Diego Ortiz / Louis Goodman – Transcript

Louis Goodman / Diego Ortiz – Transcript


Louis Goodman 00:04
Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk with attorneys about their lives and careers. I’m Louis Goodman. Today we welcome Diego Ortiz to the podcast. Diego can date the legal history of his family to 1600 A.D. in Spain. His 10th great grandfather was a practicing lawyer at that time. More recently, I saw Diego in the Dublin Courthouse, right here in Alameda County.

But, what most impresses me about Diego is his surfing career in both California and Hawaii. Diego Ortiz, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Diego Ortiz 00:44
Good to speak with you, Lou.

Louis Goodman 00:46
Nice talking to you, Diego. Where are you speaking to us from right now?

Diego Ortiz 00:50
Currently, Walnut Creek, California.

Louis Goodman 00:53
Is that where you live, or is that where your office is, or both?

Diego Ortiz 00:56
The office is in Oakland, but I live in Walnut Creek and part time and then part time in Hawaii.

Louis Goodman 01:03
Where’s your office in Oakland?

Diego Ortiz 01:04
On Clay Street.

Louis Goodman 01:06
And when you live part time in Hawaii, where’s that?

Diego Ortiz 01:10

Louis Goodman 01:11
Nice. And you’re there primarily to go surfing?

Diego Ortiz 01:15
That is, that and to relax.

Louis Goodman 01:18
Well, we’re gonna get to that. Where are you from originally?

Diego Ortiz 01:21
Originally, New Jersey.

Louis Goodman 01:22
Really? Whereabouts?

Diego Ortiz 01:23
Yeah, Teaneck, Bergen County.

Louis Goodman 01:26
Oh, well, that’s interesting. I’m from Essex County, so we got the Jersey Boys handshake going there.

Diego Ortiz 01:32
Yeah, we do.

Louis Goodman 01:33
I set it up a little bit in the introduction, but can you tell us a little bit about what sort of practice you have?

Diego Ortiz 01:39
Okay, currently it’s general criminal practice. I’m just focused on criminal law, misdemeanors, felonies, federal and state.

Louis Goodman 01:49
And how long you’ve been doing that?

Diego Ortiz 01:51
Well, I’ve been practicing law for, looks like now about 33 years. Since 1991 and criminal since about 1993.

Louis Goodman 02:01
Now you say you grew up in New Jersey. Did you go to high school in Teaneck?

Diego Ortiz 02:05
I sure did.

Louis Goodman 02:06
Now how was that experience for you? What were you like in high school?

Diego Ortiz 02:10
Oh, I had a hood on my hood and I ran a lot.

Louis Goodman 02:13
And when you graduated from Teaneck, where’d you go to college?

Diego Ortiz 02:17
I went to Sac State for a year and then I transferred up to Chico State.

Louis Goodman 02:21
What was it that prompted you to come to California all the way from New Jersey?

Diego Ortiz 02:26
Well, it’s basically you can get it from the New Jersey state song, which is Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, but New Jersey wasn’t a place for me. I didn’t feel comfortable in it all that much you’re growing you’re being 18 years old and so, my friend said, let’s go to California, and so off we went.

Louis Goodman 02:44
Well, New Jersey is a great place to be from.

Diego Ortiz 02:47

Louis Goodman 02:48
What did you think about living in California compared to living on the East Coast?

Diego Ortiz 02:54
Completely different. The weather was fantastic, the people were really nice, but the food was horrible.

Louis Goodman 02:59
You didn’t like the food in Sacramento?

Diego Ortiz 03:01
Oh, no. So, I started off, I first got here in May 31st, 1980. And I was living up in South Lake Tahoe was my cousin, who was nine years older than I was. And so I got a job up there and I remember one time we went to get some pizza and the pizza came back and it had all kinds of vegetables on it. Having a heavy New Jersey action at the time. And you can well imagine that I was just, I was perplexed to say the least.

And so what they had done in Italian, it would be the insomnia of how they were treating pizza. And so I threw a fit and. And then realized that the food here wasn’t so good, but I, the people were nice.

Louis Goodman 03:44
Well, it’s certainly gotten better in 40 years, don’t you think?

Diego Ortiz 03:47
It has, it has. You’ve had your cured salted meats are more readily more available. The cheeses are a lot better. Italian food still isn’t as good as any mom-and-pop shop in, you know, any place in Essex or Burton County, but it’s gotten better.

Louis Goodman 04:03
Now, when you graduated from college, where did you go to law school?

