[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. Where we talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers and what their experience has been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.
During law school, she clerked for both the San Diego Superior Court and the Fourth District Court of Appeal. As a San Joaquin County, Deputy District Attorney she prosecuted numerous criminal matters through all stages of litigation, including jury trials. She also has experience in the world of civil litigation. She now manages criminal defense matters in a high volume practice, Ghazal Sharif welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Ghazal Sharif: Thank you very much.
Louis Goodman: Well, [00:01:00] I’m very pleased to have you on. Where’s your office these days and what sort of practice do you have?
Louis Goodman: What drew you to the DUI specifically?
Ghazal Sharif: So when I was a Deputy District Attorney, it was the bulk of the case work. Then I worked for a criminal defense firm before I started my own firm and they did exclusively DUI defense. And so just by the sheer volume and experience, it gradually became my niche.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Ghazal Sharif: I’m from Afghanistan.
Louis Goodman: You were born there? And when did you come to the United States?
Ghazal Sharif: I came with my family in 1990. I was three years old.
Louis Goodman: So do you have any recollection?
Ghazal Sharif: Not very much, but I [00:02:00] would say that my parents largely raised me to be an Afghani woman.
And so in a lot of ways, in most ways, I think that I brought the country or the culture with me.
Louis Goodman: Do you speak the language fluently?
Ghazal Sharif: I speak Farsi.
Louis Goodman: Wow. So did you go to regular elementary public school in the United States?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. My family, we had a sponsor, so we originally moved to North Carolina.
I stayed there for a very short time. And then my father had family in the Bay area. Fremont is considered to be like little Kabul. Yeah. So we came here and I lived in Concord and I went to elementary, middle and high school in Concord. It was. [00:03:00] Interesting. It was like, like I said, I was raised to be a very proper Afghan young girl.
And then when I was in high school, there’s this entire American culture that I had to assimilate into, so it was interesting, but it was good. It was really good.
Louis Goodman: Can you speak of an experience that, let me think about how I want to put this up. Can you think of an experience where your Afghan cultural bringing came up against your experience in high school or the culture of the high school?
Ghazal Sharif: There’s so many that, you know, essentially as soon as I was, and I don’t, I’m not sure if this was a cultural thing, but as soon as I was 14 years old, I started working. So instead of being engaged and work or leisure, or I started working when I was [00:04:00] 14 all the way till the time I was 18.
So I really didn’t have time to do the things that I would think that normal people do. So for example, you know, I didn’t play sports. I didn’t spend the night at my friend’s house. I didn’t go to football games. I just really was expected to be very disciplined in terms of that, in terms of academics and also, you know, just start working and being independent.
My parents, you know knowing that they had a daughter, you know, often the hardships that women had to face and are, you know, in their culture. I think their goal was to make me as strong as they could. And they knew that the way to making that happen was for me to excel in school [00:05:00] and to work and to be independent.
I think that was very different from like my high school counterparts, because I think I would assume that they had more time to enjoy and to develop and to really be teenagers.
I actually worked at the Men’s Warehouse. I worked every weekend and every summer and every holiday. And I’m so thankful I did. Now I can attribute to what I’ve done, just customer service and being good to people and kind to people and following up just all of like the customer care. I learned that between the ages of like 14 to 18, knowing how to speak with people, knowing how to be professional, to not knowing what to expect.
With each client, but knowing that to treat them with respect and dignity and then [00:06:00] also care, compassion and all of that, I directly attribute to what I learned.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Makes sense. So when you graduated from high school, where did you go to college?
Ghazal Sharif: I went to St. Mary’s College in Moraga. When I went to go visit it was heaven on earth. It was calm and it was beautiful. Serene. It was, even though I was raised Muslim with my family, it was a Catholic School and I found a lot of comfort in that they were very liberal.
And again, I think that going to St. Mary’s was one of the best decisions I made.
Louis Goodman: Did you continue working in all your off time through college or did you participate in some other sorts of outside active?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah, my main focus when I was in college, it was to excel [00:07:00] academically. For part of the time I worked for that Catholic Institute Lasallian action. There was one program that I participated in called Jumpstart, where we went to like lower income neighborhoods and Oakland and Richmond and provided supplemental education to like young preschoolers. I did that for some time and I worked, I also worked for a Congressman Garamendi for a very short period of time.
I also worked for the Center of Autism and Related Disorders and provided behavioral therapy to autistic children. So I did those things.
Louis Goodman: When did you start thinking about becoming a lawyer?
Ghazal Sharif: I like my first intern post was during my undergrad was at a hospital and it was like pediatric hospital and it [00:08:00] was my first day.
And I felt very overwhelmed and a bit like in a moment I realized that I personally did not have the capacity to provide the type of healing that the children needed. And I had to very quickly think about if I could not help them in that way, how I would be able to help in another way, and I thought I’m going to be a lawyer.
