[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we’ll talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers and what their experience has been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect. While traveling in Europe, he realized that social goals were important to his career and life. After gaining a variety of legal experiences, he decided to litigate criminal, civil and family law cases. He provides zealous representation to individuals of all economic classes. Gaurav Bali, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Gaurav Bali: Well thank you for having me, Louis.
Louis Goodman: It’s a pleasure to have you. We’ve worked some cases together and I’ve always enjoyed [00:01:00] that.
Tell me, where is your office located right now?
Gaurav Bali: I’m in Jack London Square at 4 23rd street.
Louis Goodman: How long have you been there?
Gaurav Bali: We’ve been there for about two years.
Louis Goodman: And what kind of practice do you have?
Gaurav Bali: My focus really is quite broad, so I shouldn’t call it a focus, but the areas that we take cases, civil specifically, personal injury is a smaller part of the practice.
Family law and criminal law are the larger parts of the practice.
Louis Goodman: Now, when you say we are you associated with other attorneys?
Gaurav Bali: Well, I have at least one of counsel that I use and he is very helpful in cases where I just don’t have the bandwidth to litigate.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Gaurav Bali: So I was born in Hayward, California, and my family is from India.
Louis Goodman: Where’d you go to high school?
Gaurav Bali: I went to high school in Fremont, Mission San Jose High School.
Louis Goodman: Oh, that’s a very good high school. [00:02:00] I’m told.
Gaurav Bali: It was very enjoyable and highly competitive.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Very competitive. How did you do there? I guess you did. Okay.
Gaurav Bali: I fared okay. I’ll say that.
And eventually led to me deciding to go to junior college and then going to Cal.
Louis Goodman: Where’d you go to junior college?
Gaurav Bali: I went to Ohlone and because Ohlone didn’t have all of the classes I needed for what I anticipated my major would be. I also attended West Valley College and Chabot College. At one point I was taking 21 units in a semester, going to three junior colleges and two days a week.
Louis Goodman: Wow. When did you transfer to Cal?
Gaurav Bali: After two years at Ohlone, essentially with a perfect GPA. I went there and my intended major was computer science, and I quickly transitioned into economics.
Louis Goodman: Growing up in a first-generation family of Indian immigrants, [00:03:00] how did that impact your life in Fremont and going to high school and going to junior college?
Gaurav Bali: What’s interesting is that my grandmother and my mom are very progressive for not having the exposure of the American culture until of course my mom moved here to California and that to me felt as if this is a place I always belonged. So I didn’t really see much of what some people believe are, you know, the stereotypical Indian family in terms of being vegetarian or being forced into thinking a certain way about a particular subject, that they were very open to me having sort of that freedom of thought.
That allowed me to develop into sort of who I am.
Louis Goodman: It sounds like they were pretty interested in you performing well academically.
Gaurav Bali: That was something that my grandfather, when he was [00:04:00] alive, took under his belt. My grandmother and grandfather moved to California from India at my young age of about five or six years old. My mom had lost my dad four months before I was born, and so she was a single mom and she tried in India for a while and eventually decided that the two of us didn’t really appreciate what it had to offer. And I don’t think she much appreciated it either being a widow and moved here and subsequently my grandmother and grandfather arrived and my grandfather took it upon himself to focus on my sister and my education and that became the central focus of my life with him. Until he passed away the summer of my fifth grade, my fourth grade.
Louis Goodman: Have you been back to India at all on your own?
Gaurav Bali: Yes, we were on my own and my sister and I would normally travel there together in the summertime. So my mom’s sister would come here and if she didn’t come [00:05:00] here a given summer, then we would travel there.
So at the very least up until about 16 years old, I was going there every other year.
Louis Goodman: How was that for you?
Gaurav Bali: I enjoyed it tremendously. I enjoyed vacationing there, but not living there because I always felt my home was in California.
Louis Goodman: Where in India did you spend some time?
Gaurav Bali: So we visited Delhi. That is where my mom’s sister and a lot of my grandmother’s family is.
We’ve also visited Mumbai back then it was called Bombay. And my grandmother comes from a large family, 13 brothers and sisters, and my dad had nine siblings. So on both sides, we’re now spread across the world. But my grandmother’s side of the family, my mom’s side really is in India. And my grandfather’s side is also there, but not as darn as many people.
Louis Goodman: When you got to college in Berkeley, how did that feel different from being in high school and in community college?
Gaurav Bali: In [00:06:00] Southern Alameda County, there was a lot less handholding, and when I say that, I mean that, you know, you decide if you attend class, you decide if you attend the teacher’s assistant lectures and support groups that they had in the other forums. It was a lot of making sure that we were there, making sure we attended.
