Kim Burgess – Podcast Transcript
Louis Goodman: Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk to practicing attorneys about their lives in and out of the practice of law. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Kim has had experiences, both as a deputy district attorney and an assistant public defender. She has handled thousands of criminal cases and is one of the leading attorneys in the area of DUI defense in the Tri Valley Area of Alameda, Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties.
She is a member of the Alameda County Bar Association, the Eastern Alameda County Bar Association, and has been practicing law for over 30, yours, Kim Burgess. Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Kim Burgess: Good morning, Louis. Thank you so much for inviting me here today.
Louis Goodman: Well, thanks for being here. You’re someone who I like talking to, not just on the podcast, but whenever I would see you in court. Where is your office located now?
Kim Burgess: I’m located in Dublin, which is in Alameda County.
Louis Goodman: And what is your practice? What kind of practice do you have?
Kim Burgess: Well, I have generally a misdemeanor criminal defense practice. And through the past few years, I have developed a traffic ticket defense practice as well. There seemed to be kind of a vacancy in that area.
Louis Goodman: How long have you been practicing law?
Kim Burgess: Since 1984. So going on 36 years, I’ve lost track of time and my math is terrible.
Louis Goodman: Something like that. Yeah. It’s about 36 years, I think. Where are you from originally?
Kim Burgess: I grew up initially in San Francisco and then due to my mother remarrying, moved to Stockton for high school.
Louis Goodman: Well, let’s delve into that a little bit. Where did you go to high school?
Kim Burgess: I went to Lincoln High School in Stockton, California.
Louis Goodman: And what was that experience like for you?
Kim Burgess: It was shocking then in San Francisco until this was 1970s. At that time, I had been going to an all-girls private school. My friends were down the block.
I had my social life, my religious life and everything. I knew family and It’s included. We’re all in San Francisco. And when my mother remarried, she remarried an attorney, who had a practice in Stockton. So we moved up there and it was it was a culture shock. It was just, I wasn’t ready for, and of course at that stage in your life when you’re just entering high school, which I was, you know, there’s so many emotional things and developmental things going on. So it was very difficult for me.
From there, I went to Cal where I spent four wonderful years having a lot of fun in Berkeley. We lived in a sorority, had lots of friends at a lot of good times.
Louis Goodman: When did you decide to go to law school?
Kim Burgess: After I graduated from Cal, I actually went into Bank of America’s Management Training Program.
After about a year in that program I realized I wasn’t interested in banking. And since I have a lot of family in law, I decided to go to law. So that was when I decided to go.
Louis Goodman: How long did you work at the bank?
Kim Burgess: Oh, I think it was a little bit over a year.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that taking a little time between college and law school and getting some work in the corporate and business environment was helpful once you got to law school.
Kim Burgess: I think that it helped me mature.
I started college at 17. I went to Hastings in San Francisco.
Louis Goodman: Oh, I went to Hastings too. How did you like Hastings?
Kim Burgess: I really liked it? I was ready to focus at that point in my life. And so I was really into organizing and, you know, getting down to my studies. I must have known when I went into law school that I was going to be a criminal attorney, whether defense or prosecution, because that was my, you know, almost my focus from the beginning in terms of moot court and the elective classes I took and the internships that I volunteered for.
Louis Goodman: What did your friends and family think when you told them, Hey, I’m going to go to law school and now I want to be a criminal lawyer.
Kim Burgess: Well, I think my father actually told me that he thought that I should be a court reporter. I don’t know why he said that because I am a terrible speller and I’m sure that would have been a disaster, but I think all of my nobody was really surprised. My stepfather was a lawyer in San Joaquin County and Stockton did a lot of corporate and tax work.
My father at the time I entered law school was on the San Francisco Municipal Court Bench. My grandfather died. At the time I was applying to law school, he had been a Federal District Court Judge. I had cousins and people all over the, you know, throughout my life, I’ve been lawyers. So nobody was surprised.
Louis Goodman: What was your first legal job?
Kim Burgess: Well, if we count volunteer work while I was at Cal, I volunteered at Berkeley Legal Aid down on Fourth Street, but my first paid job was with the Sacramento Public Defender’s Office. And then my first post law school job was with the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office.
