Henry Gereis corporate portrait for a lawyer in Bakersfield on April 17, 2021.


Henry Gereis / Louis Goodman Podcast


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. He has negotiated 1000s of felony and misdemeanor cases, he began his career volunteering in a public defender’s office. Early on, he recognized the value of alternative dispute resolution. His motto is client centered, caring counsel, he seeks to bring a level of empathy and compassion to every case, he is passionate about helping the marginalized. Henry Gereis, Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Henry Gereis

Thanks for having me.



Louis Goodman

Well, it’s great to have you. I have enjoyed reading some things about you and learning a little bit about your practice. Where are you physically located for your office right now?



Henry Gereis

Bakersfield, California



Louis Goodman

And what sort of practice do you have?



Henry Gereis

It’s entirely criminal defense.



Louis Goodman

And how long have you been doing that at that location?



Henry Gereis

I’ve been in private practice since March of 2020.



Louis Goodman

So you’re kind of just starting out?



Henry Gereis

Yeah. And started out right, when the pandemic was at its peak.



Louis Goodman

Yeah. March of 2020. That was the time that I think everyone will remember very well.



Henry Gereis

Yeah, it was a crazy time.



Louis Goodman

When were you first, like aware that the pandemic was coming down on you personally?



Henry Gereis

I remember having a conversation with my parents. In March, actually, it was the week before my birthday. So actually the end of February, 1st week of March, and my dad was pretty concerned about the whole issue, and I thought it would blow over in a couple of weeks. Sure enough, it didn’t. And you know that that’s really how I found out about it in March, I talk with my parents.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Henry Gereis

I was born in Tarzana, which is Southern California.



Louis Goodman

So you’re not too far from home?



Henry Gereis

Not at all. No.



Louis Goodman

And did you go to high school in Tarzana?



Henry Gereis

Yeah. I went to Granada Hills Charter High School.



Louis Goodman

How was that experience for you?



Henry Gereis

I loved it. It was, you know, high school. High school was a lot of fun.



Louis Goodman

What do you do?



Henry Gereis

I was really focused on school, academics was, you know, really my main focus. I love basketball. Growing up, I was playing for traveling basketball team, but my dad wanted me to focus on academics entirely in high school. So you know, it was really just about academics and hanging out with my friends.





Louis Goodman

Now you have a sort of an interesting, at least to me, kind of an interesting ethnic background. And I’m wondering if you talk a little bit about that and how you think that may have affected the way your parents raised you.



Henry Gereis

So my parents immigrated from Egypt, actually, my mom was born in Egypt, and then lived most of her life in Sudan. My dad, grew up in Egypt and then moved to Amsterdam when he was about 19. And then came back to Egypt at some point, met my mom, and then emigrated to the United States. I was born in Tarzana. And we are Coptic Orthodox Christians, which is a small minority in Egypt. We pride ourselves on the fact that we are direct descendants of the pharaohs. Actually Coptic the word Coptic means Egyptian. And it was once the native language of Egypt prior to the Muslim invasions. And so it’s a very conservative minority group in Egypt. And they, there’s a lot of people that immigrated to California and New Jersey, my parents came here in the 80s. A lot of my upbringing was in the church and revolved around going to church. And it was very structural. And my parents always valued that. And I think that it played a large part in the person I became, and I’m grateful for it, to be honest.



Louis Goodman

So you graduated from high school in Tarzana. And where’d you go to college?



Henry Gereis

I went to UC Riverside.



Louis Goodman

How was your experience once you got to UC Riverside? Did you find it different than being in high school? And in what way?



Henry Gereis

Yeah, it was a UC Riverside was some of the best years of my life and it was very different than anything I had experienced up until that point because I grew up in such as structural environment and actually I didn’t have a driver’s license until I was 18 and could afford a car and so I once I got to college. It was my first time living away from home and having to deal with the responsibilities but also having the freedom to, you know, just explore the world.



Louis Goodman

So what did you study there at UC Riverside? Any specific academic curriculum?



Henry Gereis

Yeah, I majored in history and there was a, it wasn’t a minor, but it was in addition to the major It was long society.







Louis Goodman

After you graduated from UC Riverside, you ultimately went to law school, did you go directly to law school or did you take some time off?



Henry Gereis

I went directly to law school, I graduated in 2012.



Louis Goodman

When did you start thinking about being a lawyer and start thinking, Well, you know, I really would like to go to law school and why?



Henry Gereis

No, it was, I think it was my sophomore year, I had a history teacher who was also the government econ teacher, we had a debate. And it was, it was a group debate. And there were three of us. And at the end of it, he stated that, you know, our team had performed better than any team had seen. And he had been doing this annually, you know, for 10 years. I mean, so that, that really motivated me to think about, you know, what our team did well, and to break that down into skill sets. And think about what skill sets I have, and what career choices you know, are in line with that skill set and law was up there. And so I just went for it.