And there was a lot of, much more attention given to individual students. So that was lost. And naturally I didn’t focus more on attending the lectures. If I read the materials in advance, which I quickly learned was not a good idea.
Louis Goodman: When did you start thinking about going to law school?
It’s interesting. I didn’t. When I graduated Cal, my mom said, so what are you going to do next? And I told her, I said, mom, just give me a year. I’ll figure out how to make a million bucks. And when that didn’t happen, I think it was a culmination of my life experience, my own personal struggles in high school, [00:07:00] not having a father and sort of traveling, not just in Europe, but really didn’t get to see the struggle and the plight of individuals there. But then it was really iced when I went to Europe and I saw even within the social class, I was in that there were certain places I wasn’t accepted number. This is post 911. So how some people viewed me when I traveled was a little bit different.
And I got a feeling of that from various places. And I think my life experience generally pushed me there and I didn’t really know what I was going to do until of course I graduated.
Louis Goodman: So when you got out of Cal, you decided, well, I’ll take a year off and go travel in Europe.
Gaurav Bali: Exactly.
Louis Goodman: How was that?
Gaurav Bali: It was wild. You know, I saved enough money where at that time things that, you know, the prices were much different in what we’re paying now. And it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had with my friends. Just absolutely letting [00:08:00] go and letting free and, you know, taking trains from one part of the country to another.
And having no one to answer to, but each other.
Louis Goodman: Yeah, I took a year off, was actually during law school and traveled through Europe and I found that to be the most educational experience that I’d ever had in my life.
Gaurav Bali: Absolutely agree with you. It is something that, we decided what we wanted to see based on what our interests were.
And it was just overall one of the biggest eye-opening experiences to young adult life, even more so than college.
Louis Goodman:. So you get back from Europe and you decide, well, okay, I’m wanting to go to law school now.
Gaurav Bali: Exactly. Yeah, exactly.
Louis Goodman: So what did you do about that?
Gaurav Bali: For the Ellis that talked to my mom about my plans and she said, I knew that you, what you’re going to do, son.
I said, well, how did you know and why didn’t you tell me after I graduated college. She says, I don’t direct you. I simply encourage you throughout your life. And one of the things that I recall when you were [00:09:00] growing up is that you always had a way of arguing negotiating with me in a way that your sister didn’t and you always wound up getting your way somehow.
And that’s why I knew that this would be a perfect fit for you.
Louis Goodman: Hmm. That’s interesting. So where did you decide to go to law school?
Gaurav Bali: I went to Lincoln Law School in San Jose. It’s a part-time program that allowed me to work full time during the day, which was my primary focus. And as a result, it was a four-year program instead of a three-year program.
And that’s exactly what I did. I worked full-time during the day and went to law school at night.
Louis Goodman: What did you do for work?
Gaurav Bali: So I started working as an assistant to an LDA. An LDA and their Business and Profession Code is a Legal Document Assistant who can provide essentially paperwork filled out for litigants pro se litigants in family court, or do any other type of paperwork such as transfer of a deed from married couple to one person or [00:10:00] whatever legal document was needed, she could essentially produce for a particular person. I did adoptions there. I did countless number of divorces, child custody cases. When I say I did that, I mean, I prepared the paperwork for them. I talked to clients about what to expect and just give them basic information as to how family court works. I think the most unique thing I did was an adoption of children from a couple who decided to give the neighbor, give up their child to the neighbor who had always wanted children, but they had many of their own, and it was a surprise child.
And that was probably the most unique case I worked on there.
Louis Goodman: You think that working in a job that was related to the legal profession helped you in terms of your legal?
Gaurav Bali: I think it helped me more post law school, but not in terms of my legal studies.
Louis Goodman: If someone was a young individual graduating from college, would you recommend the law as a career?
Gaurav Bali: I would recommend anyone who has an [00:11:00] interest in law or making change, attend law school for one year and decide if they’re cut out for it. I think it’s an amazing profession. I think it opens a lot of doors in ways that even if you don’t end up practicing law, that you wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to pursue. So yes, I think that it is an invaluable experience.
Louis Goodman: How has actually practicing either met or different from your expectations about it?
Gaurav Bali: You know, when you’re in law school, you read cases and you kind of envision how those cases start the practice of law. At least the areas that I practice are, you know, heavily geared towards litigation. It’s not transactional in any way.
And. I think that law school simply prepares you for the difficulties that cases may present and to carefully prepare for and be ready to are you on your feet.