Louis Goodman: Well, let’s start with the Berkeley job. What was that like?
Kim Burgess: It was really interesting. I was helping a lot of, well, they were all indigent clients with getting social security benefits, getting their AFTC. I would attend as their representative at administrative hearings. It was a real eye opening and good experience for me at that stage in my life.
Louis Goodman: Then you went to the, the first job was with the Public Defender?
Kim Burgess: Yeah. I had an internship up in Sacramento with the Public Defender’s Office.
(Dog barking in background.)
Louis Goodman: What’s your dog’s name?
Kim Burgess: His name is Huckleberry and he is at the back door and I’m going to walk over and let him out because he’s found something he wants to go bark at.
Louis Goodman: All right. Okay. So after Berkeley legal aid, you went to the Sacramento Public Defender’s Office. Is that correct?
Kim Burgess: Sacramento Public Defender’s Office was actually, probably by that point, it was probably three years later. Before as I said, legal aid was while I was at Cal undergraduate.
And I did that for several volunteered there several years. And then after I graduated, as I said, I was, I went to Bank of America and then I went to law school. While in law school I had some other internships, Federal Public Defenders, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. And then I had the first paid job was with the Sacramento Public Defender’s Office.
One of those summer internship programs.
Louis Goodman: What did you do there?
Kim Burgess: Misdemeanor defense.
Louis Goodman: How long were you at the Public Defender’s Office?
Kim Burgess: That was just a summer internship. So that would have been two and a half months. And then I returned to Cal, excuse me. I returned to Hastings for my last year.
Louis Goodman: And after Hastings, where’d you go?
Kim Burgess: Sacramento District Attorney.
Louis Goodman: What did you think about the difference in terms of being a prosecutor versus working in a public defender’s office?
Kim Burgess: You know, that’s a really good question, but at the time, the real differences that I noticed were not so much between the Public Defender and the District Attorney’s Office, but between San Francisco’s District Attorney’s Office, where I had been volunteering.
For quite some time while I was at Hastings versus the attitudes in the Sacramento. Sacramento seems so much more conservative.
Louis Goodman: How long did you stay in the DA’s office?
Kim Burgess: I think it was a little bit more than a year. And then I actually left for Civil Defense. And I went to work with Farmers Insurance House council.
Louis Goodman: What was that like?
Kim Burgess: It was amazing. A lot of ways, I got some good trial experience. I got to have a good understanding of personal injury cases. A lot of evidence that I don’t think I had really experienced, in introducing evidence in court, in civil, in criminal cases, because at least my experience still to this day, criminal tends to be a lot less formal.
Civil cases: It was much more formal.
Louis Goodman: Did you actually go to trial?
Kim Burgess: Yes.
Louis Goodman: Well, no, it’s, you know, it’s hard to get civil trial experience. Not that many people have really spent much time in trial as civil attorney.
Kim Burgess: Yeah.
Louis Goodman: Especially young lawyers.
Kim Burgess: Yeah. Well, I was with Farmers for about five years. At that point, I had two young children and we decided, my husband decided, that his parents were getting old and shouldn’t be watching the boys all the time.
So he applied with Caltrans and was relocated to the Bay area. So that’s when we moved from where we were, we were up in Elk Grove at that time. And then we moved down to Dublin and at that point started my own practice.
Louis Goodman: Did you take any time off in order to be a mother or did you just work that into your law practice schedule?
Kim Burgess: I worked it into my law practice schedule. My children were there when they were young. So they saw the inside of as many courtrooms, as I probably did those years. I would sit them in the back row of the courtroom and hand them, you know, whether it’s a coloring book or a game boy or whatever, you know, the Tamikashi, that they had at the time.
And they would sit there, and I occasionally would have other people watch them, but you know, most of the stuff that I was doing when I first moved down to the Bay area was appearance work.
Louis Goodman: Speaking of your girls, you have two girls? Is that two sons and a daughter?
Kim Burgess: Two sons and a daughter.
Louis Goodman: Two sons and a daughter.
Yeah. Okay. Cause I, I remember the first time that I ever met you was in the Fremont Court and somehow or other, you were telling me about your work with the Girl Scouts.