Diego Ortiz 04:08
Formerly known as Golden Gate University School of Law.

Louis Goodman 04:12
Did you go directly from college to Golden Gate, or did you take some time off in between?

Diego Ortiz 04:18
I took some time off in between. I went back to New Jersey, which is somewhat of a mistake, I guess, but not. So I graduated college and I was up in Lake Tahoe, South Lake Tahoe, working there. I was trying my hand at doing underwater scuba construction. We were repairing stuff that was underwater, obviously.

And then I would, I was during the day and during the evenings, I was trying to make my mark as a professional gambler. And that didn’t work out as most professional gamblers never work out. And so I went back to New Jersey. Ended up getting a job at my mom’s law office. I was there for a year, working there at her office in Hackensack, New Jersey, and then decided that I had to get out of there because it was driving me crazy.

So I went back with a friend and was down in Los Angeles and living in Redondo Beach and working part time as an extra in the television and movie industry.

Louis Goodman 05:17
When was it that you first started thinking about being a lawyer?

Diego Ortiz 05:22
Probably at the age of 13, my mom had gone back to law school. She was a graduate of Syracuse University, class of 52. In that era, the only thing you could get was secretarial jobs, and so she ended up working as a secretary eventually, and then she went back to law school, so that inspired me. She’s a graduate of Seton Hall, out of Newark. And I was, I was completely inspired by her.

Louis Goodman 05:48
And when did you decide for yourself that now’s the time to apply to law school, that I’m really going to do this. I’m going to send in an application, send in the money, write the essay, take the SAT.

Diego Ortiz 05:59
Yeah, that’s a plenty story, Lou. I had gone back, I was working at my mom’s law office. I’d been scuba diving, I took a scuba diving class. I was an open water and advanced scuba diver. And I was, my friend had given me the lessons, said I should go in and I should be a scuba instructor.

And so I looked up, there’s job opportunities on all the different resorts around the world. I was in New Jersey and I called my friend, who was John Cart, who was in law school at the time, at the University of Santa Clara Law School down in San Jose. And I said, John, I said, I’m talking on the phone cause he was a great friend from undergrad. And I said, John, we got this great job. We can go to club med. We can be scuba diver instructor. It’s going to be the best life ever. And he was a smoker and you could hear him phone. This is the funny part. He can have a, takes a drag on a cigarette. And he says, you’re an idiot.

Go to law school, go take the LSAT. So I contemplated that phone conversation and I decided to. At that point, to go to law school.

Louis Goodman 07:06
Well, what did you think about being back in San Francisco and being at Golden Gate?

Diego Ortiz 07:10
Loved it. Absolutely loved it. I had never been in San Francisco before, other than on a couple of road trips.

I could park my car, forget about my car, and just commute, ride my bicycle and skateboard, and just, I’d take the cable car every morning down on Golden Gate, because I lived up on Russian Hill. And, and then go down there, go to law school, study, come back, grab a slice of Blondie’s pizza. They’re at the turnaround on Pell and market and then go back, crash out and repeat and rinse.

Louis Goodman 07:43
Were you okay with the Blondie’s pizza?

Diego Ortiz 07:46
Yeah, you know, it was not bad. As far as pizza goes in California, it was more like a deep, it was more like a Sicilian pizza. And it was a big, big slice and skinny as a twig. And going to law school and the brain needed all the cards you could get. And so, yeah, you know, it wasn’t bad.

Louis Goodman 08:05
Well, I’m glad you made your peace with the pizza industry in California.

Diego Ortiz 08:10
Oh, no, I have not. I’m still, and I am still a huge critic with pizza. So my girlfriend turns around and says, Oh, this is a great pizza. I said, Oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re out of your mind. Forget about it.

Louis Goodman 08:21
What was your first legal job out of law school?

Diego Ortiz 08:24
Out of law school? Well, my first legal job out of law school waiting for the bar results was working for an attorney called James Castelli and I was researching writing pellet briefs and pre trial briefs for his suppression motions, pitches motions, speedy trial motions, that sort of thing.

Louis Goodman 08:42
Now you have your own practice now, very successful criminal defense practice. Can you give a brief history of your career, get you to where you are now?