Louis Goodman: How about the [00:12:00] business of practicing law? You and I, and a lot of the people that we know we were lawyers, but we run a business of running a law firm.
And I’m wondering how that’s gone for you and what you think about that.
Gaurav Bali: It’s interesting there, when I graduated and got my bar card, soon after I decided to sort of shack up with a colleague who had an office in Oakland and in that office for a numerous independent attorneys who you know, Lou from, your sort of, practice in this in Alameda County.
Louis Goodman: You mean from, from being around for a very long time, but I know a lot of people, right.
Gaurav Bali: You know, everyone. Oh. Which is why you’re so successful at being a great podcaster. So I decided to bootstrap and sort of didn’t work for anyone. When I got my bar card and I naturally fell into the [00:13:00] business of criminal defense and family law and I never advertised and to this day I don’t advertise. So when you asked me about the business of law and how that’s working so far, not having advertising, being a referral only attorney has served me well. I could certainly be doing better business wise, but also I think that the capacity that I’m at is a very natural fit for me, given the other aspects of my life and the demands on my time.
So I am in no way disappointed, not formally advertising to get in more clientele, because I believe that I have a good amount of business naturally coming in through the doors. And I sort of liked that sort of grassroots feel to what I do, suffice it to say that maybe one day I will pivot slightly and do some advertising in a way that makes sense for me.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you had started out practicing.
[00:14:00] Gaurav Bali: Probably, I would have wished someone told me about the high level of stress involved in the day-to-day practice.
Louis Goodman: What do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Gaurav Bali: It’s a two-part answer.
One is your credibility is everything in a court of law. So when you appear in front of a judge, it is very important to be credible in every aspect of the case that you’re working on. And when you’re asked the question to be direct. Second, best advice I was given, not in any particular order was to be prepared.
Louis Goodman: What aspect of practicing law do you think is your strongest litigation?
Gaurav Bali: I think in hindsight, I am a trial attorney at home.
Louis Goodman: Looking back, is there one thing that you would change if you could?
Gaurav Bali: That’s a difficult question to answer, because I believe that all of my life experiences led me to where I’m at.
If there was one thing I would change it may be having gone to a full-time school. To experience that aspect of, you [00:15:00] know, meeting people more locally who are also practicing now in counties throughout the Bay area. Because I was concerned about the financial aspect of, and the cost of law school and my desire to keep costs down, if I didn’t get into the best law school that I thought was fit for me, I think that’s the only thing I would probably reconsider.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the legal system is fair? Do you think it dispenses justice?
Gaurav Bali: Compared to the rest of the world. I think our system is great. It’s certainly not perfect. There are many aspects of the system that could use work, but the reason I do this is because I believe in what I’m doing and that the other avenues available, I don’t think would satisfy what the needs of this country are. At least the state of California.
Louis Goodman: What’s your own family life been like? And how has practicing law affected that?
Gaurav Bali: I have been married for five years, soon to be six. And the, it wasn’t much [00:16:00] different during that period when we didn’t have a child, but since having our son about two and a half years ago, the demands for my time have become much more significant and there’s a much more delicate balance in.
Trying to juggle responsibilities between two full-time sort of workers and a young child that requires a lot of attention and wants to be with both parents all the time. So the only struggle has been being a little bit more backed up overall because of satisfying the needs of it looks up to you.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things do you enjoy doing as a family?
Gaurav Bali: So one of our most memorable trips was going to Hawaii in 2018. Another enjoyable time was going to the Oakland Zoo. When it, since it’s opened up recently, we went, the other things that we really enjoy are, that at least our son enjoys our animals. So anytime we can pay a visit to an animal, the neighborhood we live in, in the Hills and in Montclair, [00:17:00] so many people have chickens. They have, there’s a family here that has goats. So we oftentimes try to visit the goats and the chickens and going for walks and going to the park. I think those are our primary focuses. Of course, we also have a very large family in the Bay Area. So we make time for them, almost every weekend or every other weekend at the very least.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things do you do to kind of keep your sanity as a practicing attorney?
Gaurav Bali: I try to have fun when I’m not at work. So I try not to carry the stress of the job on my shoulders, which is not easy to do because people outside of the ones that you care about, the people that actually hire, you want to talk to you at all times throughout the day. So I think trying to create strict boundaries about when to feel those calls and deal with clients is one [00:18:00] of the things that I’ve been managing better recently, but certainly trying to leave work at work is the other aspect of this job that is also challenging to manage.
Louis Goodman: Have you been doing anything specific about drawing those boundaries with clients?