Louis Goodman

What did your family and friends say when you said hey, you know, I want to be a lawyer, I’m gonna go to law school.



Henry Gereis

Well, it’s funny because as a Coptic Orthodox Christian as a Coptic, you know, first generation, we always joke around with each other at church that, you know, we have three options, doctor, lawyer, engineer, doctor, lawyer, engineer. So although my parents didn’t put pressure on me, to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, they were happy that that was what I was, you know, striving for. And that was a goal that I set out for myself and they backed me.



Louis Goodman

How did you start thinking about getting involved in criminal defense?



Henry Gereis

So in talking about that, with a friend of mine, who I went to junior high with, and who was also an attorney, he was describing what he was doing at the public defender’s office, and it highlighted the aspects of law that I initially set out, you know, to practice and which was the fuel that got me, you know, to end up, you know, to get through the process. And I just asked to be honest, after that phone conversation that week, I applied to every public defender’s office in the county. And I ended up volunteering in Santa Barbara, for three months. So no, I had no idea I was going to practice criminal law.





Louis Goodman

Presumably, you enjoyed your experience at the Santa Barbara County Public Defender’s Office?



Henry Gereis

I really did. And I think that it was a realization for me, of growing up, I didn’t come from a family that had a lot of money. And I always thought that, you know, being a lawyer meant being affluent. And come to find out that, you know, times have changed and I actually, you know, went to law school just after the 2008 recession, and really fell in love with the service aspect of it.



Louis Goodman

So you ended up actually getting a job as a Deputy Public Defender in Kern County?



Henry Gereis

Yeah, actually, the buddy of mine who I spoke with, who I went to junior high with, who suggested that I applied the Public Defender’s Office was employed at the Kern County Public Defender’s Office at the time. And coincidentally, I ended up getting hired there. And we worked together for about a year, which was an awesome time.



Louis Goodman

When did you decide to go out on your own?



Henry Gereis

After about a year and a half at the Public Defender’s Office, I had an opportunity, and then I just jumped on it.



Louis Goodman

What do you really like about practicing law?



Henry Gereis

I think that it’s a unique opportunity to help people in a way that I never thought I could. It’s interesting to me because before meeting a client, or when you initially meet a client, that this person is a complete stranger to you. But, you know, in the criminal setting, they’re coming to you with such an intimate set of circumstances sometimes have lost their liberty, they’re in custody. They are, you know, facing the prospect that oftentimes is looming over them and clouding their hope, you know, and looking to you for answers, for assurance, for hope, for guidance, and for results.



Louis Goodman

As criminal practitioners, we really meet people at some of the worst moments of their lives.







Henry Gereis

Absolutely, and I think that like you mentioned In some of your other podcasts, a lot of the subtleties in law, also venture into psychology and social work. And I think that even the subtle things like kneeling, sometimes I have clients in custody that are sitting in the court benches, and you know, just the psychology for them, that their attorney doesn’t place themselves above them, and is willing to put themselves below them physically, I think sends, I don’t know if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but it’s something that I do, because I tried to communicate to my clients in that way that I am here to serve you.



Louis Goodman

If a young person was just coming out of college, would you recommend the law as a career?



Henry Gereis

Well, sure. I mean, I think it depends on the person. I think that, you know, with technology advancing so quickly and with, you know, the rise of cryptocurrency and things like that, with the rise of E gaming, and all these other markets that didn’t exist when I was going to school. I think it deserves some other considerations. Because it’s not an easy profession. It’s not easy in terms of the consumption of your time, and the stress. And also, you know, the energy that you have to devote in order to be effective. And I think that if you’re not passionate about it, if you’re not the type of person that hidden door setbacks, and keep going, it may not be for you. And that’s perfectly fine.



Louis Goodman

What about the business of practicing law now that you’ve gone and opened your own firm, and you’re working law practice as a business? How is that gone for you? And how’s that matter different from your expectations about it?



Henry Gereis

Well, I’m actually grateful to Pepperdine, and they offered a class college, I think was called Law Practice Management and Business Development. And it may have been the most useful class I took in law school.



Louis Goodman

Tell me a little bit about that. Because I’m really, like, fascinated by the notion that law schools rarely teach that subject. And it’s interesting to say it’s like one of the best classes that you took. So let’s talk about that a little bit.



Henry Gereis

Yeah, absolutely. It was taught by an adjunct professor, who had started his own practice. I think pretty soon after graduating law school, I think he practiced for about five years in the civil world, and then started his own firm. A lot of the things that I picked up in that class were useful, for example, you know, utilizing virtual offices, utilizing technology, clients really don’t care where your office is, especially in a criminal setting. A lot of times you are visiting your clients in the jail. So there were a lot of useful tidbits that I learned and those things were a result of years of experience and making mistakes. So I found it to be extremely useful. They also focused a lot on you know, building a brand and marketing that it’s really about brand identification and being consistent in that which was valuable to me and starting the firm.



