Stacy E. Remer / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript
[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. We’ll 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. She comes from a legendary family of Alameda County attorneys.
The focus of her own practice is on criminal defense and family law. She represents individuals in all types of criminal offenses, including DUI, domestic violence, drug charges, weapons, charges, and white-collar crime. In her family practice, she handles all manner of domestic difficulties, including child custody, visitation, and spousal support.
She also acts as a mediator in an effort to bring [00:01:00] about mutually acceptable results in adverse circumstances. Stacy Remer welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Stacy Remer: Thank you so much.
Louis Goodman: It’s a pleasure to have you, and I’ve known you for a very long time, and of course I knew your father very well, Fred Remer and I knew your grandmother very well, Betty Browner.
So just tell me a little bit about how you started thinking about law.
Stacy E. Remer: Well, I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an attorney, a lawyer. I think I learned a lot about the practical side of what being a lawyer was like, because I had a lot of them around me. So I understood how it worked in real life, how the career was very demanding and very fulfilling at the same time.
So as a young child, I knew that I wanted to advocate. I [00:02:00] I wasn’t sure how or what that would look like, but I’d probably knew around the age of 10, that that’s what I was going to be doing with my life.
Louis Goodman: Did some of that come from the fact that you were around your father and your grandmother growing up and just being around those really outstanding attorneys?
Stacy E. Remer: You know, it’s funny. I used to joke with both my grandmother, Betty Browner, and my father, Fred Remer about the fact that they actually showed me a lot about what I didn’t want to be as a lawyer. We used to laugh about that.
Louis Goodman: Now you have a couple of office locations right now. Where are they?
Stacy E. Remer: I have an office in Los Gatos, Santa Clara County, as well as an office in Hayward, Alameda County.
Louis Goodman: And what type of practice do you have?
Stacy E. Remer: I practice family law, all aspects of family law, and I practice criminal defense.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally Stacy?
Stacy E. Remer: I am a born and raised in Oakland, California.
Louis Goodman: Is that where you went to high school?
Stacy Remer: That’s where I went to high school.
Louis Goodman: Where’d you go?
Stacy Remer: I went to Bishop [00:03:00] O’Dowd.
And then I went to Skyline. My mom had passed away when I was, you know, right in the middle of my teenage years. And so the proposal from my family was you’re going to go to Catholic School for a few years so we can make sure that you’re going to be okay. And then you can go back and join your friends in public school.
So I did just that. I went back to public school for my senior year. I attended Skyline High School and graduated from there in 1991.
Louis Goodman: How did that whole experience workout?
Stacy E. Remer: You know, it was probably the best time of my life. I was involved, you know, I excelled in sports. I played soccer year-round. I played for club and then I played for also for my schools and I walked on to varsity, you know, as a sophomore. So that was very exciting. I was a goalkeeper and coupled with student government, I was very involved in student government and I got really good grades and I really just really [00:04:00] bloomed in high school.
I had a really good time. I had a lot of diverse friends and social circles and I just really was probably one of the best times that I look back at my life, you know, the most fulfilling, the most fun and probably, the most enlightening and the sense that I became actively involved in politics and political stuff.
I would say like rallies and protests and it was just a lot of fun. It’s really exciting.
Louis Goodman: Now, when you graduated from Skyline, you went to college, where’d you go?
Stacy E. Remer: I went to Cal State, East Bay, and then I transferred from there to San Jose State and completed my four year there in San Jose State.
Louis Goodman: When you graduated, did you immediately go to law school or did you take some time off?
Stacy E. Remer: No, so I went to Cal State East Bay, and then I took some time off. I was married and I had two children and then I went [00:05:00] back to San Jose State and graduated. And then I went directly from San Jose State within just a few months to Law School.
Louis Goodman: When you went back to college to finish college, were you pretty clear that you were going back to college so that you could get to law school?
Stacy E. Remer: Oh, yeah, there was never a doubt.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that having taken that time off, taking that break to get married, to have children to live some life, do you think that that gave you a better sense of focus about what you were doing when you went back to college and ultimately to law school?
Stacy E. Remer: I would say yes, definitely.
Louis Goodman: After you graduated from San Jose State, where did you end up going to law school?
Stacy E. Remer: So I ended up attending law school at Lincoln Law School of San Jose. At the time I had a 10 month old and a four year old. So for me, I needed something that could accommodate that schedule, to also [00:06:00] be present and raise my children who were young.
And so I attended school at night and that was the best fit for me. And I would go, you know, anywhere from, four to five nights per week in the evenings for four or five hours. So I didn’t do a lot of sleeping in those years. I was pretty much on full-time all the time. And you know, it was a lot of work.
It was lot of work anyway, but it was a lot of work raising two little kids at the same time. I’m so grateful. I made that sacrifice.
Louis Goodman: Did you enjoy the legal education? Did you think it was okay?
Stacy E. Remer: Interesting. I really enjoyed it.
Louis Goodman: What was your first legal job after you graduated?
Stacy E. Remer: Well, I would say that my first experience in any sort of legal job, not as a lawyer who had graduated, was working at my grandmother’s office as a teenager. I was at first, a court runner. And then I was a legal secretary for quite [00:07:00] some time. But as far as after graduation, I didn’t have a job.
I went straight to solo practice. It’s been, it’s worked out just great. It’s worked out really well. I feel very lucky. I opened up my office in Los Gatos and was immediately fairly successful. And it has just blossomed from there.
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend to a young person thinking about a career to go into law.
Stacy E. Remer: Absolutely.
Louis Goodman: And what advice would you give that individual?
Stacy E. Remer: Obviously, to make sure that their grades were where they need to be, but to most importantly, understand what area of law it is that you think you want to do, and then go and experience that in whatever format you can. If that means an internship, if that means, you know, sitting in the courtroom and watching, observing if it means, taking a part-time job. I believe [00:08:00] that the experience that I had as a child was invaluable in understanding what area of law I wanted to be in and where I wanted to practice. And they don’t teach that in law school.
Louis Goodman: How has actually practicing law met or different from your expectations?
Stacy E. Remer: That’s a good question. And again, I refer back to sort of being raised around lawyers. And I think that I had pretty realistic expectations of what it would be like. And you know, it’s not just practicing law, it’s running a business. And so I would say that it has absolutely met my expectations of all, what it would be like.
It’s a lot of work, especially if you’re a sole practitioner and you’re not with a big firm, you have to be organized and you have to be responsive. You have to communicate the clients. You have to manage clients and manage personalities. At same time you have to run a business.
I would say that it has absolutely met the expectations that I had because my expectations were realistic based on my experience.
Louis Goodman: You know, you bring up [00:09:00] the subject of running the business and the business of practicing law. How’s that gone for you? And, and I’m wondering if you could reflect a little bit on your business skills that you’ve used or developed?
Stacy E. Remer: Well, as a child, you always resent having to take math right. In school, and I’m never going to use this. What am I going to use this for? And, you know, you absolutely are going to use math when you’re running your own business. I’m very, hands-on, again, I’m a sole practitioner and I think my ability to be hands-on for the most part, and to have my finger on the pulse of my business has traded in an environment where I’m able to grow and evolve, in a way that I feel comfortable with. So from a business perspective, a small business perspective, I don’t operate outside my means.
I try to always [00:10:00] understand, the importance of the fact that this is a business, but to not get blinded by the business and specifically by the financial aspect of practicing law.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing?
Stacy E. Remer: I guess I wish I knew how much I was going to love it.
I would’ve done it a lot sooner.
Louis Goodman: Interesting. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Stacy E. Remer: The best advice I would say came from my father.
Louis Goodman: I always got good advice from him too, by the way.
Stacy E. Remer: Well, he wasn’t shy in dishing it out. That’s for sure. You sometimes give unwanted advice.
His best advice was you’re not what you do. You are not your job, right? Your job isn’t defined who you are, but who you are makes a difference in what you do. And he was really big on remaining human and getting sort of, having that bedside manner as a [00:11:00] lawyer. Right, and understanding that people were, and same with my grandmother, that the people were walking through in family law and in criminal law, they say you’ve got bad people at their best.
Right. And good people at their worst. So I get the best of both worlds. Right. They’re walking through a very traumatic periods of time. And you know, Louis you deal you’re in criminal law lot longer than I have that, you know, it’s a trauma that period of time, whether it’s a divorce or it’s a family law issue, or it’s a criminal issue, it’s someone’s liberty or someone’s children are at stake usually.
And you can’t lose that human component.
Louis Goodman: What aspect of practicing law do you think is your strongest?
Stacy E. Remer: I think litigation is my strong suit. I love being in the courtroom. I love the preparation that goes into pre-trial stuff. I love cross examining witnesses. Particularly police officers. I love the thrill of that. [00:12:00] I love the energy of that more so probably in the criminal arena than in family. It’s a lot different speed, but I still, I love it just the same. It’s exciting. And it’s the stakes are high. I believe it matters.
Louis Goodman: So looking back over your career and education so far, is there anything that you would change if you could?
Stacy E. Remer: Yes. I would have gone to school sooner and started my practices earlier.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the legal system works? Do you think it’s fair?
Stacy E. Remer: That’s a really big, I mean, that’s a broad question. I mean, I think that they’re saying it works if you work it right. I think that those who can afford bigger representation have a better opportunity.
For it to work or for it to be quote unquote fair. That’s why it’s a really big question. Sometimes it’s fair. Sometimes it’s not.
Louis Goodman: Let me shift gears here a little bit. You’ve mentioned your family. What is your family life like and how has practicing law affected that?
Stacy E. Remer: Well, I have two [00:13:00] children, one who is 11, Jacob is my son. And then my daughter, Samantha is about to be 16 next month. And I’m blessed to live a comfortable life. You know, I think when I was in law school was the biggest sacrifice for my children and that was very hard to manage that and to be away from them and to study for the bar and to miss those moments.
It was difficult, but I don’t regret it. My family life now is very whole and I would say healthy. We seek balance and I think everyone’s seeking that balance, but we really try to really make time for, you know, to be together and to have family dinners. And I’m sort of old school in that sense that, I believe that we should sit down and have meals still and face-to-face at the dinner table and then turn the devices off and take, extended family trips together.
So I really do [00:14:00] work hard at trying to be the best mom I can be and the best partner I can be and the best lawyer I can be all at the same time. It requires wearing a lot of hats, but I think my children have seen and learned what it means to invest in yourself as a woman and as a business owner and how much strengths and how much joy that has brought to my life. They’ve seen me as a housewife and they’ve seen me as a lawyer and they understand that they have a reference point. They understand the difference and I think that everyone’s benefiting from my success.
Louis Goodman: You’ve talked about going on some trips together, what sort of travel experience have you and your family had?
Stacy E. Remer: So we just spent several weeks on the North Shore of Hawaii.
Louis Goodman: And your dad was always a big advocate of Hawaii, too.
Stacy E. Remer: Yes, he was in love with the Island of Maui. He referred to himself as Captain [00:15:00] Maui and he would take us on trips as children. And we stomped the back roads of Hana, the entire Island on every waterfall and bamboo forest we could find.
And, you know, I’m finding myself. And stall Jake about those times with him since he’s passed. And, you know, we were lucky enough to have a trip with him, with my children two years ago, I guess two November’s past. So they got to experience that Captain Maui act with my dad firsthand, but we’re continuing that tradition.
Louis Goodman: I know that you’re involved in some water sports too. I mean, you waterski wakeboard motorcycle riding, dirt bike riding, street bike riding.
Stacy E. Remer: Yes. I want my children to have those experiences and want them to have those skills. And most importantly, I want them to connect with nature.
Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there [00:16:00] anything that you would choose to do?
Stacy E. Remer: You know, probably something along the lines of either as like, this is going to sound crazy, CHP officer. I think that would be a lot of fun, but maybe I’ve watched too many CHP’s episodes or CSI like crime scene investigation.
Anything in homicide investigation related. It was very interesting to me.
Louis Goodman: Some sort of a super power and if so, what is it? And if not, what sort of superpower would you like to have?
Stacy E. Remer: I don’t think that I have a super power. And it’s a funny question. I wish I did. If I had one, if I could have one, I guess it would be visibility so that when I didn’t want to be seen, I could just disappear.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Stacy E. Remer: It’s interesting to ask that question because I’d just had this scenario where I found myself restless and walking into the anticipation of a big hearing. [00:17:00] And what keeps me up at night is hoping in my career and what I’m doing that I will be able to, especially in family law, protect those who need protection.
And, you know, what it looks like if I’m not able to be successful on my client’s behalf, especially when you’re dealing with small children. Those cases keep me up at night. The other thing that keeps me up at night, I guess I could say is, we’re living in the middle of unprecedented times in a pandemic where everything is very surreal and we have a new sort of normal and I’m wondering what that looks like a year from now, two years from now. Those types of things keep me up at night.
Louis Goodman: What if you came into some real money, let’s say, $3 or $4 billion, what, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Stacy E. Remer: Well, I would travel a lot [00:18:00] more, a lot more and probably contribute a lot more than I already do to the causes close to me.
Louis Goodman: Is there any cause that you can think of that specifically pretty close to your heart right now?
Stacy E. Remer: Well, I work with three different organizations. Casa is a community against substance abuse, which is a wonderful program. It goes into schools and curriculum.
And you know, one of the founders of that is a very good friend of mine, her name’s Wendy and it’s just a great organization and it’s really well built and well facilitated. I believe that substance abuse education, the education itself at a young age and prevention is something that can keep people out of the system.
And so that’s one of my causes and the other causes, community service crews. We have, my children and I are involved heavily in our communities and providing homeless services, food, preventative equipment. [00:19:00] PPV, however, and whenever we can get involved with, we try to dedicate our time to that, and then legal aid.
You know, I try to donate my time when, and if I can, and in special circumstances, usually in cases where they’re just, the resources just are not there. So I would definitely be contributing more to those agencies financially, not just with my time.
Louis Goodman: Say you had a magic wand. What is one thing in the world, the legal world, or otherwise that you could change?
Stacy E. Remer: Well, for starters, I would get rid of the pandemic. Alleviate this, the global pandemic so that we could have sort of what we consider to be normal life back. I think there’ve been some lessons for a lot of people.
I know for me I can always speak for myself, but you know, in walking through this pandemic, but I think the lessons have been learned and we’re sort of [00:20:00] ready to come out of the shell now. And I think I know from what I do, I see a lot of the secondary effects of relationships falling apart.
If people, going to jail a lot more frequently, a lot of domestic violence, a lot of family disruption, custody, scenario issues. I’ve seen are the children that I’m directly exposed to either my cases or my social lives, sort of withdrawn. And I think it’s time for it to be over.
And if I had a magic wand, I would make the pandemic and dissipate.
Louis Goodman: Thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to talk to you.
Stacy E. Remer: Thank you so much, Louis. It’s been like my great honor. Just want to thank you.
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. [00:21:00] If you have comments. send me an email. I promise I’ll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and inflation. Thanks as always to my guests who share their wisdom and to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey.
Stacy E. Remer: So I get to cherry pick a little bit, and I know that a lot of people don’t approach their business that way. So I’m probably unconventional in that respect, but more than anything, just grateful to be in the position that I’m in.
Hitasha Mowry / 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. She speaks several languages. She and her husband, Sean are the founding partners of the Mowry Law Group.
She has honed her skills as a courtroom advocate through her representation of hundreds of individuals charged with everything from traffic violation to serious felony offenses. She has a deep commitment to justice and serving the underserved. She feels a special connection to the Bay Area Immigrant Community, and indeed is a part of that community.
She is also a mother [00:01:00] raising a family, Hitasha Mowry. Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Hitasha Mowry: Thank you, Louis. It’s an honor to be here.
Louis Goodman: Well, I’m very happy to have you. I’ve always admired your work. When I’ve seen you in court, you always seem very well-prepared and you seem very comfortable in court. Where’s your office?
Hitasha Mowry: So I have two offices, one in San Jose, and one in Dublin.
Louis Goodman: And you practice with your husband?
Hitasha Mowry: I do. Yes. It’s a lot of fun. It’s nice to have someone that you can trust and rely on to bounce ideas off of. And just to have someone that you know very well and who completely understands all your idiosyncrasies.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. It’s nice. Where are you from originally?
Hitasha Mowry: I’m from New Delhi, India.
Louis Goodman: Really. And when did you come to the United States?
Hitasha Mowry: My parents and my brother and I moved to the U S in 1992, when I was about seven, eight years old.
Louis Goodman: Do you have much recollection of India?
Hitasha Mowry: You know, I have some recollection of India. I still [00:02:00] have significant amount of family that I haven’t been to India since 2003.
However, so it’s been a while, but I do remember a lot of it. And a lot of my memories were formed later in life. When I went back to visit.
Louis Goodman: What do you think about it when you go back?
Hitasha Mowry: I think it’s beautiful, but I also think it would be somewhere that I could not live at this point in my life. It’s hard to see the poverty on the streets around you.
It’s hard to see how much struggle there is. And it’s hard to give up everything that you’ve gotten used to here.
Louis Goodman: Where did you originally live when you first came to the United States? After coming from India?
Hitasha Mowry: So we lived in Pleasanton for approximately, I want to say about six months to a year.
We lived in Pleasanton shortly thereafter. My parents bought a small house in Fremont and we’ve lived in Fremont ever since. So I would say often people ask me, where were you born? Where were you raised? I would say I was raised in Fremont.
Louis Goodman: Is that where you went to High School.
Hitasha Mowry: I [00:03:00] did. I went to high school at Mission San Jose, which was quite an experience, but it helped me build a lot of the building blocks that I needed for later on in life.
Louis Goodman: When you say quite an experience, in what way?
Hitasha Mowry: Very competitive High School. Everyone is very hyper-focused on grades and SATs and AP exams. So it requires a lot from you. But after a high school, I graduated, I went to UC Irvine and I remember going to UC Irvine during my first, first year there. And then coming back and actually thanking some of my professors or my teachers rather at Mission for everything that they had pushed us all to get through and to learn because it was amazing.
Louis Goodman: You felt so much more preps for high school. Excuse me, for college at that point, I guess, is that you really thrived in a competitive Scholastic environment.
Hitasha Mowry: Fine, but it was also difficult. It was difficult because coming from an immigrant background, your [00:04:00] parents just wanted you to focus on your studies.
There were no extracurricular activities. My parents had schoolwork that they wanted us to do every summer. So I did. I did well at Mission, but at the same time it was difficult. It was extremely difficult. And from what I understand, it is still difficult. It’s just hyper-competitive.
Louis Goodman: You did well in the academics?
Hitasha Mowry: I did all right.
Louis Goodman: Okay. So you graduated from high school and where did you go to college?
Hitasha Mowry: UC Irvine.
Louis Goodman: How was that experience?
Hitasha Mowry: A lot of fun. I lived on campus for the most part. Irvine is very much a bubble in that you live on campus, you stay on campus, but then everyone goes outside of campus to party, but then you have your own safe spot within the bubble to come back to.
I loved Irvine. I loved where it was positioned, but I soon realized that I would never be able to actually live, you know, have a career or a house in Irvine or an Orange County, because I [00:05:00] wanted to be back home in the Bay Area.
Louis Goodman: I see. And when you got out of college, did you immediately go to Law School or did you do something different?
Hitasha Mowry: No. So for a year I worked as a Legal Assistant at Sidley Austin LLP in the city. It is a huge firm.
Louis Goodman: Yes. How many attorneys do they have there?
Hitasha Mowry: I honestly would not even be able to tell you the answer to that question. It’s massive. They had two floors in the Bank of America Building. It was gorgeous, and I know that they have multiple locations throughout the country.
Louis Goodman: Well, what did you think of working in that kind of thing?
Hitasha Mowry: It was a really good experience. I really enjoy working there. I did, I assisted with contracts and IPO’s and that kind of stuff, but I felt like it was more than a nine to five, some of the partners and some of the associates that worked all the time they just worked constantly.
There were often times where I wouldn’t get home until nine o’clock at night because there was a closing or something else was happening and I was required to stay [00:06:00] that late. So I enjoyed working there. I enjoyed the parks as Sidley, Austin and large firms, but I did not like the hours and I did not like the additional requirements that came up for you?
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Nevertheless, you decided to go to law school.
Hitasha Mowry: I did. I was definitely engaged in it. I, especially after working there, I realized that I wanted to be in the legal world. I didn’t know at that time I wanted to do Intellectual Property Law. I wanted to go down that path.
So I took a lot of classes at Golden Gate University during law school that had to do with IP Law, and it seemed intriguing to me, but I did want to definitely be a lawyer.
Louis Goodman: When did you first start thinking, I really want to be a lawyer. I want to go to law school.
Hitasha Mowry: It actually goes back to my days at UCI.
