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Sara Diamond / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript
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 experiences have been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.

Her work as an attorney has focused on estate planning. But she has also had a career as an Academic Sociologist, Investigative Journalist, and Political Author. She has published several books, she is a lifelong practitioner of meditation, a student of several spiritual traditions, and a practicing astrologer Sara Diamond, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. It’s a pleasure to have you. I don’t know you personally but we were introduced by some individuals who heard about each of us from the podcast. I thought that, given your background that you would be very interesting to talk to and that people would be interested in what you do, because it is a little different than just sort of straight lawyering.



Sara Diamond

Well, thank you for inviting me.



Louis Goodman

Where’s your office located?



Sara Diamond

In Richmond.



Louis Goodman

What kind of work do you do these days?



Sara Diamond

Well, I started working as a lawyer, and at the end of 2003, early 2004, when I had just passed the bar exam, and I started my own office, doing Wills and Trusts and that’s what I’ve been doing since 2004.



Louis Goodman

So is your law practice primarily Wills and Trusts?



Sara Diamond

That’s all I do.





Louis Goodman

I see. Where are you from originally?



Sara Diamond

I grew up mostly in Southern California. And then I came to the Bay Area in 1989.





Louis Goodman

I understand that you were from a military family and so you lived a lot of places in your younger years.



Sara Diamond

Right. My father was in the military and he retired when I was nine. Then we moved to Southern California upon his retirement.



Louis Goodman

And you graduated from high school in Southern California.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, I grew up in Southern California from age nine until 18. Then I went to college at UC Irvine. As soon as I got out of there, I moved with my then partner to the Bay Area in 1980.



Louis Goodman

What was your experience at UC Irvine like?



Sara Diamond

Well, it was just going to college, there wasn’t anything that unusual about it. I majored in math, I was going to become an elementary teacher and then that didn’t work out. So after I moved to the Bay Area, I become an activist full time. And that led me to become a Journalist. So in 1983, I started writing various articles for newspapers, because I had a background in Spanish, I was a Central America Activist. And I was aware, be aware of the fact that the Christian right was becoming very heavily involved in Central America. This is during the Reagan years. So I started writing various articles and my journalism career absolutely snowballed around 2004 – 2005. At that point I decided that I wanted to ground my Journalism work in an Academic Social Science. So I applied for UC Berkeley’s Sociology Department. And I had never actually taken a Sociology course. But I was admitted, and I started Graduate School there in 1986. So by then, my Journalism career expanded to include a range of right wing political movements. The Sociology Department at UC Berkeley, which is actually one of the top two in the country, that and Harvard, they were like a really hospitable place for me to be doing my work. So I was both a Journalist getting published in all kinds of places on the radio a lot and also working on my first book, which I did during my first couple years of graduate school. And then my dissertation became my second and major book. So I was in graduate school for seven years. And then I was doing my project on the right wing for 15 years.



Louis Goodman

Well, let’s start with the first book. What was that about?



Sara Diamond

Well, the first book was published in 1989. It’s called Spiritual Warfare, The Politics Of The Christian Right. It’s very dated now. It’s over 30 years ago, but it was one of the very first books if you know, one of the very first full-scale treatments of what was going on with the Christian right in the 1980s, building a mass movement, and they were becoming the dominant faction in the Republican Party.



Louis Goodman

What was the second book?



Sara Diamond

Well, the second book was my dissertation. And so once I had published the first book, I was already working on a dissertation. And what I did is I went back and I studied a range of right wing movements from 1945 to the 90s, at that point was 1992 when my dissertation was finished 1993 so I went back and I read all of the literature that had been produced by five different right wing movements. So as soon as I finished Graduate School in 1993, I then turned that into Book Two. I read, you know, I edited into Book Two and that is called Roads To Dominion Right Wing Movements In The United States. I donated all of my archives to UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which created the Sara Diamond Collection on the US Right Wing. And that is one of the largest collections of primary source material on right wing movement.



Louis Goodman

Well, the study of right wing movements is pretty popular these days, too, isn’t it?



Sara Diamond

I wrote my second book by way of an explanation of what happened to the United States from the 19, mid 1940s forward so that when people would later, I predicted later, would be interested in the right wing, they would have all this source material to look through.



Louis Goodman

So in your view, what did happen to the United States in the post war period?



Sara Diamond

Well, gradually, the Christian Right in particular, that’s my main specialty developed itself from having really just been a subculture for many decades, or, you know, pretty much the whole history, the United States into becoming the most potent political movement on the scene. And that was already happening in the 70s and 80s.



Louis Goodman

How long went by between the time you went to college and the time you went to law school?



Sara Diamond

Oh, a long time, because, you know, I mean, I got out of undergrad in 1979. And I started law school in the year 2000. So 20 years. Yeah, probably 20 years.



Louis Goodman

And when did you first start thinking about going to law school?



Sara Diamond

When I was broke, and when my job at Cal State, Hayward was clearly not going to turn into a full time tenure track academic position. I had made the decision when I got out of grad school not to do a nationwide job search because I wanted to stay in the Bay Area because I was in a relationship. And what was happening is a lot of faculty around here doing this thing where they were teaching at two or three different community colleges and their lives were completely uncertain and tenuous, and they had no benefits and all that. And I really didn’t think that I could keep doing that for 20 or 30 years. So at that point, I decided, well, what I could do is I could go, I could take the savings I’ve got and go to law school. And within about a few weeks of law school, I realized that the job I was probably going to get was going to be self employment. I’m, you know, I’m somebody who’s like, my politics don’t fit with like Corporate America. So by year two of law school, I picked up this book, which I actually still have, it was called How To Start And Build A Law Practice, by Foonberg. I read this book over and over cover the cover. And I knew that I needed to have a job that was going to be like, consistent with Buddhist ethical practices. So as I sat through all those classes in law school, I kept saying, Okay, well, how am I going to, I don’t litigate, I’m not going to do anything that involves conflict, what can I do? And so by, I think about year three of law school, I realized, well, I can just study estate planning, and then I can just go do that. And while I was waiting to get my bar exam results that fall, I started studying how to do wills and trusts, so that as soon as I got my bar exam results that I passed, I was ready to start my own office, because I was 45 years old when I got out of law school.



Louis Goodman

So where did you go to law school?



Sara Diamond

I went to what I now call the Kamala Harris Law School, which is UC Hastings, San Francisco.



Louis Goodman

And how did you like Hastings?



Sara Diamond

I hated every day that I have been in an academic environment with like real intellectuals and academics for seven years. So I was pretty spoiled from having been at UC Berkeley, Sociology Department for seven years. So I was not from a, you know, construct of like sitting in classes with 100 people memorizing what somebody said, from the front of the room. So I took all of the Bar Exam subjects, and I got a bunch of books on how to prepare for the bar exam. And so I was preparing for the bar exam throughout law school.



Louis Goodman

That’s a very smart thing to do.







Sara Diamond

Yeah. I mean, I certainly studied, I mean, after law school got out, I spent, you know, 10 hours a day for during that summer, but I was already pretty prepped. So it’s not like, I wasn’t like going to law school in order to like, find myself or something like that.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that having had all that academic experience and the work experience and the book writing experience helped you focus on law school and getting through law school?



Sara Diamond

Oh, absolutely. Because, you know, I mean, when I went to law school, I mean, there were lots of different people there. There were only a few people who were not in their 20s. Almost ass of the people were like 20 to 23 starting off, and many of them were there only because their parents wanted them to be or because they couldn’t think of anything else to do with themselves after college. And so I had a very clear idea, which is that I’m going to make a living. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to work in any of these law firms, then I turned to the phonebook for how I’m going to start my own office, or what I’m going to do. So as soon as I got my bar exam results, I sent an email. I made up a list of 100 people I knew in the East Bay. And I announced that I had passed the bar exam. And I was going to start my own office where they like to work on wills and trusts with and I started getting clients. And I rent a little closet sized space in somebody’s office. And you know, I had my own law office by February of 2004. So yes, I had a very clear point. You know why I was doing this, this is a job. I’m creating a job for myself in order to put food on the table. And so I don’t really care how boring this stuff is. I just do it.



Louis Goodman

Have you ever met Jason Berg?



Sara Diamond

I have. He’s really one of my heroes. I think he’s, I just think he’s brilliant. I think he really understands a lot about running a law practice.



Lous Goodman

I’m just impressed that you bring him up.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, well, the book was really helpful, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to work in a job. I already had the Moonbird book, I’d kind of knew I was not going to work in a law firm. I knew that the only way for me to survive was going to be creating my own job. So that’s what I did. And it’s been very successful.



Louis Goodman

So would you recommend to a young person thinking about a career going into law school, going into law?



Sara Diamond

Well, you said, it’s been very successful for you. And you know, it was successful for me, as somebody in my middle age years creating my own job, I don’t think that a 25 year old coming out of law school was going to be able to start their own law firm and be able to take on clients. I would tell anybody in their 20s, to take a major that’s really, really broad, that you can have many possibilities with, because most people these days have more than one career in life. And you don’t want to get boxed into something, you want to have, you know, if you want to major in History, or English, or something that you’re really, really interested in, because you’re probably going to need some other training after that. And your whatever you think, at 21, or 22, that you’re going to do for a living is probably not what you’re going to do your whole life. So you want to create some, like broad possibilities for yourself.



Louis Goodman

How has actually practicing met are different from your expectations about it?



Sara Diamond

It’s the same. I didn’t have any other real expectations other than I would, you know, work and make money. You know, that’s what I do. I mean, I do wills and trusts. I’ve done the same thing for all these years. I try to keep it as low stress as I can. I try to be really good about, I never take on anything that involves litigation or conflict between parties. Or if somebody doesn’t like a bunch of their relatives, I generally don’t take them and I just plug away at it. And then it leaves me the headspace and the energy for all the other things I do. So I need a job that, you know, doesn’t like totally burn me out.



Louis Goodman

Right. I want to get into the other things you do in just a minute. But before we get there, what about the business of practicing law? You know, I mean, it seems to me that you really have a really clear and good focus on the business aspect of this and have for quite some time.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, well, you know, I’m fairly entrepreneurial. And like I said, this is not rocket science, believe me, okay. I mean, I read the Berg book, I took all the courses that were offered with continuing education as a bar. Every single one of them, it took several years to get through all those. And I read all the books I put on estate planning, and I went to all the brown bag lunches that were offered by the Bar Association. You know, I did all that continuing education very early on. And I knew a lot of people in the Bay Area already. And I’m a grown up. So I step by step, I’d say within the first couple of years, I was you know, is making a profit, I don’t need to be rich. I’ve never aspired to be like financially wealthy, I aspire to my idea of being well off. As I go into a grocery store, I eat only really healthy foods. I go into my natural grocery store, and I buy whatever I need a lot. And I don’t have to think about not being able to afford it. That is my standard. So then since I’m now able to do that, and I have for many years, I consider that successful.



Louis Goodman

Now, in addition to practicing law, you have several other interests that you’ve referred to, and I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that?





Sara Diamond

Well, as you said in the introduction, I’m a lifelong meditator. I started meditation practice at age 14 and the hand I have been and there was a period during when I was an activist and writing my books where I didn’t meditate but I have been a consistently meditating since the early 1990s. And I have been very fervent student in a number of spiritual traditions. Since my teens.. So that’s my main, my main life focus really is on spiritual study and practice. And one of the reasons why I keep my job as stress free as possible is that I want to have the mental and mental bandwidth and energy to be able to focus there. So what I always really wanted to be was a writer and teacher. And I got to be both of those. And I’m now working my way back to being a writer and teacher eventually, again, and you know, when I can retire from my job eventually. So I’ve always been interested in Astrology, which is kind of, you know, grounded in my spiritual studies of various sorts. But about seven years ago, I signed up for my first, very first Astrology class, which is now very doable with everything on the internet. And within a few months, I realized, Oh, I want to actually practice Astrology. So I have since 2015 been pursuing various certifications. I’m in year three, starting year three next week, have a very intense four year certification program for professional astrologers. And once I finish that, I’ll be taking a number of certification tests with some of the leading organizations of astrologers. So weekends, for example, I pretty much devote myself to my astrology practice, I write a twice monthly essay for the new moon and the full moon, about astrology that goes on an online journal. And I’m also part of a group of people think it’s all women at this point who study other other esoteric subjects together. So you know, I work full time work about 45 to 50 hours a week at my job as a lawyer. And then I spend most of the rest of my time working on my other studies. So I’m a lifetime student, this gives me a way of having creativity, having intellectual experiences being around other intellectual people, you know, it checks a number of boxes. For me, the astrology does, because it’s academic, it’s really rigorous. It’s really challenging. And it’s also really creative. And so it fulfills, you know, a lot of different needs I have.



Louis Goodman

Do you practice astrology in the sense that you have clients who you do astrology for?



Sara Diamond

Yes, I do readings. And so I’m getting myself out there. It’s just slow. And then the job enables me to be able to afford all that. So yes, I do. I do natal chart readings, transit readings, all that kind of stuff.



Louis Goodman

What other recreational pursuits beyond the astrology and the meditation. I mean, are there any other things that you enjoy doing?



Sara Diamond

Yeah, I have a full scale, a big vegetable garden. So I’ve done that since high school. I grew up living where I live. I grow tomatoes like crazy. I grow squash, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach. Sometimes I do carrots and beets. But I mostly stick to what works in my backyard. And I cook a lot. And I knit every day and I hang out with various friends. And I also walk an hour a day, and I have two dogs that absorb a huge amount of my time. They’re not with me right now because they would be barking. So I’m sitting in my office where they’re not allowed to come in. So yeah, so I have rescue dogs. I have, you know, a very active home and do a lot of walking and exercise.



Louis Goodman

What sort of things keep you up at night?



Sara Diamond

I don’t stay up at night. I go to bed very early and I sleep very soundly.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that’s in part due to the meditation and the spiritual practice?



Sara Diamond

Well, yeah, of course. It’s also due to taking effect of magnesium at night during a big mug of Kim loyalty. I believe that I’m like, extremely health oriented. So like I don’t I do a thing called intermittent fasting where I only eat between eight and two. So at night I just drink this big mug of cannon loyalty. And I take my supplements, including magnesium, which is fantastic for sleeping. So I’m not up at night, I’m up at four, four or five in the morning.



Louis Goodman

That’s just when you get up out of bed.



Sara Diamond

That’s when I get up.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came into some real money, like $3 or $4 billion. What if anything would you do differently in your personal life?



Sara Diamond

Well, if I got to even like $2 million, I would pay off my mortgage. I would close my law office and I would spend my time doing what I want to do and I will also go back to being an activist and a writer. We take billion when take billions.



Louis Goodman

It sort of seems like in a lot of ways, and you alluded to this earlier that you live a life that is comfortable. And to you the great luxury is being able to go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want not worry what it costs. I get that.



Sara Diamond

I buy a lot of books.



Louis Goodman

And you make enough money to buy whatever books you want?



Sara Diamond

Pretty much, I mean, on space permitting, I mean, I will fill any amount of bookshelves I have. So I have to kind of like not go crazy. I mean, you know, if I had more bookshelf space, I would have more books. But yeah, I can’t afford to travel or do those kinds of things.



Louis Goodman

Is that something that would interest you if you had the funds to do it?



Sara Diamond

I am a traveler inwardly. I’ve traveled to places inwardly that most people wouldn’t even dream about. And to talk about that a little, I mean, people that are like really serious with meditation and other spiritual practices have a very rich inner life. And so a lot of times, I think a lot of the focus on traveling as people are seeking experiences that are out of the ordinary, which is a deep need that a lot of people have, which is totally legitimate. But when you’re traveling on the inner levels, on a daily run regular basis, then yes, it would be nice to go to Mexico, it would be nice to go see Europe, it would be nice to go to some of those places. I’m not going to feel bad if I never get there.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand. What was one thing in the world that you could change, what would that be?



Sara Diamond

Well, it wouldn’t be one thing because things are related. I would obviously end war, I would end capitalism. I would end you know, world hunger. I would first off and environmental pollution and the forces that have created it and made it worse and worse. So all of these things are there, you can’t segregate those things. They’re all bound up together. They’re all interrelated.



Louis Goodman

Is there anything you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed?







Sara Diamond

I’m not a standard issue type person. And I already had a personality and a philosophy of life before I went to law school. So what law school is like, if somebody writes my obituary one day, I don’t think they’re going to be mentioning that I went to law school.



Louis Goodman

Well, you are a lawyer.



Sara Diamond

Well, I work as a lawyer, yes. But it hasn’t been the dominant, it’s not the dominant theme in my life. It’s not mostly what I’ve done. It’s a job. It’s a good job. It’s a job I’m very grateful for. I’m very grateful for this job. It works for my lifestyle. And I’ve made it work for my value system, it keeps a roof over my head, I can have dogs, I have a garden, I get to go where I want to go, you know, I have mostly nice clients. I don’t do anything mean a nasty, I never tell a lie. It’s good.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, just from a personal point of view, I like lawyers in general. And I think that law is a very big place that can accommodate a lot of people with a lot of different interests in life. And I find it great that you’ve managed to use the law, to your advantage that you’ve managed to practice law successfully and ethically, and in a way that supports a lifestyle that works for you.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, that’s why I say I’m really grateful to try to keep it as stress free as possible. It’s not always possible. Sometimes, there are clients who can be, you know, challenging, and I haven’t been able to detect that early enough. But for the most part, it’s just kind of runs itself.



Louis Goodman

To do that thing that Jay Foonberg says like, if you have a client, and ultimately you’re just not getting along, and you just say, Hey, how about I just give you all of your money back? And you take your case to some other lawyer?



Sara Diamond

Yeah, I have on a number of occasions, I’ve done that. I don’t want to take money from people where there’s negative energy associated with.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I get that 100%. You know, I do nothing but criminal defense, and even doing criminal defense, I will not take money from someone if I think there’s negative energy there. And I have not, haven’t had to do it very often. I have on occasion, and fairly recently followed that Jason Berg advice and given the 100% refund, even though I did a lot of work on the case, because there was no way that client was ever going to be happy. And I just gave him every dime back.





Sara Diamond

Well, the thing is, when you let go, you know, things will happen. Yeah, mysterious phenomenon. I definitely appreciate my job very much. But I put it in perspective.



Louis Goodman

Sarah Diamond, thanks so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. We’ve had a very interesting and very frankly, kind of a different conversation. And I appreciate it. Thank you.



Sara Diamond

Well, 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. If you have comments or suggestions, 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 as always, to my guests who share their wisdom. And to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support, and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Sara Diamond

I was then impoverished, I decided that I would, in order to have a sustainable job, I would go to law school. So I started law school at 42. And in order to have a sustain a fairly relaxed way of making a living, and that’s what I did.





Wallace Doolittle / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript

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 deals with complex civil litigation that includes commercial business and complex family law matters. He has extensive trial and arbitration experience. He is a native Californian. And given that it is perhaps unsurprising that he’s always seen in a great car. While it’s still a little welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Wallace Doolittle

Thanks, Louis.How are you doing today,



Louis Goodman

I’m doing well. I’m really happy to have you on. We’ve known each other for a while. I’ve always admired your work, and I’ve always admired your cars. How much? Where’s your laying down these days? Where’s your office located right now?



Wallace Doolittle

1260 B Street, Hayward. Well, I have offices in San Francisco, Orange County, Chicago, and Hayward, California. But the main office with all of our operations, and pretty much all our files is in Hayward, California.



Louis Goodman

And what type of practice do you have?



Wallace Doolittle

You know, it’s, I used to say, it’s just about anything else that nobody else would touch because it’s, you know, usually Byzantine, difficult, complex, convoluted. Maybe another lawyers already kind of driven it into a ditch type of case easily just I would describe it just generally as complex litigation. And that could include Family Law, do a lot of complex family law cases about 30% one practices Family Law, or that could include intellectual property, trade secret, or you know, complex business litigation, anything where there’s a lot to kind of, unpack and sort out.



Louis Goodman

That’s kind of what how long have you been practicing?



Wallace Doolittle

I think it’s 30 years now, it’s hard to believe. But yeah, 30 years.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Wallace Doolittle

I was born in LA. I’m a California boy. So I was born and my parents moved to Northern California when I was quite young. And I spent some of my most formative years in the Monterey Peninsula area.



Louis Goodman

Is that where you went to high school?



Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, I went to Pacific Grove High School.



Louis Goodman

How was that experience?



Wallace Doolittle

You know, it was okay. For the first couple years, I was very into sports. And I, you know, really enjoyed a lot of success there. But, you know, after a while, the pressure and just the constant training just wore on me, and I ended up kind of, you know, being a little bit disillusioned with it. And so I left high school early to go to college.



Louis Goodman

So how did you work getting out of high school?



Wallace Doolittle

I just took the net wasn’t the GED, there was something else called the proficiency exam at the time. I was just done with high school when I was 17. So I said, Okay, I’m taking this exam. And I went to community college for a while. And then I went to State University.



Louis Goodman

Which one?



Wallace Doolittle

Well, I started out at San Diego State. And it wasn’t that crazy about it. So II packed my bags again, and applied to San Francisco State. And that’s where I graduated.



Louis Goodman

How did you like being in San Francisco.



Wallace Doolittle

San Francisco is an amazing place. And it has been for a long time. And when I moved here in 1981, you know, clearly quite different from what it is today, the population was actually much less at the time, money was not as you know, gigantic. Tech wasn’t really a factor at that point. And it just was an amazing city to get around. And as a college student, and after being in college.



Louis Goodman

You graduated then from San Francisco State, did you immediately go to law school? Or did you do something?



Wallace Doolittle

I just took about a year off, maybe call it a gap year if you want whatever. I graduated in January 1985 for San Francisco State and I didn’t go to law school until August 1986. So I basically worked as a kind of paralegal/file clerk at a law firm in San Francisco. And basically had, you know, kind of had a lot of fun doing that.