Louis Goodman

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



Henry Gereis

The best advice I received was actually, during my law school orientation, by a gentleman named Jack White, it was three prong. I never forgot it. He said, Remember, people are always watching, do things for others before you need them done for yourself, and remember the people who got you here? And that’s, I think, the best advice I ever received.



Louis Goodman

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



Henry Gereis

My focus and my passion right now, my goals, starting off is to inject empathy into the legal system, especially in the criminal setting.



Louis Goodman

Do you think the legal system is fair?



Henry Gereis

No, unfortunately, I don’t I think that it’s fair at all. I think that there are various agencies or parties I played that have interests and those interests are contrary to the intent of how the system was designed to operate manned and contrary to the Constitution. And so I don’t think that criminal defendants really have really ever start off on an equal footing. Oftentimes, you know, even in terms of sentencing. I think that a lot of times prior convictions that stem from the prosecutor overcharging you know, and a young defendant accepting gang enhancement or something, you know, no, I don’t think it’s fair.



Louis Goodman

Let me shift gears here a little bit. What’s your personal life like? What sort of things do you enjoy doing outside of court, outside of your office, when you need to unwind a little bit from the law?



Henry Gereis

I spend a lot of time with my friends and my family. I love watching basketball and football, playing sports. I enjoy, you know, going out with friends, having a drink, spend a lot of time with my dog. And I’m really close with my family, especially as my parents get older. I don’t take that for granted. So I spend a lot of time with them going out to the beach, and things like that.





Louis Goodman

What sort of sports do you like to participate in?



Henry Gereis

I love basketball.



Louis Goodman

How would you define success?



Henry Gereis

I think that you got to look at being successful as being a successful human being. I think that oftentimes, people sub classify human beings into, you know, what they do for a living, or, you know, where they’re from, or how much money they have, or you know, what they’ve accomplished. But I think that, you know, being a successful human being, means being kind and honest.



Louis Goodman

What sort of things keep you up at night?



Henry Gereis

Sometimes I randomly think about clients. It’s funny, because it kind of ties in with the fact that you come into this person’s life, for a short period of time, and you have such an intimate relationship with them right away. You know, and that doesn’t stop when you leave the court, the court room, courthouse, you know, I think about my clients a lot, and I care it goes I really care, which goes in line with the slogan client centered care and counsel.



Louis Goodman

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



Henry Gereis

To be honest, I don’t know if I would keep practicing law. But I would use money to draw attention to the areas where I think there needs to be systematic change. And I would spend the resources to draw me the attention to highlight those, especially in counties that are overlooked, or that don’t have the same media attention or influence.



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 otherwise, what would that be?



Henry Gereis

Empathy. Just injecting some empathy into the legal system.





Louis Goodman

Let’s say you get 60 seconds on the Super Bowl, you got a Super Bowl ad, one minute on the Super Bowl, what message would you like to put out to the world where a lot of people were listening? A lot of people would hear what you had to say, what message would that be?



Henry Gereis

Every day in the morning, when you wake up, you’re the only person that’s waking up in your life. And you may think to yourself, what do I have to do today, but throughout the course of the day, you will do certain things more than likely, you certainly will breathe. If you’re fortunate enough, you will eat and drink water. And you will wake up with the intent to be happy. While you are waking up and you are focused on your life. Those three things can be applied to any person living at that same time, anywhere in the world. And if you remember that, we’re all the same in the sense that we all want to be happy. We all need to breathe, to survive. We all need to eat and drink water. And you remember that, even at the back of your mind during the course of every day, then it’ll be easier to live a life where you love and you’re able to empathize with people.



Louis Goodman

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



Henry Gereis

No.



Louis Goodman

Henry, if someone wants to get ahold of you to find out what’s going on with the legal system in Kern County, or to retain you or to just talk to you about some things, what’s the best way to get in touch?



Henry Gereis

The best way would be to access the website, which would be Esqaspire.com.



Louis Goodman

Esqaspire all one word.com?



Henry Gereis

Yeah, it’s Esqaspire.com.



Louis Goodman

Very well, and we’ll have that in the show notes as well. Henry Gereis. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.



Henry Gereis

Louis, thank you for having me on. It has been a pleasure.



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, my guests share their wisdom, Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Henry Gereis

Sorry, can we start that over? Okay. Sorry. Can we start that over? Just start the response over. Okay. Sorry, can you ask me the question



Louis Goodman

I’m worried about. So that’s the magic of editing. You’ll see



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