I took some Poly Psy Class and one of the topics that we had to write about was the Needle Exchange Program. For whatever reason, I was thoroughly engaged in that class. And I was very interested in the Needle Exchange Program and what the benefits of [00:07:00] that such a program could be to those living on the streets.
And that was my first thought process. My first time that I was actually engaged and wanted to be a Lawyer, but it took a while to actually realize that that is where I really wanted to be.
Louis Goodman: What did your friends and your family think and say, when you told them that you wanted to be a lawyer?
Hitasha Mowry: It was an interesting conversation.
A lot of them thought I was crazy in high school and throughout college, you know, everybody wanted me to be an Engineer. I was born in India. We live in Silicon Valley. I’m Indian and Engineers, you become an Engineer. I never wanted to be a Doctor. This is not something I could do. So it was always Hitasha is going to be an engineer.
So when I suggested lawyer, everyone thought I was crazy.
Louis Goodman: So where did you go to law school?
Hitasha Mowry: At Golden Gate University in the City.
Louis Goodman: And was there some reason you decided to go there?
Hitasha Mowry: It was just one of the schools I got into. It was a commuter [00:08:00] school, which was nice. Cause as I’ve grown up in Fremont, my parents still live in Fremont, so it was nice to be able to stay with them, commute into the city as necessary, and then be able to come back, save money in that plant.
What did you think of the Golden Gate experience?
Hitasha Mowry: I enjoyed it. I was not one to linger around the campus too long. I always just caught the next Bart train home. I thought it did a good job of prepping me for the bar. And there was a lot of bar prep within the classes and within the system. So I enjoy Golden Gate.
Easy access to teachers and professors and materials. So I enjoyed Golden Gate.
Louis Goodman: After you got out of Golden Gate, what was your first legal job?
Hitasha Mowry: So after getting out of Golden Gate, it was immediately study for the Bar. So my husband, Sean and I, we spent the entire summer just prepping in our parents respective living rooms and kitchens and dining rooms, just studying for the Bar.
We both sat next to each other, took the Bar together. We passed the Bar together and then it was out into the open world, trying to figure out what we were going to do. [00:09:00] The market was awful at that point, no one was really hiring. So I applied for a random position as a Legal Secretary, because I wasn’t able to find a job at a Criminal Defense Firm out of Fairfield.
So I met with the partner in the Firm and he looked at me and said, you’re applying for a Legal Secretary position. And I was like, well, that’s all you’re offering at this point. I need a job. So he really boosted me. So that boosted me into a first-year Associate position. I started appearing in court.
It was a Criminal Defense firm. At that point, I hadn’t really thought about Criminal Defense that much, but the moment I started appearing in court and actually working at cases, they was at that point where I realized I’m going to be a Criminal Defense Lawyer.
Louis Goodman: What was it about the Criminal Defense that you found attractive?
Hitasha Mowry: Being able to help people that are looking for Criminal Defense Lawyers are often at the worst points in their lives. They’re lost, they’re confused. They have no idea how they’re going to proceed or even move forward in their [00:10:00] lives and to be able to just have a conversation with them and tell them it’s going to be okay.
And I can help you get through this. It’s very rewarding.
Louis Goodman: Is that what you really like about practicing law?
Hitasha Mowry: Yes, it is. It’s probably the best part of what we do. I really enjoy making a difference in people’s lives.
Louis Goodman: If a young person was coming out of a place like UC Irvine and thinking about some kind of a career choice, would you recommend that to someone.
Hitasha Mowry: I do and I’ve spoken to them young people in the last few years, who’ve come out and thought about law school and I tell them, yes, go to law school, figure out, you know, a way to help people because that’s what we’re meant to do. We are meant to help people, but be prepared for the fact that it’s going to be very difficult.
Law school is not easy and it’s challenging at times. So you’re going to do it be prepared and be dedicated and ready to take on the challenge. But yes, absolutely. If you’re thinking about law school, you should do law school, go through the different classes, take, you know, a variety of classes to figure out [00:11:00] If there is something specific you’re interested in.
Louis Goodman: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting a career in law?
Hitasha Mowry: Tell the young people we’re just starting out is listen to everyone around you, because everyone around you has something to tell you, take criticism from other attorneys, especially if they turn to you and say, you know, you could have done that better by adding this one sentence, because they’re not only critiquing you, but they’re trying to help you be a better attorney. And I learned a lot when someone said next time tried this Hitasha. I learned a lot from those people who, at that point, I may have been offended that they would say something like that to me, but I would go back later and think, yeah, you know, I am going to give that a shot.
And then the other thing that’s always helped me is ask questions.
Louis Goodman: How has actually practicing law met or differed from your expectations of it?
Hitasha Mowry: You know, when you start out practicing law or when you’re in law school, you think like, Oh, I’m going to be an attorney. I’m going to go to court. I’m going to argue a position to the judge. And the judge is going to [00:12:00] make a ruling on it. And that’s it. It’s over. Then one rarely tells you about the human aspect of these things. No one tells you that there’s an actual person involved in all of this. There’s someone whose lives depend on this or whose future depends or whose career depends on it. There are feelings and emotions and backstories involved. And you’re only taught the law and the research and the arguments.
Louis Goodman: What about the business of practicing law? How’s that gone for you? And how’s that met or different from your expectations?
Hitasha Mowry: The business of practicing law is not what you would expect it to be.
Whatever, you know, I retained a new client. I tell them, look, I you’re hiring me to be your attorney, I am not a bill collector. So please just make your payments on time. And that’s something that you don’t realize that you actually turn into is at some point you have a business and you’re not just an attorney.
You have a business to run, you have your own financial issues to deal with and you can’t just constantly just focus on the law portion of it. You have to focus on the business aspect of it. And that’s [00:13:00] hard. It’s really hard. And it’s not something you were taught at all. And the small business world is complicated and that’s something you have to learn as you go.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that it would be a good thing for law schools to have some discussion about the business aspect of.
Hitasha Mowry: Absolutely. I think it would be extremely beneficial to have a couple of small business owners with different practices come in and teach a class on, okay, you not only have to be this great advocate for your clients, but you also have to deal to run your books and you have to be able to run this practice and have it financially stable. Yeah. And I think law schools would greatly benefit from arranging some sort of a program.
Louis Goodman: What do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Hitasha Mowry: The best advice. And I’ve been thinking about this is never give up, but always remember to take a step back when you walk in your house, because you can be this amazing advocate.
But you also have to have your sanity [00:14:00] and you can’t bring everything home with you because it will impact your personal life.
Louis Goodman: What aspect of practicing law do you think is your strong suit?
Hitasha Mowry: Being able to argue my client’s position and my position in court is probably my strongest suit and being able to represent my client to their fullest.
Tell the judge that what’s written in the police report is not all that my client is about. There’s more, I think being able to verbalize that is my strong suit.
Louis Goodman: Looking back, is there one thing that you think you would like to change if you could?
Hitasha Mowry: So early on I became, I would get nervous about taking on more serious cases and that is something that I wish I could change. Not being so nervous, I think, but at the same time, the being nervous made me realize that I cared more about those serious cases. So perhaps it’s something I don’t want to change, but yes, being nervous about trying something different or try something that has more serious consequences is something I wish I could [00:15:00] change to some extent.
Louis Goodman: I think that the legal system works. Do you think it’s fair?
Hitasha Mowry: It has the ability to work, but it often does not. So I would not say that it’s fair, but I think with some changes that happened system-wide I think we could make it more fair.
Louis Goodman: What would you change, would try to offer more services to those that have mental health issues?
Hitasha Mowry: I think there’s a significant amount of individuals who end up in the legal system that has mental health issues and their crimes are directly related to the mental health issues. So I would try to offer more services, more supervision, and not necessarily in a manner in which they are imprisoned or they are, you know, otherwise restrained.
I would try to offer more mental health services within their communities. The other thing I would try to change is that oftentimes the prosecution and the bench get hung up on the moment. This issue occurred or this alleged crime occurred and they’re unwilling to take the person, [00:16:00] the person that is before them into account.
So if there’s any way I could essentially work harder to get them to listen more as what led up to this incident occurring.
Louis Goodman: And when you are in a kind of unique situation in that your law partner is also your husband. I’m wondering how that’s affected your family life and how practicing law has affected your family life and how your family life has affected you?
Hitasha Mowry: So we have two children and we have a dog.
So Sean and I have kind of made it a practice in our house to turn off that part of our brain when we pick up our kids.
Louis Goodman: And how old are your kids?
Hitasha Mowry: Seven and Alma six. Okay. So we try to focus on our children when we’re home and they are here as opposed to talking about work. And on the weekends, we dedicate it to them.
We don’t work on the weekends. We tend to work when they are asleep. And Sean and I have kind of always had [00:17:00] this practice of it’s okay if we’re, you know, nine to five, if we’re working, we’re working. And then when we pick up the kids, we are just focusing on the kids. And then when the kids go to sleep, often we will pick up, you know, whatever work stuff has to be done, but we try to focus just on our kids when we have them, because they grow so fast and we don’t want to miss out on it.
Louis Goodman: Have you taken any family trips, had any travel experience?
Hitasha Mowry: That’s a sour subject at the moment. So before the pandemic hit, we had plans to go to Italy this past June, and that we had to cancel everything. It was going to be the first international trip with all four of us together.
And it was going to be, you know, a 12 day trip to Rome and Sorento and we had to cancel all of that. So then we thought, okay, 2021, it’s the year we’re going to go. So now it doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen either. So hopefully 2022 is when we make that big trip Internationally.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things do you enjoy doing [00:18:00] recreationally?
Hitasha Mowry: Sean and I have been hiking a lot. Oftentimes our weekends are just so caught up with the kids. So whatever the kids want to do before pre pandemic, it was go to the movies, you know, go golfing, something like that. But with the pandemic, it’s been outdoor stuff. So if it’s play in the court or bike riding, we like to do that with them.
Louis GoodmanIf you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some job that you think you would like to do?
Hitasha Mowry: Honestly, I don’t know. I cannot answer that question. I can tell you what I wouldn’t be is a stay at home mom or a teacher. If nothing else, the pandemic has taught me that I could never be a stay at home mom or a teacher. But other than that, I really can’t say what else I would do.
I would be at a loss.
Louis Goodman: Well, speaking of the pandemic and you tell me if it’s okay to ask you this question, we had to postpone our interview for awhile because you contracted the COVID virus. And I’m wondering if, just sort of share a little bit about that [00:19:00] experience.
Hitasha Mowry: Sure. I don’t mind talking about it at all.
Yes. All four of us ended up with COVID for a little bit around Christmas time. It was kind of amazing how quickly the symptoms went from one person to the next in our family. So Sean came down with it first with my son, and then it was within about 24 to 36 hours that my daughter and I came down with it.
Luckily for us, our symptoms were very mild. It was a lot of fever and chills and body weakness for 24 to 48 hours. And then we all seem to get our energy back, but the kids are, our kids hardly had any symptoms, knock on wood. They. They had fevers, but they didn’t seem as miserable as Sean and I got. I think we, the adults were in bed for 24 hours, if not more where it was just weakness, but when our major sentence decided it was interesting because we didn’t get our full energy back, it was, we started to get energy back, but we would do something and then be exhausted. [00:20:00] It was still napping mid-day, but just the sheer exhaustion was taxing. But thankfully again, thankfully we all had mild symptoms and I have a genuine fear of the elderly getting COVID because it took me down that much.
I can imagine how hard it is for the elderly to fight it.
Louis Goodman: What keeps you up at night?
Hitasha Mowry: I think what keeps me up at night, not being able to help my clients that really need the help, especially those with mental health issues. I’m battling a current case where the woman who’s got severe mental health issues and the offers a prison offer.
And I’m trying to convince the DA and the Judge in this case to give her a treatment instead of prison. Those kind of cases keep me up because I know this person needs help. I know there’s a future for this person, but I can’t, I can only do so much. And those ones get to me.
Louis Goodman: Say you and Sean came into some real money, you know, a few billion dollars.
What, if anything, would you do [00:21:00] differently in your life?
Hitasha Mowry: That would be nice. I think I would still work. I know a lot of people would say they would close that shop. Its just be gone. I would still work. I would probably reduce my workload, but I would still work because I need something to fight for.
And I know people need services that I can offer. The one thing I would change is how much we travel and hopefully the pandemic would be gone by then, but it would be travel more, take the kids out more, but definitely still work
Louis Goodman:. Say there were one thing that you could skywrite. That you could put it up so that everybody could see it.
Hitasha Mowry: It would be SPE a huge banner in the sky.
Louis Goodman: What would you like to tell everybody?
Hitasha Mowry: Don’t give up hope. There’s always hope you could’ve had a really bad day. Your son, your family member, your daughter could be in custody for something they didn’t do, but don’t give up hope and don’t give up. Just don’t give up.
Louis Goodman: Hitasha Mowry, Thank you [00:22:00] very much for joining me today on the Lovely Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Hitasha Mowry: Thank you so much for having me Louis.
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 lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts photographs and information. Thanks as always to my guests to share their wisdom and to Joel Katz for Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Hitasha Mowry: I’m losing my train of thought. Do you wanna start over? Hi. Yes, please. Go ahead. I can’t say I’ve been thinking about this question and I really can’t say. [00:23:00]
Dean Shotwell / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript
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.
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 lovethylawyer.com, 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.
Jo-Anna Nieves / Louis Goodman – ACBA Podcast Transcript
[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: In collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association. This is Love Thy Lawyer where we talk with members of the ACBA about their lives and legal careers. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association.
Caitlin: All right, well, welcome everybody to today’s ACBA and the criminal section event. So we’re going to have an interview today with our interviewer Louis Goodman, and then our interviewee today, Jo Anna Nieves. I’d like to thank our sponsor today for this event. So this program is sponsored by Premier Bail Bonds, and they’re helping to make this program and others happen.
So I’ll hand it over to Louis to get us started.
Louis Goodman: Can you give us the sponsors information?
Caitlin: Yeah. Sure. So the sponsor contact information is [00:01:00] Brian Leary. So his number is (408) 482-7822. And you can email him at Ryan that’s [email protected] bail.com
Louis Goodman: My name is Louis Goodman. I’m the host of the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
And we are doing this podcast in conjunction with the Alameda County Bar Association, as part of the ongoing Barristers Club, get to meet the attorneys and judges program today. We’re very happy to have one of our attorneys in Alameda County. She is admitted in both California and Florida.
She started her career in the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. She prosecuted hundreds of misdemeanor and felony offenses. Then she moved into the world of civil litigation. Where she tried cases as a Creditors’ Rights Attorney, more recently, she formed and now [00:02:00] heads her own firm helping clients navigate the difficulties of the criminal justice system.
She passionately and tenaciously fights for fairness, Jo anna Nieves. Welcome.
Jo-Anna Nieves: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Louis Goodman: It really is a privilege to have you. You are certainly, in my view, one of the real up and coming stars of the private practice in Alameda County. Where is your office located right now?
Jo-Anna Nieves: It’s at 160 Franklin Street, Suite 210, which is in Jack London Square right across from where Kincade’s used to be.
So we have a really good view of the Marina.
Louis Goodman: Now, if someone wants to find you online, how would they go about doing that?
Jo-Anna Nieves: You can find us [email protected]
Louis Goodman: And we’ll make sure we get that in the show notes as well. How long have you been practicing?
Jo-Anna Nieves: About a decade? So 2011, June, 2011.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I’m originally [00:03:00] from Miami. I’m from Florida. I grew up there. I did my undergrad there. I went to law school in Florida. And then now I’m a transplant.
Louis Goodman: So where did you go to high school in Miami?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yeah, I went to a school, it’s called School for Advanced Studies. They basically take all the top performers, invite them to a school where you do dual enrollment.
So I did high school in the afternoon, college in the day and graduated with pretty much an Associates Degree by the time I went to college.
Louis Goodman: So you’ve been a top performer for a long time. Competitive. What sort of activities did you enjoy doing in high school?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Wow, I did karate and I played piano.
Louis Goodman: After you graduated from high school, where did you go to college?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Florida state.
Louis Goodman: And where’s that located?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Tallahassee, Florida.
Louis Goodman: What was that experience like for you?
Jo-Anna Nieves: It was one of the best times of my life. It was so good. I went back, I went back again. I did two undergraduate degrees. I did a [00:04:00] dual degree program while I was there, one in Multinational Business and my second degree was in Finance. And then after I graduated, I took a year off and I went back for law school.
Louis Goodman: What sort of activities were you involved in when you were an undergrad?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Oh a lot. I was President of the Multicultural Greek Council. I was Parliamentarian and Social Chair for my sorority.
They knew XY Multicultural Sorority incorporated. I was involved in the Hispanic Student Union. I was working, I worked three jobs at all times. I was constantly doing something. And then I went to class.
Louis Goodman: And you went to class too, somehow that happens. So you graduated and then you took a year off?
What did you do during that year?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I was really young when I graduated, so I got my first degree at 19. I got my second degree at 20. I was just really unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. And I [00:05:00] didn’t know I was going to go to law school. So I worked, I had a job at a bank and I was working there and I had two sorority sisters who were studying for the LSAT.
And I was like, you know what? I’ll just take this with you guys. And I registered the day before the LSAT, I like cracked the book open and it was like, all right, let me see what this test is all about. And then I went and took it and it turned out of the three of us, I was the one who ended up going to law school and becoming a lawyer.
Louis Goodman: So when was the first time that you really started thinking about going to law school or becoming a lawyer?
Jo-Anna Nieves: It was after that, I thought I was going to go to the military.
Louis Goodman: Then you went back to Florida State for law school?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I did I did. And the funny story with that is I actually applied to University of Florida, which at the time was ranked just a little bit higher than Florida State.
And I applied, I tell people I applied just to turn them down because I got accepted what were such fierce price rivals. And I’m a double Nole sells like, yeah, I got into [00:06:00] U F and I said, no.
Louis Goodman: Compare being in law school at Florida State versus being an Undergraduate at Florida State
Jo-Anna Nieves: It became far more regimented.
I needed to read, I needed to study. I needed to retain this information because it was all based on your scores and your passing grades were all based on one exam at the end of the semester. You know, it wasn’t these like midterms, or you write a paper and you get a grade. It was just like, no, retain this knowledge, regurgitate it and pass/fail. It was different.
Louis Goodman: Once you got out of Law School, what was your first legal job?
Jo-Anna Nieves: My first legal job was at the SAC DA’s Office. So my second year of law school, I interviewed via video conference for an internship at the Sacramento County DA’s Office. And then got that as a summer internship. My two, well year at the end of that internship, I was offered a full-time position upon the completion [00:07:00] of law school.
So I went back to Florida, finished my third year.
Louis Goodman: You became focused on the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office from Tallahassee, Florida?
Jo-Anna Nieves: For some reason, they were doing OCI at Florida State and, my intern class. So my LRA class, they were from all over. We had people from Notre Dame, we had somebody from Hofstra.
So it seemed like Sacramento was just actively recruiting out of state for some reason. Interesting. And to me, it seemed like a fun experience. That’s really what got it started. I was like, Oh, somewhere in California, never been, let me go. And then it turned out that this is now my home for about 11 years.
Louis Goodman: After you were in Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, you tried some cases there, I take it.
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yeah. So most of my cases, like my jury trials, I did in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County, Florida. I did. [00:08:00] four jury trials and a bench trial while I was there. And in Sacramento, mostly what I did, I didn’t do any jury trials in SAC that I can recall. They were, I prepped a lot of jury trials and did a number of like 1538.5 and preliminary hearings, and then ran a calendar department or assisted in running a calendar department because of course I was still a newbie.
And then I did a stint in the Consumer Environmental Protection Department, working on a big case at the time.
Louis Goodman: At some point you left the District Attorney’s Office and you went into a Civil Practice. Tell us a little bit about that.
Jo-Anna Nieves: Well, we all got laid off, so yeah, it was huge budget cuts again. That was 2011. So we all know, it was budget cuts for several years. First, they started with admin. Then it became, the legal staff and it was a last in first out type selection. And I was still on the misdemeanor team. We were let go. I moved down to San Diego and honestly just took the first job I could get, which [00:09:00] was in, I had never thought I was going to do a Civil work ever, but that’s the job that I got and I was going to be able to be their trial attorney.
And so I said, Hey, let’s do it. And I did that for about two and a half years.
Louis Goodman: What sort of trials did you do?
Jo-Anna Nieves: So they were all Creditors’ Rights Bench Trials. It kept me fresh and helped me learn really a new area of law. And then I got to a point where I was like, okay, I’ve done all that I can do here.
And this is not where my passion is.
Louis Goodman: So in following your passion, what did you do?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Well, the only way for me to get back into criminal law is to create my own thing. And I was also having a lot of conversations with a family member who has their own medical practice. She’s an OB GYN. And she said, you know, the one thing I regret about opening up my own practice was not doing it three years earlier.