Gaurav Bali: I try to not look at my phone for a few hours between 5:00 PM and 8:00 PM. I try to just not even look at it. So if there’s an emergency, my family will know how to reach me in other ways, but I just try to not look at my phone.
Louis Goodman: How’s that gone for you?
Gaurav Bali: It sounds better than it has. So I do have to pick up the phone once in a while.
And in that process, of course, responding to other messages, and instead of having them build up is one of the things that’s an interesting balance, but I think I’ve been doing pretty good.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s something that all of us struggle with because we want to be there for our clients.
Our clients have paid us to be there for [00:19:00] them. And I think that we feel a sense of real responsibility. On the other hand, you know, we are entitled to some time for ourselves and we need to draw some lines. And I think that that’s well, let me just speak for myself. It’s a, process and it’s not easy for me to always find that balance. And I’ve been trying to find that balance for a very long time.
Gaurav Bali: And that’s been the hardest part. I want to make myself available to all my clients. So I have every single client of mine has my cell phone number. Yeah. It’s the same number that my family has. And I feel like, because I have had experience working with lawyers when I wasn’t a lawyer, I know the value of that to a client.
And I never want to take that away. Even if that means putting more pressure on me on a day to day basis.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. You know, I tell my clients, look, here’s my cell phone number. Here’s my office number. If you think it’s an [00:20:00] emergency. call my cell phone. You get to decide if it’s an emergency, but if it’s not an emergency, Hey, call the office.We’re really good about returning phone calls.
Gaurav Bali: I think that would work great if I didn’t have a spouse with a child that they want to see or a problem wit. Let me put it this way, if I didn’t have family law, where people think everything’s an emergency.
I think I’d be better off.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Family was tough. It really is.
If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other job that you think that you might like to do?
Gaurav Bali: I would probably do something in the area of math. I have been very good at math for as long as I can remember. And it’s much more formulaic.
It also is not stressful, at least not for me. And I think that because I enjoy math. I would probably do something that my father had done, which was something in the accounting arena. He was a certified public accountant. So [00:21:00] I think that would be much less stressful too. So if it wasn’t something involving math, anything that didn’t involve high stress is something that interests me.
Louis Goodman: You have some kind of a super power or some kind of a superpower that you’d like to have?
Gaurav Bali: Oh gosh, I’m definitely not a narcissist, but what I’d like to have is the ability to heal. Yeah. I think that is something that in many aspects of my life I’ve seen would be the most powerful thing that I could help people.
Louis Goodman: What kind of things keep you up at night?
Gaurav Bali: My family, in terms of their health and their wellbeing. I think that as we age, we realize the number of days left with those who are aging, shrinks considerably. And that is probably the most concerning thing to me. When I go to bed, as I’m thinking of them.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some real money, few billion dollars, $3 or $4 billion.
What, if anything, would you do differently in your own life?
Gaurav Bali: [00:22:00] I would find a way for my family, my in-laws family, and all of us to find a plot of land or homes back to back to back where we could all just be closer to each other. I think that’s the first thing that I do. And I think the second thing that I do is somehow help and give back to the local community because the struggles are too many for the people that sort of are that we see every day.
If you had a magic wand, you could wave it over the legal world, he world in general is one thing you could change? What would you do with that magic wand?
Gaurav Bali: I’d probably eliminate hunger. I think when you see the world we live in such a bubble, oftentimes that we don’t know this, the true struggles that are out there, but the one thing that people should never have to worry about is food on their plate and water in their glass. And so we have in, in my life, in the Bay area, it’s been a life of [00:23:00] privilege. There’s always been running water and there’s always been food on the table. And that is really, I think what needs to be the common denominator for every human is having the ability to eat and drink.
And then. I think that would open their minds to focusing on other things and improving their life and others.
Louis Goodman: Okay. Anything else that you wanted to say?
Gaurav Bali: Only thing that I’d say is, you know, carpet DM, right? Seize the day. We often take that for granted. We get stuck in the world of work and the mundane activities day to day after work such as making dinner for the family, feeding our child or children. You know, I think the human connection can be lost at times. I think the most important thing for people to remember is live life to the fullest. we never know when our time’s up and before we can regret how we’ve lived, we should live how we wish to.
So we can look back and say that we did everything we wanted.
Louis Goodman: Gaurav [00:24:00] Bali. thank you so much for talking to me this afternoon on Love Thy Lawyer. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you.
Gaurav Bali: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
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 [email protected], where you can find them all of the 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, Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Gaurav Bali: You know, we oftentimes played pool down on Shattuck. There was a pool hall there.