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.



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