And I knew that the only way that I could be the master of my own domain was to create it. So I left and I [00:10:00] did that.
Louis Goodman: And you came to the Bay Area to do that?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yeah, well, actually shortly before coming to the Bay Area, I was sent to the Bay Area by the firm to run the satellite office. And so then this is just where I ended up laying roots.
And also I met my husband here, so then I decided to stick around.
Louis Goodman: So you decided at some point to open your own firm. Okay. Tell us about the beginnings of that.
Jo-Anna Nieves: You know, at first it was just a thing to one, get me back into criminal law and I thought to myself, look, I’ll just be happy if I’m making the same thing I was making at this civil firm.
And it wasn’t much, you know, I just want to have a salary and see where it goes and kind of treating my business more like a hobby than a business. And then eventually that turned into a systematize plan to grow the business.
Louis Goodman: How did you develop that system [00:11:00] to grow the business?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I wrote it all down.
Wrote everything down. So, in terms of like establishing my pricing on cases, well, what do I do on a case from beginning to end? And like every single step that I take on a case is written down. How much time does it take to do that? So I made a business plan that covers all areas, marketing sales, measuring, you know, how do I measure my success, my metrics and finances and my factory. Like, what am I, where am I, setting up and what kind of staff do I need? What kind of furnishing and supplies do I need? I mean, everything is written down on paper.
Louis Goodman: Did you develop that skill for writing things down as part of growing up in a military family and being very academically oriented?
Jo-Anna Nieves: No, it was definitely, I invested a lot of time in attending various business [00:12:00] conferences and, getting business coaching, talking to people who had grown their business because there was a switch, at one point. It came for me, it was like, okay, I want to grow my business.
Louis Goodman: Is all of your business Criminal Law?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yes.
Louis Goodman: It strikes me that you really give a lot of thought to what you do, how you do it and how you practice law. I’m wondering what you really like about practicing law?
Jo-Anna Nieves: So I think at first, what I really well not, I think it’s changed. Things have changed over the years. At first, I loved being in court.
I mean, it was all about like, okay, if you don’t give me, what do I want, I want to go to trial and I’m going to try this case. You know, that’s just what I was used to doing. And I got like this rush out of it. Now the focus has really been on less about me getting that rush and more about like, what’s the best outcome for the people around me.
And I think in [00:13:00] terms of what I love about practicing law right now is post-conviction. I love anything that has to do with me being able to undo the, essentially the mistakes or the judgements that have been passed on people from their past and help them get benefits for the future.
Louis Goodman: Now, one of the things you do is you give back to the community and since this is an Alameda County Bar Association event, tell us a little bit about your activities with the Alameda County Bar Association
Jo-Anna Nieves: You know, interacting with the Alameda County Bar Association, I think back in 2013, when I first moved up here and then I started thinking about going out on my own because my entire network from, you know, childhood friends to college friends, law school friends, everything was back in Florida.
And I figured the only way that I can get to know people is to join the Bar Association and become involved. So I started with the Barrister Section, just attending the meetings and then becoming an executive committee [00:14:00] member. Becoming the chair and then eventually serving on the Board of Directors for the organization as a whole, I’m still on the Board of Directors now.
And I also participate in some other activities with the Bar Association, like the Judicial Appointments Evaluation Committee and the Past Chair of that committee as well.
Louis Goodman: Do you have some judicial aspirations of your own?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Not at all. I have been asked that over and over again. I like what I do too much, and I have a hard time hiding what’s on my face.
And I think, I don’t think I’ll pass muster when it comes to the judicial temperament.
Louis Goodman: You’ve really taken a real leadership role when it comes to women in law and women in business. I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yeah, absolutely. I think that it’s empowered, for everybody. I really believe knowledge is power and it’s empowering to empower others.
And I think that when I look back to what I had or, or what I didn’t [00:15:00] have access to when I was growing up and it wasn’t that I wasn’t raised in like a low social economic area or household. It was just that my parents were very focused on go to school, do good, go to school, do good. But there wasn’t anything after that high school, there wasn’t anything about like, where should you apply to college?
What do you do? And so now I’m really invested in. You know, I get invited to speak on women in leadership calls. I just did one about two weeks ago. I’ve spoken with the ABA Women in Criminal Justice Task Force saying, I think it’s important to invest in those areas where you could have benefited from if you had the opportunity.
Young person was thinking about law as a career choice, would you recommend it?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I think it depends on what they want to do. I think you really, I personally only believe that being a lawyer is fun if you go to trial [00:16:00] or when you’re litigating and you’re in core and you’ve got these substantive motions and it’s just like something really good to chew on.
I wouldn’t want to be a lawyer if all I was going to do is sit behind a desk and draft contracts, but to each their own.
Louis Goodman: Has practicing law met or different from your expectations about it?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I think I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything, the thing that now that you wished you knew before you started practicing, open your business sooner, it’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Obviously the one that I mentioned in terms of starting a business three years earlier, because I wholeheartedly agree with that. And I would say that it really just comes from a lot of reading that I do. I believe that, well maybe this first part is the advice that has translated to the rest leaders are readers.
So for me, I invest so much [00:17:00] time and energy in reading books about business and reading books about marketing and sales and rainmaking and all of this stuff, because it’s like, I think it’s important to understand it.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the legal systems fair? You won’t get elaborate a little bit?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yeah. Yeah, sure.
No. I think that maybe some things are well-intentioned, but it’s not fair.
Louis Goodman: I’m going to shift gears here a little bit. What’s your family life like and how has practicing law affected that?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Sure. Family life is good. I think that now, because I focused on building the business side of what I’m doing.
It has given me the opportunity to do things that I didn’t, I hadn’t even imagined, the amount of travel that I do and the time that I can take away from work and spend with my family. I just had a baby in the pandemic. And so that’s really been a blessing. And I think my family life in general has been great, and has benefited from me, focusing on taking [00:18:00] my business from the hobby.
Louis Goodman: Well, taking my practice from a hobby to a business, this podcast is presented and supported by the Alameda County Bar Association. ACBA provides a wide range of Certified Continuing Legal Educational Programs, networking opportunities, and social events.
If you’re a member of ACBA. Thank you. If you are not yet a member, we hope you will consider joining this organization. That is by far and in support of practicing attorneys. And now back to our interview.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some real money, say $3 or $4 billion. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Sell my business and I would, I don’t know if I do anything differently except yeah, it wouldn’t be different. It just probably be more like I travel more, probably on a private jet, so I don’t have to worry about [00:19:00] anybody else. And I would buy more property. And right now we have three houses. I would buy more and I plan on buying a house in Cambridge because my daughter’s going to Harvard and I would, yeah, I probably donate more, you know, because I do a lot of charitable contributions and yeah support sponsor more. I think it would just be a more thing. Take the things that I’m doing in and magnify it.
Louis Goodman: If you had a magic wand that we could wave it over the legal system or the world in general, and change one thing with that magic wand, what would that be?
Jo-Anna Nieves: I think it would be people’s hearts because I think a lot can be done with softening of people’s hearts. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a soft person or a pushover. I think I’m a very assertive and aggressive litigator when I need to be. But I also think that there is room for understanding people for who they are. Recognizing that everybody makes mistakes, whether [00:20:00] you’re on a DAS and the DA’s office or PDs office or private practice, whatever it is, everybody’s made mistakes. So just softened hearts.
Louis Goodman: I’d like to open this up to have people who were on the call, ask a question or make a comment. How about Mike Spencer? You’ve been here for awhile. Have anything you would like to ask Jo-anna?
Mike Spencer: I work in Criminal Defense as a Private Investigator. And if it’s a very complicated question who needs to serve time in prison. Right. And you know, if we were talking about a different thing about like whether or not prison should exist and if we should just do away with all of that, that’s it.
I think that’s a different answer. But do I think like long sentences are necessary? No.
Louis Goodman: Lisa Simmons, are you there, Lisa?
Lisa Simmons: Hi, I have two questions for you, Joanna. The first one is what’s the highest degree belt you got in karate? [00:21:00] And I think one is where are you going to be in five years? Where do you see yourself personally and professionally?
Jo-Anna Nieves: Yeah, so I stopped karate when I was in high school and I think I was like a green belt if I remember. And my five years, I definitely see myself expanding in five years. I contemplate, I know I’m going to expand further throughout the State of California. I contemplate whether or not by then I’ll be in Florida as well.
I am barred in Florida. I’ve never actively taking cases there. I just did it for the sake of that’s where I grew up in if ever I needed to go back. So that is something that’s on my radar, but I think expansion. Is the easy answer.
Louis Goodman: Richard Gallardo, you have a question for Joanna
Richard Gallardo: I don’t think we’ve actually met, but I have seen you in court from time to time.
I work with options and Premiere Bail. What do you see with the pandemic and how that affects Alameda County in particular on [00:22:00] the out of custody situation? What are they, what changes do you see down the road and how can add out of custody programs like EMP played part in the future?
Jo-Anna Nieves: You know, I wish that I’ll start with this.
I wish that it was utilized more. I think, for instance, on gun cases, right DA’s Office has always wanted 120 days minimum in custody time, on their gun cases. For what reason? I don’t know why they came to this 120 day number. That’s ridiculous. But I think that, you know, when you think about, Hey, we’re in the middle of a pandemic now is as good a time as any to give somebody electronic home detention or, you know, have them on monitoring.
It should be used more. I do think Alameda is doing a really good job compared to some other counties that I practice in, in terms of the availability of information there newly developed app that they have, you know, the way that they have utilized Blue Jeans to keep cases moving. I think [00:23:00] that the County is doing well, and I hope that that is something that they continue to leverage in the future.
Louis Goodman: Taylor. Yeah. Yeah, I am good.
Taylor Moudy: Good afternoon.
Jo-Anna Nieves: Hi Taylor
Louis Goodman: Hi Taylor.
I’m curious to know, based on what I hear as an experience, extensive experience, on being a business owner, being a sole proprietor, or at least a sole practitioner in building your own law business. And so to even your humanitarian objectives and those sort of qualities to you as a person, what would be a good alternative or not alternative as in the terms of this or that, but in addition to practicing criminal defense, In wanting to achieve the humanitarian objective. What other areas of law would you see a sole practitioner expanding into.
Jo-Anna Nieves: for me, if I was to ever expand into an area and I don’t see myself [00:24:00] doing it, my doing it, but I have definitely contemplated immigration law because I do think that there’s so much crossover with what I do already, the underlying goals of, you know, helping people achieve like a brighter future and, and achieve their goals is something that I’m like really focused on. I mean, every single client I have, I asked them like, what are your goals? Not just with this case, but with the future.
Right? And so I think that that is something that I could accomplish with immigration as well. Joanna.
Louis Goodman: Jo-Anna Nieves. Thank you so much for joining us this afternoon on the podcast for the Alameda County Bar Association in conjunction with Love Thy Lawyer. We are unfortunately out of time, but thank you very much for being here.
It’s really been a fun discussion and thanks to the other individuals who have been on the call. [00:25:00] Thank you.
Jo-Anna Nieves: Thanks for having me.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s edition of Love Thy Lawyer in collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association, please visit the LoveThyLawyer.com website, where you can find links to all of our episodes.
Also, please visit the Alameda County Bar Association website. At acbanet.org, where you can find more information about our support of the legal profession, promoting excellence in the legal profession and facilitating equal access to justice. Special thanks to ACBA staff and members. Caitlin Daylin, Saeed Randall, Hadassah Hayashi, Vincent Tong, and Jason Leong. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
[00:26:00] Jo-Anna Nieves: I started my, my counseling back when I was a bartender.
William Walraven / Louis Goodman
[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.
He is the managing attorney of a criminal defense firm that practices in Oakland and in San Francisco. He has successfully defended clients throughout the Bay Area. He is an active member of numerous professional organizations, including the National College for DUI Defense. The California DUI Lawyers Association, the Asian American Bar Association and the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California.
William Walraven welcome.
William Walraven: Thanks Louis. It’s an honor [00:01:00] to be here.
Louis Goodman: Well, I’m really happy that you’ve agreed to come on the program. So it was a pleasure talking to you whether we’re recording or not. Where is your office right now?
William Walraven: My office is actually in San Francisco. That’s my main office. I also have a satellite office in South San Francisco.
Previously, I maintained an office for several years in downtown Oakland.
Louis Goodman: And you still practice quite a bit in the Oakland and Alameda County Courts. I used to see you there when we can still go to court.
William Walraven: That’s right. Louis. I practice in Alameda County and the Bay Area.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
William Walraven: I’m from San Francisco, born and raised.
Louis Goodman: Did you go to high school there?
William Walraven: I did. I went to Lowell High School. It’s an Academic High School and a Public High School, in San Francisco. And until I went to Law School, I attended public school, my entire life, a really good experience. I was fortunate to be active in numerous [00:02:00] activities and sports, played basketball and met a lot of great people from all different types of backgrounds. One of the things I really enjoyed about going to Lowell was the cross-section of people from all different backgrounds. And that was something that I really hold dear to me in terms of attending a public school.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to college?
William Walraven: So after I graduated Lowell, I actually attended Skyline Junior College for a couple of years after graduating and get into the schools that I was hoping to. And I saw, you know, my good friend’s going to, you know, very prestigious Universities and UCS. And it’s something that I wanted for myself, but just wasn’t ready.
So for two years I attended a Junior College at Skyline. And I actually, I really enjoyed my time there. I was working full time and I just had the mentality that I wanted to graduate and wanted to transfer to a UC. And then that’s what I did. And I ended up transferring.
[00:03:00] Louis Goodman: Let me just stick with Skyline for a minute.
Where exactly is that located?
William Walraven: Skyline is located in San Bruno in San Mateo County, just South of San Francisco.
Louis Goodman: Oh, you say you were working full-time what sort of work were you doing?
William Walraven: You know, I worked at Round Table Pizza. It was close to my house. That was probably the best commute that you could ever have.
I would wake up and five minutes later I’d be at work. And so I worked about 35 to 40 hours. And the reason why I chose Skyline was because, you know, a lot of my friends were attending City College. Some were attending College of San Mateo. And, you know, for me, I didn’t really want to have a continuation of high school, that experience.
I just wanted to focus on my academics and transfer. And that’s the reason why I chose Skyline. So it’s off of highway 35, right. Overlooking the ocean. And it, you know, I really enjoyed my experience there.
Louis Goodman: That experience that you enjoyed, that was
William Walraven: specific going to a [00:04:00] very competitive academic high school at Lowell, and then going to Skyline. It just allowed me to focus on myself and my goals and working towards the future.
Louis Goodman: When you ultimately left Skyline, where did you go to college?
William Walraven: After Skyline, I transferred to UCLA
Louis Goodman: Change from being in the Bay area
William Walraven: . It was I feel like growing up in San Francisco, we have a lot of preconceptions about Southern California and I think to a large extent, I think that that’s true.
However, I really enjoyed my experience at UCLA in Los Angeles. I feel Los Angeles is so big of a place that no matter what kind of background you’re from, or what you’re looking for, you can find it and thrive in Los Angeles.
Louis Goodman: Maybe I’m wrong about this, but my notion is that if someone [00:05:00] grows up in San Francisco and they go to high school in San Francisco and they’re from San Francisco and San Francisco is almost kind of a small town, even most small, even though San Francisco is very much a big city, but the experience of growing up in San Francisco because of the neighborhoods and because of, I don’t know, just the way people relate to each other there, it tends to be like all of the small town experience.
William Walraven: I would agree with that, especially for myself growing up on the West side, you know, in the neighborhoods, hanging out with friends, going to the park, you know, really until I became an adult, I never would have occasion to travel downtown. And so I definitely think growing up on the West Side, in particular West of Twin Peaks, it was almost like living in a suburb within a city.
Louis Goodman: And so then going to Los Angeles, if you say really going to a big city, you’re really exposed to big city things. Right?
William Walraven: UCLA is a fantastic school. I think the draw of [00:06:00] attending that University was very special and it was an adjustment going in there as a transfer student because it was my first experience at college and yet I was already a Junior. And so my peers in my classes had already had two years of forming their experiences. And yet for myself, it was almost like I was a Freshmen and new to the college experience. And because of that, I formed relationships with other transfer students with whom I’m still friends with today.
I studied Psychology. I graduated with a degree in Psychology from UC.
Louis Goodman: Now after you graduated from UCLA, you went to Law School. Where’d you go?
William Walraven: I did. So after graduating from UCLA, I actually started working and I worked as a Paralegal for several years before I attended Law School at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Louis Goodman: When did it become clear to you that you wanted to go to law school that you wanted to [00:07:00] be a lawyer.
William Walraven: I think that point was when I was working as a Paralegal after experiencing litigation, seeing how law firm dynamics work, it was something that I felt that I could take on as an attorney. And so it was probably at that point where I became serious about becoming an attorney.
I worked at a small litigation firm in San Francisco. Our office was originally near the Transamerica Pyramid at 550 Montgomery and then our office relocated to the Ferry Building. So that was kind of a fun experience right after it was renovated too, to be working.
Louis Goodman: When you first told your family that you were interested in going to law school, what was their reaction to that?
William Walraven: They were supportive. My family has always been very supportive of me and furthering my academic and professional career.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that having worked in the legal field [00:08:00] before going to law school was helpful to you in having some focus in law school about what you wanted to do in terms of career or not necessarily even specifically career, but really being focused on law school, doing well in law school, getting through law school?
William Walraven: The experience of working as a paralegal gave me an insight to a particular practice area. And so from that standpoint, I think it was very helpful because it did give me exposure to the law, the practice of law.
And in terms of the actual practice area that was not something that, or with respect to the practice area of the firm that was in Civil Litigation. And I’m not practicing in that area of law right now. I’m doing primarily Criminal Defense and an emphasis on DUI Defense.
Louis Goodman: When you got out of law school, what was your
William Walraven: So I graduated from Golden Gate in 2008. And that obviously was not a [00:09:00] very good time for the economy. And I was very fortunate to be able to go back to the original firm I was working with as a paralegal and to be hired on as an associate attorney. So I was very fortunate to have that opportunity.
At the firm, we primarily did Civil Litigation with an emphasis on Bankruptcy Litigation on the creditor side. So it was a very specialized area of law. I think that it was obviously something that I was very fortunate to have a job, but in terms of my career path, it was not something that I was going to be doing for, it was not something that I would be doing for the balance of my career.
Louis Goodman: At some point you decided you wanted to move into the criminal defense area. What prompted that necessity?
William Walraven: It’s funny. When I think about my transition from Civil Litigation to Criminal Defense, you know, sometimes like you mentioned my experience in practicing [00:10:00] or my experience as a paralegal exposed me to one area of law, but sometimes I think that the experiences, not necessarily being exposed to something that you want to do, but sometimes it’s a process of elimination or deduction. And so for me, I did have experience in law school. I was an intern at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and it really started with covering for other attorneys doing special appearances.
And then from that, I started to, you know, get my own cases and I started building up my practice that way. And I really feel a sense of comradery with the Criminal Defense Bar community. And I think that was also what helped propel me into this area.
Lois Goodman: So how long have you been practicing criminal law?
William Walraven: This will be my sixth year.
Louis Goodman: It seems to me whenever I talk to, when you’re someone who really enjoys being a lawyer, enjoys doing criminal defense enjoys, going to court. Tell me, what you really like about practicing law?
William Walraven: [00:11:00] What I like about practicing law is helping people. I personally have been in situations and have been affected by the law and to be able to stand up and advocate on behalf of someone to be the only thing that’s standing in between a person and incarceration in which could mean losing their job, losing their family is a responsibility that I hold and it’s a responsibility that I carry with me. What I enjoy about practicing law and going to court, when we could go to court, was the people such as yourself when I was first starting out, trying to get the lay of the land. There’s a lot of downtime when people are waiting for their cases to be called, and I would just strike up a conversation.
Finding out, asking questions, maybe asking about the DA, maybe asking about the Judge. And I found that other attorneys, for the most part, obviously, if they have a hearing or a trial, obviously, you know, they need to focus on that. But I found that other Criminal Defense Attorneys are very approachable [00:12:00] and very helpful and friendly.
And that’s something that I, yeah, I’ve always appreciated that as well.
Louis Goodman: In one sense, that’s why I started doing this podcast because I really miss seeing my friends and my colleagues in court. And this was a way to communicate, have some discussion with them. And I’m, you know, I’m always interested in people’s background and their personal biographies. I think that’s part of what we talk about when we see each other in court.
William Walraven: Absolutely. You know, seeing every time I see you in court, out in the hallway, it’s, always something that I look forward to and other Attorneys in Alameda County. Especially, I could probably, you know, list a whole bunch should probably take the rest of your podcast to name everybody.
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend the practicing law as a career choice for a young person coming out of it? Let’s say UCLA?