Louis Goodman

Is that what prompted you to go to law school?



Wallace Doolittle

You know, there are a couple of things that occurred that kind of convinced me that as my calling. The first one was my sister when I was about 10 years old, when I was arguing with my little brother in a way that she thought was very lawyerly. He just said, lawless is my oldest sister, she’s 14, and I was 10. Said, Wallace, you are going to have to be a lawyer, and that stuck in my head. And then when I was at San Diego State, I befriended a guy that was in the same apartment complex as I was. And he and I spent a lot of time together, you know, doing writing and comparing our poetry and writing and just talking about philosophy and politics and everything else. And he at one point just said, look, you better go to law school, it just seems like the perfect place for you.



Louis Goodman

Where did you go to law school?



Wallace Doolittle

I went to DePaul in Chicago. I ended up in Chicago because working as a paralegal on this all comes back. Remember, we’re decades back here. And now I’m starting to remember, I was working as a legal assistant at Cirrus Mortgage Securities Corporation in the legal department. And so I just applied to all the law schools in the Chicago area. And I got into a number of them, but I chose to DePaul as the best one that I got into. And as it turns out, that was a very good school.



Louis Goodman

Well, what did you think about being in law school?



Wallace Doolittle

Well, being kind of a cynical type, I didn’t really, you know, appreciate the, like the Socratic teaching method, and all of the typical things that we used to read about in one hour, I guess, what it was called, or the Paper Chase. I just wasn’t into that very much. So you know, I maintain a healthy skepticism of the whole process.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from law school, what bar did you decide to take?



Wallace Doolittle

I took the Illinois Bar and the California Bar and a member and both.



Louis Goodman

Did you take them with, you know, essentially the same time?



Wallace Doolittle

No, I took the Illinois Bar. Well, here, we’re going back to you can kind of get into this a little bit more after I graduated from law school. I kind of still at the time wanted to before I jumped into being a lawyer and the tremendous responsibilities being a lawyer, I split, took a couple of years off, and basically played music in a band and played sometimes open mic, you know, blues jams and stuff in Chicago. And I really, at that point, thought, you know, I’m not going to waste this last, these last moments of my youth slaving in a law firm. So I took a couple more years off and did that. But in 91, or 92, I took the Illinois and then the California Bars. And, you know, kind of the switch was flipped. And I got, you know, 1,000% into my law career.



Louis Goodman

Well, before we get into your law career, being in Chicago and playing the blues. I mean, that’s just classic, isn’t it?



Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, it was fun. It’s really fun. I mean, there’s lots of places where you can just have an open stage. And I had another friend there who was a guitar player, and we would grab our guitars and go down there. And one at a time, we thought that the band would play, you know, a typical, like blues, blues progression, and we would play blues solos. It was fun. It was a lot of fun.



Louis Goodman

So at some point, you decided, Okay, I’m gonna take the bar exams, and I’m gonna start practicing law. So what was your first legal job?



Wallace Doolittle

Well, I didn’t I work. Before I passed the Bar in California. I did work as a legal assistant at Richard Idelle Law Corporation. And I had worked for Richard before I’d known him since 1983. I’d worked at it as a file clerk, and a gopher, when I was in college, in his firm, and for other firms that shared space with him at 611 Front Street, up above the what was at that time, the MacArthur Park restaurant. And so I knew Richard and when I came back from Chicago, Richard hired me immediately, as a legal assistant, he hired me as an associate. And I worked for him for several years. And then I went out on my own. So I worked for Richard gal. And he, you know, became a mentor of mine and taught me a tremendous amount about litigation trials, trial techniques.



Louis Goodman

What do you really like about practicing law, you’ve been doing it for quite a while now.



Wallace Doolittle

I kind of had to think about that before coming on podcast, because there’s a lot to be said about it. I mean, I’ve done every kind of work that you could possibly imagine. And I always say to myself, whenever I’m having a bad day, in this business, that it beats digging ditches, while I literally dug ditches, okay, I worked in construction, I worked doing manual labor. I’ve worked in the late shift washing dishes at the Doubletree when I was 17. I’ve done a lot of stuff that’s not as fun as practicing law. Practicing law is great when, you know, you’re kind of in harmony with opposing counsel, and judges and clients, and everyone understands that we’re here to find a resolution to a problem that it has to be resolved in a civilized way. And then there’s a result that maybe not makes everybody happy, but at least, you know, at least achieve some sort of justice. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. But that’s when I know that the practice of law is something that I really appreciate and that’s when I’m helping people. And I see people who are actually helped out of a jam. It’s not always the case, though, in this business, you know, sometimes things get kind of warlike don’t like war like but you always have to think of one is this kind of mill you that are made I’m not here in a lawsuit or a divorce, representing a party, because, you know, that party was completely functional. Okay?



Louis Goodman

Right, right



Wallace Doolittle

They are dysfunctional by definition, and they come to us after the dysfunction reaches a chaotic level. And therefore, we get a very bad sample of a segment of the society, when we represent people and little guys to make, it tends to make us somewhat jaundiced. But you know, the people do really need help the problem with the practice, your average person in the United States cannot really afford proper representation. And so a lot of litigation that goes on, is really just litigation among people who have the money to afford lawyers. And if you don’t have the money to afford lawyers, sometimes you’re lost. And it’s a very tough system for your average person.



Louis Goodman

Would you recommend the law to a young person just thinking about, you know, coming out of college and thinking about a career?



Wallace Doolittle

I kind of reflect on that with people that I know, and my ex wives and partners and talking about where do I want my child to end up and, you know, I’m kind of on the fence about that. I don’t want my kids to have to go through incredibly difficult work and kind of desperate times trying to find my place in, you know, in the economy, ultimately ended up being a lawyer. But, you know, at the same time that maybe was character building, maybe it would be character building for them. It’s an extremely stressful job, where, oftentimes, lawyer, and I’ve heard this from a lot of people, but and I’ve experienced it firsthand, you don’t sleep well, you’re in the middle of a jury trial, there’s a lot at stake, maybe billions of dollars at stake, or in the criminal defense context, which I don’t do. But criminal defense context could be looking at a lot of time, or, you know, a divorce, or somebody might be ending up losing, you know, a significant amount of very quality time with their children, because their partner or ex partner or ex wife, is planning to move away to a place that’s very remote. When you have to deal with these heavy duty things, sometimes you don’t sleep at night, and the stress can really get to you. And so that side of it is very difficult. On the other hand, I think that, you know, some people look at lawyers as kind of, kin to, you know, like a chimney sweep or something like just cleaning up their messes. But I think that there’s still a lot of kind of societal recognition of what it takes to be a lawyer. And there’s a certain amount of I wouldn’t want to say prestige, but kind of, you know, reputation that precedes you as a lawyer, that is, I think, very positive. So there are many different sides to that question. I’m not quite sure exactly whether I would recommend it or not. And I think if I did, I would do it with plenty of caveats.



Louis Goodman

How has actually practicing met or differed from your expectations.



Wallace Doolittle

I just thought to myself, I noticed this, I always try to tell people only partly in jest, that there, I don’t really have any other skills. So it was pretty much inevitable that I was going to go into this into this profession. And, you know, therefore, my expectation level wasn’t really there.



Louis Goodman

You kind of touched on this a little earlier. But what about the business of practicing law? What about the way that aspect of the practice has gone for you?



Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, so that can actually be difficult. I don’t find it difficult now. But it took me a long time to really learn how to do it most efficiently, within my skill set within the structure of, you know, kind of where my sweet spot is. It’s difficult sometimes when you have a practice that’s as active as mine, but I think I’ve leveraged it properly with the right style and the right systems that suit my capabilities.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a lot to the business of practicing law. I think that at least for myself, you know, it’s been an evolving situation. I can’t say that I do everything the way I always did it, I’m sure that I will change the things that I do now, as we move into the future. And as you say, there’s just been this enormous change in technology since you and I began practicing. And I think that any firm that doesn’t evolve with some of that technology is going to be left behind.





Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, I mean, email did not exist when you and I started practicing, right? The fax machine was the main way that we tried to leverage technology, which seems kind of ridiculous now.



Louis Goodman

What do you think’s the best advice you’ve ever received?



Wallace Doolittle

Oh, gosh, I never really listened to advice very well. I think that when Richard and I were practicing together and in the kind of mid 90s, and I was going to court with him a lot, and, you know, he got me into try my first case in 94. And, I took off from there, basically, everything he told me in those days, and I can’t think of one piece of advice, that really, those experiences are invaluable if you don’t work with someone closely, who has, you know, 15, 20 25, 30 years of experience in this business. And, you know, I think you’re missing out. There’s just so many little details along the way that you can only learn side by side with somebody with that kind of experience. And I think that I probably got 100,000 pieces of advice from Richard. And that ended up being a tremendously beneficial to my career.



Louis Goodman

What advice would you give to a young lawyer just starting out?



Wallace Doolittle

Well, work hard, don’t worry too much about where you are right now, learn all of your skills, learn all of your tools, find somebody who has been doing this for a while, and watch what they do and do what they do. If they’re successful. You’re gonna learn from them, and you’re going to end up going somewhere yourself. I think that’s good advice.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that the legal system is fair?



Wallace Doolittle

Absolutely not. I think it’s terribly unfair. I think that it’s very money driven. I think that there are people with the ability to hire lawyers who really can just squash other people. And I think that some people are suffering some true injustices in our legal system at the criminal level. I think it’s a travesty. What you know, and I don’t want to get into the whole politics of, you know, incarceration and people get pulled in on warrants, and they get stuck in an endless carousel of a system. I mean, I don’t want to get into the political side of that. But that’s a terribly unfair aspect. I think in civil litigation, only big money players can play. And it’s kind of a game of elites. Do you see judges who make a huge effort to, you know, try to ensure fairness in their courtrooms?



Louis Goodman

What sort of things do you do to try and keep your sanity as a practicing lawyer in terms of recreation?



Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, I mean, I’m trying to make sure that I get out and ride my bike as much as possible, try to get some endorphins going. Otherwise, the anxiety kicks over. I also play music, I play and record music. And sitting right now, talking to you from my recording studio here. In my house, my wife is screaming talented singer. And so we’re working on several recordings right now. And that’s really gets you out completely out of the headspace of being a lawyer.



Louis Goodman

Have you had any travel experience?



Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, I’ve been to 26 countries. That’s one of the things that I would say that being a lawyer has allowed me to do is the freedom to, you know, the ability to afford that kind of travel. And so I’ve been to a lot of places I can’t say I’ve been all over the world. But I’ve been everywhere that I could think of that I wanted to go in the Northern Hemisphere. And now I have to start working on the Southern Hemisphere.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came into some real money, a few billion dollars. What if anything, would you change in the way you live your life?



Wallace Doolittle

Oh, my God. $5 billion? That’s funny. Well, first of all, I don’t think you need anything after the first 100 million probably. So I don’t know, I’d have to check in with my wife first, before I decided this, but 5 billion, I probably would give at least four and a half billion away, the rest of the money I would spend on a couple of nice places near the water and media, you know, very nice fishing boat, and a couple of houses, bolts with recording studios. And then I would travel and come back there and record my music and ride my bike and go fishing. And that’s about it.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had 60 seconds superbowl commercial. What do you think you would want to say to the world?



Wallace Doolittle

It would definitely be a public service announcement for vaccine. This has been an extremely difficult year and a half for me and my family and for everyone else. What I can think of every time I turn around, I need somebody who has just been terribly impacted by the pandemic. I have a child who’s going into fifth grade, she’s basically been, she said to playdates and a year and a half ago she actually was in person with that with her friends. And so I can’t get unstuck from the pandemic.







Louis Goodman

Thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a while talk to you.



Wallace Doolittle

Yeah, Louis, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about these issues. And the one good thing about it is it really made me think more about some of it.



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 our website 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 music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis.






Maya Markovich / Louis Goodman Podcast Interview

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 experiences have been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect. She uses tech focused innovation to support attorneys in their work. she delivers next generation technology, process and business growth services, she supports her firm in collaborating with legal communities and experts worldwide. She was named one of the five most influential women in tech. She serves on the board of the Alameda County Bar Associations Pro Bono Division and with a little bit of luck, she’ll be able to explain what all of this means. Maya Markovich, welcome.



Maya Markovich

Thank you so much, Louis. It’s great to be here.



Louis Goodman

I’m happy to have you. We don’t know each other personally. But I’ve been very impressed by your work and your resume and the kinds of things that you and your firm are doing. So I’d like to delve into that a little bit.



Maya Markovich

Yeah, you bet. Looking forward to it.



Louis Goodman

Where are you physically located these days?



Maya Markovich

I live and work in Oakland.



Louis Goodman

And how long have you been here in Oakland?



Maya Markovich

We moved to Oakland back in 2007 and I’ve been working, I was lucky enough to score a job with offices right on Lake Merritt, about six years ago.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Maya Markovich

Palo Alto



Louis Goodman

What high school did you go to?



Maya Markovich

I went to a small girl school and then didn’t go very far from home.



Louis Goodman

Did you enjoy that experience?



Maya Markovich

Yeah, it was great. For me it was just the right environment for somebody who wanted to just play sports and figure out who she was.



Louis Goodman

What sports did you play?



Maya Markovich

I played mostly water polo and swimming, although I also did soccer.



Louis Goodman

Now, when you graduated, where’d you go to college?



Maya Markovich

I went to Stanford, which is why I really didn’t go very far. I was there for a Bachelor’s and Master’s. So I spent an extra year getting my Masters at Stanford after undergrad.



Louis Goodman

Well, Stanford’s a very good school, isn’t it?



Maya Markovich

Thank you.



Louis Goodman

What did you get your Masters in?



Maya Markovich

Psychology, Social and an Organizational Psychology.



Louis Goodman

Did you practice in that field at all?



Maya Markovich

No, initially, so I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s in those fields. And that led me originally to the field of Change Management Consulting in Technology, where I was really leveraging a lot of that how people make decisions, how hard it is for people to collaborate, how to get over kind of the humps of people not wanting to change but needing to and all that good people stuff.



Louis Goodman

At some point you decided,



Maya Markovich

Yes, I did.



Louis Goodman

When did that occur?



Maya Markovich

Well, you know, I was doing Change Management Consulting. And I was losing a lot of my background and was pretty high flying career. But I really, at that point, I realized that I wanted to have a broader social impact. And law seemed like the right way to do that. My plan was to go into Environmental Law. I wanted to be an attorney at Earth Justice.



Louis Goodman

Usually people do Environmental Law, they end up at Chevron. Right?



Maya Markovich

That’s not what I wanted to do.



Louis Goodman

So how long did you work between the time you got your Master’s at Stanford and the time you decided to go to law school?



Maya Markovich

Let’s see, it was probably about four years.



Louis Goodman

And where did you did you go to law school?



Maya Markovich

I went to Hastings and I was attending Hastings right in the middle of the first Silicon Valley tech boom.



Louis Goodman

How did you like being in Hastings?



Maya Markovich

You know, I thought it was, I mean, I didn’t love law school as much as some people did. But I mean, I was there for, I was trying to work through what I really wanted to do. And as it turned out, I changed my mind a few times. And so Hastings was a great place to kind of try out a lot of different avenues and see which one might fit. And so I loved it in that sense.

Louis Goodman

One of the things that I’ve said a number of times on this podcast is that I went to Hastings and I really enjoyed the experience. Well, different people have different experiences, but mine was good. So I’m glad to hear yours was too.



Maya Markovich

Yeah, no, I mean, I loved learning but the stress was something I had to get used to so let’s put it that way.



Louis Goodman

So you think that having worked in a professional field between the time you left college and I say college, I’m kind of including the Master’s program, and the time you started law school that four year interim, do you think that that allowed you to focus more clearly once you got to law school?



Maya Markovich

Definitely, I think it’s a really good thing for people to try to do and I saw folks that came straight from their university undergrad career into law school, and I think that they struggled a little bit more because they hadn’t really given themselves the time to think about what they really wanted to do. There were a few, of course that were driven from, you know, the time they were in kindergarten, to be lawyers of some certain kind, but no real world experience for me, it made a lot of difference.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I always thought that the people who did the best as law students in my class of Hastings were women, in their late 20s, who had had some kind of professional work experience between the time they graduate from college and the time they went to law school. They were all focused. They all really knew what they were there for.



Maya Markovich

That describes me to a tee.



Louis Goodman

What did your friends and family say when you told them that you wanted to go to law school?



Maya Markovich

Well, my siblings, who were both older than me and both attorneys, loved it. They thought it was just, you know, the normal course of events. And my parents were academics. I thought it was totally shocking that three of their kids would be lawyers. So it worked out.



Louis Goodman

When you got out of Hastings. What did you first do in terms of work?





Maya Markovich

Actually, before I decided to go to Hastings, so I was kind of trying out the legal industry. And I was a paralegal at Wilson Sonsini down in Palo Alto. So that was even before.



Louis Goodman

So did you go to work for them when you got out?



Maya Markovich

No, I didn’t. I actually, my first jobs. After that I worked at Lieff Cabraser. I worked for a couple of consumer plaintiff side solo practitioners. And I did some doctor view, of course, as well, like everyone was doing at the time.



Louis Goodman

You don’t actually practice law right now, but you’re involved in some very interesting work that supports attorneys in their practices. And I’m wondering if you could give us a brief overview of what it is that you and your firm do. And who is your first?



Maya Markovich

Yeah, sure. So I work for Dentons. Well, Nextlaw Labs, which was founded by Dentons, back in 2015. That was the first initiative of its kind, and being a legal tech focus, legal innovation catalyst.



Louis Goodman

What does that mean?



Maya Markovich

Oh, it can be, it could be there no two days that are the same. That’s for sure. I can be doing anything from you know, vetting legal tech startups for potential investment in our portfolio, we have an investment arm. Next law ventures. I also work a lot with a global practice leaders helping them define and prioritize and execute on their innovation strategies. I work a lot with the clients themselves, who are having their own kind of challenges and pressures being put on them around changing the way that they run their legal departments. And so I can, you know, basically, the common thread is, you know, bringing together psychology, change management, technology, marketing and law kind of in this in this unique role. And it’s a huge opportunity to be part of creating this meaningful and substantive change in the legal industry.



Louis Goodman

So when you say that you support the clients in like, tech focused innovation, and next generation technology and process? I mean, what specifically does that mean?



Maya Markovich

Well, when I’m talking about Dentons, clients themselves, they’re often under increasing pressure to deliver substantively different in substantively different ways to other departments, and to their boards, especially in large, multi regional organizations. So that can be anything from figuring out how they can automate contract review, to figuring out how they can collaborate with other areas within the organization, how they can deliver value, how they can stop being as much of a cost center and actually become revenue generating in some situations.



Louis Goodman

So the people that you deal with tend to be legal departments within other large corporations?



Maya Markovich

Yeah, usually, I mean, who we’re talking to are the Chief Legal Officers, General Counsel, their teams, legal operations teams, and that kind of thing. But that’s sort of just the one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is what we also call kind of our next law clients, which are people within Dentons, who are trying to also tap into a lot of the same.



Once I realized that that’s what was going on, and having come from a place where I was working in tech before I even went to law school, it seems pretty, I couldn’t really. And so in at the same time, I kind of realized that I wanted to take my career in a different. I wanted to be involved in the law, but I wanted something kind of broader and more creative. And, you know, my post practice career in legal tech took off just as I had a newborn and a two year old. And so all of those things really came together and just the right timing.



Louis Goodman

What do you really like about the work that you do?



Maya Markovich

You know, I like to call law, the — of human society. It touches everyone on earth in some way that really love also being around very sharp people. Lawyers are almost without fail, incredibly astute and intelligent.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I think so is one of the things I really liked about doing this podcast is I get to talk to lawyers. I’m serious about I’m very serious about that. Would you recommend law as a career to a young person just coming out of college?



Maya Markovich

You know, that’s an interesting question. Because I probably get different kinds of questions. And some of your other guests, I get a lot of outreach from law students, and young career professionals, they’re asking how they can leverage their legal education in different ways, like I have. And so I have to say, there’s a lot more opportunity now than there used to be to contribute meaningfully to organizations or efforts outside of you know, straight law practice. Things like legal operations, legal tech companies, just legal transformation, stuff that I’m doing and consulting. So if they’re interested in anything with a basis of law along those lines, then nice, then I do recommend it.



Louis Goodman

What advice would you give to a young person just starting out in legal?



Maya Markovich

You know, I would say a couple of things. The first I would say is take every opportunity that you’re offered, even if you don’t think you’re ready for it. And the other thing I would say is, you know, don’t feel as though you’ve locked yourself in any way. I mean, it’s hard to say, too, it’s hard to absorb that message. And I certainly didn’t feel that, I felt I had been locked in basically, by virtue of my student loans, that I was in a situation, I had to kind of make it work as a practicing attorney. And then things just started opening up a little bit more and more. So it’s hard to say it’s hard to tell people, you know, don’t feel locked in. But there are so many rewarding things about being part of the legal industry, and part of the kind of the legal community that I think it’s definitely worth it.



Louis Goodman

Is there anything that you know now that you really wish you had known before you had gotten started doing that?



Maya Markovich

Yeah, that’s a great question. I love that one. Because mine is probably more tactical and less kind of philosophical. But I would say, proactively cultivating your future network, starting in law school, with students and professors. And not kind of with a cold kind of, someday I might need you kind of way but actually, in a way that like, you’re building your community, and you never know what interesting things people will be going on to do. And it’s great to keep in touch with them.



Louis Goodman

Do you have any specific tactics or strategies for building your network?



