Louis Goodman / Charles Woodson – Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk with attorneys about their lives and careers. Today, we welcome attorney Charles Woodson to the podcast. Mr. Woodson has experience in both civil and criminal trial advocacy and has practiced in state and federal courts. He’s a member of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Court Appointed Attorneys Program for indigent clients.
He has numerous professional memberships. Mr. Woodson’s experience also includes transactional work and appellate advocacy. Charles Woodson, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Charles Woodson 00:40
Thank you, Louis. It’s great to be here.
Louis Goodman 00:43
Great to see you. I see you in court, not as much as I used to, because I don’t think we’re seeing anybody in court quite as much as we used to, but it is nice to see you outside of court. Where are you talking to us from right now?
Charles Woodson 00:57
I’m talking to you from my office in Oakland, on Washington Street, right next to Wiley Manual Courthouse.
Louis Goodman 01:02
What sort of practice do you have? How do you describe it?
Charles Woodson 01:07
I describe it as, it’s a solo practice by myself. I don’t have anybody else helping me. It’s just a one man show. Well, I take that back. That’s not entirely true. I do have help and it’s primarily focused on criminal defense, state and federal work.
Louis Goodman 01:24
When you say you have help, what sort of staff do you have or team do you have?
Charles Woodson 01:28
I work with another lawyer that kind of like looks over pleadings, just kind of like edits them, cuts them down, gives me feedback and advice on what I need to do. Then I have somebody that helps me with billing, making sure that I get my monthly bills in on time because, you know, after all, this is a business. So those are the two primary functions with like help.
Louis Goodman 01:50
Yeah. I think it’s really important for attorneys to have somebody else to kind of bounce things off of, and also to have some help dealing with the business side of the practice.
You know, we’re not trained that way.
Charles Woodson 02:06
No, no. I did. If I had known this was a business, I don’t know that I would have like gone in to this type of practice, to be honest with you. The business is the worst part.
Louis Goodman 02:19
Everybody seems to say that. Where are you from originally?
Charles Woodson 02:22
So I was born in San Francisco and I grew up in San Francisco, San Francisco, San Francisco, Oakland, but I really spent the majority of my childhood in Sonoma County.
Louis Goodman 02:36
Where’d you go to high school?
Charles Woodson 02:38
I went to high school at Rancho Quetati high school in Rohnert Park.
Louis Goodman 02:44
That is Sonoma County.
Charles Woodson 02:46
It’s very Sonoma County.
Louis Goodman 02:48
Well, what was that like? What was that experience like living in Sonoma County?
Charles Woodson 02:52
Sonoma County has a lot of very, very great things, you know, a lot of like outdoors, nature, the river, but there’s also just drawbacks in terms of, I guess diversity. I experienced a lot of racism in high school. I got a lot of, I got death threats and it wasn’t fun.
Louis Goodman 03:14
So when you graduated at Rohnert Park and you got out of that nasty situation, where did you go to college?
Charles Woodson 03:23
So I went to Cal.
Louis Goodman 03:25
How was that experience being in Berkeley?
Charles Woodson 03:27
I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the campus, the environment, just the whole package, you know, it’s pretty cool to like, you’re just walking down, walking to class and you like, see a Nobel laureate or, you know, you run into just random people like Johnny Mosley, like the, he was in the Olympics and you’re just like, this is an amazing experience.
Louis Goodman 03:57
And I suspect you felt a lot safer there.
Charles Woodson 04:00
Yeah, yeah, I didn’t have to worry about like going to class. I didn’t have to worry about, you know, my property getting damaged. Like, you know, my car getting vandalized, you know, I didn’t even have a car at campus. It was a really nice and nurturing experience.
Louis Goodman 04:20
Now, when you graduated from college at some point, you went to law school. Did you take any time off or you just go straight through the law school?
Charles Woodson 04:28
Well, I had taken my time going through undergrad. I graduated in December. I traveled through Europe for, until after I graduated and then I went to law school in August.
Louis Goodman 04:40
What was your trip to Europe like?
Charles Woodson 04:42
My trip to Europe was pretty amazing because it was kind of like a tour of a lot of European capitals. And so it was just, it was really eye-opening in a lot of ways. And it was just a really fun time to just see another continent.