William Walraven: That’s a great question. I had a friend who’s also an attorney characterize it this [00:13:00] way. The cost of attending law school is very expensive. I think the cost of education in general is very expensive, but the way my friend posed this question was, imagine if you had $300,000 in your pocket, what would you do with it?
Attending law school, becoming an attorney is an investment. I don’t want to dissuade someone from pursuing their career, their dreams, but at the same time, I think it’s important that they have exposure some experience to the law to understand kind of what it is. Sometimes you may not know what you want to do until you go through it.
But in attending Golden Gate, I have seen some of my classmates who have gone into the law and then decided to go into something else, which is perfectly fine, because as long as you’re benefiting from that experience into some other practice area or some other field it’s certainly worthwhile. You know, I just say for anyone thinking about going into law school or become an attorney is just to kind [00:14:00] of know what you’re getting yourself into and don’t go just because you don’t know what else you want to do. That’s probably not the reason for doing it.
Louis Goodman: How has practicing law met or is different from your expectations about it?
William Walraven: It has met my expectations for the most part. One of the challenges of running your own firm is that you’re wearing different hats.
You’re promoting your business. You’re trying to sign clients. There’s also kind of the administrative aspect of it, you know, making sure that nothing falls through the cracks and then there’s the practice of law. And so being a solo it’s always a struggle to figure out how much time you wanted to devote in one particular area.
So that’s a challenge because it’s not just practicing law. If I could just say that all I’m doing is practicing law, I would say it’s great, but I can’t have that singular focus right now.
Louis Goodman: Speaking of that, what about the business of practicing [00:15:00] law? How’s that gone for you? And what’s your thought about the business aspect of it?
Say that when thinking about practicing law as a private attorney, you’re wearing multiple hats. I think some people are good attorneys and good businesspeople. Some people are bad attorneys and good businesspeople. Some people are maybe bad attorneys and bad businesspeople. It’s always a challenge for me personally. I like to incorporate technology to see if I can become more efficient in terms of the practicing to focus more on the practice of law and the business of law.
I think it’s always a challenge because you want to figure out, you know, where can I best allocate my resources? Where are you focusing your attention? And so from that standpoint, it’s something that is ongoing.
Louis Goodman: Tell me about a case that went well for you. When you really feel that you helped a client.
William Walraven: Cases that I think of, you always want to think of the cases where you got not guilty at trial. I had a client that was [00:16:00] fired from her job as a security guard. There was a fight at an Oakland A’s and Giants game. It was on video. It was in the news. But it didn’t tell the whole story. And that was an example of a case that went well, because as we were able to present the full story to the jury, they understood what happened that she was acting in self-defense even though only her response or her defending herself was captured on video.
The initial aggression was not actually shown on video, but we were able to prove that, and that not guilty verdict was kind of an example of a case that went well, but, I also think of the cases that went really well as the cases that I was able to reach a resolution that avoided a more significant penalty.
It could have been a person going to jail. It could have meant that a person would have lost their license if they had been convicted of a particular charge. And so I think more often the cases that really go well are the ones where we’re able to avoid a worse outcome [00:17:00] consequence.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing?
William Walraven: Well, that’s a great question. I think there are so many things I think on a daily basis. We’re always learning and always being presented with a scenario or situation where I feel like if we had known that in advance, we could have avoided or made things easy.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the system is fair?
William Walraven: I think it’s fair when everyone is playing fair. And by that, I mean, we have laws, we have rules, but I have seen some attorneys, take advantage of that. And I think it’s only fair when everyone is playing fair.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that you would want to change about the way the legal system works?
William Walraven: Man, where to start with that. I think that the legal system is unfair in a lot of ways. I think that it’s a war of attrition, the way that [00:18:00] the system or the way the courts kind of grind down defendants in cases. And it’s very difficult for them to stick it out. So it could just be the amount of time that it takes having to show up to court and taking time off, maybe to attend trial and see it through. And so, sorry, I think I forgot your question.
Louis Goodman: We were talking about the fairness of it or anything you wanted to change.
William Walraven: You know, I think right now, especially, there is a call for change in our system. Some of it good and some of it bad. I think the focus and attention on criminal justice, I think is beneficial. And I think that as long as the greater public is aware of what’s going on, I think the better.
Louis Goodman: What about your family life, what things that you do outside of practice of law?
William Walraven: Now that’s tough to. Think about [00:19:00] what I would be doing, but I do enjoy hiking with my wife. We go hiking throughout the Bay Area, Sonoma and Marin, San Mateo County.
Recently I’ve started playing golf, which is a pandemic friendly sport to be playing. I’m still not very good at it, but I enjoy that. So those are some of the things that I like to do.
Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other profession that you think you would enjoy Involving yourself in?
That’s a great question. My career has been exclusively the law. It’s actually, but kind of challenging for me to think of me doing anything else. One of the benefits of running your own firm is that practicing law is a part of maybe a majority, maybe a smaller subset of your practice. And so it’s, I feel like I’m a small business owner in addition to being an attorney.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Generally, I sleep pretty well, but what does keep me up at [00:20:00] night is usually when I’m in trial, or I have a big hearing the next day and just the adrenaline, the energy thinking about what I want to accomplish. You know, that’s something that usually keeps me up.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some so real money, three, $4 billion. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
William Walraven: I would probably start a foundation, donate money, something along those lines
Louis Goodman: . Do you think you’d still practice law?
William Walraven: To be honest, probably not.
Louis Goodman: Gamble with the truth, you know, have you ever had outside of an automobile, near death experience?
When I was young, my family, we would travel up to Calistoga and I have a memory of swimming in the pool. And for whatever reason, I just lost contact with the side and I just remember, kind of just drifting down into the water and my [00:21:00] grandfather dove in and saved me. That’s probably my strongest memory of kind of a near death experience.
Also I have memories of like walking and stepping into an intersection and a family member, like grabbing me and holding me in a car, kind of speeding by. And I think especially the line of work that we do, I definitely know that in one split second, your life can be taken from you or your life can change forever.
And it’s something that I try and remember on a daily basis.
Louis Goodman: Well, William, have you had any mentors in the system, someone who you think has really helped you out?
William Walraven: I have. My first job as a paralegal and also my job as an attorney, I worked for Bill McGrane who ran his own practice and still practices law in San Francisco.
And he certainly was probably one of the major reasons why I did end up becoming an Attorney.
Louis Goodman: What was it [00:22:00] about Mr. McGrane that made you want to be a lawyer?
William Walraven: I went to high school and good friends with the son, Gavin, and Bill’s firm was about to start a very contentious trial and they needed some extra assistance.
And so I kind of came on board right in the middle of trial and it was such an exhilarating experience that I decided to pursue the law.
Louis Goodman: What about in the Alameda County system? Any judges who you’ve admired?
William Walraven: Judge Hing during the time when I was thinking about starting my own firm, I wasn’t sure about what.
I wanted to do Judge Hing, invited me to meet with him and just talk about his own experiences, practicing in Alameda County. And, you know, I really appreciated that someone of his stature would make the time for me to offer me some advice and be very supportive. And it wasn’t something that was singular or different about [00:23:00] me necessarily because he’s done the same thing for many other law students and young attorneys throughout Alameda County.
Louis Goodman: What’s the best piece of advice that you think you’ve gotten from somebody else?
William Walraven: I would say with respect to practicing law, obviously you always want to have and end result. You always want to have a goal. I would also maybe to answer that question, I would say another piece of advice that an attorney gave me was that the courtroom is a great equalizer. I have found as I’ve progressed in my career, that as long as you have your Bar Card and you step into that courtroom or you’re in trial, none of that matters. All that matters is, you know what you put in front of the judge and the jury in the courtroom.
Louis Goodman: Thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
William Walraven: Thanks Louis, it has been an honor to be here.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer.
If you enjoy listening, please share it with a friend and [00:24:00] subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments, send me an email. I promise I’ll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information. Thanks to our guests who share their wisdom and Joel Katz music, Brian Matheson technical support. Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
William Walraven: Sorry, that probably wasn’t a good answer, but we’ll just say this one for the B team B roll. I did, I did read these questions in advance and I did write out some answers, but some of them there, they just, they stopped me just because I feel like I could just like go on and on and on.
And it’s, and it wouldn’t be like, you know, like a podcast friendly answer.
George Wood Deputy DA / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript
George Wood / 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.
He has served as an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney for more than 30 years. He is currently assigned to the Alameda County Narcotics Task Force. In that capacity he works closely with frontline police officers from a variety of agencies. He also has extensive experience prosecuting and managing every type of criminal matter known to the court system. We have litigated numerous matters against each other.
And it is my privilege to know him, George Wood, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
George Wood: Great. Thanks Lou. It’s nice to be here.
Louis Goodman: Tell me about the [00:01:00] assignment that you have right now.
George Wood: Well, you know, I love it actually. So I’m going to have right now, I’m assigned to the Alameda County Narcotics Task Force, as you said, and it is a team of detectives that have been put together by various agencies. Each agency, such as CHP, Oakland Police Department, Alameda PD, Bart, our Probation Department and the Sheriff’s Office, along with several other agencies will assign an officer to the task force for maybe a two-year period. As part of that task force, it’s their job to try and focus on narcotics cases that are higher level in terms of quantity of narcotics being the traffic to and the sophistication of the types of cases.
Louis Goodman: Where’s your office located?
George Wood: Which building? So my actual office that I spend the most time at is at what we call ECHO J. It’s the East County [00:02:00] Hall of Justice or the DA’s Office. They are on Gleason Drive here in Dublin, but the task force itself operates out of a location off of East 12th off of 23rd Avenue in Oakland.
So I do spend time out there as well. I kind of bounce back and forth between the two.
Louis Goodman: Has COVID affected the way that either you work or they work or the way you work,
George Wood: It’s affected the way I work a little bit in the sense that it’s slowed things down inside the courtroom for me.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally from?
I was actually born in Oakland at Peralta Hospital, which my grandfather was the head of actually, and grew up in Orinda.
Louis Goodman: Is that where you went to high school?
George Wood: Yeah. I attended Miramonte High School. As you know, it’s funny because when we first moved, we were on kind of the poorer side of town by over closer to the high school.
And then as we got older, my grandparents had some property [00:03:00] over by the country club. So we built the house over there and moved over there. And that’s where I finished my years in Orinda at.
Louis Goodman: Miramonte?
George Wood: Yes.
Louis Goodman: How was that experience for you?
George Wood: You know, I think it was a really, it was a good experience.
I really felt like we grew up at a good time. I mean, you know, there were various serious things going on actually in those days, part of the reason I think why we were living in Orinda because at least my mom grew up in Oakland and, you know, you had the Vietnam War that was going on and you had a lot of social unrest at the time, but Orinda was a world away from a lot of that.
And I’m sure my parents were definitely afraid that we were going to run off to Haight-Ashbury, which was only really, you know, 40 minutes away from where we were at. But those were, those fears were absolutely groundless. We lived in an area where there was open space. So when we could just, as kids run up into the Hills all day long and come down for lunch and come down for dinner [00:04:00] and then go back up the next day.
So, you know, those were great summers. The schooling in Orinda was very good.
Louis Goodman: After you got out of high school, where’d you go to college?
George Wood: I went to UC Santa Barbara. I thought about going to UC Berkeley, but I probably would have lived at home my first year. You know, part of the whole college experience is getting away from home and kind of trying to dip your toes in the water of establishing your independence and finding out what it’s like to be away from home at all.
So I wanted to go to the UC school and Santa Barbara was far enough away that, you know, if it was a holiday weekend, like Thanksgiving, or something like that, I could actually drive back. And it was not like I was going to be coming home on a nightly basis. And yeah, the studying was wonderful.
You couldn’t ask for more, you have the beach right there and the campus is beautiful. So I spent four years there, but I know a lot of people that were on the five or six year plan because it’s such a nice place.
Louis Goodman: Well, what was your experience like there?
[00:05:00] George Wood: You know it was good. Let’s see. So on the study side, you know, I had done very early on that. I wanted to pursue a career as an attorney. There was no real pre-law major if you will. And so I started off polystyrene maker and I ended up hating it because it just seemed like it was people trying to force their opinions and ideas on other people.
And so I switched to history and I loved history. It was fantastic. You know, not just because I could just go to the beach and read a book on the beach about history and get a decent grade in class. But I just, I just love history, period. It’s a wonderful subject.
There’s so much to learn. And so much to learn from in that area.
Louis Goodman: You said that you knew kind of early on that you wanted to be a lawyer. When did you first start thinking about that?
George Wood: You know, probably when I was like nine years old. And [00:06:00] that sounds kind of funny but let me just comment on that.
I don’t think it sounds funny at all. Cause I’ve talked to a lot of lawyers in the process of doing this podcast and I can tell you that most of them say something along those lines. And so I’m curious as to what your experience was, as far as kind of coming to some understanding that you wanted to be a lawyer at a very early age.
And I put myself in that category as well.
George Wood: Right. Yeah. You know it’s funny. I think I was exposed, I guess, to kind of the high-level executive stuff very early on. Like I said, like my grandfather was, President of Peralta Hospital in Oakland and in fact he traveled the role. He was really a pioneer in hospital administration from him.
I had a lot of exposure to stuff that I otherwise wouldn’t have growing up, especially in the urban area. Its kind of seems like, and I don’t want to stereotype it, but it just seemed like everybody was either going to be a doctor or a lawyer. Law was much better [00:07:00] fit for me than medicine was.
I’ll just put it like that. So I knew early on and you know, it wasn’t because my mom loved pier nation or anything like that. I just knew from an early stage.
Louis Goodman: After you got out of college, did you go to law school directly or did you take some time off?
George Wood: No, I went to law school directly. You know, it’s funny cause having said that, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I was very lackadaisical about actually taking the LSAT and in studying for it. But I went in at the last minute, I purchased one of those study books and thumb through it and ended up doing really well on the LSAT and that plus having a decent grade in my major got me into law school.
Louis Goodman: Where’d you go to law school?
George Wood: I went, well, I started out at Southwestern. Which was in downtown LA. I went directly from college to law school and [00:08:00] it was culture shock. It’s funny. Cause you know, I went from this beautiful campus, right on the beach with, you know all the accessories to this building, this ugly building in downtown LA. And I was, I landed amongst students. It all seemed like it had, I’d watched the movie, the paper chase one too many times ended up transferring. I moved because I was living in Westwood, a family moved down to Newport Beach. And when I went to a Western State College of Law and that’s where I ended up graduating from.
Louis Goodman: What did you think of Western state?
George Wood: Yeah, it was okay. I mean, obviously not a big name at the time. I think it was only California accredited. Although I think since then it’s gotten it’s ABA accreditation and I liked there was a certain amount of informality at the school, which I really liked there.
There were some really good teachers there. There was a person, one of our teachers, I can’t remember, but he had read [00:09:00] a book on remedies and he was excellent. And we had some other good teachers. There are very good contracts teacher and the atmosphere was more congenial and it was through there that I had my first taste of actually being in a courtroom doing an internship with the Orange County DA’s Office.
Louis Goodman: So in preparation for this interview, I looked up Western State College of Law, and I was really very impressed with at least their philosophy of having smaller classes and having some, you know, real professors, student contact and mentorship.
Was that your experience?
George Wood: Yeah, it wasn’t, I mean the instructors were very approachable.
Louis Goodman: What did your friends and family say or think when you told them that you wanted to become a lawyer and you were going to law school.
George Wood: Well, you know, I think they were, well, my parents were really happy because you know, it’s a profession where you have lots of opportunity in that sense.
I think they were overjoyed. [00:10:00]
Louis Goodman: So you mentioned that you had experience at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. What was your first real legal job?
George Wood: So I don’t know if that qualifies.
Louis Goodman: Well, let’s start there. What was that?
George Wood: So what the internship, but we were basically doing a Traffic Trials, you know, I had to know some bits and pieces of Evidence and Procedure. And I was in a courtroom and I was in front of a Judge, you know, and as a student, not having done this before you walk in with not a lot of confidence and try the best you can to accomplish what you’re there to do and just soak up as much as you can around you and that’s what I did.
And I really enjoyed it. It was my first experience with law outside the classroom. And I thought it was fantastic. And that really turned me on to actually wanting to work for a DA’s Office at some point in my career.
Louis Goodman: So what was your first paying legal job?
George Wood: Well my first [00:11:00] paid legal job.
It’s funny cause like I said, so I graduated from Western State and I decided that either I was going to stay down in Southern California and beach bum, or I was going to come back up here and actually get a job. And who knows if I made the right decision or not, but I came back up here. Yeah, graduated from a very small school down there you come up here and you’re competing against people that have gone to Bolt.
They’ve gone to Hastings, you’ve got Ivy league people, Stanford, you know, you name it, Santa Clara, Golden Gate. And, and so, you know, you put your resume out and out of the 300 resumes that you send that you might get three responses. And you know, it’s funny at the time I thought that I would, I wanted to go into tax law. It was interesting to me, still is although, well, I’m glad that my career took a different turn, but so the IRS had some openings in it. It wasn’t in their legal department, but it was in collections. So I became a revenue agent for two years, hoping that at [00:12:00] some point a position in their legal department to open up and I could apply for it.
So that was my first paying job. And so I worked out of the Golden Gate Office in San Francisco and it was an interesting experience. There were, it’s funny cause you had in the government, I mean, I learned a few things about the IRS, but one is that it takes almost a monumental effort to get anything moving at the IRS.
But once it starts moving it’s almost impossible for it to stop, right or wrong. What the original decision was and all decisions were really made back in Washington. I stayed two years. It was a job that didn’t have a lot of discretion. And I felt like I was bumping up against the ceiling of opportunity.
So, and at the right time, my next job came along. Is that what then that was with the Alameda County DA’s Office.
Louis Goodman: So how’d that come about?
George Wood: So it was funny. I had an uncle on my mom’s [00:13:00] side, my uncle Alec, and he ran the concessions out at the element at the horse races. And years earlier, he had contracts with all the County fairs.
And so he, you know, he would work three weeks out of the summer, make a ton of money. And then I think, you know, contributed to judges’ campaigns and things like that. So he got some people at the legal system and I don’t know how I came about, but he became friends with Bud mellowing, who was a DA Deputy District Attorney and our office, fantastic attorney and, and anybody who’s been around.
Some of the older people in our office, you know, you’ll immediately recognize his name. And so my uncle arranged a lunch and it was my uncle, you know, it’s funny. It’s kind of like my uncle is Greek. My mom’s side of the family is Greek. So it was kind of like the Greek Mafia, because you had my uncle who ran the concessions that the horse races, you had guy there from the meatpacking company, you had a guy there from the cement, Tiffany, and then you had Bud Meloling. But he was nice enough to inquire about me and ask me if I was interested in a career with the DA’s Office, to which I nodded my head.
And so eventually I was called in and got interviewed by Chris Carpenter. A few months passed and I hadn’t heard anything. And then just as I was, I had decided to resign from my job with the IRS. So I get a call from Chris saying, would you like to come and be a Deputy DA? So I had my interview with Jack and Tom Orloff and I think Iglehart who were the three.
And that started my career in the DA’s Office.
Louis Goodman: When you started out in the DA’s office, what did you first do there?
George Wood: It’s funny because in those days, you know, you get hired and you’re handed a file and told here, go try this case. So you walk off and do the best you can.
Fortunately, I did. I didn’t go out on my [00:15:00] very first day. I had a few weeks, so I got a chance to watch, you know, some misdemeanor trials that were going on.
Louis Goodman: So in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for more than 30 years now. So obviously there must be something about that you like. So what is it that you really like about being a lawyer? And more specifically, what do you like about being an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney?
George Wood: I love the culture of our office, you know? Right from the beginning you could walk up to anybody. I mean, there’s, you know, there’s essentially no such thing as a stupid question or office and your people are very nonjudgmental.
They are very supportive and they’re always trying to get behind you and essentially make you a better attorney. And I like the idea that we’re kind of part of a team in that sense. I guess it’s a little bit akin to team sports, but you know, like being a Judge, it’s very lonely occupation, you’ve got to kind of keep your distance from the [00:16:00] parties and your back alone in your chambers and this is just the opposite.
There’s a lot of camaraderie here. I sleep well at night. And I really enjoy the work. I enjoy the people that I work with and that working with the people is a big part. I think of the practice of law.
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend law to a young person as a career?
George Wood: Yeah, I think so. The system is changing a little bit. The legislature keeps on, they won’t leave us alone. They keep tweaking the laws. Unfortunately, so, I’m getting up in age, I’m 60 now, so change, it becomes harder and harder, but I think it’s still a good occupation. I think it will always be a good occupation.
Louis Goodman: How has actually practicing met or differed from your expectations about it?