Maya Markovich

Well, I would say, I spend time on LinkedIn, really trying to, and Twitter looking for mentoring, trying to keep abreast of the interesting things that are going on in my particular field. There’s just a lot of really cool stuff going on, pretty much all the time, and people doing a lot of very deep thinking about how to improve the legal industry and the practice of law in fundamental ways. And so I try to not go too deep. But whenever I see someone that’s talking about something interesting, I just go ahead and reach out to them, because I find that that’s the best way to kind of cultivate different perspectives.



Louis Goodman

What do you think’s the best advice you’ve ever received?









Maya Markovich

Oh, the best advice I’ve ever received is that day to day happiness in your work is part of the compensation package. And really, to look beyond the numbers, when evaluating if a position is right for you.



Louis Goodman

You have a slightly different perspective on the legal system than most of the people who I talked to for this podcast. So I’m wondering, what, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works? From your perspective?



Maya Markovich

Oh, I can see a whole separate podcast. I mean, I spend my whole, all my work hours thinking about things like this. I would make it you know, first off, I would make it more users. I would make it obviously more easily understandable for those who are forced to navigate it on their own. And I think that there’s just a lot that can be done there. I also think that it would be an imperative to have it be more open and less insular.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that the legal system is fair?



Maya Markovich

Well, I think that there are two systems of justice and there are in that depends very much on racial and socio economic status.



Louis Goodman

Tell us a little bit about the work you do with your pro bono.



Maya Markovich

Yeah, sure. So I you know, as you mentioned at the beginning, I am on the Board of the Legal Access Alameda, which is the pro bono arm of the Alameda County Bar Association, although unfortunately it’s been on hiatus for COVID there are a wonderful organization that supports about 40 Legal Aid clinics a month in different categories. Right now are 75 out of things are virtual and kind of doing some kind of building at the moment and waiting for the green light to start the clinics again, I am on the strategic counsel for One Justice, which is a wonderful nonprofit organization that actually supports legal service provider nonprofits within the State of California. So in a lot of different kind of infrastructure and framework and leadership development ways, and then I do a lot of work on mentoring. Early career professionals are law students that are trying to kind of find their way into a kind of a broader type ,they’re utilizing their legal degrees in different ways. And then if that’s official and unofficial, then I also met the mentor and advisor for Lex Lab, which is the UC Hastings, legal tech incubator.



Louis Goodman

Do most of your mentees find you through the Lex Lab?



Maya Markovich

I don’t know how they find me, I think people are just getting really good at doing searches for this kind of thing. I mean, search. Sure. I mean, there are various programs that I’m a mentor for. There’s a Legal Unique Women in Law Tech. There’s the Law Tech in a Fellows Program at University of Arizona. There’s also organizations as far flung as Australia and Spain that I work with. And I think, honestly, I think that the community, so for those that aren’t within a program of any kind, I think people just there aren’t very many of us yet the legal innovation community is still pretty small. So it doesn’t take long to find someone who’s like doing a podcast or reading an article about thinking differently about, you know, where the professional needs to.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the reasons that I was really interested in talking to you, because I do think the profession is going to be headed in some wildly different directions. And it’s going to be going there very. I think all of us have a certain obligation to pay attention.



Maya Markovich

Yeah, I would totally agree with that.



Louis Goodman

Well, to that end, you mentioned that you’re active on Twitter, and you’re active on LinkedIn. Are there any other social media platforms or any other places online where you think attorney should really be and really have a presence and really have some, I don’t know, an ear out for what’s going on in these places?



Maya Markovich

Yeah, I mean, you know, I try to keep it very simple. So those are kind of my two main platforms.



Louis Goodman

I’m gonna shift gears here a little bit. Maya, tell me about your family life and how working in the legal industry and as an attorney has impacted that?



Maya Markovich

Well, you know, I mean, like I said, I realized, while I was practicing that I know I really wanted to have an impact in the world of law, but the partner track was just, you know, not the path forward for me. So, as my family, my husband and I built our family and our life together, just different priorities came into sharper focus. And like I said, my post practice career took off just as we had very young babies. My husband became the primary caregiver to our young sons while he was managing his own freelance career. My path empowered him to be a fully engaged parent, something that was really critical for my career, our kids development, his own career, and really what we both came to see as an important step towards greater consciousness of shifting roles across our culture. So I spend a lot more time with my family than I did when I was practicing law.



Louis Goodman

How about recreational pursuits. What do you do to keep your body and your mind together when you’re not involved in next generation, legal matters?



Maya Markovich

Well, you know, I spend, I mean, COVID, before COVID grounded us, one of the main things that we do is travel as much as we possibly can. Well, my father’s French, so when I was younger, when I was a child, we spent a few years living abroad, both as a child and then I was studying and working abroad in France and Russia and Mexico. And now where we travel, I mean, all over the place. You know, I kind of took a nine month trip by myself around the world to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And that’s how I decided to go to law school. So we’re taking our kids now, everywhere we possibly can. We want them to understand that there are different perspectives and different ways of leading your life and different challenges that happen and also how many commonalities there are among the human race, no matter where you are.



Louis Goodman

Where’d you go on the nine month?



Maya Markovich

Oh, let’s see, mostly I spent three months in Australia, month in New Zealand. Then I went over to Russia, where I had a lot of friends from my semester abroad, and I was there for a while and then I went down to Turkey and then just made my way west across Europe.



Louis Goodman

I took two fairly long trips, one was about nine months one was about six months when I was in law school, and then shortly after. I found out, let me Just see if you agree with me on this, and I’ve said this on the podcast before too, but it’s worth repeating. I’ve always felt that those travel experiences, were the most educational things that I’ve ever done in my life. I mean, I’ve had a lot of formal education. But those travel experiences taught me more than anything else.



Maya Markovich

I completely agree. I couldn’t agree more. It’s the express train traveling by yourself. Particularly, I think it’s sort of an express strain to self actualization. And I think it’s also a very eye opening in so many ways. And I spent several months in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. And you know, I was visiting people here and there, but a lot of the time I was minute to minute figuring out what to do. And you get to know yourself very well. And you also, you know, again, it’s a great way for your priorities and the way you want to live to come into sharper focus.



Louis Goodman

What things keep you up at night?





Maya Markovich

What keeps me up at night, beyond the frustration of getting lawyers to embrace change, my family, of course, my elderly parents, my kids, just like everyone else, climate change, where we’re going to go in the next few years in this country. How do we turn things around for the better.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say, you and your husband came into some real money, $3 or $4 billion? What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?



Maya Markovich

I mean, the thing I would love to do most with my life is give away money to worthy social impact efforts. So that’s probably the first thing I would do after I took a really nice long vacation, I would come back and I would set up a philanthropic organization to do just that.



Louis Goodman

Would you take a trip into space?



Maya Markovich

I don’t think so. There’s too many places on earth that I still want to see.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a opportunity to make a really big statement, like someone said, Hey, we’ll give you a full 60 seconds on the Superbowl. What would you want to say to the world?



Maya Markovich

You know, I’m a people person at heart. And I think and I’m also a social scientist at heart. And I think that so much of what I see that breaks my heart in the world is this as a complete lack of understanding of other people’s perspectives. So if I could wave a magic wand and get people to listen to me in the megaphone at the Superbowl ad, I would say, you know, that without that we’re not going to have the future that we all want.



Louis Goodman

Is there something that you think you could improve in terms of the legal system?



Maya Markovich

Well, I think it’s going to take more than just me, certainly, but I have a lot of frustration around the way that the system is really set up to disincentivize efficiency, client centricity or really long term thinking about the business and also how the industry still seems largely oblivious to this.



Louis Goodman

How about leaving us with a final thought?



Maya Markovich

Sure. You know, I definitely am doing things that are quite different day to day than a lot of your other guests. And I have so much respect for people that are in the trenches. I am gratified, honestly, right now to see that conversations about changing the way and modernizing law are really happening all over the map right across the whole continuum. And so I’m really optimistic. I think that there’s a lot that we’re capable of, and that we’re going to get there.



Louis Goodman

Maya Markovich, Thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, and a really interesting perspective.



Maya Markovich

Thank you so much. It’s been a real pleasure. I’m a big fan.



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 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 for music, Brian Matheson for technical support, and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Maya Markovich

I think I would want to do that this is the classic kind of legal transformation answer but you don’t know the answers until you do the research. Not really. I should have given that one a bit more thought. Don’t include that part.





Hon. Sandra Bean / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

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, a host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association. She grew up down south and earned a Master’s Degree in physical education before doing graduate work in neuro muscular integration at UC Berkeley. She currently sits as a judge for the Alameda County Superior Court. She handles a busy probate calendar but has extensive experience in all Judicial functions, including the Criminal Court. She has substantial teaching experience as a Judge, and an impressive background in Civil Litigation and Public Service. Judge Sandra Bean, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.



Sandra Bean

Thank you, Mr. Goodman.



Louis Goodman

Well, you know, you and I’ve known each other long enough. You could call me Louis, don’t you think?



Sandra Bean

I don’t really do first names. I can. I’ll call you Goodman.



Louis Goodman

Well, I’m good with that. Where are you working right now?



Sandra Bean

So right now I’m working at the Berkeley Courthouse, and it’s very close to my house. So this is a nice assignment for me. And I’m doing DEP 202 Probate, which is Conservatorships, Guardianships to Seeds, Estates and Trusts.



Louis Goodman

How long have you been in that assignment?



Sandra Bean

So this is my third tour of duty and Probate have come in and out of this department over the years when there needed to be somebody in there. And this is an area of the law that I like, and I’m comfortable with this area, I represented the Alameda County Public Guardian and Public Administrator and Adult Protective Services. So I have some background in this area of law. And it’s one of those places where you come and you feel at home.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Sandra Bean

So I’m from North Carolina, I grew up in North Carolina, and went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina. I’m also kind of on a whim, taking some classes now University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, because one of the offshoots of the pandemic is that you can take classes anywhere, because they’re remote. And I’ve had to learn a lot about technology, not only with the hearings that we’re now doing remotely, but also doing these classes that I’ve been taking.



Louis Goodman

So North Carolina, is where the high school there.



Sandra Bean

I did, I went to high school in Sanford, North Carolina, which is about 45 miles south of Raleigh.



Louis Goodman

How was that experience for you?



Sandra Bean

It was great. I mean, I enjoyed high school, I thought it was fun. I was always thinking that I would not stay there. In contrast to my classmates, I remember standing in line at graduation from high school thinking were people so excited about this, let’s get on with it.



Louis Goodman

What kind of classes are you taking right now at Wake Forest, not a Wake Forest, but at Chapel Hill.



Sandra Bean

So I’m interested because of all the difficulties that the court has with budgets and how we run the court. So I’m interested in that sort of thing. So right now I’m taking an organizational theory class, which talks about how organizations should be put together. And it’s really interesting. I took a professional communications class, and I’ve got some ideas about other things that I want to take. They have a technology class for public institutions. I don’t think it’s offered that often. But I want to take that.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from Wake Forest, did you immediately go to law school, or did you do some other work?



Sandra Bean

No. So when I graduated from Wake Forest, I just really didn’t know what I wanted to do in terms of career, other than that I wanted to be a lawyer at some point in time, but I wasn’t ready to sit and study. So I got a Master’s in Physical Education and studied Exercise Physiology for some number of years and taught because I’m very interested in health and health and fitness and all those kinds of topics. But it’s not something that I like doing for myself. I discovered that teaching it was not as much fun as just doing it. So I did go to law school.



Louis Goodman

Well, at one time you’re kind of headed to a career of University Administration, is that correct?



Sandra Bean

Right. Yeah. So I was interested in being an Athletic Director. And I talked to so the folks at Cal when I was going to Cal, about how one becomes an Athletic Director. And although they were somewhat encouraging, it’s a tough business. And so ultimately, I decided to go to law school because law schools only three years, and you go and do it, and you take a little test, and then you just practice, whereas all of the things that I was doing in terms of academia, were pretty difficult to maneuver. For example, when I was working on my PhD at Cal in Neuromuscular Control.



Louis Goodman

I don’t even know how you knew that we’re in the business doing a little research before we start asking questions. That’s right.



Sandra Bean

Yeah. So my program got cancelled because of funding. And I discovered that a PhD is something that just keeps evolving, depending on what the professor’s think you ought to be doing. Now, there were people in the program that had been there for 10 years, and hadn’t gotten a degree. So I figured, you know, this isn’t, a thing certain. So let me do something that has a start and a stop. And that’s what I did want to go to law school. I think, really, lawyers know the rules of the game. I mean, that’s what we do. We know what the rules are. And if you apply rules that should work.



Louis Goodman

When did you first start thinking, you know, I want to be a lawyer, I want to go to law school.?



Sandra Bean

When I argued with my father over,



Louis Goodman

This started when you were, what, five years old? Six years? Four years old? Yeah.



Sandra Bean

My father and I had a very contentious relationship. He thought it was a lot of fun. I thought it was a lot of fun.



Louis Goodman

So what did the family think when you said, I’m really gonna go to law school, not just argue?





Sandra Bean

I don’t think they were surprised.



Louis Goodman

What was your first legal job?



Sandra Bean

So my first legal job was in civil litigation. I worked for a firm in Pleasanton and they broke up, and then I went with one of the partners or one of the partners took me with him. And so then I worked in Hayward, in civil litigation, then I went to another civil firm, and did civil litigation.



Louis Goodman

And just to back up a minute you went to law school at Santa Clara? Is that correct?



Sandra Bean

That’s correct.



Louis Goodman

How did being in Santa Clara compare with being in Berkeley?



Sandra Bean

I like Berkeley. I mean, I live in Berkeley, obviously, like Berkeley. I think it’s fun and interesting. Santa Clara was fine. I mean, there was nothing bad about it. It wasn’t, I thought the classes were good. They were interesting. And I was teaching exercise classes to pay for law school. So I was able to go to classes in the morning, and pretty much get off at three and then come back and do exercise classes and teach two or three classes when I got done, and then make enough money to support myself and get through law school. So it was fine.



Louis Goodman

Would you recommend law as a career to a young person who was coming out of college?



Sandra Bean

I would, and not necessarily even to practice but that the background is important, that it’s good background information for anybody. And if you end up practicing law, then that’s all the better my impression of the way things are, is that you really have to specialize. I mean, you you know this, I mean, you start practicing in criminal and that’s what you do. And in my case, I started practicing in civil, and then I went to County Council to essentially do civil type work, but I was able to do other things other than litigation. So I think I would recommend it. I think there are a lot of other opportunities for young people these days then perhaps when I was growing up. When I was growing up, it was really most people assumed you’re going to be a teacher, because that was a very acceptable profession.



Louis Goodman

What advice would you give to a young person thinking about getting into law?



Sandra Bean

I thought it was good that when I went to law school that already worked. And I already had done a lot of things, and I had a good sense of who I was, as opposed to go into law school, which right out of college. I think law school is hard. And I think that if you don’t have some perspective and appreciate it could be a real grind. So I think you can benefit by working some before you go live.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I think so too. Do you think that having done that work, you know, between college and law school really helped you focus in law school on the law school curriculum and having a sense of where you were going and why?



Sandra Bean

So, and I’m a little odd in this respect that I just think learning is fun. I thought law school was fun. I didn’t find it stressful. I mean, you work out three hours a day or more and nothing stressful anymore. So yeah, so when I was in law school, I just Iapproached it as a job.



Louis Goodman

At some point, you decided to run for judge? I remember when you were running for judge, I think that’s when I first met you. Yes. And I’m wondering, what prompted you to decide I want to run for judge, I want to take on this incredible project?



Sandra Bean

It’s a good question. I mean, it’s one of those things that when the idea came up, I just did it because I really wanted to, I really wanted to do it. And, I’m sure there’s an analysis that you could make about why I did it. I mean, I think my father would have been really proud of me for doing it. He was not alive when I ran for judge, but he would have thought it was great. And you’re always looking for approval from your parents, I suppose. And even if they’re not around, and some of the judges suggested that I run in particular McKinstry, if you remember McKinstry, he’s the one Yeah, he’s the one who called me up and had me come over to his chambers. And he told me about it and said, You got to run. So I did.



Louis Goodman

How did the campaign go? Did you enjoy campaigning?



Sandra Bean

I didn’t mind it. I mean, I did a lot of athletic events. I organized tennis tournament side coach tennis and I coach cross country. And I put together tennis tournaments and cross country runs. And I ran the state, the state of Florida Division Three Tennis Tournament when I was a coaching, and I ran some cross country events when I was teaching at Mills College. And so I like putting together events.





Louis Goodman

You’ve been a judge now for, what 15 years, is that right?



Sandra Bean

Yeah, I think so.



Louis Goodman

How does actually being a judge, stack up with your expectations of what being a judge was going to be like?



Sandra Bean

Well, I really had no preconceived notion of what it was going to be like. I was good friends with and I am still with George Hernandez. So I knew something about it from him. I knew something about it from McKinstry and I admired Sandra Margulies and some of the other Judges that were on the bench at that time. And thought that they were really wonderful people. And being a judge is it’s a little different. I mean, you’re isolated from people, you can’t just call up a lawyer and say, Hey, you know, I really want to talk to you about this argument that you made or anything like that, because that’s the next party communication. So it’s isolating, and I didn’t know about that. I knew that it was isolating, but I didn’t know how much it really was. Because it’s you have to experience it.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that the legal system is fair?



Sandra Bean

I think it has a goal of being fair. I think we do everything that we can to be fair, or there are times that it isn’t I’m sure, I’m sure that’s true. But I think that the people that are doing the jobs goal is to be fair. And we do everything possible, to keep ourselves from not keep ourselves from considering things that we shouldn’t.



Louis Goodman

What, if anything, would you change about the legal system, and the way it works?



Sandra Bean

I think that the judicial system suffers from lack of funding. I think that we should have a percentage of the budget. I think that the citizens and the residents of all the counties and states deserve a better judicial system, a better legal system. There should be more notice taken of the legal system, almost like we do with education. I mean, education is one of those areas that a lot of money is put into it and there’s still a lot of problems. So I’m not sure that that budget is the key is the answer, but it wouldn’t hurt. I would say that we suffer from less Funding?







Louis Goodman

Yeah, I mean, I think that in the last, certainly in the last 20 years, probably even longer than that we have, as a society have tended to kind of dump all societal problems at the courthouse door, and said to judges and prosecutors, Hey, you guys figure this out? And I’m not sure that judges and prosecutors and lawyers, you know, really have all the resources to do that.



Sandra Bean

And not only the resources, but what we do, I don’t think can address social problems. I mean, there are social problems that don’t have solutions that the legal, that the judges can impose. I mean, I can order somebody to do something. Whether they do it or not, is another question. But is that the solution? And I think usually it isn’t, I feel like we have one tool. It’s to say yes or no, you give us your possibilities. We can say yes to that, or yes to that, or no to both. I mean, we have that ability to say yes or no.



Louis Goodman

Besides being a judge? What other things do you enjoy doing in your life?



Sandra Bean

Alright, so I’m working out I mean, I exercise every day. And it’s a push to get my workouts in and get to work and spend time with my puppy who was in my lap a few minutes ago. And I have, you know, I like to spend time with, but yeah, I enjoy working out. I have a lot of different things that I do and I enjoy. I mean, I used to love going to movies, I would go see anything. But I haven’t been to the movies a long time. I a foreign channel that I watch to try to study French. I’ve been studying French since I went to France a few years ago. And I’ve been studying French every morning for about 15 minutes. And watching French shows and doing that sort of thing watching movies when I have an opportunity.



Louis Goodman

Now besides going to France, what other travel experience, have you had any other places that you’ve been that you really enjoyed?



Sandra Bean

Not outside of the country, I go to North Carolina quite a bit.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came into some real money, $3 or $4 billion, something a little bit beyond your judicial salary. What if anything, would you change in the way you live your life?



Sandra Bean

I keep my job. I like my job. I mean, in fact, I don’t consider myself working, I just consider myself doing something that I really enjoy. I’d travel more. I try to develop something to do with the money that would be beneficial. I don’t know what that would be. But I want to do something for some social cause. I mean, I think there’s a lot out there that needs to be done. Whether money is the solution or not. I mean, I think sometimes it’s more and one of the reasons I’m enjoying this class that I’m taking is that organizations when they get together and you have collective action can make a lot more difference than just one agency trying to do everything. But yeah, I think it would be important if I had that much money. There’s billions and billions of dollars, Mr. Goodman, to do something meaningful with it.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand. There was one thing in the world that you could change in the legal world, or the world in general. What do you think that would be?



Sandra Bean

Oh, wow. So I would like for people not to be homeless? I think that’s heartbreaking to me.



Louis Goodman

Now I hear the dog barking in the background. So can we see the dog?



Sandra Bean

Sure. Rico, come here? He’s only six months. So he doesn’t know how to come but I’ll go get him.



Louis Goodman

There we go. There’s Rico. Does Rico know you’re a judge and he supposed to follow those orders?



Sandra Bean

He comes to work with me every day. He sees me put on my robe and he gets immediately quiet and just waits for me until I come back. So yeah, he knows. He knows what I do. He’s not impressed.



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. Let’s say there was one big message that you could get out to the world. And I’m not suggesting that this podcast is the medium for that, I’m talking about if you really had a big microphone, what one message would that be? What message would you like to get out?



Sandra Bean

Oh, wow, that’s a good question. I think the message I would like to get out is that we all need to realize that everybody has their own point of view. And we need to know what it is to be able to really understand each other.





Louis Goodman

Is there anything else that before I open it up to other participants? Is there anything else that you wanted to share with us to say to put out there?



Sandra Bean

I’m just shocked that you want to interview me, Mr. Goodman, because I see that you’ve interviewed a lot of other people that are much more important than I am. So I just was surprised. But I’m delighted. And no, nothing.