Louis Goodman 05:03
What’d you think of it?
Charles Woodson 05:03
It’s beautiful in a lot of ways. And it’s eye-opening and I also just met a lot of like Interesting people, you know. When I was in Berlin I met somebody that was In my hostel. He was literally doing his his bachelor’s math at the same time in some type of astrophysics. I asked him, what are you doing here in Berlin? And he was like, I’m here for a conference. And so it was like, it was like meetings with people like that. You’re just like, this is just incredible. Like there’s so much going on in the world.
Louis Goodman 05:46
So you got back from Europe and you went to law school. Where did you go?
Charles Woodson 05:49
So it’s now called Sandra Day O’Connor college of law. When I enrolled, it was just Arizona state college of law in Tempe.
Louis Goodman 05:58
And what did you think of going to school there? I mean, you know, you’ve gone from Sonoma County to San Francisco to Cal Berkeley. And now after a brief trip to Europe, you’re in Arizona. Very, very different place than any of the other places.
Charles Woodson 06:18
Yeah, it was like, it was a lot hotter. I mean, you know, you go from 68 degrees in San Francisco in August to 110 in Tempe in August, September, it’s like 110, 112, it’s warm. So, the climate was, and it took me a while, it took me a while to settle in.
Louis Goodman 06:42
Well, speaking of aggressive, what did you think of law school when you got started?
Charles Woodson 06:45
I was surprised, to be honest with you, I was very surprised by how law school, how the students, because the students at Arizona State were different than the students at Cal, where the nature of Cal is kind of like everybody’s very, very curious about learning the law. There’s less functionality, whereas in law school it was very much a means to an end in terms of like, whether it’s networking, your grades, who you are friends with, internships, externships, it was just, it was far more driven than I was expecting.
Louis Goodman 07:30
Thinking back on your life, when was it that you first decided that you were a lawyer, that you wanted to be a lawyer, and when did you decide to apply to law school?
Charles Woodson 07:41
So I guess I’ll answer that in two parts. The first part is I first really gave law school a thought in high school when I was a sophomore, and we’re having to do some type of testing, or I don’t know what it is for, and along with the report about that profession. So I chose, and I was like, Oh, I want to be an international transactional lawyer. And the teacher suggested that I try something like becoming a landscape architect, because being a gardener was probably more in line. And so I did not do a report on becoming an international lawyer. It was all being a gardner. And so that kind of, I guess, planted the seed for me to like, okay, fine. I’m going to go and do it anyway. When I decided to apply to law school was sometime in, when I was at Cal.
Louis Goodman 08:43
What did your friends and family say when you said, Hey, I want to go to law school and I’m applying and I want to be a lawyer.
Charles Woodson 08:50
Everybody was pretty supportive. They were pretty supportive. And, you know, I think in one way they, the one lawyer that I was close with, a family friend, basically didn’t tell me that law school was not as friendly and supportive in a lot of ways as undergraduate because she didn’t want to dissuade me from actually pursuing the practice.
I think overall people were were you know, my mom was very, very excited So yeah, there wasn’t any real second guessing, it was all support.
Louis Goodman 09:32
So what was your first legal job out of law school?
Charles Woodson 09:36
My first legal job, so this is in 2008, the economy had crashed, everybody, nobody could get a job anywhere. So I was a legal assistant at a law firm in Berkeley for a civil plaintiff’s personal injury attorney. And I did that for about six months.
Louis Goodman 09:59
And at some point you went and worked for the Public Defender’s Office in, was Marin County?
Charles Woodson 10:05
So, and I was making money doing the personal injury stuff as a legal assistant. And then my school had given me a little bit of money to do a postgraduate fellowship at the Marin County Public Defender’s Office.
And so I also spent about six months there and the reason why was because in law school, I had done the Public Defender clinic in Maricopa County and I really enjoyed it.
Louis Goodman 10:38
What was it about doing criminal defense that you found so interesting?
Charles Woodson 10:42
I think getting to advocate for the little guy or to basically try to give people some equality.
Louis Goodman 10:55
Can you talk a little bit about your path from working at the personal injury firm and doing some work at Marin County Public Defender to opening your own practice and bringing us up to date as to what you’re doing now? Can you just kind of walk us through that a little bit?
