path that I took. If the legal side didn’t work,

Louis Goodman: If you came into some real money, let’s say you came into three or $4 billion. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Dean Shotwell: I would definitely set up some foundations to try and do some things, to help people as best I could, you know, [00:22:00] starting with the juveniles in lower income communities. That’s something I’ve always thought of trying to do. If I ever did come into a bunch of money.

Louis Goodman: Let’s say you had a magic wand, what is one thing in the world that you could change legal or otherwise. What would that be?

Dean Shotwell: Well, I think right now, obviously it would have to do something with this virus. If I had something where I had the power to get rid of this last year. You know, I have an 89 year-old mother and I’m sure there’s lots of people that have the challenges that have gone through this last year. Just been unimaginable, but my mother’s pretty much been in the house for a year. If there’s one thing I could change, I think it would be this last year.

Louis Goodman: Where do you see yourself going professionally?

Dean Shotwell: That’s a very good question, Lou, I’m in the process of slowing down a little bit. I think right now so I’m [00:23:00] looking perhaps for my next challenge, next chapter, still staying involved in criminal defense, but probably not quite as involved as I am right now. That’s something I’m trying to figure out.

I turn 60 here in about a month and a half, so I’m trying to figure out where the next journey will take me.

Louis Goodman: Dean Shotwell, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast

Dean Shotwell: . It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Louis.

Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate you thinking about me and reaching out.

It was very enjoyable.

Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. I promise I’ll respond. Take a look at ourwebsite at, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, [00:24:00] photographs, and information.

Thanks as always to my guests, who share their wisdom and Joel Katz for music, Bryan Mathison for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Dean Shotwell: Part of my job to fight as best I can to protect my clients from being overwhelmed by the government.

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