Louis Goodman

Well, let me just respond to that very, very briefly. Okay, which is this podcast and to some extent, this barristers club, program with the Bar Association is about all of us, getting to know each other a little better, and being able to have some communication with each other. And the people who I have interviewed in general, are people who I like, people who I respect. People who I think do good work, primarily in Alameda County, but not necessarily exclusively in Alameda County. And, very frankly, you fall squarely within that group of people. I’ve appeared in front of you many times. I’ve always respected the way you’ve handled yourself as a judge. I’ve always respected the way you handled yourself as a person. And when we’ve, on occasion, had an opportunity to talk to each other, you know, privately, I’ve always enjoyed those conversations. So I, I don’t find anything unusual about this interview, or my wanting to interview for the podcast or your level of importance or unimportant side. I think that if you’re someone who practices in the Alameda County Courts, I think that it’s important for all of us to know each other.



Sandra Bean

I appreciate that.



Louis Goodman

Well, having said that, is there somebody want to unmute and ask judge, being a comment, a question or to comment on anything that’s been said, or comment on something that you think we need to say, because if you don’t, if you don’t weigh in, I’m just gonna start calling on people.



Erica Jennings

I’ll say something before I get called on which I did at the last one I attended. So. Okay, my name is Erica Jennings.



Louis Goodman

Hi Erica, thanks.



Erica Jennings

Hi. And thank you for this. This has been very interesting as have the other podcasts you’ve done getting to know judges. I think it’s awonderful program. Judge Bean, I can’t help but ask in light of it being in the news lately, and the fact that you work in this area, what do you think about, So I’m just going to say it Free Britney? And can you just give us a little bit of insight for those of us that don’t have as much experience as you do in this whole realm of conservatorship as a lay person in that area? It seems kind of severe to me, but I don’t know. But also, maybe in a more general sense. Some other people on this webinar may also be in the same situation that I’m in where we have maybe elderly parents and considering maybe what we need to do. I’m just wondering, can you give us some information about the you know, when a conservatorship is appropriate?



Sandra Bean

Right, so obviously, Miss Jennings, I’m not able to talk about any cases. I mean, but I can give you some general information. I don’t know really what the situation is with Britney Spears. I’ve never studied it. I don’t know what kind of conservatorships she’s on. But let me just tell you there are two different types of conservatorships. Well, actually there’s three and I’ll just outline them. There are limited conservatorships that are for people with developmental disabilities. And so those limited conservatorships usually start when the person is 18. And let’s say for example, the person can’t make medical decisions or can’t make educational decisions and that sort of thing. So typically what are called limited conservatorships are people that are developmentally disabled, their clients to the regional center and those that’s one category. Typically that’s just person it’s not a state. So what we heard about with Britney Spears was a lot of the estate part of a conservatorships. So there’s the limited and then for people that have mental illnesses, there’s what’s called an LPS conservatorship. That’s the Lanterman Pietrus Short Act that was enacted in the 70s. And those are limited in duration in Alameda County. We do 30 day conservatorships, six month conservatorships, and one year. The six month is kind of an Alameda County creation. So the idea is to stabilize people who have mental illnesses, get them treatment, so they don’t have to be on a conservatorship.



Louis Goodman

Melody Russell, I see you right there on my screen. I’m wondering if you have a question or a comment for Judge Bean.



Melody Russell

Yeah, sure.



Melanie Rissell

I actually had one for Judge Bean, Do you ever compete in any races running or cycling or anything like that?



Sandra Bean

So I ran marathons when I was in my 30s, which was a while ago. And I have not competed, well I did a few mountain bike races. And I was really good on the uphill and was terrible on the downhill. I have done, I’ve been doing ballet for the last couple of years. Because why not?



Louis Goodman

Think about Eric Liggins.



Erik Liggins

Yeah, good timing, Louis. I actually did have a question. Judge Bean, and good to see you. both Judge Pineda case in front of me a few years back, that’s actually still going but I’m looking into doing some more Probate. And I wanted to know if you had any advice for attorneys transitioning to that and common mistakes or pitfalls in probate practice.



Sandra Bean

Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think Probate is a very pleasant practice. The attorneys who do probate are very nice people, it seems to be a collegial group they get along well. What I would say is that it is a procedural practice at the outset, you need to make sure that you understand the Judicial Council Forms that you have to fill out and it’s just got some technical requirements that have to be met.



Louis Goodman

Let me just follow up on that. Judge. If someone is interested in getting into the probate field, is there any particular course or group that you would be able to recommend?



Sandra Bean

Well, Alameda County Bar Association has a Trust and Estate Section, I believe. And then there’s the MCLE, East Bay Trusts and Estates Lawyers that exists, and really important to do continuing education and to study and read the Probate Code. There’s lots of good materials out there. It’s not rocket science, it’s not that hard. But I think it’s like criminal, it’s like family, or anything else that you need to get kind of a climatized to what the procedure is like and how it works.



Louis Goodman

So Svetlana Kristol, do you have something that you would like to ask Judge Bean or comment on?



Svetlana Kristol

My question is, did you ever see that one of the parties, or both parties try to use probate court as a weapon against another family member? What would you do? How do you react?



Sandra Bean

I wouldn’t be able to answer that question. People are allowed to use the courts and to file cases, I don’t know motivations, I would simply look at what the petition is and rule as I think is appropriate.



Louis Goodman

Jody Phillips







Jody Phillips

I just had one or two sort of question comments. One Judge Bean, congratulations on the new dog. I know we’ve talked about dogs in the past. So that’s very exciting that you got a new one. And my other question is more sort of personal, Have you ever tried Pilates? Because that’s sort of my exercise regiment, cuz I’ve had a number of injuries and chronic issues with pain and stuff. So that’s sort of my go to.



Sandra Bean

Yeah, yeah, no, I used to own a Pilates Reformer and I gave it to my ballet teacher, because she had always wanted one. And I thought it was better used with her because she’s able to use it to the fullest but that’s funny that you say that Miss Phillips because I just got a notice from Oakwood Athletic Club that they’re having everybody’s memberships activated now. And I was going over there to use the Pilates Reformer and I was thinking, Well, now that I’m paying for it. I guess I should go do Pilates.



Louis Goodman

Shannon Wolfe. I noticed that you put a question in the chat, would you like to ask the Judge directly?



Shannon Wolfe

Hi Judge, I was wondering when you are assigned or judges or assigned to a new division, sometimes an area where you haven’t practiced before, how do you bring yourself up to speed in that new area? And also, thank you very much for being here.



Sandra Bean

Oh, sure. Thank you. I appreciate that. All right. So when we get a new assignment, we take classes through the Center for Judicial Education Research. And when I became a new judge, I was really excited about the fact that we had that organization that I could go take classes and so I, and we’re required to do it, too. So if you change your assignment, your primary assignment, you have to go what’s called Primary Assignment Class.



Louis Goodman

Judge Sandra Bean, thank you so much for joining us today at the Alameda County Bar Association, and on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast . Certainly appreciate giving us your time, your energy and your wisdom.



Sandra Bean

Well, thank you. I appreciate people being here and it was a pleasure to see all and to see a few people that I haven’t met before.



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 legal profession, promoting excellence in the legal profession, and facilitating equal access to justice. Special thanks to ACBA staff and members Caitlin Dailen, Saeed Randall, Hadassah Hayashi, Vincent Tong, and Jason Leon. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Sandra Bean

You want to do what’s right all the time and you hope you get it right. I mean, it’s not an easy job sometimes because you want to, you want everybody to get a good resolution. But you can only make the decisions that you feel are appropriate.



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Christine Saunders / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript
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Christine Saunders / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript



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 experiences have been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect. She served as a Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County. She handled countless misdemeanor and felony cases. She has an outstanding trial record. She worked in San Francisco obtaining referrals for individuals in need of social services. She worked for two years in the legendary Teach for America Program. And what was undoubtedly the most difficult four days of her life, she led a chaperone trip to Washington DC with 88 students. Christine Saunders, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Christine Saunders

Thanks for having me, Lou. Looking forward to talking to you.



Louis Goodman

It’s a privilege to talk to you. I always enjoyed seeing you in court when you were in the District Attorney’s Office. I understand you left the District Attorney’s Office recently to take a new position. What are you doing?



Christine Saunders

I am currently the Campaign Manager for Jimmy Wilson, who is running for Alameda County District Attorney in 2022.



Louis Goodman

Where is your campaign headquarters located?



Christine Saunders

His campaign headquarters right now are very remote. We are running all over the county up and down north, south, east, talking to folks in backyards, at restaurants, in their homes, virtually just getting Jimmy out into the community to hear what he has to say and his vision and future for the criminal justice system.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Christine Saunders

I was born in the Chicago suburbs, but I grew up most of my life down on the Monterey Peninsula. I spent my high school years out in Pennsylvania and have since lived in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. So kind of all over the place.



Louis Goodman

What high school did you go to?



Christine Saunders

Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.



Louis Goodman

Is it a private school?



Christine Saunders

It is yeah, all girls. Now it’s a coed school and actually, when I moved out there I had a choice between an all girls school and a co ed school and I went with a co ed



Louis Goodman

Why? Well, I can understand why one might prefer a co educational experience.



Christine Saunders

Germantown was a lot of fun. It was a very sports oriented school and I played basketball there and softball, but I definitely was looking for a school with other kids that kind of hadn’t grown up in that school environment, because I moved out to Fort Washington just about a week before I started high school.



Louis Goodman

And where’s Fort Washington?



Christine Saunders

Fort Washington is just outside of Philadelphia by about 10 minutes.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from high school, where did you go to college?



Christine Saunders

I went to USC. So down in Los Angeles.



Louis Goodman

Did you like that experience?



Christine Saunders

I loved it. I was thrilled when I got accepted into USC and I really had a fantastic time. It’s an incredible school with an incredible alumni community and I am honored to be a part of it.



Louis Goodman

What sort of activities did you take up at USC?



Christine Saunders

When I was at USC, I actually spent a lot of time doing volunteer work in the community, tutoring youth in the area, which is how I ended up becoming interested in and ultimately joining the Teach for America Program.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from USC, did you go directly to law school or did you take some time off?



Christine Saunders

When I graduated from USC, I went directly into Teach for America. So I was placed in the New York City Corps for Teach for America and was a TFA Corps Member Ambassador to a school in Brownsville Brooklyn, which is in East Brooklyn, kind of where the three line and the L line meet up for those that know the New York City Subway map.



Louis Goodman

What did you think of that experience?



Christine Saunders

It was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. It forever changed my life. The students that I worked with were absolutely incredible and resilient. You know, like I said it was a student body of 250 students all of whom were students of color that lived in one of the poorest communities and all five boroughs with one of the highest crime rates in all five boroughs of New York City. The school I taught in was to say that it was underserved and underfunded does not do it justice. This was not anything like any school I had ever set foot in. And I have worked very hard ever since I was in that school and left that school to try and change that reality for students, for them and for students like them.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, years ago, I worked as a counselor at a summer camp for the Boys Club in New York and we had a lot of kids from that neighborhood. So I salute you for doing that work because I know how difficult it is. And I know how hard it is to just kind of reach some of those kids.



Christine Saunders

Yeah, you know, my children that I taught and the families that they came from, were so desperate for someone to want to invest in them. You know, I had what I hope my students would describe as well as a wonderful relationship with the kids that I taught, I cared about them very, very, very deeply.



Louis Goodman

When did you decide to go to law school?



Christine Saunders

I decided to go to law school when I was teachin. The environment that I worked in was an environment where I felt like my teachers needed a legal advocate as much as they needed a teacher, my principal was actually handcuffed and walked out of the school in my second year teaching, and I did get connected to some people in law enforcement through that situation. But you know, I also went through a lot personally, being in that environment. And you know, at that time, felt like I wanted to go off and kind of do something for myself a little bit and law school was the thing that I decided to do.



Louis Goodman

So where’d you go to law school?



Christine Saunders

I went to law school at UC Hastings. My family was back in the Bay Area at that time, and I wanted to come out here and be closer to family. So I came back out to California and went to school at UC Hastings.



Louis Goodman

What did you think of the Hastings experience?



Christine Saunders

You know, I loved it. But my family was from San Francisco, I had a lot of friends in the area from college and otherwise in the city. So I really enjoyed being at a school in San Francisco, where my family was located. And I’ve made some of my closest and most dear friends from my experience in law school. So I had a really great experience. And also, you know, being at UC Hastings is what ultimately got me into the Alameda County DA’s Office. So for that I will be forever grateful.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, you know, I went to Hastings to and I’ve said on this podcast before that I really had a great experience there. And, you know, now that you mentioned it, yeah. I mean, that’s how I got into the Alameda County DA’s Office, too. Bcause of connections I made directly through Hastings that I never would have had had I not been at Hastings. So yeah, I liked it.



Christine Saunders

Yeah, absolutely. And I was a part of the Moot Court Program at Hastings, which is just, it’s run by Toni Young, and she’s still there. And she just did and has done such an incredible job with the Hastings Moot Court Program. And I have to say the skills I learned through Moot Court at Hastings have carried me through my professional life and so I really felt like this school set me up for success.



Louis Goodman

You were kind of a star in Moot Court, weren’t you?



Christine Saunders

I did a couple of Moot Court competitions. I really, really enjoyed it. And I actually ended up summering with Alameda County DA’s Office with one of the girls that I did the Moot Court Program with so yeah, I had a lot of fun doing the Moot Court Program.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that having taken some time off between college and law school and worked in the teaching environment helped you focus when you got to law school?



Christine Saunders

Absolutely. I went into law school with a very different attitude I think then most of my classmates. Law school can be very grueling, and it can be very stressful. But it was a very different kind of stress than the stress I’d experienced in my job as a teacher.



Louis Goodman

How did you happen to go to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office?



Christine Saunders

Well, I was lucky enough to get into the Summer Law Clerk Program. So I summered at the Alameda County DA’s Office the year after my 12 year, and I joined the office in January after I graduated, so pass the bar and then joined a couple of months later.



Louis Goodman

What did you think of being a Deputy District Attorney?



Christine Saunders

I loved working with victims and interacting with the public. I really enjoyed, you know, helping victims find a path through the criminal justice system that left them with a sense of hope, and a sense of justice.



Louis Goodman

If a young person were graduating now from let’s say, USC, and they were thinking about a career, would you recommend law as a career to go into?



Christine Saunders

Yes, if it fits your personality. I mean, I said before, you know, I think one of the most important things you can do and deciding what you want to do in your life is to really take the time to sit back and think about what makes you happy. You know, your job is such an enormous part of your life. I mean, especially as a lawyer, and I can only speak from my experience practicing criminal law, but, you know, the hours are long to do the job, right? The hours are long, and it can be very stressful. And so you know, it becomes just a part of who you are.



Louis Goodman

What do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received?



Christine Saunders

The best advice that I’ve ever received, Be true to yourself, and trust your gut, and above all else, always do the right thing. You know, my closest mentors and advisors at the office have always told me that. And I think especially in the work that we do, as trial attorneys, that’s incredibly important. I think it’s easy to walk into a courtroom and to see how another attorney is trying a case. And they think, wow, I should try that. Or I could do that. But at the end of the day, you know, when you’re standing up in front of a jury, or you’re in a courtroom, you know, the most important thing that you can do is to be true to yourself, be true to who you are, trust your gut. And like I said, above all else always do the right thing.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I think that authenticity really shows in any endeavor, but perhaps especially in trial work.



Christine Saunders

He had so many when you’re standing in front of that jury, and for lack of a better description, you know, you’re naked in front of them.



Louis Goodman

Do you think the legal system is fair?



Christine Saunders

Now, I don’t think it’s fair. But I think that it can be with the right leadership. I don’t think that the system is unfixable I just think it hasn’t been fixed. So I don’t think it’s fair, but I think we can get there.



Louis Goodman

What’s your family life been like? And how is practicing law affected that?



Christine Saunders

My family life has changed a lot since I started practicing law. So I got married, when I had been in the office for about a year. And since joining the DA’s Office in 2013, I’ve had two children. So I have a three year old on it, and a 17 month old Sophie. So you know, my family life has changed a lot over the course of my career. And then I definitely, you know, having kids needed to find a better way to separate the work that we were doing from the life I was living at home.



Louis Goodman

How did you do that?



Christine Saunders

You know, I’ve always been someone who did a lot of work at home. I always studied at home when I was in law school. And so you know, I think for me, it was just about separating those two things. And I got better about it with time.



Louis Goodman

Have you had any interesting travel experience?



Christine Saunders

Yes, I’ve actually had a lot of interesting travel experience between boss but actually between Teach for America and law school. I worked in an orphanage in Ha Dong Province, about 45 minutes north of Hanoi, Vietnam. And I worked out there for about two months before traveling by bus from Hanoi, through Vietnam, Cambodia and ultimately on to Thailand. So I did that with a very dear friend of mine who went to college with me was my maid of honor went to law school with me and is now a stand up comedian. So it was fantastic trip also very eye opening. But yeah, no, that was an interesting travel experience. I also studied abroad. I lived in Madrid when I was in college for six months. And I lived in Vitoria Garcia’s and Northeast Spain when I was 15 for about three months, so done a lot of traveling. It’s one of my favorite things to do.



Louis Goodman

What sort of things keep you up at night these days?



Christine Saunders

This campaign keeps me up at night. You know, I stay up at night, hoping that I am doing everything I can to make this campaign a success for the community for the office. I believe in the work that we’re doing. You know, the stress I have now is very similar to the stress I experienced when I was teaching. So that’s what keeps me up at night right now.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came in with some real money. A few billion dollars, $3 or $4 billion. What if anything, would you change in your life?



Christine Saunders

In my own life?



Louis Goodman

Yeah, in your own life?



Christine Saunders

You know, I don’t think that there’s much I would change about my own personal life. But I definitely would want to use that money to invest in education in our communities and nonprofits in our communities that can serve our youth before they ever reach the criminal justice system. You know, I think one of the things that I’ve learned throughout life, whether that’s my work in Teach for America, or my work at the District Attorney’s Office is that so much crime in our community is so preventable. If we just put our minds together as a collective, to invest in our youth and our communities. You know, early on, right out the gate.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand, that was one thing that you could change the legal world or the world in general, what would that be?



Christine Saunders

Oh gosh,if there was one thing I could change about the world, I think that the one thing if I could wave my wand and change one thing about the world today, is that I wish that I really, I wish that access to education in this country were equitable. I wish that I could wave a wand and provide our public schools with equal access to quality education for all of our kids. I really think that education or lack thereof, is at the root of so many of the struggles that we encounter in our society. I think that we have the ability to do this. And it’s frustrating that it doesn’t happen. But that’s definitely if I could wave a wand and change one thing. That’s what I want to change.



Louis Goodman

So Christine, you have been working very hard and diligently on Jimmy Wilson’s DA campaign. And as someone who has run for office, I know how hard it is. I know how lonely it can be. And I’m wondering if you have some thoughts or emotions about just being involved in a campaign that you might share with us, for people who haven’t actually been on the inside of a campaign?



Christine Saunders

Yeah, so you know, campaigning has been a steep learning curve. It’s a new field for me and you know, I definitely say it’s very exciting, to get involved with something new, and to be doing something very different than what I was doing before. You know, for people considering getting into law, I think getting involved with political campaigns, whatever your politics are, is something that’s very interesting, because I think a lot of the skills that you need and develop as a lawyer are things that you use through the campaigning process. Campaigning has been I feel very isolating at times. You know, you and I talked about that briefly. But you know, it’s also something that makes you feel very connected to the community as you get out there and talk to folks and hear what they have to say and kind of listen to their concerns. And so in that way, it is the opposite of isolating, it’s actually very, very fascinating to get out into the community and interact with people in a very different way. So you know, that part of it’s been really enjoyable, but it’s a slog, as you know, and as we always say it’s a marathon, not a race. It’s definitely a slightly new role to be in.



Louis Goodman

I’ve done fundraising through, what do you think about raising money? What do you think about fundraising?



Christine Saunders

Yeah, no, I mean, it’s definitely interesting. Political fundraising is particularly interesting. You know, I’ve done a lot of fundraising for work around education and nonprofits. So in that way, I have had the conversation with people where I’ve asked them to part with their money, but I think, you know, politics and campaigning, people don’t really I mean, I definitely didn’t before joining a campaign. People don’t really understand, you know, the cost of running a campaign and I don’t think people have a clear understanding of exactly what is happening to their money when they send their money into a political campaign. And I’m certainly trying to sort of pull back the curtain and help people understand what is happening to their money.



Christine Saunders

You’re spending money printing yard signs, door knockers, doing mailers, digital and TV ads, if you’re talking about a really contested contest, putting on events and so yeah, I mean, you know, what is the yard sign cost? People see these yard signs out there and don’t pay any attention whatsoever? And yeah, I mean, so you know yard signs of practical realities writing sign a waterproof and then when you’re talking about the different colors of a campaign that go and do it but let’s say, you know yard sign on average and of course this changes depending on how many yard signs you’re printing with it, let’s say, you know, a yard sign costs about $8, you know, 350,000 potentially yard signs that you need to pay at eight bucks a pop. You’re talking about real money, right? So, you know, I guess the math is kind of one yard sign gives you six to 10 voters, depending if you’re in a rural or an urban area. And that’s just an example. That’s just one example of the costs that go into campaigning. Like, you know, Alameda County also has one of the most expensive media markets in the United States. So you know, I think you’re looking at needing to raise between 1-2 million dollars.



Louis Goodman

So yeah, do you think it’s gonna take them between 1-2 million in order to run this campaign?



Christine Saunders

You know, I don’t know that for sure. It’s interesting, because we don’t have a lot of points of reference. And this will be the first open race for DA in modern Alameda County history. All of the candidates need to raise, you know, a good amount of money to be competitive in this contest and really get their message out to registered voters in the county.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard and expensive.