Charles Woodson 11:13
So it’s a lot of, there are lots of little steps. So I joined the San Francisco lawyers clubs inns of court and so I started there and my wife also is a lawyer and she went to Arizona State and, so the two of us went there to like, meet people and greet people. And so just to kind of give a baseline of networking, she had also done the Public Defender clinic in Maricopa County, but she ended up landing in San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and she was a second chair on a very high profile case because she was, you know, at the conclusion of the case, the defense attorney said, hey, you told me you wanted to work, you know, you’ve done the Public Defender’s clinic and Maricopa County, you want to come over here and work with me? And she said, sure, and so it was kind of at that point that my fellowship in Marin County, the P. I. lawyer in Marin County. And so I just kind of would hang around her new office because it was, the lawyer was real welcoming and he was just super supportive and he ended up, his law partner ended up introducing me to some practitioners here in Alameda County to do some contract work for, like, appearances, things of that nature.
And then after I had been around for a little while, I applied to the Alameda County Bar Association’s Court appointed panel. Back then I want to say it was Sue Kleebauer who headed up the panel. And so I was doing just misdemeanors, like class four, class five, basically, and including misdemeanor appeals.
And so I did that until about 2012, 2013. My wife. I had gotten a job offer to do because she’s far better lawyer than I am, far smarter than I am, far more versatile, and she had gotten an offer to do intellectual property and patent litigation because she’s got a hard science degree from undergrad and so we moved to San Diego and while I was down there trying to find work, it was really, really hard.
The legal market in San Diego is very different than it is up here. I was looking around and I saw they had this postgraduate there. They had this LLM fellowship at Cal Western. All of the professors were from the federal defender’s office in San Diego, which is like the national training office produces consistently produces some of the best litigators in the country.
Like for a long time, Judy Clark headed up that office. And so I figured, well, you know, a semester of classwork to learn the federal sentencing guidelines, to learn about, you know, defending a federal case and how different it is from state court. So I went ahead and did it. And then after that had finished up, my wife and I had had our son in 2014 or 2013, excuse me.
So in 2014 I finished up. She wasn’t really liking the practice. the intellectual property trademark. So we moved back up here. I was able to get onto the federal panel and then I was also able to get back on to the Alameda County Bar Association’s panel. Paul Wolf actually had office space open. And so, because I had known a couple of lawyers in that, that were in there, I set up shop in Paul’s office and I, it just kind of, the path has led me to where I’m at now. Paul’s retired and I’m still going strong, but like, you know, I’m still very close with other lawyers that were in there, like Alana Cooper Smith and Eric Battencock, Adam Piniella. I think Sierra’s over there now, Sierra Dugan.
Louis Goodman 15:26
Yeah. I’ve interviewed her for the podcast. So what do you like about practicing law? You’ve doing it for a while, you obviously have the ability to do other things if you chose to, but you’ve chosen to stay being a lawyer.
Charles Woodson 15:42
As a defense attorney, even if I’m able to, you know, the motion is denied or whatever is denied or not granted. I know that I’ve made an impression on my client that they know that, you know, I’m fighting for them and that I’ve made an impression on the court where, yes, they granted the motion, but, you know, later that evening when they’re thinking about their day, they’re going to remember, you know, they granted their motion, they denied my motion and. You know, if that doesn’t sit well with them, then I did my job because they, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re denial actually, you know, they’re like, well, maybe I was wrong. I’m like, well, then I did my job. Then I had an impact. And maybe the next time this issue comes before them, they may actually benefit the next person that’s coming through the door.
Louis Goodman 16:38
If a young person were coming out of college and thinking about a career, would you recommend the law?
Charles Woodson 16:42
I mean, the law is so, it’s so wide and so diverse, like there’s so many avenues and there’s so many things that you can do in the law or because you went to law school. Like, for example, some of my classmates are now sports agents, others are in real estate or in banking finance. I think that’s a personal question. If they’re interested in it, they should explore it.
Louis Goodman 17:09
How has the business of practicing law gone for you? And can you just kind of talk about that a little bit? I mean, with an understanding that that’s a rough part for most of us.
Charles Woodson 17:19
For the business aspect. I mean, it starts, you know, well, how are you going to actually set up your practice?