George Wood: It’s funny because it’s not just a legal job that we do. There’s a [00:17:00] lot of handholding and that’s probably the wrong term to use, because it sounds a little bit de minimis, but you know, we deal with a lot of victims, so we have to sit down and we have to talk to them.
We have to educate them about the system. We have to educate them perhaps about their expectations, about what is going to happen.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I think that’s true from the defense side to. You know, where we really spent an awful lot of time being social workers rather than really attorneys and that, and, you know, I found that when I was a prosecutor as well, like you say, you know, dealing with the victims and dealing with the witnesses, it’s a very people-oriented practice and it involves things that, you know, no one ever really talked about in law school.
it’s, you know, the evidence code or
George Wood: You just can’t say no to helping people. That’s the nice thing about working for the DA’s Office is that we’re really there to try and [00:18:00] help the community, not just from a safety standpoint. And this is, I think something that our DA Nancy O’Malley has emphasized.
Louis Goodman: What, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?
George Wood: Oh, that’s a hard question, you know, it’s funny cause there’s so much we do and that’s some of what we do. Is really a roll the dice, you know, trials can be a roll the dice. You never know what’s going to happen once the jury gets picked.
And in that sense, you know, there is a certain amount of skill involved in what we do. I would love to see uniformity in the system and there isn’t, because sometimes the skill of attorney can make a difference. And that’s good for that attorney, but not always good for the client who doesn’t have that attorney representing them.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that the system is fair?
George Wood: Yeah, I do. You know what I mean? Some people might want to draw [00:19:00] the borders of fairness, much narrower and say that the system is not fair, but by and large, my experience is that it’s been very fair. You know it’s fair as long as everybody is responsible about what it is that their job is, you know, and that starts, you know, from the Charging Deputy in the considerations that go into whether or not a case should be charged or whether or not a case shouldn’t be charged to the Pretrial Deputy making an offer.
Louis Goodman: Let’s change gears here just a little bit.
What’s your family life like, and how has practicing law affected that?
George Wood: Yeah, it’s funny. So my wife, Tracy, she was a court reporter and I met her in Fremont. So I guess I have my career as a DA to thank for my family. And then she recently retired. She goes back to work part-time over in San Mateo County.
So we got married in 93. So it’s 27 years ago if I’m counting them correctly, [00:20:00] but we have two children, although I can’t really call them children now because I have a daughter that’s 22 and son that’s 19 going on 20, so they’re not children anymore, but to me, they are always will be. It was a bit difficult from a time perspective.
You know, we were always juggling, trying to pick up the kids, drop them off from daycare and things like that because we were to work or family as so many families are. So that was a bit difficult, although it wasn’t necessarily anything about the law. I think that made that difficult. Although there were, you know, sometimes some long hours that I would put in or I would have to go away.
Louis Goodman: What sort of recreational pursuits do you have?
George Wood: Oh, let’s see. I was involved for a long time, I really liked was into cars for a while. You just wanted it to, at one point in our marriage, early in our marriage, my wife was on me to get something a little bit nicer than the car I was driving.
So that’s why I went on and got a used Aston Martin and well that’s nice. Yeah. So it was funny because it was just when the internet was [00:21:00] started up and we had, I think, taken out a second to do some work on the house. So I was able to smuggle a little bit of that money away. And so I bought an older Aston and got involved with the Aston Martin owner’s club and eventually became its chair for the Western United States for several years, had a really good time with that.
Lots of people, famous race car drivers, such as Stirling Moss, Charles Shelby, and you know, some of the older race car drivers and then just made a ton of friends through that. new peer who was the drummer for Rush, Derek bell who won them all five times, Derek Daly, who was a Grand Prix driver in the seventies and early eighties, you know that there were so many people that I met and that I became friends with. And it was just a, I don’t know, I guess there was just something about car people and that clicked with me. Always had a wonderful time. I’m still involved in it a little bit. I’ve always loved traveling, [00:22:00] internationally especially, I’m not well traveled at all within the U S but outside of them, a fair amount of international traveling.
And I love it.
Louis Goodman: So, and what are you looking forward to that aspect?
You mentioned International travel. Where have you been?
George Wood: I’ve been to Europe a number of times. I love the UK England. I have a really good friend that lives up in York and you know, York is beautiful. It still has the old Roman walls around the outside and a beautiful cathedral called the minister inside.
And it’s got the cobblestone streets and parts of the city and stuff like that. So there’s just something about being in the UK that, I don’t know it just feels very familiar to me. I don’t know if that’s because my dad’s side of the family was from there or what, I’ve been there, Switzerland, I don’t think there’s a speck of litter in the whole country.
It’s everything is just like a postcard there. It’s amazing.
Louis Goodman: If you came into some real money, few billion dollars, is there anything that you would do differently in your life?
George Wood: Oh yeah. I mean, [00:23:00] absolutely. I, without question would try and help more people, maybe both family and friends, but maybe just as a donor to good causes out there.
I mean, you know, it’s funny cause, I had actually at one of my [cars] that I had actually went way up in price and sold it to my friend, Neil. And then it went up to over a million dollars when he had it. And I thought to myself, wow, well, I don’t regret selling it because if, if I still had it, I couldn’t justify having a car worth that much. not being like a gazillionaire. So I always felt like, you know, if I had that was worth that material. I really had a responsibility, not just to myself, but to those around me. And to make sure that I’m using my finances in a way that benefits the most people
Louis Goodman: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about that we haven’t discussed something that you wanted to say?
George Wood: Oh, gosh, no, I hate [00:24:00] open-ended questions. Although I like, I love asking I’ve spent 31 years here as a DA. It’s been, I don’t want to do this as a fun is the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind. It’s been such an enjoyable career. I’ve had a wonderful people that I’ve worked with. Some people who have now left the office, retired.
I’ve just had a really good experience with this as a career. I mean, if I had to do it all over again, I don’t think there’s anything that I do different career choices anyway. It’s really been fantastic.
Louis Goodman: George Wood. Thank you so much for joining me this afternoon on Love Thy Lawyer.
I really enjoyed talking to you.
George Wood: Oh, great. Thanks. It’s been a pleasure.
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 an email. I promise I’ll respond.
Louis Goodman: Take a look at our website at Love Thy Lawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information.
Thanks as always to my guests who share their wisdom and to Joel Katz for music, Brian Madison, for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
George Wood: One of the first questions I would have asked you is why the heck are you interviewing me?
Manjula Martin / Louis Goodman – Podcast Interview
[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: In collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association. This is Love Thy Lawyer where we talk with members of the ACBA about their lives and legal careers. I’m Louis Goodman host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association. Welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
I’m Louis Goodman hosting. She is licensed in both State and Federal Courts. She serves as Vice Chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Alameda County Bar Association. And in that position and through her practice, she helps influence our community’s practice of law. She believes that diversity compassion and empathy are our [00:01:00] greatest assets and strengths.
She clerked for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. She has earned numerous professional awards. And as a member of the National College for DUI Defense, she has worked tirelessly on behalf of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She travels, she spends time with her family and perhaps most impressive to me, she is an avid and accomplished surfer. Manjula Martin, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
Manjula Martin: Thank you Louis. It’s great to be here.
Louis Goodman: Happy to have you. We are certainly enjoy having attorneys on, especially attorneys who are active in the Alameda County Bar Association and contribute so much to the profession and to the community as you do. Where is your office located?
Manjula Martin: Office is located, we actually have 717 Washington, which is right across the street from our stomping grounds of Wiley.
Louis Goodman: What type of practice do you have?
Manjula Martin: Criminal, only criminal.
Louis Goodman: Now I noticed that on our video, it says Lamont Law. And how do have that moniker?
Manjula Martin: She is my boss, right? Yeah. She’s great. She’s awesome. I’m happy and lucky to work with her and for her.
Louis Goodman: How long have you been practicing law?
Manjula Martin: Since 2008. Yeah.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Manjula Martin: Well, that’s kind of a long story.
But I’ll keep it short. I spent most of my young childhood in England, moved to Los Angeles where my mother was originally from honestly, coming from cold rainy England, that was like moving to paradise. I know nobody says that about Los Angeles, but that’s how I felt. And then I moved up to the Pacific Northwest for a little while and then back to Northern California where I went to high school.
Louis Goodman: So how long did [00:03:00] you live in England?
Manjula Martin: Until I was 10.
Louis Goodman: When you came to Los Angeles, did you speak with an English accent?
Manjula Martin: I did. I had a Cockney accent because I lived in the East End. So I don’t know if anyone watches the show, the EastEnders, but I think a lot of people that watch that show have to have the subtitles on because that accent is so strong.
That it’s very difficult to understand when I would come visit my grandmother, she would actually have to ask my older sister what I was saying.
Louis Goodman: So did you have to sort of consciously work to lose that accent?
Manjula Martin: No. I guess accents stick at 14. So I’ve been in this country for four years and by that time, my California accent had firmly stuck.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to high school?
Manjula Martin: I went to High School in Benicia go Panthers.
Louis Goodman: And what was that experience like for you?
Manjula Martin: Oh, it was great. [00:04:00] Benicia High School was great. It’s actually a really good public school system. One of the best in Northern California, I had a very positive experience in high school.
I did some drama. I did some sports. I had a wonderful high school experience.
Louis Goodman: What sort of sports did you involve yourself in, in high school?
Manjula Martin: A little bit of a basketball and I did track. Mostly long distance.
Louis Goodman: Now we’ll get back to this, but I know you’re a surfer. Did you learn to surf when you lived in Los Angeles or did that come later?
Manjula Martin: Yeah, no, that was in LA. So my mother, she was a bit of a Gidget. She surfed in the sixties with my grandfather. So as soon as we moved back to California, she was, she just basically throw us in the water and said, you’re going to be water babies now. And we started body surfing. And then we got boogie boards and then I graduated to the standup hardboard.
Louis Goodman: After you graduated from high school in Benicia, where did you [00:05:00] go to college?
Manjula Martin: Actually went to college, I started out at San Francisco State and I moved over to Cal State Hayward, which is now Cal State of the East Bay because I at the time was competing in TaeKwonDo and my teacher started a program at Cal State Hayward, and I really wanted to be on the team.
So it was very intensive experience. We’d have two practices, one in the morning and one in the evening, and then we’d go around Northern California and compete.
Louis Goodman: Did you enjoy that experience?
Manjula Martin: I did a lot. I enjoyed TaeKwonDo a lot. One of the interesting things about TaeKwonDo is it’s full contact.
So for a lot of women, that’s extremely scary and uncomfortable. So it was kind of good being uncomfortable with that because you know, it helps you become comfortable with things that make you well.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that that’s a skill that you can take into the courtroom? I mean, not the full body contact, but feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Manjula Martin: Yeah I do, because you know, of [00:06:00] course, sometimes it can go along very normally. And then sometimes all of a sudden, there’s this curve ball and you become very uncomfortable very quickly. So do you have to keep your cool head and stay comfortable?
Louis Goodman: What did you take up academically in college?
Manjula Martin: I actually got a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia and I was pursuing a Minor in Art History, but I had been in University long enough and I just wanted to graduate. So I did graduate with that Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia.
Louis Goodman: And you graduated as we call it here in Hayward from Harvard on the Hill.
Manjula Martin: Exactly. Exactly. I love Harvard on the Hill. I loved Hayward State. That’s great.
Louis Goodman: You went to law school.
Manjula Martin: I did.
Louis Goodman: Did you go directly from college to law school or did you take some time off?
Manjula Martin: I took some time off. I decided that there was a lot more out there in the world than what you would see in books. [00:07:00] And so I traveled extensively. I actually worked in the restaurant industry all through undergraduate and I was a bartender.
And so I was able to get funds together and then go on extended trips.
Louis Goodman: Did you do that for several years?
Manjula Martin: Quite a few years.
Louis Goodman: How much time did you take off between college and law school?
Manjula Martin: Five or six years.
Louis Goodman: And during that time you were working as a bartender and saving up some money and then go?
Manjula Martin: Exactly.
I would pick out new destinations and I would, while I was saving money, I would research them. And then I would go on these trips, you know, that were anywhere from six weeks to a couple months. My longest trip was to India for four months.
Louis Goodman: Now you have some Indian blood in your background, is that correct?
Manjula Martin: I do. My father is from India.
Louis Goodman: What did you think of India?
Manjula Martin: Very complex question. There are some amazing, [00:08:00] magical things about it, and there are some really difficult things about it.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I’ve been to India, myself and I agree completely. Okay. So ultimately you ended up going to law school. What made you decide to do that?
Manjula Martin: Well, my mother was very politically active. She was part of the free speech movement. My father, he moved to England when he was 18 and they impressed upon me the value and worth of justice about how you can make a difference. So I knew I wanted to do something where I could give back to the community.
I knew that was very important to me.
Louis Goodman: So did you start thinking about law school after you had graduated from college?
Manjula Martin: No, it was before. I went back and forth a lot about med school and law school. If you go to medical school, you’re in school for a long, long time. And as I said, [00:09:00] there’s a lot of math.
In some ways I had a better support system if I would’ve gone to medical school because I did, I am surrounded by Doctors and Scientists, but I decided the way that I could make change was to go to law school. I decided that was a better path for me.
Louis Goodman: So, what did all these Doctors and Scientists think when you told them you were going to go to law school?
Manjula Martin: They said they were very happy. And they said finally, because they were getting tired of me, bartending and traipsing about the world, looking for waves.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to law school?
Manjula Martin: I went to Golden Gate Public Interest Law School.
Louis Goodman: And how was that experience?
Manjula Martin: Well, I have to be honest, the first year was not very fabulous, but after that, you kind of get the hang of it.
I like the first year of law school to bootcamp for your brain, they kind of strip you down and put you back together again. So the second and third year were fine. Third year, I actually learned how to have fun. So law school was great. I had a great experience. Except the first year, the first year was, was really intense.
Louis Goodman: Well, I [00:10:00] guess they had to beat some of that bartending and travel out of you before they could make you a Lawyer.
Manjula Martin: Yeah, they had to teach me how to adult that first year.
Louis Goodman: When you graduated from Golden Gate, what was your first legal job?
Manjula Martin: My first legal job was actually in a Family Law Attorney Office. And I discovered pretty quickly that Family Law was not for me.
Louis Goodman: When did you start moving towards the criminal practice?
Manjula Martin: Well, I did, I was an intern for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, which was very interesting cause Kamala was there at that time. And it was pretty obvious from interactions with her that let’s just say it’s not a surprise to me that she’s vice-president. I dabbled in some other things like Personal Injury, as I said, the family law and it just, none of that really spoke to me. And so I started coming back to Criminal and eventually Joelle and I actually through restaurant connections met up [00:11:00] and she was generous enough to give me
Louis Goodman: Now you’ve been practicing for a while, what do you really like about practicing law?
Manjula Martin: I like being able to help people make a difference, be part of change instead of talking about it. I’d like, I know this sounds a little strange, I do like the personal interaction of going to court. There’s just never really a dull day. So I would say those things.
Louis Goodman: As part of your practice, you’ve been involved with the Alameda County Bar Association. What sort of things are you doing with the Alameda County Bar Association right now?
Manjula Martin: I’m working on Juvenile Justice Programming. Talking about racial justice or injustice and how that works in terms of the juvenile setting.
They put on a lot of great content or constantly looking for ideas that can help our fellow attorneys learn.
Louis Goodman: If a young person was thinking [00:12:00] about a career choice, and you know, coming out of college, would you recommend that person to go into, or at least give some serious consideration to a law career?
Manjula Martin: I would, if their overriding concern was not money. I think if you want to do good work, then I would definitely say, go ahead and be a lawyer.
But if you’re looking for the money, you’re probably going to have a quality of life that is not so great.
Louis Goodman: What advice would you give to someone who decides, Yeah, I do want to get into law? I want to have a career in law. What advice would you give to that?
Manjula Martin: Find an area in the law that really speaks to you because you are going to be working a lot.
Louis Goodman: When we came on this zoom call, you and I were talking a little bit about the business of practicing law and how in your firm, you have a separation where you do the legal work and your partner [00:13:00] really kind of handles most of the business aspects of it. I’m wondering. What do you think of that? How’s that sort of model is working out for yourself?
It’s great for me because I don’t, that’s one less thing that I have to worry about and I can really focus on what’s happening with the caseload and what’s happening with the cases. So for me, It’s great.
Louis Goodman: When you and your firm get new business, do you do most of the interviewing of clients or does somebody else do that?
I do most of that. I would say, I don’t want to put a number on it, but I have the overwhelming amount of communications with clients comes through me.
Louis Goodman: And that starts right from the beginning.
Manjula Martin: Yes.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now, that you really wished you knew before you started into the endeavor of practicing law?
Learn how to take a big breath. Because as I said, sometimes things happen and you’re literally like what? Okay. [00:14:00] So you just have to take a breath and you know, kind of reset yourself a little bit, but very quickly,
Louis Goodman: This podcast is presented and supported by the Alameda County Bar Association. ACBA provides a wide range of Certified Continuing Legal Educational Programs, networking opportunities, and social events. If you’re a member of ACBA. Thank you. If you are not yet a member, we hope you will consider joining this organization, that is by, for, and in support of practicing attorneys. And now back to our interview, what do you think is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Manjula Martin: Move cases along.
Louis Goodman: What do you mean by that?
Manjula Martin: I worked very briefly for a civil rights firm. They also did a lot of elder abuse, which I did, which was very interesting and quite sad, obviously.
And the lead guy, who was very intelligent, said one of the most [00:15:00] important things that you can do as an attorney is make sure you’re moving your cases along so that people can get on with their lives. You know, for us, it’s our job, but for a lot of people, this is something that is consuming them and they’re scared and they’re stressed out and you want to keep those cases moving along to help people with their peace of mind and with their lives.
Louis Goodman: What aspect of practicing law do you think is your strong suit?
Manjula Martin: I have to say probably the interpersonal skills. Part being able to have a conversation with someone I don’t tend to, I’m not very hotheaded. So I’m content to just kind of let things roll off my back and try to focus on the big picture here, which is helping my clients.
So I think that that’s a skill actually learned in the restaurant industry. Like you can’t get upset every time someone doesn’t get, you know, whatever they want. You just got to kind of let it roll off your back and continue on about your business.
Louis Goodman: Do you [00:16:00] think that some of that bartending experience kind of helps you out in that circumstance?
Manjula Martin: Definitely
Louis Goodman: You do deal with a lot of different personalities at varying points of behavior, perhaps.
Manjula Martin: Yeah. You know, it’s always interesting when I used to have to cut someone off and they’d argue with me and it’s like, you’re arguing with me. So I’m like, that’s not making me not want to cut you off, like either way, I’m going to cut you off.
Like, you know, but you have, obviously you have to do it in a way where you don’t have people losing their minds at the bar. That’s not good for anyone.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that the legal system works? Do you think that it’s a fair system?
Manjula Martin: I don’t think it’s fair. I think that people like OJ that can buy a good defense are always going to do better.
I think there’s a reason why rich people tend to do better in our justice system. I do think that sometimes it works. I went to school in [00:17:00] Thailand. I took a semester during Law School in Thailand, and I did comparative criminal law and we actually had an opportunity to go to the big prison there outside of Bangkok.
And we got to talk to some of the inhabitants there. And a lot of them were there on drug charges because they just have no tolerance for that in Asia, not zero. And they told us about their experience in the criminal system. And basically you got arrested. You didn’t, you weren’t given a translator or you weren’t given a lawyer.
They said, well, you can take the deal that we give you or you can face the death penalty. It’s totally up to you and each and every one of them took the deal they were offered because of course, when they say death penalty for drugs in Asia, they mean death penalty for drugs in Asia. So I think in that way, our system is very favorable.
But I do think that there’s work to be done. A lot of it.
[00:18:00] Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other job or profession that you think would interest you or that you would choose to do?
Manjula Martin: Yeah, I’d probably be a bartender. I enjoy it. I enjoyed it.
Louis Goodman: You think you have some kind of a super power or if you don’t, what kind of superpower would you like to have?
Manjula Martin: I don’t have a super power. I wish I did. If I had a super power, I’d probably want to fly. I think that would be really fun. And then I could surf the sky, drafts at all that maybe should take up hang-gliding.
Well, I dunno, my grandfather used to hang glide and got in a very bad accident.
So I’ll skip the hang-gliding. I’ll stay in the water.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Manjula Martin: I’m trying to do the best for my clients. You know, I really do want the best for them. And so sometimes I’ll wake up at night and I’ll start thinking about cases and this, that, and the other thing.
Louis Goodman: So let’s say you came into some real money, you know, three or $4 billion.
What if anything, would you do differently [00:19:00] in your life?
Manjula Martin: I would probably do a lot more of philanthropy. I would probably start some organizations that were focused on education and racial justice. That’s probably what I do.