Christine Saunders

Yeah, I mean, it’s different work. It’s different than anything I’ve done before. And in that way, it’s exciting, but it’s certainly challenging.



Louis Goodman

Christine Saunders, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.



Christine Saunders

Likewise, my thank you very much for having me today.



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 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 for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Christine Saunders

Let me start that over. I so I would love to just talk about sort of a little bit like off the record for the podcast, but but I’d love to not off the record for thought but just for this just to tell you what I want to talk about. I would love to talk about sort of like,



Louis Goodman

you know, I mean, ultimately I’m gonna just take a look at this in the edit and decide whether it fits or doesn’t fit.





Mark Rockwell / Louis Goodman Podcast


Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. Where we will talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experiences have been.



Mark Rockwell

Well, good afternoon. Thank you. I’m glad to be here.



Louis Goodman

You have a very interesting history. And we’re going to get into that. But right now, where are you located?



Mark Rockwell

I live in a small community on the south east edge of Portland, Oregon called Lake Oswego.



Louis Goodman

And what type of business do you have now? How would you describe your current business?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I spend a lot of my time Louis working with law firms that really are frustrated, have l for lack of a better term have hit their head on the ceiling. They want to grow, they want to scale, but they’re frustrated because they don’t have the processes and procedures in place, and they feel as though they’re spinning their wheels. And I help them get organized and break through that barrier.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Mark Rockwell

I grew up in a little cow town over in Central Washington called Sunnyside over the Yakima Valley. My dad was a dentist.



Louis Goodman

Is that where youwent to high school?



Mark Rockwell

No, actually, I went to a boarding school up near Spokane called Upper Columbia Academy. It was a private school of about 300 400 students. And it was a hoot. I was so happy to be, I mean, gosh, I wouldn’t send my kids off to boarding school at 13 years of age. But I look back on that as being just a tremendous time.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from the boarding school, did you go to college?





Mark Rockwell

Yes, I went to a small private college in Walla Walla. Can you believe this? I still this is so silly. I remember on the side of the trucks in the City of Walla Walla. The logo said the town they love so much. They named it twice. Now that’s got to be real Northwest humor. But yes, it was a small college of around 1800 students Walla Walla College, and I majored in History and Business.



Louis Goodman

And when you graduated from Walla Walla, did you go directly to law school or did you take some time off?



Mark Rockwell

Well, actually, I went straight to law school. And in retrospect, I wish I had taken some time off. I mean, one of the things that kids do now is a gap year where they actually go do some fun things like travel in Europe and just have some fun and really expand their knowledge.



Louis Goodman:

And what law school did you go to again?



Mark Rockwell:

Willamette. Willamette is really, I think the oldest law school west of the Mississippi. It’s in Salem, Oregon. beautiful little town. It’s the state capitol for the state of Oregon. And it was, I can remember with fondness. Our law school was about a block away from the state capitol. And there was a cafeteria in the basement of the Capitol building where we could go over and get very affordable meals. And I can remember the governor, Governor Tom McCall coming in great big tall guy, I think he was probably six foot five or six, would come down and sit at the table and eat lunch with the rest of us. And it was just it was a delightful time.



Louis Goodman

It sounds like that part of it was really good. What did you think of law school in general?



Mark Rockwell

I really enjoyed it. And we had some really, really good professors. I have no regrets at all about law school other than the fact that I didn’t do nearly as well the first years.



Louis Goodman

When did you first start thinking I want to be a lawyer?



Mark Rockwell

You know, I was pretty young. I had visions of being Perry Mason. And I don’t think I was probably more than 12 or 13 when I started having ideas about being a liar. I can’t say that with absolute certainty. But by the time I was in undergraduate college, I was absolutely certain I wanted to be an attorney. And yeah, I never really ever considered not going to law school.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from law school, what kind of job did you get?



Mark Rockwell

Well, you know, it’s interesting that when I was going through law school, I actually got the entrepreneurial bug and started a business on the side. And I had eight trucks, believe it or not, oh, gosh, I think back now, why couldn’t I have just focused all my attention on law school?



Louis Goodman

Have you ever actually practiced law? Have you always been in the business world?



Mark Rockwell

You know, I have done a lot of legal work. But it’s always been for one of the corporations that I owned. So I have never hung out a shingle as a private practitioner. But I’ve spent many years up to my armpits in legal matters.



Louis Goodman

For a while you worked right here in Alameda County where I produce this podcast.



Mark Rockwell

Well, actually, I lived in Fremont. And I was with Peterbilt Motors Company, our headquarters at the time were in Newark, we not only had our division headquarters, but we had a large plant there. And so I handled a variety of things. I handled all the franchising for a period of time, our dealer network throughout the United States. I also handle all the customer service and field engineering. So I had a variety of positions.



Louis Goodman

You describe yourself as a coach, what exactly do you mean by a coach? And why do you see yourself as a coach?



Mark Rockwell

I guess the term coach, as opposed to consultant is really, it’s not my role to come in and actually fix the problem, but more to observe, and encourage and counsel and brainstorm with the attorneys and their firms and walk through a protocol that will help the individuals within the firm, develop the management muscle and the processes and procedures that will allow them to really become fully capable and fully functional.



Louis Goodman

What prompted you to start thinking about, you know, doing that kind of work.



Mark Rockwell

I have coined the phrase, embrace wisdom wherever you find it. And what I mean by that is, interestingly enough, I was exposed to this whole coaching, operational concept from a young man that I had been mentoring for about 10 years. And one day, he came to breakfast, and he brought this book called Traction by Gino Wickman. And he said, you know, here’s a book, I think you’d find enjoyable. They cracked it open and read through it right away. I called him up and said, Gosh, that’s a great book. And he said, Well, would you like to talk to the fellow that’s helping us implement all that in our company and we found it made a profound difference in the way we ran our company. I wish somebody had introduced me to 10 years before, as our business improved. And then I eventually sold that company, I realized I had no interest whatsoever in retiring. And realize I would like to go and help other entrepreneurial firms benefit as well. And then I started getting calls from attorneys and because they knew I was doing this kind of work, and many law firms, if they’re candid, will tell you that they don’t feel as though they operate internally all that smoothly. And so I started working with a number of law firms and then recognized, you know, I probably should just focus on law firms. And so that’s the majority of my practice now.



Louis Goodman

What is it that you like about working with lawyers?



Mark Rockwell

I like the fact that they’re disciplined, that they are motivated, that they’re smart, that when they make a commitment to turn things around or improve, I like the way attorneys think is very similar to the way I think it which is organized and disciplined.



Louis Goodman

What’s the most important piece of advice that you have for other business owners or other attorneys?



Mark Rockwell

Gosh, that’s a good question, Louis. You know, you could, and I’m really speaking to myself when I do this, it’s slow down and focus. Because if we will focus, whatever it is the task, the job, the client, the problem, the opportunity, our likelihood of success, is exponentially better.



Louis Goodman

Now you’ve written a pamphlet that is titled Five Mistakes That Lawyers Make, and you talked about five key mistakes. What are those mistakes? What do they represent? And what order of importance should a business owner implement corrections?



Mark Rockwell

Well, there are five mistakes that I think not only do attorneys make, but most of us in business are professionals of any kind make, it’s a lack of personal organization. And I would start by saying, for instance, in the case of attorneys, taking unscheduled client phone calls just being too available. Now, I know that flies in the face of being a caring, thoughtful, responsive attorney. But legal matters, in particular, that attorneys are working on require focus and concentration. And if you’re taking a phone call, or taking phone calls on a regular basis, and allowing your thought process to be interrupted, what a person could get done and should get done in an hour can be strung out over multiple hours because the reboot time, you can’t be unresponsive, but you can’t be constantly interrupted.



Louis Goodman

Okay, so unscheduled phone calls. What’s the second one?



Mark Rockwell

Well, another interruption would be allowing unscheduled client meetings, not unlike a phone call it can just willy nilly interrupt you. If clients just pop into your office and say, I’m here to see Louis, same thing, same net effect, it interrupts your day, it interrupts your workflow, it interrupts your thought process. You’re constantly rebooting. And those are very manageable. That is just a matter of organization and discipline.



Louis Goodman

What about colleague interruptions? Let’s call that number three.



Mark Rockwell

Yes, that probably is perhaps even a bigger issue. And I encourage all of the attorneys I work with to have very candid conversations with their colleagues. I won’t interrupt you, please don’t interrupt me. And if you have, you know, you can do a number of things. One can go so far as to say, you know, I closed my door, when my doors closed, please do not interrupt me, I need that time to work.



Louis Goodman

What about looking at one cell phone for texts, voicemails? Can we call that number four?



Mark Rockwell

I would say cell phones and email, those are four and five, are very manageable. I mean, that is such a huge temptation to be constantly looking at your phone. And I would encourage people to do a couple of things. Number one, if this is what it takes, turn your phone off and leave it in another room. Don’t leave it on your desk on where every time it dings, you’re tempted to turn it over? Oh, yeah, I know. It takes it’s I know, it’s discipline, and it’s a new habit. It’s a habit that many of us have to create, and we have to think about it. But I’m guilty myself. I mean, I’m not trying to sound like someone who’s mastered all these things. But I can tell you from experience, that if my phone is sitting there looking at me, I’m looking back at it, and it interrupts my schedule, for sure.



Louis Goodman

Now, I’m going to link to all of this in the show notes. So anyone who’s listening will be able to look at the show notes and find what I’m referring to here. But you also have a checklist where you very specifically go through 25 points having to do with law firms and personnel management. And I’m wondering how you develop that list? And what is the aim of implementing that checklist?



Mark Rockwell

A good question, Louis. The reason for the checklist is really to allow you to facilitate self assessment.



Louis Goodman

Mark, let me just interrupt you just so that people know what we’re talking about here. I’m not going to go through all 25 questions but just give you an idea just to give people an idea of the kinds of things that are on your list.



Mark Rockwell

Like our firm’s top line revenue, gross margin and profitability are growing at a pace we’re satisfied with our firm has a clear vision and writing that has been properly communicated and shared by everyone in the organization. Our 10 year target is clear and communicated regularly and shared by all. Everyone is engaged in a regular weekly meeting with a standardized agenda.



Louis Goodman

So these kinds of things and there’s 25 of those questions and as you say, going through them is really kind of a mind opening opportunity.



Mark Rockwell

Well, you know, and quite a confession. When I took a similar test a number of years ago, for my firm, we had a failing score. It was really an abysmally low score. And so I always say, you know, the bad news is when you get a score of say, 55, or even 35, that’s the bad news. The good news is, look at how much opportunity there is for improvement. And when you go through the 25 questions, you can recognize fairly quickly an example you read one of the first ones about, you know, our vision and our goals and all are shared by all and we’ve published them, etc. That’s an easy thing to correct. Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s an easy thing to necessarily instill in all of your colleagues. But it does mean that here is sort of a trail of things that if you work on them, and you focus on them, within a couple years, if your score is 35, today, within a couple years, you can be at 80, or 85. So the bad news is you start out with a bad score. The good news is there’s a path to double or triple your performance.



Louis Goodman

And what can you expect, if you do double or triple your performance?



Mark Rockwell

Well, several great things are gonna happen. First of all, you’re going to have a lot less chaos in the firm. There’s going to be clarity as to what your vision and goals are, which means it’s going to make it easier for you to hire and retain good staff. You’re going to have processes and procedures in place that are going to allow you to have be more efficient, more effective, more consistent output, you’re going to have greater accountability. And at the end of the day, you’re going to wind up with more satisfied clients and your bottom line is going to improve.



Louis Goodman

Are these things that one should try and apply to one’s personal life as well?



Mark Rockwell

Well, certainly the same concepts apply there. Absolutely. The whole idea of being predictable and consistent and thoughtful in your own personal life is going to transition or carry over into your professional life. There is a great parallel there. Yes.



Louis Goodman

How is actually working with lawyers, different or met your expectations about it from when you got started in this coaching business?



Mark Rockwell

At the risk of being, sounding melodramatic, I think there’s more pain and dysfunction in the legal profession than I had realized. There is more an appearance of being calm, cool and collected. But when you start to get, you know, when you lift the hood, and you start to look inside. What is a bit surprising to me is that I would say it’s not at all uncommon for law firms to have a lot more internal frustration, and difficulties holding people accountable and getting money to flow to the bottom line than I had ever realized.



Louis Goodman

What kinds of things keep you calm and keep you grounded?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I’m a spiritual person, for one thing. So I have a great faith. I recognize that everything I have, including the air I breathe is a gift from God. And so I feel a high level of obligation to use my time on this earth in a way that is productive. And I’ve been very blessed. And I now see these next, hopefully 10/20 years as a period when I can really give back.



Louis Goodman

You’ve observed the legal system from a number of different vantage points. Do you think that it’s fair?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I think there are aspects of it that are fair in the sense that I think in business world where you’re doing transactions, negotiating contracts, and all I think that’s fair. When it gets into areas of real complexity, whether it is legal defense work, Criminal Defense work, I mean, thank God, I’ve never been a criminal defendant, but I have known people who were and it’s just a nightmare. It is just like you have been sucked into a black hole that you don’t feel like you can ever get out of.



Louis Goodman

What’s your family life been like?



Mark Rockwell

Well, I have a great family life. I have a wonderful wife, of gosh, I better count accurately, I think it’s almost 39 years. I have two wonderful sons who are in and out of college now. So I’m no longer paying tuition, which is a wonderful thing. That’s a huge pay increase. I have two beautiful Bulldogs, who I am just crazy about. And so I have a kind of a simple life, but a great life very balanced lots of personal time, as well as professional time.



Louis Goodman

How about recreational pursuits, anything that you enjoy doing kind of clear your head on occasion?



Mark Rockwell

I am a real regular walker. One of my partners gave me a Fitbit about 10 years ago and I have to tell you, it’s had a profound impact on my life in a positive way. I walk about 3000 miles a year, which is not a lot on a per day basis. It’s just a matter of being consistent. So love to walk, I’m out every day, rain or shine. I decided years ago that living here in the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t cut myself slack by saying well, I’ll only walk four days a week. Because if I did that, and the weather was crummy, I would quickly say, Oh, well, it’s coming today, I don’t think I’ll walk I’ll take one of those three days off. But then tomorrow is gonna be just as crummy. And before you know it, I wouldn’t be walking at all. So I have this rule of thumb, I have to go out every day. And despite how cold or windy or rainy it is, I can come back in 10 minutes. It’s really, really awful. Well, I’ve never used that get out of jail card. But it’s a good mental trick to get me going.



Louis Goodman

I’ve heard in the Pacific Northwest, they say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.



Mark Rockwell

That’s kind of the way you have to look at it. You know, we’re a bunch of whiners up here in the Northwest. And the reason being is we actually have delightful weather, you just have to look at winter rain as an investment in next summer’s beauty.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say that you came into some real money, you know, $3/$4 billion? What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?



Mark Rockwell

Well, first of all, I would hope that it wouldn’t go to my head. And I would hope that my lifestyle as far as my home and my car and my dogs and my family wouldn’t change. So that would be my first concern that, it wouldn’t go to my head. There are any number of wonderful charitable events that I would love to participate in. I would probably focus on what is a need that I have a passion for, that I could organize a foundation that would have a profound impact.





Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand, there was one thing in the world that you could change, what would that be if you could wave the magic wand over that?



Mark Rockwell

There are multiple things in life that really up and our society, but if they’re two things that you could put your finger on alcohol and drugs. So decimate such a large percentage of our society. And if I could magically remove or change, I would say that the Genie, let’s get rid of the damage from alcohol and drugs that in itself would reduce crime, and it would restore a lot of people to a happy lifestyle.



Louis Goodman

Mark,is there anything else that you want to talk about or mentioned that we haven’t discussed?



Mark Rockwell

No. I mean, I’ve really enjoyed our conversation. And you’re a good host. I appreciate you inviting me on your podcast. I enjoy listening to your podcast. You’ve had any number of great guests. And I’m just flattered that you invited me.



Louis Goodman

Mark Rockwell, thank you so much for joining me this afternoon on Love Thy Lawyer podcast.



Mark Rockwell

It’s been a pleasure talking to you. It’s been fun visiting with you. Thank you so much.



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 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 for music, Ryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Mark Rockwell

So, I took a crash course Bay Area Bar Review, and much to my amazement, I sat for the Washington State Bar and passed it the first go through. I was not overly confident I was going to pass.





Stephen Foster / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman

Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, 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 experiences have been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show. And yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect. He is a former Bexar County, Texas Assistant District Attorney. He honed his courtroom skills and then opened his private practice. His firm based in San Antonio handles Business Litigation, Will Contests in large estates and Fiduciary Litigation. He has been named a Super Lawyer by Texas Monthly and a Rising Star by Superlawyers.com. He has also served as a television commentator, and been published in newspapers throughout the state of Texas. Stephen Neil Foster, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Stephen Neil Foster

Well, thank you very much, Louis. You know, when you say that all together, it sounds really good. I’m glad that it does.



Louis Goodman

Where’s your office right now?



Stephen Foster

It is in San Antonio, Texas, kind of north part of town.



Louis Goodman

Texas is a very big state and San Antonio, sort of South Central Texas. Is that correct?



Stephen Foster

You got that right. And Texas is a big state. And you know, just like anyone in Texas, they will let you know that. But yeah, San Antonio is probably about two hours from the border.



Louis Goodman

San Antonio is known for the Alamo. Is that correct?



Stephen Foster

It is, we’re always told, remember the Alamo. You know, Texas didn’t win, but we’re proud of it anyway,



Louis Goodman

One of the reasons that I was interested in talking to you is that you are in Texas. And it seems lately that there’s been a lot of movement by people in California, to Texas, including several lawyers that I know. I just thought it’d be interesting to talk to a Texas lawyer, especially someone who’s had some experience as a criminal prosecutor.





Stephen Foster

Yeah, well, I’ll tell you, it’s growing. If I’ve been gone for a week and come back home, there’s five new buildings in my neighborhood that have popped up.



Louis Goodman

So what type of practice do you have Stephen?



Stephen Foster

Well,we do an awful lot of litigation. And a lot of the kind of the specialty areas that we found for ourselves are the areas where lawyers are agreeable, and just generally speaking, decent human beings, you know, like probate estate planning, but then we come in when things go horribly wrong. We also do a lot of collections as a turnover receiver from people frequently that have a judgment against them that they’re trying to hide or run from, or transfer properties into one LLC, or in another one, or, oh, that’s actually my mother’s trust, you know, all sorts of shenanigans, but it’s all litigation. It’s all fighting. You know, from the moment I wake up, I’m struggling with someone.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from? Originally?



Stephen Foster

Well, I was born in Denver, Colorado, and moved around the age of 10. I went to high school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which is probably about 90 miles kind of, he’s more or less east, a little bit south but east of Pittsburgh. A coal mining industrial region, which is where my mother’s family’s from my mom’s side. It’s called miners all the way back until my grandfather sold everything and came to the United States to avoid everything that was going on right before World War Two. So I’m grateful for that.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from high school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Where’d you go to college?



Stephen Foster

Well, I went to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.



Louis Goodman

What prompted you to go there? I mean, it’s a long way from Western Pennsylvania.



Stephen Foster

You know, my dad went there. And my dad’s family is from Oklahoma. And as a result of that, the tuition was $1,500.









Louis Goodman

Wow.



Stephen Foster

Well, that’s a little while ago. I mean, I’m not saying I’m an old timer. But that’s, you know, something that kids today don’t usually have. I don’t know what it is now. But I think college everywhere is just way more expensive than it was.



Louis Goodman

How was your experience in college in Oklahoma?



Stephen Foster

Well, I liked it at the time of my life. It was I mean, it was kind of exciting, getting away from home. You know, it’s kind of that first taste of independence anyone ever has. I can’t say I did anything but really enjoyed it.



Louis Goodman

Now when you got out of college, did you go directly to law school, or do you take some time off?



Stephen Foster

I was finishing up taking summer classes and then I started in the fall. So I didn’t even take a summer off. I was just kind of ready to get after it?



Louis Goodman

When did you start thinking about being a lawyer? And you know, kind of what prompted you to go in that direction?



Stephen Foster

Well, I watching court shows on TV. There was some blood show called Superior Court and it had a character on there named Anthony Monopoly, that always be yelling and screaming. And it just looked like a lot of fun. I didn’t really know what a lawyer did. But I knew that I didn’t want to do manual labor.



Louis Goodman

What did your friends and family say when you told them, hey, I want to be a lawyer?



Stephen Foster

It’s a good question. I’m not sure I exactly remember. I mean, I was always running at the mouth. And you know, I don’t think any of us realize that being a lawyer wasn’t just going into court and running at the mouth. So I don’t know if anybody was surprised.



Louis Goodman

How did you happen to go to the District Attorney’s Office?



Stephen Foster

Well, I was working down my first job, pretty much my first job. But my first real solid, somebody wanted to actually give me money job, was doing Insurance Defense on Medical Malpractice cases, mostly, basically getting thrown out of court, because the plaintiffs would miss things. And I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. When I got there, from there, I went to the District Attorney’s Office in Webb County, with Enza Potter County, which is right on the border. I spent a couple years there, everybody thinks of it as being what lawyers do. But there’s no better experience and basically being thrown in there. And being told to try a case, when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. Because now there’s, you’ll learn something a lot more when you mess it up and embarrass yourself. And when you read it in a book, that is something that I have, sadly had to learn the hard way.



Louis Goodman

At some point, you left the District Attorney’s Office and you open your own practice?



Stephen Foster

I did. I opened a practice with a couple of my colleagues, my buddies from the DEA office, from the Simpson Foster and Gold in Texas, and I started doing a whole lot of civil work.