Louis Goodman: So were you headed in some different vocational direction through college?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah. I really wanted to be a psychologist. I really wanted to be a psychologist, but in that moment I realized that I, again, I personally could not provide the healing that would be needed. And then I had to think very quickly what I could do to help others in terms of a career.
And I just thought. Okay, I’m going to be a lawyer.
Louis Goodman: Did you take some time off then between [00:09:00] the end of college and the time you went to law school?
Ghazal Sharif: I did. It took me a year. Well, I took at least a year for me to prepare for the LSAT and then apply. So there was a window of time where I did that is when I worked for the Center of Autism and Related Disorders.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that having that year of experience working, especially working at a helping profession assisted you in terms of having focused on law?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. It was very motivating because I knew that one, people needed help and two that I needed a higher level of education in order to make that happen. Just having that real life experience just motivated me to focus and to just get to my goal.
Louis Goodman: What did family and friends say when you told them that you wanted to go to law school?
[00:10:00] Ghazal Sharif: Well, my mom said that she knew it all along and I should have listened to her earlier.
She really encouraged me to be able to learn. Wanted me to be a lawyer. I think that she wanted a very strong and powered independent daughter.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to law school?
Ghazal Sharif: I went through California Western School in San Diego.
Louis Goodman: Yeah, I know it. Well I almost went there myself.
Well, how was that?
Ghazal Sharif: I loved it. Good practical lawyers. Like you need a lawyer to solve your problem. And one of the, where to work really hard, then you’ll find, you know, a college California, Western graduated is the one, my experience with my own experience and my classmates, they tend to be hardworking, humble, have [00:11:00] integrity, want to do the right thing.
Louis Goodman: And you think those values were really instilled there at Cal Western?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah. I genuinely do. I, I would hire anyone in my law school class.
Louis Goodman: So what was your first legal job?
Ghazal Sharif: I was a post bar at the San Jouquin District Attorney’s Office, and then I worked there after I passed the bar exam.
And again, that was a very pivotal to my personal life, my professional life and really my legal career.
Louis Goodman: Why tell us a little bit about that?
Ghazal Sharif: I think being a prosecutor is a very honorable job. I think it comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility and objectivity and await to make the right decision and to carry out that decision.
And so, and I’m not on a lot of ways. Emotions out of it. So it was really helpful to be trained, to do that.
[00:12:00] Louis Goodman: You left the District Attorney’s Office, uh, in Stockton. And where did you go and what prompted that decision?
Ghazal Sharif: Many different things.
Louis Goodman: So after getting some trial and litigation experience in the District Attorney’s Office, you came and started practicing in Oakland.
Where’d you go and have? How did that?
Ghazal Sharif: I worked at a family law firm and it was a very positive experience in that I worked for like an, essentially an all female firm with female partners and they excelled at what they did and they encouraged me to do what I did, but I soon found out that family law was not for me.
So I left the family law firm and I started working at a personal injury, civil litigation firm. I eventually found out my heart just belonged to [00:13:00] criminal law. So I left the civil practice and I started working for a criminal defense firm. I have never been happier.
Louis Goodman: So you enjoy doing the criminal defense?
Ghazal Sharif: I love it. I love it.
Louis Goodman: The things that I’ve always enjoyed about DUI work is that other than I guess, murder cases really it’s, there’s no other opportunity to have so much experience with forensic evidence and chemical evidence and the experts in the cross-examination of experts with. Have you found that to be true?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. People may believe there’s no open and shut case and every single piece of evidence matters and there’s so much you can do with it.
Louis Goodman: What do you really like about practicing law?
Ghazal Sharif: That I can really help people?
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend law as a career choice for a young person just coming out of college?
Ghazal Sharif: Yes. Hands down. I think it’s a career that is [00:14:00] empowering, that offers a lot of latitude in terms of what or how you want to do things. I think that it has infinite earning capacity. I think that there’s a lot of discipline that goes into becoming a lawyer and then practicing as an attorney. When I applied to go to law school, ironically, I didn’t know any lawyers.
I had never even met one in the process. I reached out to a few and many of them were discouraging. I can understand why they were, I don’t think being a lawyer is like seeing the movies like Legally Blonde, but I think it’s an excellent honorable profession. There’s a lot of good that could come from it.
Louis Goodman: How has actually practicing met or different from your expectations about it?
Ghazal Sharif: Well, it’s much more difficult and it requires a lot. Not only does it require like book-smart, but you also have to be really street smart because you deal with real life. [00:15:00] Every time my phone rang, I pick up the phone I am confronted by something new that my client tells me.
It’s nothing that I learned in law school, but it’s like practical, real life problems that they essentially depend on me.