Louis Goodman: How has practicing law impacted your personal life or fit into your personal life.
And how has, how have those two things worked with each other?
Manjula Martin: Well, pre COVID there’s pre COVID and during COVID. pre COVID, it was definitely a lot more of a balance of doing physical activities that I like to do. So like surfing, snowboarding, all those things, you know, when I was a bartender, I could go snowboarding like midweek when no one was there.
So it was a little different now during COVID things have changed a little because everything is more remote, but overall, I wouldn’t say it had that much of a personal impact.
Louis Goodman:. So you’ve managed to kind of have a you know, sort of work-life balance.
Manjula Martin: You know, [00:20:00] I find that in the legal world, it ebbs and flows.
Like sometimes you’re just really slammed with time-sensitive things and you don’t really have a lot of work-life balance during those times. And then sometimes there are those moments that you get to kind of like exhale a little bit, and do the things do more of the things that you like to do.
So I would say that’s something of an ebb and flow with the legal world. It really depends on what’s going on in cases.
Louis Goodman: I have one more question and then I would like to see if anybody who is on our zoom call has a question or a comment about anything that we’ve discussed or a question specifically for you or something that they’d like to comment on.
But my final question to you is if you had a magic wand and there was one thing in the world that you could change, legal world or the world in general, what would that one thing [00:21:00] be?
Manjula Martin: I would like to see more, I know this sounds kind of trite, but I would like to see a lot more equality globally. I mean, Louis, you went to India.
I mean, there’s some people that live a certain way and there’s some people that live a different way. I would like to see a closer balance too, less of the one percenters and more of everyone just having what they need and having a good life.
Louis Goodman: Jason, you’ve always come up with a question.
Are you there? Yep. Nope.
Jason: I just tried to unmute myself. Good. Thanks so much for doing this. Mandola pretty short notice to having been in the DA’s office previously and now working in criminal defense. Is there anything in particular that you feel works? The one side’s advantage or another, and I’ll let you elaborate on that.
Manjula Martin: Let me think on that for a second, because yes, I do. I do think that to a certain extent with government [00:22:00] resources, I do think that there’s kind of an advantage to those institutions that have the full weight of government resources behind them.
Louis Goodman: Taylor Moudy, I know that you have a question. I had a question. Yeah.
Non-legal perhaps is that as a previous bartender, what cocktail would best convey the practice of law? Would it be the old fashion or the dark?
Manjula Martin: I would say the Negroni.
Manjula Martin: Yeah.
All right. Well, I don’t want, I’m having to week bitter, but also a little bit sweet. That sounds good
Louis Goodman: . It gives me some ideas for the weekend.
Thank you. Just out of curiosity, I was wondering if you could enlighten me as to what’s in a sweet vermouth.
Manjula Martin: So that’s like the sweetness of when you do good in your law practice gin, which is a floral and can be spicy, which is kind of the excitement we get. And then compari, which can be a little bitter.
We’ve all been a little bitter about some cases at some point. So those three ingredients, and then [00:23:00] you stir them. I like to have them on one of those big fancy tubes. You see? And then you garnish with a little orange peel. Delicious.
Louis Goodman: Well spoken like a true bartender, Renee. Perko do you have a question or a comment for modular?
Renee: I guess my question for you is you have maybe some very difficult situations and how do you help your clients? Do you, do you ever pray for them?
Manjula Martin: Yes. And sometimes out in the water, that’s where I go to kind of like decompress and think about things. And I’ll think about them in the water. And I’ll think about like, you know, whatever universe kind of body is out there.
And, you know, I give them, I send them my thoughts. Yeah.
Louis Goodman: Let me ask you this. Renee, do you pray for your clients? And if so, how’s that gone?
Renee: Well, I’m a city attorney. Know what I’m saying?
Manjula Martin: What I meant by that as well. My client is a city really in the city council. So [00:24:00] I do, I have had what comes to my mind mostly is very difficult opposing counsel sometimes, you know, there’s a lot going on there and yeah, and I certainly pray for our police officers, everybody, our first responders, people to make the right decisions, you know, and yeah.
Pray for myself to make sure I’m doing it. You know, doing a good job for my city. I take it really seriously. So, you know, just like you, it’s a lot of times, you know, a lot of things are on your mind and it’s good to get out. You know, I don’t surf, but I run a lot. So anyways, but I bet it, but I really have enjoyed just listening to, well, the humanity and all of that, that you’ve shared, you know, you haven’t really, you’ve spoken really more about how law has touched you and how you are influencing, you know, our area.
We all have, you know, just not, as officers of the court, but just as people, it’s a good profession for us to help others. So it does take out a lot of that out of us. [00:25:00] So I do think prayer is a way to help, at least me along. Yeah. That’s a long answer.
Louis Goodman: Thanks for that. Yeah. Janice Stillman.
I see that you have a very interesting picture up. I’m wondering if you have a comment or a question?
Janice Stillman: Yeah, that’s a picture of me and my sisters. I haven’t changed it yet. Thank you so much. It’s interesting. I just passed the bar. Congratulations. Congratulations. That’s great. And I’ve been deciding if I want to go.
When I graduated law school, I interned at the Marin Public Defender’s Office and I really like criminal defense too. So this is kind of helpful to make up my decision if that’s where I want to go back or if I wanted to try other areas. So I really liked your answer.
Louis Goodman: Okay, Helen,
I see that you have just signed into the chat with a question.
Helen: I would love to know where your favorite place to surf near in the Bay Area, you know, region?
Manjula Martin: Gosh, that, you know, that’s an interesting question. My [00:26:00] home break is Pacifica, which is down Linda Mar just down South. That was fun. I was actually out this morning. I did semi Dawn patrol. Dawn patrol is where you’re out with at first light.
I didn’t get out at first light. I got out like around 7:30. That’s kind of my local. That’s my home break. I, I love surfing. There are so many magical places to surf in Northern California though. One day I was surfing at Montara, which is even further South. And I saw this big like, look like a boil pop-up and of course I was freaking out like, what is that?
And all of a sudden, this eyeball shows up like, you know, the size of my head and it was a whale. And I was like, okay, wow, that’s really cool. And then another little, you know, shape pops up and it’s her calf. And she was, you know, maybe 20 feet away from me. And she was teaching him how to slap on the water.
Did they do this thing where they slap on the water? And that was really awesome. It in ocean beach, I’ve been there and there’ve been [00:27:00] dolphins surfing in the waves. So I guess my favorite place to surf locally is wherever the surf is best. On that given day,
Louis Goodman: Manjula Martin, Thank you so much for joining us today for the Alameda County Bar Associations podcast in conjunction with the Love Thy Lawyer Podcast.
And I appreciate everyone else who has been on the zoom call as well.
Manjula Martin: Thank you. And goodbye.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s edition of Love Thy Lawyer in collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association. Please visit the Love Thy Lawyer.com website, where you can find links to all of our episodes.
Also, please visit the Alameda County Bar Association [email protected], where you can find more information about our support of the legal [00:28:00] profession, promoting excellence in the legal profession and facilitating equal access to justice. Special. Thanks to ACBA staff and members, thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Manjula Martin: Not off the top of my head. Yeah. I’m sorry. Not off the top of my head, but I think everyone that’s watching has had one of those situations where your mind it’s in your mind, there’s crickets and you have to, you know, kind of, you know, kick the brain into gear again.
[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.
He is a former Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, and although a good friend, he and I battled through a toughly litigated arson case against each other in front of the late honorable Jack Burke.
After leaving the District Attorney’s Office, he developed a thriving, civil practice using his courtroom skills to provide representation to those who have been victimized by negligence. He has litigated every type of personal injury matter, including soft tissue, catastrophic loss, brain injuries, and the loss of [00:01:00] limbs.
He is an aggressive litigator and an outstanding attorney. Kevin Taguchi welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Keven Taguchi: Wow, Louis quite the introduction. I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Louis Goodman: Kevin, thank you. And you know, Kevin, I really have always considered you a good friend and I have considered you a good, tough litigator.
So where is your located right now?
Keven Taguchi: I am located in the heart of Alameda County, which is Hayward, California.
Louis Goodman: And how long have you been in that location?
Keven Taguchi: Whoa since 1992.
Louis Goodman: What sort of practice? Almost what?
Keven Taguchi: Almost 30 years, you know my goodness. Wow. It goes by fast.
Louis Goodman: What sort of practice do you have right now?
Keven Taguchi: I exclusively do personal injury.
Louis Goodman: And at one time you did some criminal defense, is that correct?
Keven Taguchi: I did for a while after I left the District Attorney’s [00:02:00] Office. I played right into criminal defense practice since that’s what I knew.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Keven Taguchi: I grew up in Los Angeles, the Valley to be specific. So the San Bernardino Valley.
Louis Goodman: Where’d you go to high school?
Keven Taguchi: Van Nyes High with the lovely Paula Abdul.
Louis Goodman: Really? Did you know her in high school?
Keven Taguchi: Oh yeah, very well. And junior high.
Louis Goodman: And so what was your experience in high school like?
Keven Taguchi: It was very social.
I got myself involved in sports, student government, I was very active.
Louis Goodman: In high school, what sort of sports did you play?
Keven Taguchi: I got into volleyball and I played tennis, but, and then started playing volleyball and just gravitated to volleyball. Very experienced at it.
Louis Goodman: So it was Paula Abdul there, cheerleading on the side?
Keven Taguchi: We didn’t have cheerleaders for the volleyball, but she was one of the cheerleaders at school.
[00:03:00] Louis Goodman: When he got out of high school. Where did you end up going to college?
Keven Taguchi: I immediately went to UCLA. Which was my first choice and probably my only choice.
Louis Goodman: What was that experience like?
Keven Taguchi: It was great. You know, I used to go there when I was in junior high and high school just to hang out on campus and I ended up playing sports there as well.
So that really was highlight. I lived in the dorms. I also did student government there. It was really fun experience.
Louis Goodman: What sort of sports did you play at UCLA?
Keven Taguchi: I started rowing crew. I was a little bit intimidated by UCLA volleyball since it was the best team in the country. And so when I was a junior I decided to go out. I said, you know, why not? And so I tried out for the team and made it
Louis Goodman: That’s really impressive. I mean, that’s division one school. Isn’t it?
Keven Taguchi: We won the championship two years in a row during that time. Yeah, [00:04:00] the top player in the country, on the team and three, I think three players, teammates, went to play the Olympics and won gold medals in 84.
Louis Goodman: Wow, so what did you take up academically at UCLA?
Keven Taguchi: I started as an economics major and it was okay. It was a bit dry. And then I kind of meandered over to anthropology and really loved anthropology. Social physical and so I started to take a lot of classes and anthropology as well as econ.
Louis Goodman: And ultimately your major was what?
Keven Taguchi: Economics with a minor.
Louis Goodman: And when did you start thinking about becoming a lawyer?
Keven Taguchi: The question Louis. Really not to, I don’t know, I was wanting to be a lawyer. It was more, I wasn’t really ready to go out and see the working world. And I wanted more education. I just didn’t feel like I had enough. And [00:05:00] a lot of my friends, parents were lawyers.
I came from a medical family. So I really didn’t know anything about it except through my friend’s parents. And I decided to go to law school because I thought it was kind of the direction I wanted to head into, but I didn’t really know. And I wasn’t really ready to go out to the working world.
So I decided to go to law school.
Louis Goodman: So you went to law school directly out of UCLA.
Keven Taguchi: I did it with only a two-month break from graduation to the start of law school.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go?
Keven Taguchi: I went to Pepperdine. Pepperdine was a relatively small law school at the time. It’s much, much bigger and much more notoriety.
Louis Goodman: That might be one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States.
Keven Taguchi: I think it is probably one of the most beautiful campuses. A lot of people that I went to school with, chose it for that reason. They liked the pictures [00:06:00] of the cliffs and the Pacific Ocean.
Louis Goodman: Well, what was the experience of going to law school like for you?
Keven Taguchi: Pepperdine was, it was really different. It was really conservative for me. It was very diverse, which I appreciated diverse and people from around the different country, different economic backgrounds, there were some very, very wealthy kids that went to that school as well as,
So it was pretty diverse in that way.
Louis Goodman: But what did your friends and family think about you wanting to become a lawyer?
Keven Taguchi: Like I was a black sheep, you know, my sister was in medical school. Dad was a doctor and my mom was a nurse. My uncle was a doctor. I mean, it was just, everything was medical-related.
So I was the first one in my family to go into law. So they didn’t really, I mean, it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t, there was no fanfare or anything and [00:07:00] just in my family, education was really valued. So it’s kind of like more expected that you would do that compared to, you know, it was just expected that you’d go to higher education.
Louis Goodman: After you got out of law school, what was your first legal job?
Keven Taguchi: I started fortunately enough in the Alameda County’s DA’s Office, which was just an amazing experience and really grateful that I had the opportunity to have that as my first job.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Well, as you know, that was my first job too, and I feel exactly the same way.
I mean, it was a great experience and I’m really grateful for it. What prompted you to go to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office? I mean, how did you get from Pepperdine to Alameda County?
Keven Taguchi: Well, Alameda County, as you’re well aware of the DA’s office, it’s fairly political. And I was, and they also had a hiring program as well.
You had to be a clerk in there in the summer, and I was kind of, I was an outsider. One of my [00:08:00] mentors was very political and was connected to the Democratic Party. And he was able to get my foot in the door and get some interviews and to some of the DA’s Office. And he was really the one that recommended that I start my career as a lawyer.
It was philosophy and which I completely agreed with 100% that it’s really not what law school that you go to that dictates your career, but what your first job is.
Louis Goodman: Interesting. Yeah.
Keven Taguchi: And so as a result, you know, he recommended that as a lawyer, That, how you get things done as a lawyer is, you know, you can negotiate, but if you fail to you can’t reach con you know, reach a resolution.
Things are decided in the courtroom. So you have to be, you have to know what’s going on in the courtroom. You have to be proficient in litigation in order to be an effective lawyer. He said, as a result of going into the DA’s Office, [00:09:00] Get that experience right away. And so that was, that’s the reason why I decided to do that.
Louis Goodman: So what were your initial experiences in the DA’s Office?
Keven Taguchi: You know, being an outsider, you know, was, you know, I was kind of cautious with the people I met, but I quickly gained a lot of friends and they made, as you know, it’s very important to have allies when you practice law. And so I made some really good, really good close friends.
And when you practice in the DA’s Office, it’s like going to war when you’re in a courtroom with your courtroom, lawyer, and the people that you go to battle with. You become really tight with.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Well, we went to battle with each other in court, as I’ve mentioned, and we’ve become pretty good friends.
Keven Taguchi: Yeah. It’s interesting. You know, when it’s like, you know, we were opponents as compared to being on the same side and fighting on the same side and, you know, as an opponent, when you do battle with, [00:10:00] you gain a respect for the, you know, your opponent and you can bond that way as well.
Louis Goodman: You know, I was just thinking about this, Kevin. I was looking at it. I think you said somewhere, maybe it’s on your website that you joined the Alameda County DA’s Office in March of 1987.
Keven Taguchi: That’s correct.
Louis Goodman: And that was just a couple of months after I left the DA’s office. And for some reason I thought we had overlapped in the DA’s Office, but maybe not.
Keven Taguchi: My memory is that you had just recently left and you were practicing criminal defense.
Louis Goodman: When did we first meet? Do you remember that? I mean, do you have some recollection of like, you know?
Keven Taguchi: Yes, I do. I think when I was in Fremont Division and the Fremont Office of the DA is, and I think that’s where we first met.
Louis Goodman: And I came down there as a defense attorney?
Keven Taguchi: Yes.
Louis Goodman: Hmm. Interesting. So you’ve been a lawyer for a while now. [00:11:00] What do you really like about practicing law? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a long time. Obviously. There must be something about it that you find attractive about practicing law?
Keven Taguchi: Louis I love it. It is very, you know, once you understand the tools that you have, and you understand how to use the tools and you can apply it in your own particular creativity.
Louis Goodman: Can you be a little specific about that? Be specific about it.
Keven Taguchi: Like it’s, you know, it’s an art to make and the psycho paint, brush, you know, an artist paintbrush or sculptors knife, you can use it to, you know, create something within certain rules. And so you really have no creativity involved, you know and there is the, the logical aspect of practicing law and there’s also the art of it.
And so it’s the art that really distinguishes between, [00:12:00] you know, The average lawyer and it was a good lawyer.
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend going to law school to someone who was just coming out of college?
Keven Taguchi: I would never dissuade anybody from going into law. I think law can offer somebody, I mean, you don’t necessarily need to be a lawyer to go to law school. There was a lot of other things that you can do with a JD Degree, teach, or you can go into the sales, you know, I mean, it’s business. You can own a business. I mean, there’s a lot of different, very versatile degree to add. And so I would never, never display anybody from going to law school.
If that’s what they have some interest in. Or even like me, you know, really not sure, you know, we’re no where to go. I fell into litigation because I was fortunate enough to have my first trial when I was a second year law student at federal coordinator here in San Francisco. And after that trial experience I had, I got hooked.
Like [00:13:00] I found it, this is what I wanted to do.
Louis Goodman: When you were growing up, were there any kind of shows, legal TV shows that you watched?
Keven Taguchi: Yeah, there was that LA law. That was pretty fun to watch, but you know, that wasn’t really inspiring and I wasn’t really inspired by the TV, shows you to be a lawyer.
It’s really, you know, my friends and all the parents.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now that you really wished you’d known before you started getting into practicing law?
Keven Taguchi: Oh, great question. Really? How to manage the stress. Is being a lawyer is super stressful. I think we really, as a profession, we have a high incidence of alcoholism and drug addiction.
And for me, managing the stress came through exercise, physical fitness. So I was unprepared for, you know, the, the stress involved. [00:14:00] I was getting gray here when I was 26, because of the stress that I was suffering.
Louis Goodman: Well, at least you have some hair.
Keven Taguchi: I hope I did. Okay.
Louis Goodman: Well, you know, since you brought it up, what sort of, you know, physical things, exercise things, recreational things, do you enjoy doing,
Keven Taguchi: You know, I had a serious health crisis, so my choices are a lot more limited, but I found yoga, which is probably for me the best medicine to combat stress. I also have done found velocities and also lift weights. I also try to go on some nice hikes,
Louis Goodman: I only know a little bit about yoga. I don’t personally practice yoga, but I keep hearing from people that it’s a really great thing to be involved in.
Keven Taguchi: It helps you. Really the basic of yoga is connecting your breath to your movement.
It helps [00:15:00] you stay centered and grounded releases a really good release for stress. I got into it because as I mentioned before, I had a very serious health crisis that just about cost me my life. It was a really profound experience. Were literally I had left my body as a result of the trauma. And when I returned to it, you know, my body was completely, I was like almost had to reconnect with it.
And so I was able to, somebody told me about yoga and I started to practice it and it really gave me my body back. And now after practicing it for about seven years, I’m doing things that I’d never even dreamed possible, like be doing at my age. I opened up a yoga studio about four years ago because I was so grateful to yoga.
I wanted to put that energy [00:16:00] back out in the community.
Louis Goodman: Really? Is it still a viable business?
Keven Taguchi: Well through the pandemic we’ve had to close it since the pandemic and we probably are, we’ll have to close the doors because the County just won’t let us open. Probably we’re getting word for at least until springtime.
And we just cannot operate that way. So who knows, you know, we might restart it, you know, and when the pandemic is over, but at the moment, no, there’s no president yoga classes?
Louis Goodman: That’s on my outline that I often ask people is if you ever had a near death experience other than in an automobile.
And you’ve touched on that now, and I’m wondering if you could just tell us a little bit more about that and how that kind of has affected your way of thinking about your life going forward?
Keven Taguchi: Well, it’s even more a way of change of thinking. Louis, had [00:17:00] say change of perspective and it’s a change of an awareness.
Louis Goodman: Well, let’s first of all, what happened if you don’t mind talking about it?
Keven Taguchi: Yeah, It is personal. It is a had what they call an Ascending Aortic Dissection. You know, what is that? I had no idea what it was until after I woke up from surgery from having one. Well, there was a famous actor, John Ritter.
He was on a sit-com called Three’s Company and he died unexpectedly from the same condition and the survival rates for the Dissection that I had is in the single digits. It’s very difficult to survive. It is where your Aorta basically shreds begins to rip apart.
Spontaneously the blood flow just does not get to parts of your body. It’s very lethal. Unfortunately, I was in the right place at the right time and [00:18:00] through circumstances based on divine intervention, how was able to survive.
Louis Goodman: And so how has that affected your thinking going forward in life?