Louis Goodman

How is actually practicing law met or different from your expectations about it?



Stephen Foster

Well, I think the level of stress and the level of worry, and the level of organization that’s required, I mean, I’m very fortunate that my law partners, my wife, in that, you know, she is by far the most organized person I’ve ever met. And she is on top of everything. And so that lets me relax and focus on some things while she does all the worrying. But you know, even with having someone that is a master organizer, and one of the most brilliant women I’ve ever known, there’s still constant worry in the back of your mind, thinking, well, should I have done this? Should I have not done this on a case? You know, what’s, the best use of client funds? Am I wasting my money by doing something? If I get this expert am I wasting $20,000 of my clients money? Or if I don’t get the expert and lose the case is that mistake, and it cost a half million? Should I file? You know, I mean, as a lawyer, you know that there’s a million little decisions that you have to make a case. And, just when you spend your life worrying, and never not thinking about minutes, there’s never an evening that goes by that my wife Ashley and I aren’t talking about a case or you know, she’s giving me solid advice about something that I asked about a week ago. And, you know, in about 10 seconds, she gives me the answer, just kind of out of the blue.



Louis Goodman

What about the business of practicing law? How’s that gone for you? And how’s that, you know, matter different from your expectations about it?



Stephen Foster

As a lawyer, I think we lie to ourselves. If we don’t realize we have a business, you know, if there’s lights on, if there’s a staff that needs to be paid, you’re in business.



Louis Goodman

You bet.



Stephen Foster

I don’t think there’s any glory or anything notable about saying that you know that you’re basically thinking that you’re above that because, you know, you’re part of a profession. You know, I mean, you’re just you still got a staff that’s relying on you. And so you need to make more good decisions than bad ones to keep the lights on.



Louis Goodman

Is there anything that you know now that you really wish you knew before you started practicing law?



Stephen Foster

Well, the importance of humility, which kind of ties into what we were discussing earlier about, just, if you don’t know something, just speak up and say it, no one’s gonna think less of you, because you don’t know everything.



Louis Goodman

But I would say, how much hard work beats talent. You know, you’ve said a couple things that I thought were interesting, and I’m wondering if you could comment on them. One thing you said was that no attorney can do everything. That’s a good point.



Stephen Foster

Yeah, I’ve found that when I wrote, the more I focus on something, the better I can be, and so there’s just such tremendous value in figuring out what it is you’re going to do and focus on that. And this if there’s no, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t value to kind of having a broad range of experience. But no one can do everything. And you’re better off being really great at one thing than being pretty good at 100.



Louis Goodman

In taking a case, do you consider the notion of can you make the client happy?



Stephen Foster

I think you’re smart if you do, and I certainly tried to. And there’s two aspects of that. One is, are you going to be able to be successful? Because I don’t like to get involved in cases where I don’t think that I’m going to be successful. I actively look for reasons not to take cases, because I’ve never regretted a case that I haven’t taken. But I have regretted some cases that I’ve taken. And just generally, if your client is someone that has reasonable expectations. In general, it’s going to make things a lot easier down the road, when you get them a reasonable result, because you don’t get people 10 times what they’re entitled to each and every case.



Louis Goodman

What do you think about the notion that clients and attorneys really need to work together and to trust each other?



Stephen Foster

Well, I yeah, I think obviously, you need to work together, you need to trust each other. But I think that a lot of that is on the attorney to give the client a reason to trust them. You know, I don’t know exactly what the public perception of attorneys are in California. But I can tell you in Texas, it’s not always that good. And there are a lot of attorneys that have given people a lot of reasons not to trust attorneys.



Louis Goodman

What do you think’s the best advice you’ve ever received?



Stephen Foster

You know, my mom gave me so much good advice. She had so much wisdom, but one thing she always used to say, and for some reason, it stuck with me is that, a big shots just a little shot that keeps on shooting. And she also always used to tell me, if you’ve got just about everything that a person wants or needs, if you have enough money to put cheese on your hamburger.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, there’s some wisdom to that isn’t there.



Stephen Foster

I mean, there really is. So you can spend your whole life always wanting more, or not always looking for what the next best thing is. But really, I mean, we’re all pretty fortunate. You know, if you’re a lawyer, something’s gone right in your life, that you were able to devote years of your life to studying and learning. And all of us that are lawyers, generally speaking, you’re working in air conditioning. While there are people out there doing manual labor, there are people on roofs that are in 100 degree heat. You know, there’s people out on roads, there’s a lot of people in this world, that when they when they wake up in the morning, in their backs a little sore, they just have to know that there’s gonna be worse by the time they’re done doing a full day’s work. Now, there’s a lot of lawyers that are very unhappy. Suicide rates for lawyers are pretty high. And on one hand, I can say, Hey, I’m pretty fortunate to be a lawyer, the other hand, I’ve known attorneys that have taken their own life. And sometimes I knew that they were going through trouble, it was just a complete surprise. So that’s something for me to keep in mind as well, that, you know, even though I’m very fortunate to be living my life, not everybody living a very kind of similar life might be feeling so good about it.







Louis Goodman

Yeah, I think we all have a lot to be grateful for. And yet, lawyers do suffer depression and suffer from dealing with the troubles of the world that are brought to us.



Stephen Yeah, it’s understandable.



Louis Goodman:

Do you think the legal system is fair?



Stephen Foster

Well, I think the legal system here in the United States is fantastic. That said, are there injustice is absolutely there are. But I think, we always think of justice is, Lady Justice, and she’s standing there blindfolded with her scales of justice, and you know that that’s an ideal of perfection that we aspire to. And anytime you aspire to an ideal of perfection, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. Now, if you kind of take a step back and you think, what’s the legal system replacing, what was how were people resolving their disputes before the legal system kind of came to be? There were gun fights. There were gun fights and strong people just did whatever they want, and weak people just kind of had to let them. So, you know, if you look at the legal system, what we’re replacing, and what justice for lack of a better term was, not too long ago, there it’s kind of mind boggling how unjust the world is. If you compare it to how it used to be, you’ll think, Wow, this legal system, we’re doing a lot of really great things here.



Louis Goodman

But you and your wife work together, what other things do you like to do as a family?



Stephen Foster

Well, as a family, what we like to do is Chase around our little six year old boy, he just turned six.



Louis Goodman

That’s great.



Stephen Foster

And I don’t think that there’s a moment we spend, that we’re not just kind of together as a family.



Louis Goodman

What kind of things keep you up at night?



Stephen Foster

Thinking about cases is what keeps me up at night. Thinking that I do something wrong, you know, it’s not so much the fear of losing as much as the fear of letting someone down. There’s so many different things that it’s not unusual for me to get up in the middle of the night, and go just to check to make sure that something was calendered a certain way, and that’s on top of having just a compulsive system. We have rules, and we follow them, just, you know, A, B, C, and D. But I would say that, and just, you know, looking at my little boy and thinking how fragile he is, and kind of how scary that is, and also how sad it is, when I think of when I was a prosecutor and also, to a certain extent as a criminal defense attorney, you know, a good long time ago, when I handled those cases. Just the tragedy that so many kids grow up around.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you and your wife came into some real money, a few billion dollars, what if anything would do differently in your life?



Stephen Foster

A few billion? Well, one thing I can guarantee you that my wife would do is yeah, I just, I can’t even imagine the charity they just did, she’d give most of it away to charity. I mean, frankly, I don’t know what I do with even just 1 billion. You know, I mean, you kind of reach a certain I’ve just got a very simple kind of very comfortable life. So I mean, I hate to say, oh, give it away to charity, cuz I’m kind of presenting myself as being more of a saint, that I really am. I wouldn’t need a fancy car. Maybe be nice to have an airplane. So I could go wherever I wanted to whenever I wanted to go there. But even then it’s probably easier to just get a plane ticket. You know what, I never think about money ever again, I guess. I mean, that’d be the biggest day to day change isn’t, you know, not what you get? Or what you do? Just the fact that you never have to think about it.



Louis Goodman

I kind of think that’s the question like, what would you do differently? If money was just not an issue in your personal life?



Stephen Foster

I would probably work about half as much as I do. I don’t think I just stopped because then you just be sitting around doing nothing.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand that was one thing in the world, in the legal world or otherwise, that you could change? What would that be?



Stephen Foster

I guess everybody is a kid would draw up in a happy, healthy home. Would that be one thing? Does that count as a whole bunch of things?



Louis Goodman

No, I think that’s one thing.









Stephen Foster

I mean, I’d say it wouldn’t have if you give me one, it would be something like that. If you gave me three, it’d be two things like that. And my swimming pool full of gold.



Louis Goodman

We’ve talked about a number of things. Have you had any mentors who have really influenced you in your life or your career?



Stephen Foster

I’ve had so many obviously, my parents, they are probably the first most influential mentors I’ve ever had. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a boss that I’ve worked for that wasn’t outstanding. I’ve really been fortunate in that regard, that I’ve never really had a job where I wasn’t, I didn’t feel like I was learning from somebody that was just at the top of their game. And I, to a certain extent, I guess I get credit for that from putting myself in positions to learn from really great people. So I don’t know if I really have any wisdom to give you from that. Other than that. You know, be very careful, not just who you hang out with, whenever you’re thinking about, professionally and mentors, but just in general, if you’re around positive people, it’s going to put good things in your head. And if you’re around people that don’t do the right thing, you know, morally, ethically, legally or otherwise, it’s gonna get really easy to start kind of acts in the same way yourself.



Louis Goodman

Stephen Foster, thank you so much for joining me today from Texas, on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.



Stephen Foster

Thank you very much. It’s really been a pleasure being on here. And it’s also a pleasure listening to all your other great guests. I appreciate what you’re doing here.



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 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 for music, Brian Mathison for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Stephen Foster

The best thing I ever did was married my wife because I that was the best thing I could have done for my family. It’s the best thing I could have done for my law practice and certainly the best thing I’ve ever done for me.




 

Assistant District Attorney Terry Wiley / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

Assistant District Attorney Terry Wiley / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman  0:04

Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer will talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experiences have been.  I’m  Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect. He heads the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. He prosecuted the infamous Riders case involving Gross Misconduct by the Oakland Police Department. accepted to Cal on the basis of academic excellence. He walked onto the football field and started as a sophomore. He served as vice president of the National Bar Association, and president of the Charles Houston Bar Association. He has mentored countless young lawyers, law students and college athletes. Terry Wiley, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Terry Wiley:  Glad to be here.

Louis Goodman:  It’s a real honor to have you.   tell me what exactly is your position these days?

Terry Wiley  1:17

Well, so I am currently officially an Assistant to District Attorney’s from the number three ranking District Attorney in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. And I my current assignment is I was named the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in November of 2020.

Louis Goodman  1:38

Where exactly are you physically located?

Terry Wiley  1:43

Physically located at the main courthouse at Rene C Davidson Courthouse by Lake Merritt on the ninth floor.

Louis Goodman  1:53

Now you’ve been in the district attorney’s office for how long?

Terry WIley:  30 years

Louis Goodman:   Where are you from originally?

Terry Wiley  2:01

So I’m from San Jose, California. I was born on Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. My dad was a career military man. So when Eisenhower integrated the Air Force, he immediately transferred from the Army to the Air Force. And so he our cam was he in in our family were stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield and my brother, my twin brother was born. And we’re, you know,  I’m an identical twin.

Louis Goodman  2:35

Is your identical twin a lawyer too?

Terry Wiley  2:38

No,  he’s in technology.

Louis Goodman  2:43

Where did you go to high school?

Terry Wiley  2:46

I went to  high school at Santa Teresa High School in San Jose. A lot of people think it’s, you automatically think it’s a Catholic School because it’s Santa Teresa, but it’s a public school in San Jose. It was built on Santa Teresa Boulevard. So Santa Teresa High School, but a public high school in South San Jose.

Louis Goodman  3:07

How was your experience in high school?

Terry Wiley  3:09

You know,  it was interesting, Lou, you know, we were raised when we first moved to San Jose, we lived in East San Jose, which was predominantly hispanic and black. And I think by the time we got into sixth grade, we started noticing a just a real lack of challenge academically in school. And so we complain to my mother about the just the role, the lack of challenge, you know, on pretty much a daily basis. And so my mom moved our family out to South San Jose, which was about 80%, white, and 20% other, you know, Hispanic, Asian, and Black. And then there were very few blacks in South San Jose.

Louis Goodman  3:57

What was that like for you coming from like a predominantly African American Hispanic place, and then going to someplace that was really, predominantly white,

Terry Wiley  4:08

Was a couple of adjustments we had to make.   One was that we were behind. So it took us about six months to catch up with everybody else and where they were academically. And so, you know, and we’ve just found the academics were a lot more challenging. And it was just a much better education system. And it was also interesting, because,  we were athletic, and we also came from a very, an environment that was very competitive, very.   It was a we came from a much more challenging environment in terms of, you know, the people that you’re growing up around are just a lot tougher. For and so when we got to South Central, I think  the guys in South San Jose learned pretty quick that, you know, we were he didn’t want to mess with the two twins. So  we had to make an adjustment, but they also have to make an adjustment and never just kind of like, you know, mess with those two. But you know, and then I mean, but once we made the adjustment, it was a great place to grow up. I mean, it was, I feel like the public schools in San Jose, at least in South San Jose were excellent. And teachers that really supported you.  It was just great. I mean, I had  a great experience growing up out there.

Louis Goodman  5:47

When you graduated from high school, where’d you go to college?

Terry Wiley  5:51

The reason I went to Cal is because when I was 15 years old, I kept hearing about this Ohio State University, Ohio State, Ohio State reading in the paper, and Ohio State was playing CAL. And we were living in San Jose, and my mother looked at me and my brother, like we were crazy. When we asked her could she take us up to Berkeley to go watch the Ohio State, Cal game? And she’s like, No, I’m not driving all the way up to Berkeley. And so I grabbed all the money that I had. And I went and caught a Greyhound bus from San Jose to downtown Oakland, and then I caught AC Transit to Berkeley. And I made my way up to Pill Hill. And I watched for the Ohio State/CAL game from Pill Hill.   The running back, who was a freshman with Ohio State was Archie Griffin. Well, know who went on to two Heisman trophies. That experience is what led me to say, Okay, this is where I am going to go to school, at this university.   My experience at CAL and just the education that I received. I mean, it really changed my own personal trajectory, but it really kind of changed the trajectory of my whole family. Because I was me and my twin brothers were the first ones to, you know, go to a four year school, graduate, and then go on to graduate school, in my case, I went to law school. And so today, I’ve got probably 18 of my nieces and nephews of all graduated from college.

Louis Goodman:  Oh, that’s fantastic.

Louis Goodman  7:40

Now that really is something isn’t it?

Terry Wiley  7:43

Yeah. So it really impacted my whole family. And my niece just graduated from law school. So they will all tell you that they were all watching me and my brother, you know. And so I mean, I love Cal for a number of reasons, because I always tell people  Cal changed my life, and it changed my family’s life.

Louis Goodman:   You walked onto the football team there at Cal?

Terry Wiley:  I did.

Louis Goodman  8:14

What prompted you to do that?

Terry Wiley  8:16

Well, because I mean, I just felt like, you know, had not been for the knee injury, I would have probably gotten a scholarship. I mean, I ran track at Cal . So I played football, and I ran track, and he went to school.

Louis Goodman  8:29

When did you start thinking about being a lawyer?

Terry Wiley  8:33

Well, when I actually determined I was going to be a lawyer was when I was 14. But I started thinking about it when I was about eight years old. That’s when I started thinking about being a lawyer. And then by the time I was 14, I was like, I’m going to be a lawyer.

Louis Goodman  8:51

When you graduated from Cal, did you go to law school right away or did you take a little time off?

Terry Wiley  8:57

No, I  was attempting to try and have a career in professional football. And then one day, my  stepfather said, Terry, look, you know, football is one of those sports where you know, either you make it or you don’t, and you’re not making it, then you need to go on to the next thing. And I listened to him, and I was like, Okay, this isn’t working out. So I want to go to law school.    University of San Diego School of Law, offered me a tuition scholarship. I have tuition scholarship, and I had a great experience at the University of San Diego School of Law,  great school, great people and one of my professors said, Hey, I think you should interview with the DA office. I said okay, I didn’t know much about the DA’s office. I didn’t know much about prosecutors and you know, where I grew up in my family of yours, I didn’t  know anybody who wanted to be a prosecutor or a police officer. No, those were just not the things that people wanted to do.

Louis Goodman  10:08

Now, you’ve been,  we’ve said this before, but I mean, you’ve been in the DA’s office for 30 years. And you obviously, are someone who has had lots of choices and opportunities. What is it that you really like about being in the DA’s office that’s kept you there for 30 years?

Terry Wiley  10:27

You know, that’s a good question. And I’ll say, what I tell people is, I didn’t really know what to expect, because I did not grow up wanting to be a DA.   Didn’t really know much about even with prosecutors did in their daily jobs. But then once I became informed of what they do what I did, what I knew was that I did not want to work around people who had what I call a joke prosecutor mentality.   That mentality is simply because someone is arrested or someone is charged with a crime, they must be guilty, they must be a criminal. And to my surprise, I found the exact opposite of that. And it was a great place to work. I mean, you know, in my class was Kamala Harris was in our class. And, you know, some of the people that were in the class when I was starting, you know, many of us are all still working for a District Attorney’s offices.

Louis Goodman  11:30

Well, that brings this up to you know, currently, you’re running for District Attorney, you’ve formally announced your candidacy. When did you start thinking about that as a career move?

Terry Wiley  11:44

You know, probably about, maybe five years ago, you know, I was looking at Nancy O’Malley, the current District Attorney. And, and I was looking at, you know, the folks who have been in the office with  and that would  be the best person to lead the office and kind of take the office beyond where it is today. And what I mean by beyond where it is today,  we’re always seeking to improve, whether it be a District Attorney’s Office or whatever, you’re always seeking to improve that office. And so it really came down to who would be the best person to take the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office to the next level. And the more I thought about it, the more it was clear to me that I was that person.   I have the experience and I’ve been very, very engaged in criminal justice on a number of different levels. I’m an African American voice and I’m able to communicate the African American experience as it relates to criminal justice. So I just think that when you look at my overall experience, and what I bring to the table, I think I’m the most qualified person to take over the leadership of the District Attorney’s Office.

Louis Goodman  13:12

Well, how’s the campaign going? What do you think of campaigning? What do you think about raising money? You know,  how’s the whole process going?

Terry Wiley  13:19

That’s just challenging. I mean, that’s just very challenging. And anyone who’s ever run for county wide office knows.

Louis Goodman  13:29

Oh yeah, I know.  We talked about this a little earlier.

Terry Wiley  13:34

And so Lou, you know, it’s extremely challenging. You know, you’re out seeking endorsements, and you’re seeking support financially. And we anticipate that this race is going to, you know, it’s going to be a million, take a million dollars to  run the race. So, you know, you’re out there every day. There’s  not any time that goes by, that you’re not working on your campaign. No, I mean, I’ve had, but you know, what happens lewd things happen? That really kind of speak to, especially as a prosecutor, you know, there’s been a lot of change. And I think, since the George Floyd case, there’s been a lot of upheaval within the whole criminal justice system. So when you run for an office, you really begin to find out what your career has stood for when you start asking people for endorsements that will tell you kind of their will, it won’t tell you everything, but it’ll give you an idea of where your career  has been as a prosecutor.   I’m happy to announce that today I received the endorsement of the icon of The Civil Rights Movement today and Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of George Floyd, he first kind of came onto the scene representing the family of Trayvon Martin. He also represented the family of Briana Taylor. And today he endorsed my candidacy for District Attorney.

Louis Goodman  15:18

Congratulations. You know, I mean,  that brings up kind of an interesting question. There’s a lot of talk these days about so called woke DAs. And I’m wondering what your take on progressive as opposed to more traditional philosophies of criminal enforcement and prosecution are?

Terry Wiley  15:41

Well, I think that when you look at where their systems, where progressive prosecutors have come in, and they’re trying to change the system,  when you’ve been around 30 years, there’s a couple of things you’ve learned is that there are some disparities and inequities that are just kind of baked into the criminal justice system. Okay, I mean, and I’ll just use one example,  is if you’re a wealthy person, and you lose it one night, and you attempt to murder someone, if you’ve got the money, you can be out of custody The next day, if you can make bail, if you can afford to make bail. Well, on the other hand, you can be caught stealing a package of baloney and get arrested and put into custody. And you can sit in custody for 60 days, because you couldn’t make a $500 bail. So there are some inequities that are just kind of baked into the system. And that over time, you know, these disparities have a disparate impact on many communities of color, and this has been going on for decades on a number of different levels. And so I think that the progressive prosecutor has been a response to attempting to make some changes to bring more balance to our system of justice.

Louis Goodman  17:16

Do you think that the criminal justice system and let’s just talk specifically about Alameda County, do you think the system is fair?

Terry Wiley  17:25

I don’t think any criminal justice system today is completely fair. No, because and the data shows, that it’s not fair. And what we’re at, and that if you go to our juvenile hall facility, and you see predominant Black and Hispanic kids, you would think that there are no white kids that commit any burglaries, or commit any kind of criminal offense, when you see the numbers that we see. And so I think that there are there still exists, disparities, and our system of justice that we are constantly working on, we are constantly trying to find alternatives to incarcerating someone.   There’s more work to be done.

Louis Goodman  18:13

Do you have a 3o second elevator speech?

Terry Wiley  18:17

My 30 second elevator speech is that when you look at Terry Wiley, the candidate for District Attorney of Alameda County versus my opponents, I think there are two things that separate me, from my opponents. One is experience and the second is proven leadership. When you look at experience, I’ve risen from a regular Deputy District Attorney to the number three District Attorney in our office.