Are you going to be independent? Are you just going to. Set up a corporation or a limited liability practice and then going and getting an actual business bank account, you know, registering with whatever city you’re in, getting malpractice insurance, things of that nature are just, these are all the things that you need. You’re the foundation of your practice without it you can’t really, you know, you’re not really doing it. You’re going to hurt yourself.
And then after that, there’s that, you know, how much money are you going to spend on advertising? What’s your overhead? I think some people call it like a net. What’s your net every month that you need to make in order to just keep the lights on?
Depending on how your practice is, you know, advertising could run you in the tens of thousands of dollars a month. I’m not very business minded. I’m more service minded. And so, you know, okay, well, I’ll quote you X number of dollars and they’re like, Oh, we want to do a payment plan. Well, nobody told you you’re going to actually have to follow up. And like, where’s my, you know, you haven’t made your payment this month. What’s going on? What can we do to make the payment happen? Which is completely foreign to the practice of law.
Louis Goodman 18:50
Yeah, they don’t teach us this in law school. Do you think the legal system is fair?
Charles Woodson 18:55
I think it’s as fair as the operators that are in the system. I learned from judge Gonzales Rogers that probably the most important thing is to act with integrity. Consistency, and integrity are the cornerstone to our system of law.
Louis Goodman 19:17
I’m going to shift gears here a little bit, Charles, what’s your family life been like and how is practicing law fit into that and vice versa, you know, the sort of work life balance?
Charles Woodson 19:29
So, when I had my son and that was in San Diego, Robert Boyce asked me, are you sure you want to do this? You know, you’ve got a son, you’re going to miss a lot of things. This is a very demanding profession, and it is, it truly is.
Long days, six, working six days, seven days a week. Taking calls at, last night for example, I got a call at 10 p. m. You know, because it’s business and when the phone rings, that’s money. I got to take the call. I had to step away from doing bedtime. I don’t like that aspect of it. I would hope to kind of roll that back at some point, but given the age of my kids, it’s, you know, I need to make sure that I’m making enough money so that we have a roof over our heads so that they’ve got, you know, there’s food in the kitchen and they’ve got clean clothes and so on and so forth, insurance. You know, I would hope that it wouldn’t have encroached on my life like it has. That’s the practice of law, but it, you know, law is a very demanding mistress.
Louis Goodman 20:43
What sort of recreational pursuits do you have? What sort of things do you do to kind of get your mind off of the practice of law when you’re not working?
Charles Woodson 20:51
I spend time with my kids. And that could be like watching a movie or trying to play video games. And I’ve been trying to get better about this is like going out and doing like family exercise together, like for Thanksgiving, for example, for the last three years, we run the, the turkey trot around Lake Merritt on Thanksgiving day.
Louis Goodman 21:17
What sort of things keep you up at night?
Charles Woodson 21:19
Reviewing discovery, needing to review body worn camera footage, getting billing out, all of those, exercise, my health. Yeah, the health is also is a big one too, because I want to be, I want to be around in 20 years.
Louis Goodman 21:36
Let’s say you came into some real money, let’s say several billion dollars, three or four billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Charles Woodson 21:48
Probably add staff to my firm. I would probably, that would allow me to like spend quality, more quality time with my family rather than doing ministerial stuff. Take a vacation. I think fundamentally that’s probably what I would do.
Louis Goodman 22:07
Let’s say you had a magic wand there was one thing that you could change in the world, the legal world or otherwise. What would that be?
Charles Woodson 22:15
I would really like all of the violence and the hatred to stop because it’s just heartbreaking, you know, I think I’d like people generally to be a lot more friendly and compassionate about other people, even people that they don’t know.
Louis Goodman 22:35
Let’s say you had a Super Bowl ad, someone gave you 60 seconds on the Super Bowl to say anything that you wanted. What would you like to say to a really big audience?
Charles Woodson 22:45
You could be as cliche as you want, like give love a chance or, you know, like, for example, the United States, like, all right, we’re one nation, like, let’s act like that rather than acting like several different countries within this country.
Louis Goodman 23:01
Charles, if someone wants to contact you to have you represent them or an attorney wanted to talk to you about some aspect of your practice, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Charles Woodson 23:13
Best way to get in touch with me is to Google me, but you have to make sure to put attorney in Oakland after Charles Woodson, because there was a football player who played for Raiders that is a little famous. And so what will happen is if you just put Charles Woodson in Oakland, you won’t find me.