Keven Taguchi: Well, not only, you know, that brought on other complications, you know, after I had my Aorta to shredded it caused all these blood clots. And so after I, you know, it was saved by my surgeon. I had four strokes. Two days later caused by these blood clots. So not only a head injury and in my heart area injury to my brain, I mean, one trauma, enough is enough to completely change your life. And I had to deal with both simultaneously and then a week later because the rip was so bad it went down my leg, cut off the blood flow to my kidney. So then I was dying of kidney failure several days after that. So I had a second surgery after that. So it was kind of one thing [00:19:00] that led to another. And fortunately I was able to survive everything.
Louis Goodman: How long ago was that now?
Keven Taguchi: Seven years ago.
Louis Goodman: And do you consider yourself completely recovered?
Keven Taguchi: It’s you can never recover from something like that. Louis. It’s just, you just don’t, it’s like, as I tell people, it’s like a lightning hitting a tree. You’re the tree is gone, but the roots are still there and then you grow and you just let it grow a different way.
Louis Goodman: Yeah, I mean, I remember when you were going through that and I remember coming down to the hospital and visiting you and, you know, seeing your family there and I mean it, you know, I mean, it was just something that one would do. And you know, I certainly remember that.
Keven Taguchi: Yeah, it was very unexpected, came out of literally nowhere and, you know, I always kept in shape and you [00:20:00] know, my friends and family, it was, you know, the best. Shape the person they knew and to something like this happened to me, that was very, very surprising.
But on the other hand, I think it contributed to my survival.
Louis Goodman: Now you have a couple of children?
Keven Taguchi: Yes. I have two children.
Louis Goodman: And how has practicing law related to you and your relationship with your kids?
Keven Taguchi: Well, because I had my own practice. I’m able to have a lot more flexibility. And so I can spend a lot more time with my kids as they were growing up to be able to go to their school functions and see their sporting events.
And so it’s been very, it’s been great, but I contribute that, you know, the fact that it’s because of my own business, having the flexibility of having my own practice too, the ability to be able to be there for my kids when during significant times in their life.
Louis Goodman: What, if [00:21:00] anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?
Keven Taguchi: I don’t know if, what I have to say can even, you know, could help it. This is really minor things, depending on what’s being done, but nothing really, I don’t really have anything significant to change the overall system. It’s imperfect, but it’s a beautiful system, Louis.
And as we practice law and when we realized the power of the courtroom rest, but the people in the jury, or just ordinary citizens of your community, it’s really, really beautiful, very powerful. And it’s very humbling.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the system is fair? Do you think the legal system is fair?
Keven Taguchi: Well, it’s not perfect.
Like I said, you know, I mean, what is perfect, but it strives to be perfect. It strives to have what I love about our system. It [00:22:00] promotes and strives for that, for that outcome, to be fair.
Louis Goodman: I don’t know, year we’ve been dealing with this COVID thing and that is certainly put a crimp in a lot of our activities.
But before that, what sort of travel experience have you had? Where have you been in the world?
Keven Taguchi: I’ve been all over Europe. I’ve been up there. A lot of Asia, Central America, Australia, and New Zealand. I would consider myself well-traveled. I have yet to go to Africa or South America.
Louis Goodman: Any place in particular that you really enjoyed?
Keven Taguchi: It’s very advanced city. It is very clean. People are very hospitable. People are very honest. The technology there is mind blowing, the food culture. It’s an amazing city.
Louis Goodman: Now you were partially of Japanese descent, [00:23:00] right?
Keven Taguchi: Yes. My father was full Japanese.
Louis Goodman: And do you speak any of the language?
Keven Taguchi: No, he grew up during the war and he felt the need to America.
And he tried to distance himself from the Japanese language and culture to be more, to assimilate more. So he did. So we were not really encouraged to speak Japanese. So, no, as I tell my friends only in a restaurant.
Louis Goodman: if you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other job or profession that you would choose to do?
Keven Taguchi: I never really thought of that. I just, I never really thought of that. I consider myself being able to adapt and do whatever I could want to put my mind to. So, but I’ve never done that yet. And as I’m kind of [00:24:00] concluding my career in law, you know, I’m starting to think about what other alternatives are there.
Maybe some type of private business, but I don’t know, Louis it’s the only thing I know right now.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Keven Taguchi: You mean like what goes through my mind? I don’t know. My sleep is terrible, but I don’t know.
Louis Goodman: Mine too. So that’s why I asked, you know.
Keven Taguchi: I blame that on, what happened to me.
I don’t want to sleep, you know, I just, I want to experience. I know what death is. I want to experience as much as I can before I revisit that. And so going to sleep is, is difficult for me. Since I have it.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some real money. I mean, like a few billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
[00:25:00] Keven Taguchi: Live in a nicer house, in a nicer area.
Louis Goodman: Well, you live in a pretty nice house in a pretty nice area.
Keven Taguchi: I would have to, you know, the, the power of money is, you know, the power to affect other people. And I would hopefully try to spend it in a way that would help other people. Benefit other people, but I can, you know, I do that in my own small way, you know, with my employees and people that I come into contact with on my smaller basis, I would just probably do more of that.
Louis Goodman: Can you be specific about any of that?
Keven Taguchi: Well, if an employee of mine has had some kind of personal issue where they’re struggling or need money, I’ll be there for them. Friends, those types of situations.
Louis Goodman: Let’s see you had a magic wand and there was one thing that you could change in the world and the legal world, or just the world in general.
[00:26:00] What one thing would you like to change?
Keven Taguchi: I would love to change the people’s awareness. That their life in and of itself is the joy.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Well, Kevin, is there anything else that you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed that’s on the list or not on the list or anything else you wanted to bring up?
Keven Taguchi: Since your show is focusing on the practice of law and lawyers in general. And for those listening that are contemplating a life of law, go for it. And obviously if you’re a talented lawyer, the money will be there, but don’t go into it for money, go into it for helping people. The. Philosophy that I’ve been practicing with in my own firm [00:27:00] has always been putting the client needs first, the client’s case first and put any type of personal needs behind that. That’ll the better you take care of your client. You will be taken care of and you have to have state and that do not put your needs first. Then if you do, then that’s where the problems will come in.
Always put the client’s needs first.
Louis Goodman: Kevin Taguchi. Thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer. I really enjoyed talking to you and learning a little bit more about you.
Keven Taguchi: Thank you, Louis. It was really fun as well, and it was really nice catching up with you as well.
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 [00:28:00] look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information. Thanks as always to my guests who share their wisdom and to Joel Katz music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey.
I’m Louis Goodman.
Keven Taguchi: I believe in fairness, you know, I really have a gut reaction to what is fair and it’s just kind of comes naturally to me. And so that’s, you know, it’s an instinct I have and I operate on that instinct of fairness. And when I see something that’s not fair, you know, I love the law because I can correct it.
I can help set it right.
[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.
During law school, she clerked for both the San Diego Superior Court and the Fourth District Court of Appeal. As a San Joaquin County, Deputy District Attorney she prosecuted numerous criminal matters through all stages of litigation, including jury trials. She also has experience in the world of civil litigation. She now manages criminal defense matters in a high volume practice, Ghazal Sharif welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Ghazal Sharif: Thank you very much.
Louis Goodman: Well, [00:01:00] I’m very pleased to have you on. Where’s your office these days and what sort of practice do you have?
Louis Goodman: What drew you to the DUI specifically?
Ghazal Sharif: So when I was a Deputy District Attorney, it was the bulk of the case work. Then I worked for a criminal defense firm before I started my own firm and they did exclusively DUI defense. And so just by the sheer volume and experience, it gradually became my niche.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Ghazal Sharif: I’m from Afghanistan.
Louis Goodman: You were born there? And when did you come to the United States?
Ghazal Sharif: I came with my family in 1990. I was three years old.
Louis Goodman: So do you have any recollection?
Ghazal Sharif: Not very much, but I [00:02:00] would say that my parents largely raised me to be an Afghani woman.
And so in a lot of ways, in most ways, I think that I brought the country or the culture with me.
Louis Goodman: Do you speak the language fluently?
Ghazal Sharif: I speak Farsi.
Louis Goodman: Wow. So did you go to regular elementary public school in the United States?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. My family, we had a sponsor, so we originally moved to North Carolina.
I stayed there for a very short time. And then my father had family in the Bay area. Fremont is considered to be like little Kabul. Yeah. So we came here and I lived in Concord and I went to elementary, middle and high school in Concord. It was. [00:03:00] Interesting. It was like, like I said, I was raised to be a very proper Afghan young girl.
And then when I was in high school, there’s this entire American culture that I had to assimilate into, so it was interesting, but it was good. It was really good.
Louis Goodman: Can you speak of an experience that, let me think about how I want to put this up. Can you think of an experience where your Afghan cultural bringing came up against your experience in high school or the culture of the high school?
Ghazal Sharif: There’s so many that, you know, essentially as soon as I was, and I don’t, I’m not sure if this was a cultural thing, but as soon as I was 14 years old, I started working. So instead of being engaged and work or leisure, or I started working when I was [00:04:00] 14 all the way till the time I was 18.
So I really didn’t have time to do the things that I would think that normal people do. So for example, you know, I didn’t play sports. I didn’t spend the night at my friend’s house. I didn’t go to football games. I just really was expected to be very disciplined in terms of that, in terms of academics and also, you know, just start working and being independent.
My parents, you know knowing that they had a daughter, you know, often the hardships that women had to face and are, you know, in their culture. I think their goal was to make me as strong as they could. And they knew that the way to making that happen was for me to excel in school [00:05:00] and to work and to be independent.
I think that was very different from like my high school counterparts, because I think I would assume that they had more time to enjoy and to develop and to really be teenagers.
I actually worked at the Men’s Warehouse. I worked every weekend and every summer and every holiday. And I’m so thankful I did. Now I can attribute to what I’ve done, just customer service and being good to people and kind to people and following up just all of like the customer care. I learned that between the ages of like 14 to 18, knowing how to speak with people, knowing how to be professional, to not knowing what to expect.
With each client, but knowing that to treat them with respect and dignity and then [00:06:00] also care, compassion and all of that, I directly attribute to what I learned.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Makes sense. So when you graduated from high school, where did you go to college?
Ghazal Sharif: I went to St. Mary’s College in Moraga. When I went to go visit it was heaven on earth. It was calm and it was beautiful. Serene. It was, even though I was raised Muslim with my family, it was a Catholic School and I found a lot of comfort in that they were very liberal.
And again, I think that going to St. Mary’s was one of the best decisions I made.
Louis Goodman: Did you continue working in all your off time through college or did you participate in some other sorts of outside active?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah, my main focus when I was in college, it was to excel [00:07:00] academically. For part of the time I worked for that Catholic Institute Lasallian action. There was one program that I participated in called Jumpstart, where we went to like lower income neighborhoods and Oakland and Richmond and provided supplemental education to like young preschoolers. I did that for some time and I worked, I also worked for a Congressman Garamendi for a very short period of time.
I also worked for the Center of Autism and Related Disorders and provided behavioral therapy to autistic children. So I did those things.
Louis Goodman: When did you start thinking about becoming a lawyer?
Ghazal Sharif: I like my first intern post was during my undergrad was at a hospital and it was like pediatric hospital and it [00:08:00] was my first day.
And I felt very overwhelmed and a bit like in a moment I realized that I personally did not have the capacity to provide the type of healing that the children needed. And I had to very quickly think about if I could not help them in that way, how I would be able to help in another way, and I thought I’m going to be a lawyer.
Louis Goodman: So were you headed in some different vocational direction through college?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah. I really wanted to be a psychologist. I really wanted to be a psychologist, but in that moment I realized that I, again, I personally could not provide the healing that would be needed. And then I had to think very quickly what I could do to help others in terms of a career.
And I just thought. Okay, I’m going to be a lawyer.
Louis Goodman: Did you take some time off then between [00:09:00] the end of college and the time you went to law school?
Ghazal Sharif: I did. It took me a year. Well, I took at least a year for me to prepare for the LSAT and then apply. So there was a window of time where I did that is when I worked for the Center of Autism and Related Disorders.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that having that year of experience working, especially working at a helping profession assisted you in terms of having focused on law?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. It was very motivating because I knew that one, people needed help and two that I needed a higher level of education in order to make that happen. Just having that real life experience just motivated me to focus and to just get to my goal.
Louis Goodman: What did family and friends say when you told them that you wanted to go to law school?
[00:10:00] Ghazal Sharif: Well, my mom said that she knew it all along and I should have listened to her earlier.
She really encouraged me to be able to learn. Wanted me to be a lawyer. I think that she wanted a very strong and powered independent daughter.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to law school?
Ghazal Sharif: I went through California Western School in San Diego.
Louis Goodman: Yeah, I know it. Well I almost went there myself.
Well, how was that?
Ghazal Sharif: I loved it. Good practical lawyers. Like you need a lawyer to solve your problem. And one of the, where to work really hard, then you’ll find, you know, a college California, Western graduated is the one, my experience with my own experience and my classmates, they tend to be hardworking, humble, have [00:11:00] integrity, want to do the right thing.
Louis Goodman: And you think those values were really instilled there at Cal Western?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah. I genuinely do. I, I would hire anyone in my law school class.
Louis Goodman: So what was your first legal job?
Ghazal Sharif: I was a post bar at the San Jouquin District Attorney’s Office, and then I worked there after I passed the bar exam.
And again, that was a very pivotal to my personal life, my professional life and really my legal career.
Louis Goodman: Why tell us a little bit about that?
Ghazal Sharif: I think being a prosecutor is a very honorable job. I think it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility and objectivity and await to make the right decision and to carry out that decision.
And so, and I’m not on a lot of ways. Emotions out of it. So it was really helpful to be trained, to do that.
[00:12:00] Louis Goodman: You left the District Attorney’s Office, uh, in Stockton. And where did you go and what prompted that decision?
Ghazal Sharif: Many different things.
Louis Goodman: So after getting some trial and litigation experience in the District Attorney’s Office, you came and started practicing in Oakland.
Where’d you go and have? How did that?
Ghazal Sharif: I worked at a family law firm and it was a very positive experience in that I worked for like an, essentially an all female firm with female partners and they excelled at what they did and they encouraged me to do what I did, but I soon found out that family law was not for me.
So I left the family law firm and I started working at a personal injury, civil litigation firm. I eventually found out my heart just belonged to [00:13:00] criminal law. So I left the civil practice and I started working for a criminal defense firm. I have never been happier.
Louis Goodman: So you enjoy doing the criminal defense?
Ghazal Sharif: I love it. I love it.
Louis Goodman: The things that I’ve always enjoyed about DUI work is that other than I guess, murder cases really it’s, there’s no other opportunity to have so much experience with forensic evidence and chemical evidence and the experts in the cross-examination of experts with. Have you found that to be true?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. People may believe there’s no open and shut case and every single piece of evidence matters and there’s so much you can do with it.
Louis Goodman: What do you really like about practicing law?
Ghazal Sharif: That I can really help people?
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend law as a career choice for a young person just coming out of college?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. Hands down. I think it’s a career that is [00:14:00] empowering, that offers a lot of latitude in terms of what or how you want to do things. I think that it has infinite earning capacity. I think that there’s a lot of discipline that goes into becoming a lawyer and then practicing as an attorney. When I applied to go to law school, ironically, I didn’t know any lawyers.
I had never even met one in the process. I reached out to a few and many of them were discouraging. I can understand why they were, I don’t think being a lawyer is like seeing the movies like Legally Blonde, but I think it’s an excellent honorable profession. There’s a lot of good that could come from it.
Louis Goodman: How has actually practicing met or different from your expectations about it?
Ghazal Sharif: Well, it’s much more difficult and it requires a lot. Not only does it require like book-smart, but you also have to be really street smart because you deal with real life. [00:15:00] Every time my phone rang, I pick up the phone I am confronted by something new that my client tells me.
It’s nothing that I learned in law school, but it’s like practical, real life problems that they essentially depend on me.
Louis Goodman: Using some of the same skills that you developed when you were working in the men’s clothing industry?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah, or when I was working for like the Center of Autism and Related Disorders , it’s not my favorite part. It sometimes takes the joy of the practice away from practicing law. It’s what I like the least, I really don’t like asking people for money, but those are so in terms of like the business aspect, I don’t like it, but I also know that in order to work for myself and to have a successful practice, it’s what I need to do.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now that you [00:16:00] really wish you had known before you started practicing law or started down the endeavor of the legal path for your career?
Ghazal Sharif: Patience and it’s something I have to relearn all the time. Patience you know patience with the court, the prosecutor, clients, myself, mostly, but patience.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I, I think that is good advice. What’s the best advice you’ve ever had.
Ghazal Sharif: That things never go the way that you expect them to. And I think that makes it easier to deal with. I think there’s so much, especially living through 2020 for everybody, I would assume. Just, it’s never how you plan it to be sometimes for even very simple court appearances.
I have this big isn’t that how wonderful it’s going to be. And I go, and it’s not. And other times I’m cringing because I know that this hearing is not going to go well and it goes [00:17:00] very smoothly. So I think the best piece of advice I’ve received is that things don’t go.
Louis Goodman: Interesting. What, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?
Ghazal Sharif: That there’s more to a person than what’s written in the police report?
Louis Goodman: I’m sorry, go ahead.
Ghazal Sharif: No, that’s it.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Do you think that the system is fair?
Ghazal Sharif: This is a question that I grapple with all the time. I would hope that it’s fair. Most of my experience it’s fair. I don’t know. I’m hopeful. That we are getting there.
I’m hopeful that we’re getting back. That everyday will be better. And that is what motivates me and encourages me to stay in a practice. So I hope it’s there. I’m not sure if it’s there, but I believe that it takes good Prosecutors, even better Defense Attorneys.
Louis Goodman: Let me shift gears here a little bit in terms of work-life balance, what sort of things do [00:18:00] you enjoy doing?
What’s your family life like? How has practicing law affected those things?
Ghazal Sharif: I’m engaged and I’m very close to my parents and those are the people that provide me the much emotional support. That are need to, you know, start at my practice to maintain my practice. And so, you know, again, my, my fiance, my parents are everything.
I find a lot of healing with being in nature. I really loved gardening that brings me, you know, a big sense of peace.
Louis Goodman: What do you like to grow? Flowers, vegetables?
Ghazal Sharif: I love flowers. I love Jasmine. I’m trying to grow fruit, but I have not been very successful so far, but the reason I love it is that you can put so much love and nurture and care and it sometimes gives it back. That brings me a lot of healing, too.
[00:19:00] Louis Goodman: Any other recreational pursuits that you enjoy?
Ghazal Sharif: I love going to the beach and being close to the water.
Louis Goodman: Had any travel experience? I know no one’s traveled pretty much this year, but before that, have you traveled?
Ghazal Sharif: I haven’t traveled abroad in a very long time.
Louis Goodman: Any place in the United States that you’ve enjoyed, particularly.
Ghazal Sharif: I really love Southern California. I think it’s because I love being near the water. I lived in, when I went to law school, I lived in San Diego. Like the sun rises and the sun sets are like heaven on earth. And so I really loved being in San Diego.
I love going to Malibu. I can’t wait until Disneyland opens again so I can go there. So if I, whenever I do travel, it’s done really to Southern California just because the weather is so beautiful.
Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other sort of job or vocation that you think you would enjoy?
Ghazal Sharif: Thinking back, I think the reason why I felt older [00:20:00] than and pursuing my dream at that time to be a psychologist, it’s just probably lack of life experience. So I think if I were not a lawyer, I would love to be a psychologist, but I think that a lot of lawyering requires some of the skillsets that.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night? Do you worry about anything?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah, I think we all think about our clients in the middle, my clients, making sure that I could be the back lawyer for them and doing the best job. Sometimes this job, especially if I, as a full practitioner can be very isolating. There’s my one relate to pat you on the back and tell you that you’re doing the best or that you’re doing the worst. And so oftentimes I have to be really critical to myself about I can give myself feedback because I only really have me to rely on in terms of that. You know, the things that keep me up at night are either my clients or making sure that [00:21:00] I can deliver for them.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some real money, like three or $4 billion fell into your lap.
What, if anything, would you do different in your life?
Ghazal Sharif: I would probably use the money to help other people be comfortable. I would do nothing.
Louis Goodman: I had a magic wand. That was one thing in the world that you could change in the legal world or in the society in general. Anything, what do you think that one thing would be?
If you could wave your magic wand
Ghazal Sharif: Hope to eliminate the ad quality that we see in terms of race, gender, socio economic status.
Louis Goodman: Thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to get to know you a little bit better.
Ghazal Sharif: Very much. Thank you for your time.
It’s the opportunity now, the honor is mine.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. Many thanks to my [00:22:00] guests, contributed their time and wisdom and making this show possible. Thanks as always Joel Katz for music, Brian Mathison and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Ben Zicherman / 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.