Louis Goodman  18:46

I’m going to shift gears here a little bit, Terry, what’s your family life been like? And how is practicing law affected that and how is now that you’re running  for office affected your family life? And what do they think of it?

Terry Wiley  19:00

Well, you know,  my wife is very supportive because she knows that  I’ve been doing this for 30 years. And so she is supportive of the whole thing. And my son is, you know, he’s had his own challenges. And so, I mean, I come to this race, with my son having also experienced some mental health issues that have  led to him being system involved. And so I like I completely understand when you know, I’ll put it like this. I’ve been educated from both sides of the aisle.

Louis Goodman  19:38

What other sorts of things do you like to do? I mean, do you know I mean, you played football you were very involved with sports when you were younger, what sort of things do you do to kind of keep your sanity these days?

Terry Wiley  19:51

Yeah, what I enjoy doing is you where I see a need for service? I mean, I just  love helping others. I love providing leadership. So that I stand on the shoulders of giants. You know, when I came into the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the members of the office who preceded me, were just giants in the legal profession. And, you know, particularly young our careers, you know, they they would reach out to us, they would give us guidance. So we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Louis Goodman  20:42

Right now, there are three announced candidates for District Attorney. I haven’t heard any word on the street about anyone else getting involved. The three candidates for District Attorney, all three of them are African American in Alameda County right now. So yeah, I’m just kind of wondering what your comment is about the notion that no matter what happens here, we’re gonna have an African American District Attorney of Alameda County.

Terry Wiley  21:13

I think it’s great. And I think it is about time. And I think that African Americans have made great contributions to Alameda County. And they’ve always made a very strong presence in Oakland, of course, and I think it’s great. I mean, I don’t know what else to say, I think it’s great. And I think  it’s about time.

Louis Goodman  21:44

Let’s say you and your wife came into some real money, $3 or $4 billion, what, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Terry Wiley  21:53

$3 or $4 billion is a lot of money.   I think that I would make sure that my family is taken care of. But I would also give part of it away for you know, some philanthropic purpose to help others, because I would think that the good Lord blessed us with such a huge amount of money, not to just spend it on ourselves. But to do great with that.

Louis Goodman  22:26

Let’s say you had a magic wand, that was one thing in the world, you could change the legal world or otherwise, what would that be?

Terry Wiley  22:33

I would wave that wand and  get rid of racism,  because I think that some of the results, you know, just historically, has had a tremendous impact on a lot of people. And I think that would be the one thing I would, I’d want to get rid of, and so that everyone is judged by the content of their character, and not by their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their skin color, and that people are just judged by the content of their character. And if we could live in a world where that existed, it would be a better world.

Louis Goodman  23:13

Anything else you want to talk about that we haven’t covered?

Terry Wiley:  No

Terry Wiley  23:15

Well, you know, I’ll just say this, that I do think it is significant. And I’m just gonna, I’m not trying to toot my own horn. But I do think that when you look at the struggles of the criminal justice system, that many groups have had, and you’ve been a career prosecutor kind of in the middle of it, the career prosecutor would probably be the last person you would expect some of the biggest civil rights attorneys in the country to endorse their candidacy. So I do think it is significant, that John Burris has endorsed my candidacy and that Ben Crump has endorsed my candidacy. And that led me to banker, Brianna Taylor case has endorsed my candidacy. And I think it all speaks to the kind of prosecutor that I have been over the course of my career.

Louis Goodman  24:15

Terry Wiley, thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer. I really appreciate your very valuable time.

Terry Wiley  24:23

Lou  it’s a pleasure. And I have always from the day I met you, as a young lawyer, you’ve always treated everyone with respect. And so it’s a pleasure doing your show. So thank you.

Louis Goodman  24:41

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 our website 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 music, Brian Matheson for technical support, and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Terry Wiley  25:21

So I would call the admissions office at Cal every day. And I’ll never forget the day that I got the acceptance. And I heard one of the admissions officers say it’s that guy from San Jose, calling up here again, and I’m just telling you then, just tell him he got into the university.

 


Alex Harper / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman

Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer 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 experiences have been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.



He served as a combat advisor in Khost, Afghanistan. He served on the United States Naval Aircraft Carrier, he studied Strategy and War at the Naval War College. He is a former Company Commander, a Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. He is admitted to practice in both California and Texas. He has served as a Deputy District Attorney and has litigated extensively on both sides of the criminal courts. And he has a family with young children. Alex Harper, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Alex Harper: Well, thank you. It’s very nice to be here.



Louis Goodman: Well, you have certainly served your country in many capacities. Currently, you are living where?



Alex Harper 1:10

I’m currently living in Frisco, Texas, which is just a little north of Dallas. So as a suburb of Dallas,



Louis Goodman 1:18

And it’s okay to call Frisco Texas, Frisco. I take it.



Alex Harper 1:21

It is not nearly the mortal sin, it would be referring to the city very near you by that word.



Louis Goodman 1:27

I’ve always been interested in talking to you for the podcast, because I met you, oh, I don’t know, I guess, a couple of years before the whole COVID thing hit. And you were doing some kind of serious criminal litigation in Oakland. And I found out about your background in the military. Yes. So first of all, I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about your background even before then, like where are you from originally?



Alex Harper 2:00

So yes, I’m from a little bit of all over. My dad was a fighter pilot in the Air Force. And my mom was sort of a free range hippie, I guess. So they split up. Well, my dad was in Vietnam, and I went back and forth between the two of them. So by the time I graduated from Junior High, I had I think Junior High was about my 14th or 15th school.



Louis goodman: Wow.



Alex Harper: And so a lot of that was in the Midwest in North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, New Mexico all over the place. But I went to high school and a lot of that was in places like Camarino and Oxnard and but I went to high school all four years in Santa Barbara. So



Santa Barbara is one of the two places I consider my hometown, the other being, you know, Berkeley where I spent more time than anyplace else after when I was attending school.



Louis Goodman: So being four years in Santa Barbara, that was really quite the settle down for you.



Alex Harper: Big time, I’d never experienced anything like that I spend most of my life being jealous of kids who have been around a year or two in the same place. And I feel like I really rooted in Santa Barbara.



Louis Goodman: And how was the high school experience for you. What did you do there, anything besides studying Algebra in American History?



Alex Harper: I very nearly got busted a whole bunch of times. I was one of those kids whokind of sailed through the AP and GT classes with real high marks. I was a National Merit Scholar semifinalist and all that sort of thing, but I probably more often than not, I wasn’t even in school. So I was a functional delinquent, I guess would be the way to put it.



Louis Goodman 3:36

Now, after you functionally delinquent did your way out of Santa Barbara, I take it you graduated?



Alex Harper: I did.



Louis Goodman: Where’d you go to college?



Alex Harper 3:44

I went to UC Berkeley. And to tell you the truth, I have no idea how I snowed them into let me but I was surprised as a lot of my peers or that I made it in. But you know, a good solid SAT score isn’t that and I guess that was enough to carry the day. But yeah, so I’m going to Berkeley for about a year before very nearly dropped out. And I just realized that a lack of vision, I had no idea why I was going there other than I thought I was supposed to. And after Organic Chemistry, I realized there was a difference between aptitude and interest. So I withdrew and I went back to Santa Barbara City College, which is probably just about the greatest city college it’s ever existed. And it went from being this anonymous person in this sea of underclassmen to you know someone who was on a first name basis with my Professors and I developed a real interest in learning at that point. I really became interested in not only learning but being challenged while doing it, and so I spent three semesters there didn’t get an Associate’s Degree or anything like that. I just went back to Berkeley and did some work there. And it’s somewhere in between. I went to a semester abroad and Chandon University in gene on China.



Louis Goodman: So sort of that in these Central Eastern China.



Alex Harper: Yes.



Louis Goodman 5:02

Did you enjoy that?



Alex Harper 5:04

I loved it. That’s really when I made that transition from thinking I needed to be some sort of scientist or something like that or be a doctor to be happy, to realizing I really actually enjoyed, you know, people in human endeavors. And that’s I switched over to Political Science and ended up graduating from Berkeley with a degree in Political Science and East Asian Studies.



Louis Goodman 5:28

What did you do after you graduated from Cal?



Alex Harper 5:32

So when I graduated, I was kind of conflicted as to what I was going to do. So I took the, I’d actually gone to join the Marine Corps after my junior year at Cal, and went through Officer Candidate School with the Marines and through what they call the Platoon Leadership Class Program, where you’d go your junior year, and then you finish your degree and then get your Marine Corps Commission and continue on. I ended up being a Logistician and ended up being stationed on an aircraft carrier for three years.



Louis Goodman 6:04

And what carrier was that?



Alex Harper 6:06

It was the Dwight D. Eisenhower out of Norfolk, Virginia. So I was I went through OCS, and Flight Training in Pensacola, then went through Logistics Training in Athens, Georgia, and then got assigned to Eisenhower, in gosh, I guess that would have been 1998 I guess, in Norfolk, Virginia. We went on the did one Persian Gulf cruise with them in 2000. And we got it was the last good cruise in the Navy. It was the battle cruise that replaced us had a ship in it called the USS Cole, which was attacked, and that ended Liberty ports, I guess from then till now. But when we went we, you know, we got to go to eight or 10 ports of call and just had a ball all over Europe in the Middle East in that but with only minimal combat operations. So it was a good time. Yes.



Louis Goodman 7:02

Well, speaking of combat operations, you actually did serve in combat in the military. Is that correct?



Alex Harper 7:11

I did, I was actually once I was outside of the flight Regiment, I was no longer a what they call a line officer. I wasn’t a combat guy anymore. But they actually graduate or this was after I’d gone to law school and become an attorney up District Attorney in Kern County, and I’ve been there for about a year and a half. When I got a call saying, hey, Commander Harper, I was a Lieutenant Commander at the time. So hey, Commander Harper, have you ever been deployed? And I told the guy on the other end I said I don’t know. But something tells me my answers but change so they tried to send me off to what to Iraq at the time to replace someone who had been who we had lost and an attack on the Bogra International International Airport. Couple people, way above my pay grade, gotten a fight and it ended up me being sent to Afghanistan later that year. So I was in Khost, Afghanistan, which at the time, I guess laymen who don’t know the area but have seen any of the movies about the area about the capture of Osama bin Laden and that we were very close neighbors to the CIA base that was attacked that’s depicted in that movie Zero Dark 30 but it was a real dicey place to be. It was wild wild west for sure. So definitely did see some some combat ish stuff there. I ended up despite the fact that I was a Logistics Officer embedded with the Afghan Army to advise them on logistics. There was no advising the Afghan Army on logistics at what just wasn’t gonna happen. So I ended up being a turret gunner in logistics convoys across Khost province.



Louis Goodman: You were wounded?



Alex Harper: Well, I was in the middle of some attacks and got my bell rung and was exposed to some pretty nasty stuff. But I was I didn’t get it like an open bleeding wound kind of thing. But yeah, I was in the middle of a suicide car bomb and a bunch of artillery rocket attacks. So yeah, there was a good times were had by all.



Louis Goodman 9:16

You’ve had a lot of education at this point, you’d been in the military what made you decide to go to law school?



Alex Harper 9:25

When I graduated or when I was getting ready to graduate from Cal, I had taken the Barbary Course, it’s not Barbary, what is it? Kaplan course to study for the L SAT. And I don’t know why I was doing that other than I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do after this. And it was at that point that I said, Well, I can go to law school, or I can go fly planes for the military, which, in my mind, you had two things you could do in life, you could be a doctor or a fighter pilot, and anything else would just be laying there so at the time, and I figured well, I can be a lawyer later, but I can’t fly later. So I pursued that Navy thing first. And when I got out of the Navy, because I had ended up going into this logistics pipeline that didn’t feel like a long term fit for me, I had already taken the L SATs, I had gotten an exceptionally good score. And I just started throwing out applications while I was still on active duty. And, so I ended up just kind of sort of just sort of defaulting into law school. I guess I didn’t have any great big vision as to what I wanted to do with a law degree or anything like that. And my kind of passion for criminal law only came along by act after I had, I’ve worked in family. I’ve done a Family Law Clinic and in Florida at law school, and then I’ve gone on to getting a job at a really nice, boutique firm in Santa Barbara. But it was one of those things where, until you had seven or eight years under your belt, there was no way they were going to let you go to court with one of their clients as the lead. So I ended up getting out of that and practicing very briefly in Monterey. And again, just kind of didn’t like the civil thing. So I thought, well, I’ll go get some trial experience. And that’s when I went to the DA’s office in Kern County. I interviewed at several different DA offices and got a pretty good offer from them.



Louis Goodman 11:20

So let me let me just back up for just a minute.



Alex Harper: Sure.



Louis Goodman: What law school did you go to?



Alex Harper: University of Florida?



Louis Goodman: And that was just a function of where’s that located in Florida?



Alex Harper 11:34

In Gainesville? So that would be kind of in the center of the upper third of sort of the peninsula parts of Florida very separate from Florida State, which is often the panhandle.



Louis Goodman 11:48

No, I know, I interviewed another attorney for this podcast who had gone to Florida State and she wanted to make sure that I didn’t mix them up either.



Alex Harper 11:58

Yeah, right. She was he didn’t want to get too much credit. So being a Gator is not a special thing.



Louis Goodman 12:04

So let me just get this out. You are in fact a gator. Is that correct?



Alex Harper: I am a gator? Yes.



Louis Goodman: How did you end up going to the District Attorney’s Office?



Alex Harper 12:14

What I really wanted to do was do trials. And I didn’t know that I particularly wanted criminal law. But I wanted to be doing trials right now. So I joined the DA’s office in Kern County, which is if you want to be a prosecutor, that’s a great place to be a prosecutor. So I’ll put it this way. I didn’t know how good I had it as a prosecutor that I managed to mistake a community that was very prosecution minded with me having some kind of great skill.



Louis Goodman 12:41

Yeah, I’ve made that mistake too, even here in Alameda County.



Alex Harper 12:44

And you know, that’s the beginning of that realization about how much you versus involved in the whole system. But I realized I really liked criminal law. And after a while, I also realized I really had some problems with being on, the not all the time, but sometimes being on the prosecution side. There were some things that just weren’t resonating well with me, you know, especially when you’re kind of going out after work and partying with cops and all that sort of thing. And at some of the attitudes that would come out from time to time. And I’m not saying across the board, it was just an every now and then thing. And I really started to feel a pULL for criminal defense work where I felt that you were working for you. There was just a lot more on the line on the defense side.



Louis Goodman 13:26

How did you happen to come up to Alameda County?



Alex Harper 13:29

Well, Alameda County was my second home and it kind of almost surpassed Santa Barbara, got my paralegal certificate through UC extension. Right as I graduated from Berkeley, so I had a lot of roots there. And it was just a matter of realizing that Yeah, I can afford to be there. And I’m making that leap. You know, making that leap from having a paycheck to being a sole practitioner and having to make it work on your own. It can be a scary leap.



Louis Goodman 13:56

What do you like about practicing law?



Alex Harper 13:58

Law in general, I don’t know if I would like doing a lot of civil stuff. But what I do like about practicing criminal law is every single day, you have a real good chance to get your hair blown back by a story that you just can’t believe and that everything is a challenge. So every single case that somebody says, Oh, it’s one of these, oh, it’s just a, it’s a simple possession for sale case. And if you’re doing your job right, nothing should be a simple, blankety blank case, everything is so individualized. And that’s where the challenge lies in humanizing your client for a jury or for a judge, or for a DA who’s just licking his chops to you know, add another notch in their belt. It’s high stakes, and it’s, if you’re doing your job right, it should be challenging and, you know, I hear a lot of people say that, you know, you can’t just go and wander around as a defense attorney, right? It’s not true. You can, but you’re not doing anybody any favors. If you’re doing it right. It should be hard. And I liked that.



Louis Goodman 15:10

Would you recommend the law to a young person thinking about it as a career choice?



Alex Harper 15:15

If they had, if it was someone who had the aptitude, such that it was a viable option, and they knew why they wanted to get into the law, then? Sure, I would if in criminal law, whether it’s defense or prosecution, I think you have to have a reason for wanting to do it that transcends making and if they have that, if they have that desire to make a difference, that desire to help people, whether it be victims or defendants, and that desire supersedes career progression and an a paycheck, then yes, if they see it as a career, not a job.



Louis Goodman 15:53

What about the military as a career? What do you think about that as a recommendation to a young person?



Alex Harper 15:59

I think the military is a fantastic thing, especially for people who come from non diverse backgrounds. I think it’s an incredibly eye opening experience. And I’m talking about on the enlisted side. So kids coming out of high school or whatever, especially kids who feel, and there’s so many of them all across, you know, in every segment of society, that people who just feel like they are planted in their neighborhood. And that’s all that there is. I think it’s a huge eye opening experience. And it really opens people up to seeing what a true meritocracy is, in my experience in working in the military. Absolutely somebodies ability and willingness to do the hard work transcended their appearance and their background. And, I think people really learn to value people for who they are as an individual, as opposed to what they look like or what they come from. And in that regard, absolutely. And as an officer, it’s pretty darn nice to come out of college and have that solid of a job that demands that you learn and practice leadership. And for those reasons, I would absolutely recommend the military. So you know, and obviously, there’s certain things that you can do in the military, you just simply can’t do anywhere else. So you know, if you want to go fly an airplane to do crazy, awesome stuff like that, yeah, go to the military, even if your end goal is to be an airline pilot, go to the military, it’s a lot more fun, you get to do things that nobody else gets to do. And you get to actually help our country while you’re doing.



Louis Goodman 17:38

Let me get back to law for a minute, and how is actually practicing either met or different from your expectations about it?



Alex Harper 17:45

I had no idea when I went to law school, first of all, that you could just that I didn’t realize that a bar card was a ticket to go make the living you want to make. So if you want to forego creature comforts, and just get down in the pits, and help the disenfranchised, if that’s what your gig is, you can do that. If what you want to do is build up of a law firm and provide a very comfortable living for your family, you can do that. What I didn’t realize is you are not beholden to somebody giving you a paycheck. And I didn’t quite realize that going in and the amount of freedom you can have, too. Now given it’s a weird kind of freedom, right? So if you if you’re going and working for yourself, man, that’s hard work. And it takes up all your time. And there’s no, in my case, anyway, I had a hard time compartmentalizing sometimes when I was done working for the day, and I was driving home. A lot of times, that’s what I was still thinking about when I’m trying to go to sleep and relax at night. I’m still thinking, Oh, man, maybe I should be working on this case. It’s really hard to put it away. Yeah. But you know, there, you’re on vacation, and you can’t stop thinking about that client of yours that’s sitting in the can. And I guess I didn’t realize what an adventure it would be. I didn’t realize how just vivid and alive the practice of criminal defense or criminal prosecution would be. I really thought it would be, you know, a lot more institutional and gray. But it’s not it’s an incredibly vibrant thing to be involved in then the camaraderie of sitting in court, you know, what, when you go into a judge’s chambers, and in the morning and everybody’s there, and it gets kind of exciting to see what your colleagues are going to be there and what they’re talking about. And it’s amazing. It’s just such an amazing community that you’re exposed to. And I didn’t anticipate that I really had images of cubicles and offices and you know, late hours and you know, hard drinking, corporate guys or something. And then that that hasn’t been my experience at all.



Louis Goodman 20:02

Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing?



Alex Harper 20:07

I think I wish I had known more about kinds of law, especially criminal law, you know, criminal laws. Such a is so different. I think, you know, most judges that have switched assignments between criminal and civil tell you that it’s just night and day, and I wish I’d realized the camaraderie and the civility of criminal practice going in, you know, Family Law to me was so uncivil it was, you know, just angry and mean and over the top and I had no idea that when you’re going into criminal law, that it would be this civil. That we on each side of the bench would treat each other this well, and I kind of wish I had known about that.



Louis Goodman 20:47

What do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received?



Alex Harper 20:50

Oddly enough, it was something that my dad had mentioned to me. My dad was talking about being in Vietnam. And when he first got in there, and when they were going on these combat flights, his compatriot finally sat him down and said, Hey, you need to accept that the worst is going to happen. Just accept that you’re going to die over here. And everything else gets easier. As morbid as that was that helped me when I was in Afghanistan, but it helps a lot in court as well. Oddly enough, when I’m going into, say, a murder trial, and I’m so afraid of screwing something up and losing the trial, or my client going to prison, all that just accepting the worst might happen, but then working really hard to make sure that that’s not what happens. But to set aside sort of the fear and the trepidation that goes with it, compartmentalize and do the job.



Louis Goodman 21:45

Do you think the legal system is fair?







Alex Harper 21:47

No, I don’t. I think that there have been so many instances of demonstrable unfairness that that it would be silly to say it’s not and I don’t think a lot of these cases that have come out in an unfair way have were outliers. I think it’s very common. I think the system needs a major comprehensive overhaul to get rid of the vestiges we have of racial discrimination. Especially I mean, that’s, that, to me, is the crux of the unfairness of the system right there.



Louis Goodman 22:23

Let me switch gears here for a minute. What’s your family life like and how is practicing law affected that?



Alex Harper 22:29

Interestingly, I’ve had, I was a prosecutor up until and while my kids were toddlers. And then I moved to the Bay Area, and I was living in the East Bay there. And while they were getting older, but because I was a sole practitioner, I was able to really divide my time up a bit. I’ve ended up with a lot of flexibility to be there with my kids. And that’s incredibly important. My wife is an ER nurse at a trauma center there in the Bay Area. And she works fairly unconventional schedules, and we were able to work around each other a lot better.



Louis Goodman 23:04

Obviously, you are admitted in California, and you recently moved to Texas, right? What was the process of getting admitted in Texas?



Alex Harper: Like it was really, surprisingly easy.