Louis Goodman 23:33
Well, what’s that like having the same name as a very famous football player?
Charles Woodson 23:38
The blessing is that people don’t forget my name because my name is synonymous with a very famous person. And the curse is just that like, obviously I’m not Charles Woodson. I don’t have Charles Woodson money. I don’t have a winery. So it’s kind of a joke.
Louis Goodman 23:56
But if someone wants to find you Charles Woodson, you put in Charles Woodson attorney Oakland, and your name will come up on Google. Charles, is there anything that you wanted to talk about that we haven’t discussed, anything at all that you wanted to bring up?
Charles Woodson 24:11
There was one thing, maybe two. The first thing I wanted to know was whether you were in the DA’s Office when Tony Serra was in the DA’s Office?
Louis Goodman 24:22
The answer to that is no. Tony Serra was in the DA’s Office well before I was, but our supervisor in the DA’s Office was the same person, who was Buzz DeVega.
Charles Woodson 24:35
And what is your most memorable trial?
Louis Goodman 24:39
Well, my most memorable trial was a trial that I lost, which had to do with a, it was a sex offense and I was offered no time by Judge Gold and my client absolutely refused to take it. And we went to trial in front of Judge Lee in Alameda County Superior Court.
After trying that case for six weeks, the jury went out, had lunch, came back, convicted my client of everything, and Judge Lee ultimately gave my client 18 years in state prison. I learned a lot from the experience because I was given a very, very reasonable offer that my client clearly should have taken and I knew he should have taken it and because I knew he should have taken it, I should not have taken that case to trial.
That’s what I learned from that situation. I should have said no. Here’s your trial feedback. I can’t in good conscience keep going with this because I’ve done everything that I can in your case and gotten you a disposition that you clearly ought to take, because that’s my most memorable trial.
Charles Woodson 25:50
That’s actually, I mean, those are really wise words. You know, it’s learning restraint.
Louis Goodman 25:55
You know, maybe let me just follow up on that and ask you, like, how do you deal with it emotionally when a client gets convicted, gets a prison sentence and it’s, you know, it doesn’t really matter whether they’re innocent or they’re guilty, you know, you always develop a certain relationship with clients and you tend to see them as human beings, even if they have done something that is maybe really bad and certainly illegal. I don’t know. I’ve always had a hard time dealing with people end up going to prison, you know, I’m serious periods of time. How do you deal with that?
Charles Woodson 26:35
Well, what I’ve learned was to what not to do, which was like to lament it with alcohol. And that was from watching other lawyer, like other lawyers trying very heavy cases when I first started, was the what not to do, which was the, was like, kind of self deprecating alcohol, kind of talking about it, continuing to talk about the case and the trial, even after it happened, especially with their practitioners. That can kind of like, they can sympathize and empathize with you about the trial and the emotions that are attached to it and the feelings of whether it’s like of regret, mistakes, that it’s your fault. Talking about it is, has been probably the biggest thing that I’ve taken away from it.
Louis Goodman 27:40
And talking about it, you think is good or bad?
Charles Woodson 27:43
I think it’s fantastic. You have to talk about it. You have to share it. It helps you process it because if you, if you just hold on to it and you bottle it up or whatever, it eats at you, it ends up festering and it doesn’t, and it’s something that actually needs to run its course, just like your client’s sentence.
Louis Goodman 28:06
Charles Woodson, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
Charles Woodson 28:11
See you in court.
Louis Goodman 28:13
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.
Thanks to my guests, and to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Louis Goodman 28:53
I’m having a hard time hearing you right now. Oh, that sounds better. Can you still hear me?
Charles Woodson 28:59
Yeah, I can hear you.
Louis Goodman 29:01
Okay. Your picture’s disappeared, but I can hear you okay.
Charles Woodson 29:05
Yeah. It’s, sorry about that.
Louis Goodman 29:07
Don’t worry about it. It’ll all get fixed in the edit. It’s not a problem.
Louis Goodman / Harlan Simon – TranscriptLouis Goodman 00:04 Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk with attorneys about their lives and careers. I’m