Louis Goodman: Using some of the same skills that you developed when you were working in the men’s clothing industry?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah, or when I was working for like the Center of Autism and Related Disorders , it’s not my favorite part. It sometimes takes the joy of the practice away from practicing law. It’s what I like the least, I really don’t like asking people for money, but those are so in terms of like the business aspect, I don’t like it, but I also know that in order to work for myself and to have a successful practice, it’s what I need to do.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now that you [00:16:00] really wish you had known before you started practicing law or started down the endeavor of the legal path for your career?
Ghazal Sharif: Patience and it’s something I have to relearn all the time. Patience you know patience with the court, the prosecutor, clients, myself, mostly, but patience.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I, I think that is good advice. What’s the best advice you’ve ever had.
Ghazal Sharif: That things never go the way that you expect them to. And I think that makes it easier to deal with. I think there’s so much, especially living through 2020 for everybody, I would assume. Just, it’s never how you plan it to be sometimes for even very simple court appearances.
I have this big isn’t that how wonderful it’s going to be. And I go, and it’s not. And other times I’m cringing because I know that this hearing is not going to go well and it goes [00:17:00] very smoothly. So I think the best piece of advice I’ve received is that things don’t go.
Louis Goodman: Interesting. What, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?
Ghazal Sharif: That there’s more to a person than what’s written in the police report?
Louis Goodman: I’m sorry, go ahead.
Ghazal Sharif: No, that’s it.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Do you think that the system is fair?
Ghazal Sharif: This is a question that I grapple with all the time. I would hope that it’s fair. Most of my experience it’s fair. I don’t know. I’m hopeful. That we are getting there.
I’m hopeful that we’re getting back. That everyday will be better. And that is what motivates me and encourages me to stay in a practice. So I hope it’s there. I’m not sure if it’s there, but I believe that it takes good Prosecutors, even better Defense Attorneys.
Louis Goodman: Let me shift gears here a little bit in terms of work-life balance, what sort of things do [00:18:00] you enjoy doing?
What’s your family life like? How has practicing law affected those things?
Ghazal Sharif: I’m engaged and I’m very close to my parents and those are the people that provide me the much emotional support. That are need to, you know, start at my practice to maintain my practice. And so, you know, again, my, my fiance, my parents are everything.
I find a lot of healing with being in nature. I really loved gardening that brings me, you know, a big sense of peace.
Louis Goodman: What do you like to grow? Flowers, vegetables?
Ghazal Sharif: I love flowers. I love Jasmine. I’m trying to grow fruit, but I have not been very successful so far, but the reason I love it is that you can put so much love and nurture and care and it sometimes gives it back. That brings me a lot of healing, too.
[00:19:00] Louis Goodman: Any other recreational pursuits that you enjoy?
Ghazal Sharif: I love going to the beach and being close to the water.
Louis Goodman: Had any travel experience? I know no one’s traveled pretty much this year, but before that, have you traveled?
Ghazal Sharif: I haven’t traveled abroad in a very long time.
Louis Goodman: Any place in the United States that you’ve enjoyed, particularly.
Ghazal Sharif: I really love Southern California. I think it’s because I love being near the water. I lived in, when I went to law school, I lived in San Diego. Like the sun rises and the sun sets are like heaven on earth. And so I really loved being in San Diego.
I love going to Malibu. I can’t wait until Disneyland opens again so I can go there. So if I, whenever I do travel, it’s done really to Southern California just because the weather is so beautiful.
Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other sort of job or vocation that you think you would enjoy?
Ghazal Sharif: Thinking back, I think the reason why I felt older [00:20:00] than and pursuing my dream at that time to be a psychologist, it’s just probably lack of life experience. So I think if I were not a lawyer, I would love to be a psychologist, but I think that a lot of lawyering requires some of the skillsets that.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night? Do you worry about anything?
Ghazal Sharif: Yeah, I think we all think about our clients in the middle, my clients, making sure that I could be the back lawyer for them and doing the best job. Sometimes this job, especially if I, as a full practitioner can be very isolating. There’s my one relate to pat you on the back and tell you that you’re doing the best or that you’re doing the worst. And so oftentimes I have to be really critical to myself about I can give myself feedback because I only really have me to rely on in terms of that. You know, the things that keep me up at night are either my clients or making sure that [00:21:00] I can deliver for them.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some real money, like three or $4 billion fell into your lap.
What, if anything, would you do different in your life?
Ghazal Sharif: I would probably use the money to help other people be comfortable. I would do nothing.
Louis Goodman: I had a magic wand. That was one thing in the world that you could change in the legal world or in the society in general. Anything, what do you think that one thing would be?
If you could wave your magic wand
Ghazal Sharif: Hope to eliminate the ad quality that we see in terms of race, gender, socio economic status.
Louis Goodman: Thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer, I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to get to know you a little bit better.
Ghazal Sharif: Very much. Thank you for your time.
It’s the opportunity now, the honor is mine.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. Many thanks to my [00:22:00] guests, contributed their time and wisdom and making this show possible. Thanks as always Joel Katz for music, Brian Mathison and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.