Diego Ortiz 08:52
Yeah, sure. I did not study to be a trial lawyer or litigator. I studied to be a transactional attorney. I suffered from, and on occasion do suffer from, a speech impediment, and I’m dyslexic. And so the, I could take my time with transactional work, where I could read it, re read it, analyze it. And so in law school, none of my focus was ever towards the trial advocacy or anything to that extent. It was more, like I said, UCC stuff and transactional contracts and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, in my first year of law school in 1987, I think there was Black October, where the stock market crashed and all the jobs that we were available at the time for first years were gone. And in fact, there was no jobs for second years or third years, and they were just hiring laterals from other law firms. And people were basically jumping off the cliff trying to catch any kind of job there was. So the job market kind of dried up and I found myself with the only opportunity was civil litigation.

So I ended up throwing my hat into the civil litigation arena quite successfully. And I did enjoy it for a few years. And then the constant, the constant bickering, I guess, between my colleagues and myself, and it was not as much fun as I wanted it to be. So I wanted to get into court more often than just a case management conference or a motion to compel or a summary judgment motion and so, and as, you know, civil trial attorneys don’t go out to trial very often compared to criminal defense attorneys.

And so I threw my hat into the criminal arena and at the time, my, my, my wife at the time, my ex wife now, she was a District Attorney, Assistant District Attorney in Contra Costa County. So, she helped me out with that, and then I joined a panel and started practicing criminal law.

Louis Goodman 10:56
You’ve been a lawyer for quite some time now. You have lots of interests, lots of other things that you’ve done and that you potentially could do. What is it about practicing law that keeps you in the profession?

Diego Ortiz 11:12
I love the people. I love my clients, and you would think that’s something, you wouldn’t, especially in the In the criminal arena. But I do, I really, I enjoy my clients. I enjoy helping my clients. I enjoy the, the, my colleagues, both in the private and public sector. And I enjoy the bench and it is a, it is a wonderful time for me. It’s just completely envelops me.

Louis Goodman 11:42
If a young person were coming out of college, thinking about a career, would you recommend the law?

Diego Ortiz 11:47
Yeah, absolutely. What I would recommend, I was just lecturing up at Sonoma state to some criminal justice majors. And I would recommend at least taking one year of law school. Everybody in the world should take one year of law school. It changes, I think, I believe it opens your mind into a more logical way of dealing with the world and what the world presents and what life presents. And if everyone just took one year of law school, I think we’d all get along a lot better.

Louis Goodman 12:18
How about the business of practicing law? You know, those of us who don’t work for the government, don’t work for a big company, and we have a law practice, we have to be, whether we like it or not, we have to be business people. And I’m wondering how the business aspect of law has gone for you and kind of what your observations about that are.

Diego Ortiz 12:41
It’s tough sledding. If you’re coming out on your own, it’s a tough sledding, you have to develop a book of business and you’ve got to what’s known as make it rain. You’ve got to be able to go out, interface, interact with, with potential clients, first of all, you’ve got to find potential clients and then when you interact with them, you’ve got to be able to help them and then you’ve got to be able to draw them in from a business perspective and that is not as easy as it sounds. That is the challenge.

The law is not, for me, business, I think, is the harder aspect of running your own shop. But once you’re, some people don’t have the knack for it, actually. A lot of people don’t, and they end up working in law firms and having long careers as associates and junior partners. But they never get into the partnership position because they can’t develop business.

And so that is, that is the hardest part of the practice is actually developing the business and then satisfying the business is the easy part.

Louis Goodman 13:41
Yeah, I agree. I think it’s just malpractice on the part of law schools that that’s just not addressed.

Diego Ortiz 13:48
Oh, absolutely. They should, they should teach you a whole, a whole vein. There should be a whole semester, if not a whole summer internship on how to develop your business and how to develop a practice. It’s, you know, I was fortunate to speak two languages coming into the criminal practice. There was a niche and an area for me to fill where there’s, you know, one person speaking Spanish was the only, I mean, the only person that was, was myself.

And so I could interact with other people and then the word spread and then the people would call and word of mouth spreads even further. And that’s how it developed.

Louis Goodman 14:22
Where did you learn your Spanish?

Diego Ortiz 14:23
Well, that’s a funny story, Lou. My grandparents, well, my parents are both Bolivian, were, were both Bolivian. And my mom’s family comes from, from Spain and from New York state. Copaic New York to be exact. And they’d been around for a few hundred centuries. And, but my father’s side of the family is from Spain to Bolivia. And so he came here when he was 21 to United States. And he wanted to be a good American citizen.

So he signed up, became a citizen and never spoke in Spanish to him, not neither of my parents did. But my grandparents did all the time, so they would come up to visit me on a regular basis from Bolivia. And so I’d have to interact with them, and so I learned it that way. It really was a rudimentary learning of it.