Louis Goodman: So someone is an attorney in California, and they want to go practice in Texas? Yes, all they have to do is they have to establish residency.



Alex Harper: No, don’t have to do that at all. You just have to apply and pass the background check and wait 270 days and you’ll be a lawyer in Texas.



Louis Goodman:

As long as they don’t find its own mental find out about what you did with that Motorcycle Club.



Alex Harper: Yeah.



Louis Goodman 23:46

All right. Well, now that you’ve brought up the motorcycle club, and I know you ride motorcycles, any other recreational pursuits that you enjoy.



Alex Harper 23:56

So my, my biggest one is the motorcycling I do very long distance motorcycle riding. And to me that’s great. A great escape and then therapy from the practice of law. So I do really long rides like I’ve got a motorcycle setup to where I did, I rode to all 48 contiguous states in 10 days. And then I like going around and screwing around with my kids with playing Legos or making model rockets forum or anything like that. And when I have time, I like to spend a little bit of time doing woodworking in that building, building bits of furniture and all that mostly just experimenting with how to build something new.



Louis Goodman 24:36

What keeps you up at night?



Alex Harper 24:37

I have three daughters, and between 9 and 11 years old. I really just worried about what the future holds for our country and wondering if we’ve lost something awfully special in terms of our ability to tolerate each other over the last several years.



Louis Goodman 24:54

Let’s say you came into some real money, $3 or $4 billion, what if anything would you do differently in your life?



Alex Harper 25:01

I would figure out a very, very solid way to pull resources together to help people see each other, people see the need for equal treatment of people, for people to be to have equal opportunity. When I was in Afghanistan, there were kids who were basically, who had nothing who were destitute, who were approached by Taliban folks and said, Hey, here’s $30, which is more money than your parents are going to make this entire year. Here’s a rifle, I just want you to go out and take one pot shot that those Americans driving by. And that’s a lot of what the fire we took was just a kid taking a shot at us dropping the rifle and run away. And, you know, we at the time, we hated those kids and when we wanted to visit great violence upon them, but it’s in there, but by the grace of God go I it was, there was no difference between that kid and me. And I think making doing something without money to make people understand that. And second of all, I also ride my motorcycle around the world in every direction possible.



Louis Goodman 26:09

Alex Harper, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.



Alex Harper 26:17

It’s absolutely been a pleasure to be here. I am flattered that you thought of me as somebody to engage with this and thank you.



Louis Goodman 26:25

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 our website 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, Ryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman



Alex Harper 27:10

So I graduated from Cal I kind of bummed around just a little bit. I wasn’t sure I was going to take the Navy thing up. So I started taking flight lessons out at Buchanan field in Concord. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with students. I spent most of my time with motorcycle riders, bikers and that and up in the Berkeley hills and out of Cirrus point racetrack and all that sort of thing.



Stephanie Cianci / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript


Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, will talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experiences have been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.



She is a rising star among the young criminal defense bar with a practice that currently emphasizes DUI defense. She interned at the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, where she worked with county jail inmates. The stories of those men and women fueled her interest in criminal defense. She reads, she travels, she works out, and she is the mother of a newborn infant. Stephanie Cianci, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Stephanie Cianci: Hi, good afternoon Louis, thank you for having me.



Louis Goodman: It’s a pleasure having you on. I know that you’ve listened to quite a few of these podcasts. And I’m honored that you did that.



Stephanie Cianci 1:07 Yes, of course, I listened to every back episode over my maternity leave.



Louis Goodman 1:12 Maternity leave, so that means that you have a newborn?



Stephanie Cianci 1:16

I do. I had my first little girl in February.



Louis Goodman: Oh, well, congratulations. What’s her name?



Stephanie Cianci: Charlotte.



Louis Goodman: Very nice. What sort of practice do you have?



Stephanie Cianci: Right now my practice is 100% criminal defense with an emphasis on DUI.



Louis Goodman: And where’s your office?



Stephanie Cianci: I have an office based in San Jose.



Louis Goodman: Who do you work with?



Stephanie Cianci: I work with the Kavinoky Law Firm, otherwise known as 1-800-no cuffs, and I’ve been with them for about approaching two years.



Louis Goodman: Are you enjoying that?



Stephanie Cianci: I love it. I love being a part of a bigger team and all working together toward the common goal of, you know, helping our clients with their DUIs.



Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?



Stephanie Cianci: I am from the Bay Area. So more specifically, the peninsula born and raised.



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



Stephanie Cianci: I went to Notre Dame High School in Belmont.



Louis Goodman: Oh, yeah. Very good school.



Stephanie Cianci: Yeah, I loved it. I had a great experience there.



Louis Goodman: Tell me a little bit about your experience there.



Stephanie Cianci: I very much wanted a single gender education. I knew that that would be good for me. And so I found Notre Dame’s when I was in middle school, and they seem to encompass a lot of things that I was interested in, in terms of education and college prep. So I was very focused on getting in there and attending and then once I was there, I swam and played water polo. And when I wasn’t studying, and I made some of my best friends, whom I’m still friends with today.



Louis Goodman: When you graduated from Notre Dame, where did you go to college?



Stephanie Cianci: I went to San Jose State University.



Louis Goodman: How was that experience?



Stephanie CIanci: I again, I loved it. I loved high school and college equally. In college, I was very active in my sorority, and I made many friends from that experience whom I am also still friends with today.



Louis Goodman 3:14

No, that’s great. Though, after you graduated from San Jose State, you ultimately went to law school. Did you take some time off? Or did you go directly to law school?



Stephanie Cianci 3:24

I took about two years between undergrad and law school.



Louis Goodman: What did you do?



Stephanie Cianci: Excuse me, just to figure everything out. Take the outset, I had a brief stint at a tech company just to see what that life was like. But I ultimately knew that law school was where I was meant to be. And I was studying for the LSAT, while I worked for this technology company.



Louis Goodman 3:50

When did you really kind of decide, hey, I really want to be a lawyer? That’s what I’m interested in doing.



Stephanie Cianci 3:56

I had always had law school in the back of my mind. My mother is an attorney locally. And so I had grown up with, of course, her as an influence. And many of her friends and colleagues always knew that it was something that I could be interested in. But it wasn’t until undergrad when I started taking more legally oriented classes and my political science classes when I really became interested and started to seriously look at law school and specifically criminal defense.



Louis Goodman 4:26

Was there anything that prompted you to start thinking in that direction, Criminal Defense direction?



Stephanie Cianci 4:34

I just always knew that I wanted to help people in some way. And I thought that I could if I knew that I was a very outgoing person, and someone who didn’t mind taking on a challenge. So I wanted to kind of help people in a difficult time in their life and criminal defense seemed like the right avenue to apply my skills for that.



Louis Goodman 4:56

Yeah, nobody’s in more need of some help. And when charged with a crime. What did your friends and family and your mom say when you told them that you wanted to go to law school, be a lawyer.



Stephanie Cianci 5:08

Everyone was very encouraging. I had grown up seeing my mother run her own practice for most of my life. She doesn’t practice criminal defense, but she does family a lot. And I saw the challenges of being a solo practitioner. So I knew that I may want to practice with a firm or in some other way than being by myself. But she was very encouraging. She was very realistic with me about what to expect and how it would change my life and the challenges that would be before me. But she also knew that if I wanted something, and I was determined enough, I would seek that out. And all of my friends felt the same way. So I received a lot of support and encouragement from when I started taking the LSAT through the bar exam.



Louis Goodman 5:56

I’m curious about this job that you had with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.



Stephanie Cianci 6:01

I absolutely, I’m so glad you asked. Because I absolutely love talking about that experience, as many of your listeners may know, when you want to have a criminal defense or an internship with the District Attorney’s Office, those can be hard to come by after your 1st year because those jobs often require you to have taken a Criminal Procedure, or some class that gives you more evidence. And at that point, I hadn’t been able to take either of those classes, but I didn’t want to waste a summer doing an internship, which wouldn’t help me later on. So I was introduced to Prisoner Legal Services through a job fair. And to this day I support them and their mission so much. I’ve had other friends and classmates from Golden Gate School of Law go to work for them. And it was a really amazing experience because I was able to go into the housing units in the county jail, which I’m not sure they’re doing now, of course, because of the pandemic. But at the time, myself, and my fellow interns would go in and talk to the defendants who were housed there and find out what their challenges were and how we can help them. So we would do everything from things like if they needed power of attorney to sign over their bank account, we could help with that. Or if they needed more information about the crime that they were charged with a case law, we could help that. So it was a lot of us providing them information to help with their cases and other legal issues which may be arising in their life because of their incarceration.



Louis Goodman 7:42

How did you get involved with the firm that you’re currently working with that does a substantial amount of DUI?



Stephanie Cianci 7:50

I actually was introduced to the Kavinoky Law Firm through a former guest of yours and friend of mine, because all Sharif she had been with the Kavinoky Law fFrm. And then she went out to start her own practice. And that was when I was introduced to the firm and thus hired on.



Louis Goodman 8:09

And what sort of work have you been doing specifically with him?



Stephanie Cianci 8:14

Nearly all of my cases are misdemeanor DUI, which they all sound like, they would be the same, but every case really is different. Every client has different needs. And every case, no matter how similar, they may look on paper, they really are different.



Louis Goodman 8:29

So I think that, you know, having practiced for a long time and seeing a lot of cases that are similarly charged similar fact patterns, even It doesn’t matter, every case is different. And that really is true, isn’t it?



Stephanie Cianci 8:46

It really is. And when I tell people who are not criminal defense attorneys about my practice, I say, Oh, you know, isn’t DUI really straightforward? You know, a person has blood alcohol concentration above a point a weight, they they’re arrested, and it’s a DUI. And I say no, it’s actually much more complicated than that. And I can have, you know, 10 cases with point one five blood alcohol contents, and have them all end up with completely different results in the court and the DMV.

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



Stephanie Cianci: I really like that it’s such an interesting look at humanity, specifically with criminal defense, as we were discussing earlier, you get to see people in a very specifically difficult time in their life when they may have a lot of questions about the process and be introduced to a part of the justice system, which they may not have been familiar with before. And I really take seriously my responsibility of being able to guide people through that process because I treat it with the golden rule. I try to treat my clients with the care and attention that I would want if I was in that position, or if a family member or close friend of mine was.



Louis Goodman 10:01

If a young person was just coming out of school, let’s say San Jose State, would you recommend the law as a career choice?



Stephanie Cianci 10:09

What I tell people about recommending law as a career choice. Now, having done it for a little while, and having gone through law school is you should go into the practice of law, if you wake up and go to sleep thinking about it. If you know that there’s nothing else in the world that you want to do, or care about as much as practicing law and helping your clients then you should do it. But if that is not you, and then I would not recommend taking on the cost of law school and the time commitment, and then of course, the commitment and effort of actually practicing law.



Louis Goodman 10:45

Yeah, I think law really is a calling. And if you don’t have that calling, it’s not going to work out for you.



Stephanie Cianci 10:53

No, I completely agree. And I knew that criminal defense was right for me, because ever since I decided to go into law, I knew that this was what I wanted to specialize in and focus on. That has been my focus for all of the years since I started law school until now.



Louis Goodman 11:13

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out a career in law?



Stephanie Cianci 11:18

I would give the advice to make friends with everybody that you can, because you never know when you can help somebody else or when somebody else can help you. So it’s great, not just have friends in your specific field. But it’s nice to have friends who do Employment Law, Labor Law, Family Law, you need to know people all over the place, because I find that as an attorney, you know, at least once a week, I have a friend or somebody come to me and say, Oh, do you have an attorney who does something else? And I usually am able to say yes, because I know, at least one person in many different areas of law. And it’s also really interesting and educational, to be able to speak with other attorneys about parts of the law in which you don’t practice. And I really enjoy being able to learn about those different avenues.



Louis Goodman 12:10

How is actually practicing either met or differed from your expectations about it?



Stephanie Cianci 12:18

Honestly, the biggest difference is that I spend a lot more time thinking about logistics than I ever expected. Meaning that I spend so much about calendar planning and balancing the different counties in which I practice and the different types of hearings and how long things will take. And then just making sure that I’m not overextending myself saying that I’ll be in too many places at once. I never really expected that part of practice. But it’s something that I’ve had to learn.



Louis Goodman 12:49

How involved are you in the business aspect of practicing?



Stephanie Cianci 12:55

I am actually not involved in the business of practicing law for our firm, which is something that I appreciate that there are people in our firm who are much better suited to deal with the business aspects. And then I can focus on being an attorney and helping our clients and learning as much as I can about the practice of law and about their cases and diving deeper into that rather than having to focus on the business aspects. They’re much more talented people than I who do that part.



Louis Goodman 13:27

Are you involved with interviewing clients and signing clients up? Or does somebody else do that?



Stephanie Cianci 13:35

I am actually not involved in that very often, we have a team of very talented attorneys who do that, and they help some clients. And then based on where the client is located, they are assigned to me and then I give them a call and introduce myself and kind of do my own intake and ask them you know, what specific questions or concerns they may have about their case being in a specific county in which work or what the timeline will look like. So I do my own intake, just to get a sense of what working with this particular client will be like?



Louis Goodman 14:14

Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you’d known before you started practicing law?



Stephanie Cianci 14:20

I wish I had known how much time I would spend thinking about client expert hopes and expectations because that has become a big part of what I spend my time thinking about. I used to imagine practicing criminal defense being only thinking about how to work with the judge and the DA evidence, but I find now that it’s a lot more about working with my clients and different personalities and how to work together in a cohesive way to get to the best result possible.



Louis Goodman 14:58

Yeah, that working with for clients and explaining things to clients, and really making the system understandable to clients is really the other part of it. You know, I mean, I think we take our clients position and run it through the law and the evidence code and presented to the Court and the District Attorney. But by the same token, we have to kind of run the court in the district attorney’s position through ourselves and be able to explain that to the client. Do you think do you think that’s accurate?



Stephanie Cianci 15:32

Absolutely. And I especially find that to be true with the DMV, and those proceedings, which are a big part of my practice, because that’s even more confusing more often than not to our clients than what happens in court. So navigating those laws and how our clients can deal with that is often more of a challenge when dealing with what happens in court, I have found.



Louis Goodman: 15:57

What do you think is the best advice that you’ve ever received?



Stephanie Cianci 16:05

I think that the best advice that I’ve ever received is, it sounds so fundamental, but I find that not everybody abides by this, but it’s just to be nice to everyone, especially in the court and DMV settings. Because, you know, everybody is involved in the process to make it work. So I often find that some people will ignore the court clerks or the deputies or the interns and those are often the people who make the process run. They keep the machine running the most cohesively. And so those are the people who, I mean, I try to be nice to everybody. But those are often the people who I feel like can be ignored. And so you know, I try to give them the respect and attention that they have earned, because their jobs are often very difficult as well, specifically through the pandemic.



Louis Goodman 16:54

Yeah, my dad practiced law for over 50 years in New York City. And when I first got to be a lawyer, he told me, you’re gonna be nice to the judge, but remember, the clerk, the bailiff, the court reporter, these people can make or break you.



Stephanie Cianci 17:15

I absolutely agree. And they have some of the hardest jobs. And I feel like sometimes their work gets overlooked when it absolutely shouldn’t.



Louis Goodman 17:23

Yeah, I agree. What aspect of practicing law do you think is your strong suit?



Stephanie Cianci 17:30

I think that my strong suit is dealing with different personalities, which is not something that I gave a lot of thought to before practicing. But with many different cases at different stages, at any given time. It’s all about being able to be on the same level as your client and be understanding of each other. And I think I’ve gotten to be pretty good at that. Because I know that, you know, as a younger attorney in years of practice, I don’t know everything that there is to know about the law yet. But I can always talk to somebody I can take their call, I can answer their text message, because I find that most of the time our clients just want somebody to talk to, to ask questions of and then they feel better. And I know that even if I don’t have an answer about the law, when they ask it, I know where to find it. And I know that effort will make our clients feel better.



Louis Goodman 18:32

Yeah, you know, the number one complaint to the State Bar is not that my lawyer is ineffective or cause too much or doesn’t know what he or she is doing. But it’s my lawyer won’t return my phone call.



Stephanie Cianci 18:44

Yeah, I’ve heard that too. And I completely agree with it. So I take great pride in you know, I won’t answer a call on Saturday night at midnight, but I will return the call on Monday morning. And I try to make myself as available as I can to my clients to be there to answer their questions, because usually, a two or three minute phone call is enough to make them feel better about the process.



Louis Goodman 19:10

Yeah, I think you’ve brought up something about boundaries with clients. That’s important.



Stephanie Cianci 19:16

Yes, it is. And that’s something that I see working on all the time, especially with being a new mother and having to put more of myself into my family now than I did prior. I’m not able to be working as much. And as late as I may have once upon a time and I can’t answer my phone, you know, late at night anymore. So you know, every day is a little bit different. But most people will respect when I say, Oh, I didn’t call you back on Saturday night. I was with my family and I call them on Monday morning. They say oh, I understand. I just wanted to leave you a message or something like that. So I think that we’re all seeking that balance and to have those great boundaries which can take some and some learning.



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



Stephanie Cianci: No, I don’t, even practicing just in the Bay Area, I can see how cases are treated differently. Certainly from county to county. And I think that that’s something that I spend quite a bit of time thinking about, because I find it unfair that in some places, you know, a factually similar case will be treated very differently, despite legally having the same facts, a client will be treated differently just based on where their cases has originated from.



Louis Goodman 20:40

I’m gonna shift gears here a little bit, Stephanie, tell me about your family life, especially now that you have a newborn baby?



Stephanie Cianci 20:50

Well, I live with my husband, Jeff. He and I met in college at San Jose State, and we have been married for three years now. And we just as we said earlier, had our first daughter Charlotte in February. And it has, of course, been the biggest life change that I’ve ever been through yet, but it has been pretty fantastic.



Louis Goodman 21:13

And how do you see practicing law with young child going forward?



Stephanie Cianci 21:21

I see it as a set of skills which I am trying to learn now. And which I will continue to practice in my practice of law and practice of being a parent every day is different. Thankfully, my husband is currently on his paternity leave, which his company gave him some time for. So that makes my work a little bit easier, because I can spend most of my day doing what I need to do without worrying about her. But you know, it’s definitely just more On My Mind. Now, when, when I’m working, I miss her. And when I’m with her, I’m thinking about work. So I feel like I always have to be on right now. As opposed to before I before excuse me, before I had my daughter, you know, I had a pretty standard workday. And at the end of it, I could just go about doing what I wanted. And now I have to go from work to tending to her and her needs.



Louis Goodman 22:23

What sort of recreational pursuits do you have and enjoy?



Stephanie Cianci 22:29

Right now, I don’t have a ton because my daughter takes up most of my time, but I do have a peloton bike which I really love. And I have been trying to get back into writing that regularly since I gave birth. And I am also in a pretty great book club, which I really enjoy. And I read a fiction as often as I can.



Louis Goodman: Is there a book that you would recommend?



Stephanie Cianci: Yes, actually, my very favorite book is actually not surprisingly, about criminal defense. It’s called Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. And when I read that book, a couple of years ago, it reinvigorated my passion for criminal defense and why I feel like I do what I do and why I’ve heard a lot of other attorneys say that they continue to practice criminal defense, you know, even in its challenging moments.



Louis Goodman: Can you repeat the name of the book, please?



Stephanie Cianci: The book is Small, Great Things by Jodi Picoult. And it’s a fiction story, but it really resonated with me and why I’m so passionate about criminal defense.



Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?



Stephanie Cianci: I stay up at night thinking about how to bridge the differences between what the court and district attorneys often want and what our clients hope and want in the outcomes of their matters. There can be a big difference between those two. So I spend a lot of time thinking about that and thinking about, you know, what my clients and I can kind of offer to the district attorney’s office in return for, you know, maybe a different conviction or some different aspect of their case. I spend a lot of time thinking about that.



Louis Goodman 24:27

Yeah, so thinking about your clients and negotiation and how you can make that work.



Stephanie Cianci 24:36

Yeah, I spend most of my nights that are sleepless thinking about that and how to get the most fair resolution so that my clients are happy with my work and they can move on with their lives, but also so that the district attorney knows that that our community will be safe going forward.



Louis Goodman 24:54

Let’s say you and Jeff came into some real money, you know, a few billion dollars, what would you do differently in your life?



Stephanie Cianci 25:03

Well, of course, you know, there’s the standard answer of I would love to travel and only practice on kind of the most interesting cases that I could choose. We really do love to travel and hopefully with the pandemic, you know, with vaccinations coming in the world becoming a little bit safer, hopefully, we can do more of that soon, especially now that we have our little girl to travel with.



Louis Goodman: Where would you like to go?



Stephanie Cianci: Where would I like to go? I would really like to see more of Asia. We’ve been privileged enough to see Europe quite a bit right before the pandemic. In the fall of 2019, we went to Switzerland and Germany. And that was really wonderful. But I’ve never been to Asia. So I’d like to explore there. And I think for more noble pursuits, if I had a few billion dollars, I think I would really like to focus, you know, starting in the Bay Area, and then working out more into more of California, and then even the greater country, I think that every child should have the opportunity to go to preschool. I think that that is the root of a lot of inequality in our system. And I think that if every child had that opportunity, it would affect their lives in a really positive way, as children and then adults.



Louis Goodman 26:24

Let’s say you had a magic wand, that was one thing in the world, or the legal world, that you could change, what do you think that would be?



Stephanie Cianci 26:32

I think in the legal world, I would have it so that there was always a resolution to a case that everybody could be happy with both the state, the defense and the defendant, because that often doesn’t happen. And I would like that to happen more often.



Louis Goodman 26:51

Stephanie Cianci, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.



Stephanie Cianci: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure for me 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 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 from music. Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Sorry, can I start that answer over? That’s actually a hard question.