He graduated from law school with a great deal of academic success. A cum laude law degree earned him an entry into the world of criminal prosecution, but he quickly moved to the defense side of the courtroom. He has used his outstanding litigation skills to fight for civil rights and the constitutional rights of the criminally accused. He is a passionate and zealous advocate on behalf of his clients. His level of preparation is second to none. Ben Zichererman. Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Ben Zicherman: Thank you so much, Louis. I’m [00:01:00] really looking forward to being here and I do appreciate the intro. You’re making me blush.
Louis Goodman: Where’s your office located right now?
Ben Zicherman: I’m at Third and Broadway. So I’m about three blocks from Jack London Square. Just a cat’s corner from the Buttercup Grill.
It’s a wonder to me, I haven’t gained about 50 pounds being at this location.
Louis Goodman: How long you’ve been there?
Ben Zicherman: Two and a half years.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Ben Zicherman: Berkeley, born and raised.
Louis Goodman: And did you go to high school in Berkeley?
Ben Zicherman: I did. Berkeley High.
Louis Goodman: How was that experience?
Ben Zicherman: You know, it was a very interesting experience.
I didn’t have, of course, anything to compare it to until I got to college and got out into the world. And, you know, I talk about my high school experience, especially things like Ethnic Studies and people from other parts of the country, just kind of looked at me funny, like, what were they teaching you there?
And it was like, you know, it was a very interesting place. It was very diverse, a lot of progressive ideals, you know, I thought it’s the normal.
Louis Goodman: So after you got out of Berkeley High School, where’d you go to college?
Ben Zicherman: In New Orleans
Louis Goodman: Well, that must’ve been a big switch.
[00:02:00] Ben Zicherman: It was, it was a very odd thing for me.
When I started applying to schools, I have three older siblings, all of them went to school in New York or somewhere on the East Coast. And I remember thinking I didn’t want to go that far away from home. I applied to schools up and down the West Coast. I got accepted to a bunch of schools in Los Angeles.
New Orleans was kind of a wild card that my High School advisor suggested I might enjoy. And as it turns out, when I visited all of these schools, that was the one I liked the best. And I still am very, very happy and proud to have gone there.
Louis Goodman: So what was that experience like being in New Orleans?
Ben Zicherman: It was a very interesting experience. You know how they tell us in Law School, look to your left, look to your right, the attrition rates amongst the freshman class. Tulane was insane. We lost fully a third of our class because these are mostly kids who hadn’t gone out and partied at all. And then all of a sudden they’re in the middle of New Orleans.
Most of them couldn’t handle it. And a lot of them just didn’t come back. The [00:03:00] interesting thing about Tulane was that it’s not a school that will ever push.
Louis Goodman: At what point did you start thinking about being a lawyer?
Ben Zicherman: Well, I think that it’s not a question of what point, it was kind of always there. I come from a legal family in the sense that everyone who raised me is involved in the law one way or another. So it was always kind of in the cards for me, but, you know, I wanted to get out there and explore other opportunities and think about it. But at a certain point, you know, I realized I had an experience in New York that maybe kind of focused on where I wanted to go. And law school was that.
Louis Goodman: How long was it between the time you left college and went to law school? Did you take some time off or did you go right there?
Ben Zicherman: I did. So I graduated with two degrees and two minors. I got to New York. It was, that’d be 2001. So we were in the middle of a bit of a recession.
I ended up in Marketing and did not like it at all. I need to go in roads [00:04:00] into my journalistic, uh, purchase, but in college I realized that our marketing and advertising was probably. More likely for me, but against the marketing and advertising world in New York and realized that I just did not enjoy selling people things they did not need the very kind of Hollywood system.
And so I decided to take some time off. And sow my wild oats and I became a bike messenger in New York. So I did that for two and a half years. And that was, if you want to so wild though, that’s about as wild as it gets.
Louis Goodman: Tell us a story from the bike messenger days.
Ben Zicherman: So in terms of being a bike messenger or how I got into it.
So what happened was after I kind of figured out that advertising and marketing wasn’t for me. I had a friend who was a Lead Chef at a particularly successful restaurant in the meat packing district. And it was on a little West 12th Street called Pasties and was wanting to keep McNally’s restaurant.
They hired me to be at the delivery point delivery boys where it’s like [00:05:00] this place was so successful. I got dental for being a delivery. Boy, go figure. Anyway, turns out I really enjoyed riding in traffic. It was fast. It was fun. It was serious, you know, and there were real consequences. And I really, really enjoyed it as I branched out and got to be a more proficient rider.
I started hanging out with people who were moonlighting during delivery. Like I was and started doing actual delivery, which is, you know, kind of a counterculture in New York. I’m not sure if it’s still there. I haven’t been back in a lot of years, but the whole messenger scene was exactly that it was seen.
And so I became part of that. And, you know, it’s a very exciting fringe sort of way to live. It’s kind of bordering on outlaw behavior. It’s always way overly aggressive, but it’s a real community that got shot at red hook one, you know, it’s something that I think everyone should do at least one.
Louis Goodman: How did you decide that you were going to leave the bike messenger business and go to law school?
Ben Zicherman: Well, as I said, I mean, while as much fun as it was, I was a serious [00:06:00] business in the sense that it was very dangerous. And in the space of three months, I saw one friend who was messenger, get very badly hurt. I saw another one get killed. And then I got hit by a cab. I was pretty lucky. I got three pins in my left hand, but it really kind of was time for me to figure out which way to go. And at that point, my other job at the time was I was working at a glass lab in Brooklyn called Urban Glass Blowing and Glass Casting.
And it was question of going to art school or going to law school, having observed the working artists and the kind of margins they worked off of. I knew that that wasn’t for me. And so I started studying for the,
Louis Goodman: Where did you ultimately go to law school? So you decided to stay in New York.
Ben Zicherman: Yeah. And Pace was at that point, it’s still a relatively young program.
I think when I was there, they had only been doing it for about 15 years. What was great is that the class size was tiny. I don’t remember ever having a class with more than 40 people. And that was by far the biggest draw [00:07:00] for me. I got to spend nothing but time with my professors, you know.
And what I learned in law school is that while you do get to learn Contracts, Property, and all that stuff, you’re really learning how to learn. You know, when you step out of law school, you don’t have any particular base of knowledge. It’s actually going to help the practice. But the framework that they teach you is there.
And I always believed it was essential to watch people who had done it better than you, which is, you know, your professors. So I found it to be quite remarkable programs in terms of its closeness and the availability of staff with students.
Louis Goodman: Did you enjoy your experience there?
Ben Zicherman: I really, really did. I had a great time there.
I met a lot of very interesting people. You know, most of them were very driven. It wasn’t an Ivy League School, so these were people who knew that they weren’t just going to get a job based on their degree. You know, they all had plans. They were all motivated and that helped motivate me.
Louis Goodman: When you got out of Pace, what was your first legal job?
Ben Zicherman: After I got done with Pace at that [00:08:00] point, my then girlfriend now wife had gotten a good job offer in LA. So I went to what we decided that was time to relocate in. You know, I had always kind of planned to come back to California. And so I was doing Freelance Jury Consultants and Mock Trials. And I did a Mock Trial for a Beverly Hills Title 7 firm called Catwalk and Silverstein, mostly Employment Law.
After the mock trial, they just asked me, you know, what you are doing, do you want to come work for us? I did. You know, I worked for them for about two years. It was a very good way to learn about civil practice and kind of what the shape of it is and what the flavor of it is. And after I kind of absorbed as much as I could, I decided to go on my own way.
I then got hired by Bruce Margolin to do Criminal Defense. That was my first paying Criminal Defense job. And then after that I started my own firm. Came back to the area. Let me just put this out there, because this is actually a good story from law school. So how I got involved in criminal [00:09:00] law was, as I told you, I was raised in a legal family, but with the exception of my stepmother, who, by the time I met her, she was out of the DA’s Office and was working for Fireman’s Fund, doing insurance defense.
You know, all the exposure I had law was civil law. And so that’s where I invariably I figured I’d end up going. So my second year of law school my Trial Lab Professor was a guy named Joel Seidman. He was a Prosecutor, lifelong prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s Office, true believer.
And I really enjoyed trial. He said, this is the only chance in your life where you’re going to get to try to do a bunch of different things. You may have made up your mind that you think Civil Law is the way to go, but you owe it to yourself to expose yourself to some other things before you put on the golden handcuffs or whatever you think it is, you know, and that actually didn’t seem wrong.
So we helped them get an internship at the Queens District Attorney’s Office, where I stayed for the rest of Law School. It was amazing. I had [00:10:00] an amazing time there. It was regulatory, you know, the pace of it, the kind of the passion of all the players involved, the Judges, the DA, the Defense Bar, and, you know, the velocity was really something that drew me in.
Also one thing I found fascinating, which I’ve seen in every Defense Bar since then is the death. That humor that goes along with this practice. And the first time I ever got to see it, was at the Queens DA’s and it really stuck with me. Right. And so Queens DA’s was great. It changed my whole world around.
I have Joel Seidman to thank for that. But it definitely gave me some funny ideas about what Prosecutors were coming out of the gate.
Louis Goodman: Is that the courthouse in Jamaica?
Ben Zicherman: Yeah. Yeah. It’s over there off ——.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I know it.
Ben Zicherman: They used to send me out to do ———– and they give me body armor do it.
It was pretty exciting sort of things.
Louis Goodman: What do you really like about practicing law?
And when I talk to you, when I see you, you always strike me as someone who just, you know, kind of really relishes being in [00:11:00] court and really doing the work.
Ben Zicherman: And this is something that I was talking about a little bit that I kind of started learning about as the Queen is, you know, I love the pace.
The pace of criminal law is necessarily very quick. So I love that sort of frenetic nature of it. I also love, you know, being on your feet. So much of it is you can put. Must and you should prepare a lot. A lot of it is your presentation while you’re on your feet, knowing your Judges, knowing your DA is if you’re in front of a jury, you know, matching their expectations.
And so I like that kind of on the spot and it’s about it. But also what I really liked is that Criminal Law, to a certain extent, it rewards people who are willing to well, look at things differently. If you can really absorb the case law on a specific issue and try to take it to that next step. You weren’t punished the way you might be in a civil case for overreaching.
You know, the organic growth of jurisprudence is very much so rewarded. And [00:12:00] I really liked that because there’s all these opportunities to be creative and your defense. No, of course you want to bounce that off of other people to make sure you’re not going too far off the goofball land, but at the same time, I think that we all have the ability to push the envelope and that can be rewarded.
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend to a young person as a career choice, who was just coming out of college, Criminal Law or being a Lawyer.
Louis Goodman: Well, let’s start with being a Lawyer and then let’s get down to Criminal Law.
Ben Zicherman: It really depends on kind of what their expectations for their life are. If they’re just in it to make money, then, you know, lawyering is a good avenue for that, but there’s always the question of what’s left.
I had a couple friends who went to the Corporate Law route and ended up at Skadden and Mofo and, you know, spiritually, it’s a very destructive process working at places like that. And at the end of the day, you know, the chase, the top is usually all that remains. And all you can think of is in terms of billables and that’s not great, but you won’t make the money.
If you are willing [00:13:00] to do the work and you are invested in doing something that matters, but also realized you will very rarely be thanked for it. Then I think it’s a good career, but that takes a certain type.
Louis Goodman: How is actually practicing met or different from your expectations?
Ben Zicherman: One thing that’s been really hard for me is running a practice.
The actual practicing I’m quite comfortable with, but running a business is nothing I’ve ever had any training in. It’s nothing that I feel like I’m terribly good at. You know, I’ve got enough to keep the lights on and keep my business moving. But the wearing two hats is something that was very surprising to me and something that I’m not terribly well-suited at, that I’ve done well enough that.
I have my ticket to ride and keep going to court. But the actual business end of it is something that was surprising to me and somewhat alien.
Louis Goodman: A lot of people feel that way. You know, when I came out of the DA’s Office and opened my own practice, I [00:14:00] really found out early on the business aspect of it takes almost as much time as the law aspect of it.
Ben Zicherman: Oh yeah. And you think about it, I mean, we’re trained have these intellectual and analytic abilities within a certain framework, we’re trained to get answers out of people that they don’t want to give. We’re not trained to do spreadsheets. We’re not trained to do marketing.
We’re not trained to do a lot of shameless self-promotion, which is all these things are required to run the business.
Louis Goodman: Tell me about a case that really went well for you, where you think that, you know, came out good?
Ben Zicherman: Oh, there was this great case out of San Francisco that I had where my client was Middle Eastern. He was in his car, minding his own business. A San Francisco cop come up and it’s clearly a racially motivated detention. And they started kind of going back and forth with him and talking to them. And you know, he wasn’t doing anything. He was sitting in a legally parked spot on his phone and his car and they [00:15:00] kind of knocked on the window and gave him the, what are you doing here, boy, is that alcohol we smell? So it turns into a DUI. Basically a string, the Superior Court Case, along until I could get as many people under the DMP to testify as possible. Right. So I got the cops to come in. What he said was nonsense. I get a security guard who saw the whole thing. You know, talk about how he hadn’t been doing anything and that these cops were harassing him for no reason.
And then I got a video to back it up. So I started kind of dumping all that on the DA and they’re hemming and hawing and doing this and doing that. Then I bring a Pitchess Motion. before the Pitchess Motion could be heard, the DA’s agreed to dismiss and give me a Hellmendollar. That one felt real.
Louis Goodman: Yeah.
That is a good result.
Ben Zicherman: That was one of those great cases where it really felt like the right thing happened.
Louis Goodman: What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Ben Zicherman: The best advice I ever received, I believe it was my Property Law Professor who said, “Be very aware of what you don’t know.” And I think that that’s the most [00:16:00] important thing in our practice is that, you know, there’s so much case law you can know the broad strokes of every type of criminal case, but you can’t know, the nitty gritty, the most important thing is knowing what you don’t know. Cause then you can fill in those gaps for that case. If you can’t recognize the areas that don’t have a proper knowledge and then it’s a blind spot, they’ll never pick it up.
So be very cognizant of what you don’t know. I think that that’s very good.
Louis Goodman: What, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?
Ben Zicherman: You know, what I would change is I would change the stakes, and what I mean by that, and this is something, a conversation I often have with clients they’re talking about going to trial, or I’m talking to them about going to trial is that they have to understand that the DA’s have nothing to lose if they take a case to trial and don’t win. But the fact that the exposure and the potential ramifications are so lopsided has always struck me as a tremendous imbalance and something that makes the practice very hard, especially [00:17:00] emotionally for our clients.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the system’s fair?
Ben Zicherman: Boy, how much time you got? Look, I kind of take the Churchill approach to the legal system in America.
It’s the worst system of law, except for all the others. And the bottom line is that, do I think it’s fair? I think it has fair ideals. I think it’s strives to be fair. I think in practice, there are too many factors that come into play in terms of people’s prejudices, in terms of cultural decisions at DA’s office, you know, Judges making decisions that they may not realize are based in something other than the facts for it to truly be fair.
But then the question becomes what’s the alternative. And again, that loops back around to, with the worst system, except for all the others. I think it’s as good as it gets. Could it be better? Sure. But I do think that aspirationally it’s fair in practice on the ground. Not all the time, for sure.
Louis Goodman: How is, you know, mixing your practice of [00:18:00] law and your living with your family personal situation? How’s that been for you?
Ben Zicherman: Well, that’s actually been something that’s been evolving a lot in the last two years prior to them, you know, everything, I was married, my wife, she has her own business. We both just worked and worked and worked sort of what we did. And of course we had time together, but our primary focus was always on our work and that all changed.
Two years ago, we had a baby, I have a two- and three-quarter year-old son. And for the first time there was something that was as important, if not more so than my work. And so. I’m still working on how to juggle my priorities and, you know, it’s forced me to do a number of things, you know, really potentially schedule around weekends, but I’ll not come in because that’s the consistent family time we have, you know, I’ve had to learn to work from home, which is horrible.
I hate working from home, but that’s, you know what you have to do, you know, but I’m still trying to figure out the balance. I mean, with [00:19:00] the world on hold and everyone working from home right now, the silver lining is I haven’t gotten to spend that much time with my boy since he was born. So I wish I had a good answer and I wish I could tell you why I’d mastered the particular aspects of a work life, but I’m still working my way through it.
Louis Goodman: What sort of recreational things do you enjoy doing?
Ben Zicherman: Well? I’ve got two kinds of hobbies. One is a glass blowing, so I built a small glass blowing lab in my house. I make mostly marbles or figures. I love marble the obstacle qualities of them are just somewhat other worldly and you can get lost staring at them if you make the mind.
And so that’s one thing, I think the other thing, and what I really like about glasswork besides the final product, being this kind of very remarkable thing is that it’s singular in the sense that if you’re painting or taking pictures, you can split your attention and you might ruin the piece, but nothing bad’s going to happen to you.
The working temperature of Pyrex pirate glass is 2,400 degrees. You split your attention. You’re going to have [00:20:00] third degree burns before you even feel them. And so I do like in that particular art form that you really have to give it a hundred percent of your focus or it’ll bite you. And it’s a really great opportunity to kind of shut the rest of the world out and just be thinking about one thing, because you know that as practitioners with our own offices, you’re thinking about a thousand things at once. It’s the one time when all that goes quiet by necessity. And I really liked that. The other thing I do is IP tracking, which is, you know, amateur racing and that’s a lot of fun. Likewise, that’s a very kind of thing to where thing it’s you and your car and the track and the person in front of you and the person behind you.
And coincidentally, it’s a really good social distancing sport. So tuning my car and taking it to the track. Another thing I really enjoyed doing.
Louis Goodman: How about any travel experience? You’ve been any place interesting?
Ben Zicherman: Wow. Yeah, I’ve been to, let me see. I’ve been to Indonesia. I’ve been to Japan. I’ve been to Europe.
I think those points are pretty interesting. Now the most interesting way in the last couple of trips you were talking about work-life balance. It took my wife six [00:21:00] years to convince me that I can leave for a week and a half and that my business wouldn’t shut down. So we’ve only really recently started doing kind of traveled and then the baby came, but we’ve been to, we went to London, we went all over Japan.
And interestingly enough, one of my, kind of past times on these trips, I always go to Criminal Court just to see how they do things. And that’s always been fascinating. I had a Judge make fun of me in Tokyo about it.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Ben Zicherman: In the last year or in general?
Louis Goodman: Well, let’s talk about the last year.
Ben Zicherman: Well, let me see. Global pandemic, social implosion, you know, complete degeneration of the social contract and reality political upheaval. You know, those are things that’ll keep you up. But, you know, in general, the things that keep me up is I tend to wake up and start thinking about my cases. And then I start, you know, just sort of, going back and forth.
And that keeps me up. Unfortunately, all you have to think of things that need to be done in the case or new theories on the case. And that makes it very hard for me to sleep beyond all the horrible things that [00:22:00] happened in 2020.
Louis Goodman: If you came into some real money, a few billion dollars, what, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Ben Zicherman: Well, I still think I’d practice, but I wouldn’t be able to take cases where people could, you know, regularly take cases where people can afford it. So you know, have a much smaller case load, but I think I would be screening them with the idea of people who really need help that I could help with, but couldn’t necessarily afford my services. I had also, and this was sort of a bucket list thing, and I think it’s completely unrealistic, but I’d also like to build live steam, locomotive.
I don’t know anything about it. I know basic metalworking. But that’s always something I’ve wanted to do. So if I just had the money, I would have a small caseload and learn how to fabricate.
Louis Goodman: Say you had a magic wand, you could change one thing in the world, the legal system, or just the world in general, anything, what do you think that would be?
Ben Zicherman: I think that if I had my magic wand, that you know, my overall goal would be to kind of [00:23:00] increase the level of empathy that exists in our world.
Louis Goodman: So, Ben, earlier you talked about some of the humor that you began to see when you first started working in the Queens District Attorney’s Office and that same kind of humor going over into the Defense Bar once you got there. Can you talk about that a little?
Ben Zicherman: Well, I think it’s really something that’s very unique to Criminal Defense. A lot of times the subject matter from, you know, the view of a Prosecutor or of a Defense Counsel, sometimes it can be pretty awful stuff. And so I think that that is a safety valve. For all of our sanity, you know, that that’s something that really drew me in, and it’s something that I’ve seen be present in every Defense Bar I’ve ever come into contact with.
And I think that that builds a sense of community, which is something I really like.
Louis Goodman: Ben Zicherman. Thank you very much for talking to me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, I really enjoyed our conversation.
Ben Zicherman: It was a pleasure. Thank you for [00:24:00] having me. And I really enjoyed it as well.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. Many thanks to guests contributed their time and wisdom and making this show possible. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Ben Zicherman: And so I became part of that and, you know, it’s a very exciting fringe sort of way to live. It’s kind of bordering on outlaw behavior. It’s always way overly aggressive.