And then in college, I majored in it, because I thought it was like the old Cheech and Chong say, you know, go to, go to night school, take Spanish, get a B, kind of thing. And I thought it was easy, and it was not easy. It’s a very, very difficult language to learn. And to speak, and to read, and to write. And, but thankfully, thanks to a professor named Steve Rebus, who’s no longer with us up at Chico State.

He took me under his wing, and he was able to guide me through. And I, I did not, caveat, complete the major. I had two other majors instead, and I just couldn’t get the classes in without spending another full year there. That was not something I wanted to do. So that’s how I learned it. And then along the way to practice the law, you need to speak with your clients and they teach you as well.

Louis Goodman 15:58
Here’s a two part question. You could answer one part or both parts. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and what advice would you give to a young attorney just starting out?

Diego Ortiz 16:12
The best advice I ever received was probably to listen more, talk less, especially when you’re younger and just coming into the system. The second best advice I would give to a young attorney is show up to court early, always be on time, and sit there. Don’t have your case called first, but listen to how the judge operates his court and how he interacts with the different litigants. And if you spend enough time just sit there listening, you get a pulse of the court and you’re able to understand that particular judge and the nuances of his department.

And I think if you do that in all the different departments, in all different, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing civil litigation or criminal litigation, you know, if you do that in court, you’re going to better handle, better represent your client. If you’re, that is B section to that is if you’re not a litigant, or you’re not a trial attorney, is to listen to what your clients have to say. And then, and then do the best you can there. But listen, listen more, talk less.

Louis Goodman 17:21
What mistakes do you think lawyers make? You know, you’re in court a lot, you see lawyers, what sort of mistakes do you think lawyers make?

Diego Ortiz 17:29
You don’t listen to what the judge is asking you. They, it’s the judges and the bench asks specific questions and people go off in different directions and they’re not succinct in their advocacy.

Louis Goodman 17:44
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Diego Ortiz 17:46
As fair as humanly possible, yes, obviously, it’s, you try to be objective as possible. I think everybody is trying to be objective as possible, but they’re swayed by their subjective feelings and previous encounters and opinions. For a neutral, objective, body of society, it is this fair. It could be fair and it could be a lot less fair, but in the, in the arenas that we practice it, especially in Alameda County, I think it’s pretty fair.

Louis Goodman 18:21
I’m going to shift gears here a little bit, Diego, what’s your family and personal life been like, and how has that fit into your practice of law and the practice of law fit into your life?

Diego Ortiz 18:33
Well, I went to law school and married my law school sweetheart, who’s a practicing attorney with us here in Alameda County. We we’re married successfully for 20 years. And then of course, life has a way of getting in, in the way of, of practicing law, kind of a twist on the John Lennon quote, but it’s been good for the most part, you know, having a partner who was in the same field was, was good to go through the throes of learning how to practice and how to build a business.

My kids grew up and with the law all around them. My son is currently studying and planning on a legal career. My daughter has also thought about it, although I steer her towards medicine more than legal, if possible, that hopefully she’d go to med school instead of law school. But all in all, it’s, it’s not been a negative impact on my, on my family or my life in any way. It’s been, it’s been a blessing. And I’m very thankful for having been able to, to be accepted to law school, graduated from law school, passed the bar on the first time and get, and have been accepted to the bar and I, I’ve never regretted any moment of it.

Louis Goodman 19:51
I know that you surf, and I mean, it really is a big part of your life, and as someone who is himself very interested in water sports, and has been for a very long time, I’m curious if you could talk a little bit about when you developed the love of surfing. How that perhaps takes your mind off of the law?

Diego Ortiz 20:12
Well, it’s a short story, but I was, I first tried surfing back in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, that’s called the Jersey Shore area. My friend and I, I was staying at my friend’s house down there and we were 17, 18, and he had this wall hanger, this big, huge wooden surfboard that was like 15 feet long hanging over his, over the, his mantle. And as I recall, in the middle of the living room, and we said, Oh, let’s go surfing. Let’s try this out. So we go, we carry this, takes, takes both of us to carry this heavy, you know, a hundred pound board. It shouldn’t have been a hundred pound board. It was, it was just a, something you hang on the wall, but we decided to try and surf it.

And so we get down to the beach and we, none of us have the ability or the knowledge as to how to surf. So. He says, you go first and which is kind of typical of me. I always say, yeah, sure. I’ll go first. And, and so I get on the board and the beach break, it was a beach break and beach break drove the front of the board right into the sand.

And I went sliding down the board, up the shale from the, from the shells and so forth onto the beach. And I’m just covered in sand. And my friend’s mom is sitting there laughing at me. And then she looks down and my half of my skin from my right pictorial had been torn off and I’m sitting there looking at it and just screaming going, Oh, I’ve lost my nipple and, and then it was, and so she’s laughing the whole way and she, she goes to the light guard and she puts a bandaid on it and it’s still there. It’s still scarred, but. That was my first introduction into surfing and when I decided to go to California, I thought everybody surfed and I thought everything was, everybody played volleyball on the beach and everybody was blonde and that was not so. And so I put away my thoughts of surfing until about 2008.

My neighbor across the street from where I was living at the time invited me to go. I went out to Pacifica, I paddled out and I caught the waves and I got up onto my knees and it just overtook me with joy. I went out the following day, bought a proper wetsuit and went out the following week and got on board and I haven’t stopped since.

Louis Goodman 22:29
Let’s say you came into some real money, let’s say three or four billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life? Well, I’d throw a big party for myself, and just include myself, and not anybody else. Probably, I would continue to practice law, and not charge a dime, contribute my money to worthwhile charities.

I thought about it, you know, when the lottery goes up to a billion dollars or something like that. I always buy the tickets because I say, you know I can spend 20 on tickets and I can dream and like right and I love the dream that the lottery provides even though it doesn’t provide any return and always I always think you know, it would be great I could walk into a bar or see a homeless person, you know out there just you know, just go here you go, bro You know, here’s some money, you know, let me get you some clothes and here’s, let me buy you a house sort of thing.

So that’s kind of it. If it was a bartender, leave him a million-dollar tip. I’ll just blow their minds. That kind of thing.

Louis Goodman 23:29
Have you ever had a near death experience?

Diego Ortiz 23:33
Yeah, several, mostly surfing, a few times in automobiles. The ones in surfing I remember because I’m spinning up, almost drowning and getting caught in riptides without any flotation devices. It’s been dicey at times. And, and Lou, I was always the guy, you know, growing up and, you know, when I was a kid. They’d say, all right, let’s, let’s go try this. And then they’d say, who wants to go first? And I always raised my hand where I’d go first. And, and generally I ended up in the hospital on most occasions.

On broken bones, I’ve broken most everything in my body. Drowned a few times. I’ve saved 12 people from drowning over the years. Life can be tenuous at best.

Louis Goodman 24:18
Have any of those experiences changed the way that you’ve done things or thought about things or had any kind of profound impact on your thinking?

Diego Ortiz 24:28
Yeah, absolutely. One, I don’t take myself very seriously. I think it’s impacted that. Two, we should all not take ourselves too seriously. And we should enjoy the bounty of what nature provides for us. I mean, I’m looking out a window right now, looking at a beautiful tree. That’s as perfect as life can get sometimes.

And I think if we all just lightened up a little bit and enjoyed what nature provides. Well, you know, you enjoy your lives more.

Louis Goodman 24:56
Let’s say you had a really big microphone, let’s say 60 seconds on the Super Bowl Super Bowl ad What would you like to say to the world in that kind of forum where you could talk to that many people at once?

Diego Ortiz 25:10
Yeah, that’s easy. Love each other. Stop hating each other. Just love each other.

Louis Goodman 25:16
Diego If someone wants to get in touch with you, what is the best way to do that?

Diego Ortiz 25:22
Well, you could ask anybody. They all know my name and my number, but for those who don’t, I do have a website. It is Diego E G O, that’s D-I-E-G-O, the letter E for my middle name, and Ortiz O R T I Z dot com.

And or you just look up Diego Ortiz or Diego E Ortiz attorney and you’ll find I comes up with a picture and just call me up. I’m always available. I take calls through the days and nights. I was just on the call last night at 11 o’clock with some worried person who got himself into trouble and needed some advice. But that’s the easiest way of getting ahold of me.

Louis Goodman 26:01
Great. Diego E. Ortiz dot com. Dot com. All right. Diego Ortiz. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

Diego Ortiz 26:14

Louis Goodman 26:15
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.

Thanks to my guests, and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Louis Goodman 26:55
I lost you completely there for a couple of minutes. What happened?

Diego Ortiz 27:01
I don’t know, but we’ll, you want me, you want to repeat the question?

Louis Goodman 27:04
Yes, I’m trying to remember what it was.

Diego Ortiz 27:07
I don’t know, that’s a tough question.

Request A Free Case Evaluation

Fields marked with an * are required

"*" indicates required fields

I Have Read The Disclaimer*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Real Time Web Analytics