Kim Burgess: Right. My daughter, my husband, both of my boys were in Boy Scouts and my daughter was in Girl Scouts. And where my son would be the Den Leader with Boy Scouts.
I became the Girl Scout Troop Leader. So I was very active, I guess, until my daughter even graduated from high school, not only as the Troop Leader, but I would run a session of Girl Scout Day Camp, which was held at Twin Canyons in Lafayette. And then I also volunteered. It was a family volunteer staff, residential camp up at Lake Kirkwood that we did for I think it was maybe half a dozen years. So I was very involved through my daughter’s high school, through all her education. I was very active in Girl Scouts with her.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that you really like about practicing law?
Kim Burgess: You know, I have to say I like the variety of people that I meet as I’m sure you feel this way.
There have been plenty of clients that I wouldn’t mind sitting down and having a cup of coffee with. meet and occasionally go for a walk or to get together for lunch. I really like talking to people and getting to know their stories and it’s always made me feel good to help people, even for the smallest of cases, because particularly in the small cases, it means so much to them to have somebody listen to their stories and to be there for them.
Louis Goodman: Yes, there is sort of an unending stream of stories that is interesting in terms of practicing law. My dad practiced law for a long time and he always used to say, there’s always something new. There’s always something different.
Kim Burgess: He was so right.
Louis Goodman: If someone were just graduating from college and was thinking about law as a career, would you recommend that or not recommend it?
Kim Burgess: I wouldn’t discourage it. I would certainly recommend that they have a little bit of life experience. And they could have accomplished that while they were in college or before college. But I would recommend it before going into law school because I think it’s so demanding and it consumes so much of your life and particularly the competition, as I understand it now is so great that if you’ve made that decision and then you realize it’s not for you, it can be, you know, a very sad thing. But I also think the more experience a person has before going into law school makes them a better student. And I think that it’s important to kind of know what you’re looking at before you get into it. So you can help focus yourself.
Louis Goodman: Has actually practicing law, met or differed from your expectations of it?
Kim Burgess: No, I think that I don’t really think I had any expectations when I started. I just knew what I like doing and it just came into, it just fell into place for me. And I guess I’m lucky to say it’s worked out.
Louis Goodman: The business of practicing law. You know, you go to law school and no one ever really talks to you about being a businessperson and yet being a businessperson, if you’re in your own practice is a big part of it.
Kim Burgess: It really is. And you know, I learned early on with this practice that I was not a good businessperson. And so I was fortunate, when I first opened my office to have a good friend who was willing to take accounting classes. I met a young attorney who actually did wills and estates, and he’s the one that kind of gave me the advice, just in a casual lunch conversation.
That led me to the way I market my practice, which is very low key. I don’t spend a lot on it, but I think the, you know, rewards that I get from my expenditure are worth it. I don’t pay per click. I have a couple of web pages and that’s pretty much it.
Louis Goodman: So what do you do to market yourself?
Kim Burgess: I have two web pages, obviously I have a presence on Yelp. I think we all do. A lot of my cases now come from word of mouth.
Louis Goodman: Well, that’s good. That’s the best kind of advertising you can get is from word of mouth, from people who’ve used your services and have been happy with it.
Kim Burgess: Yeah.
Louis Goodman: You mentioned that there’s a wills and trusts attorney who kind of helps you with some of the accounting things and bookkeeping things. Any other mentors that you’ve had? Any attorneys who you’ve had that kind of relationship?
Kim Burgess: Well my first mentor was with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and she really influenced me through law school and through my couple of jobs.
Louis Goodman: What else do you like to do? What about some recreational pursuits?
Kim Burgess: Well, my husband and I are birders, so, uh, we have done a lot of traveling to find birds. We’ve gone to Costa Rica, Australia, let’s see the Netherlands, New Zealand. We were going to go to the Canary Islands, notwithstanding the COVID just messed us up or that’s where we’d actually be right now.
Louis Goodman: I think it’s gotten in the way of a lot of people’s plans.
Kim Burgess: That’s it. I like to work, I do glass fusing as well, so I have a kiln in my garage. And when I’m not particularly now, when I’m not otherwise occupied, I’m out in my garage playing with glass. Yeah. Making different pieces of art or jewelry or, you know, bowls and things of that nature.
Louis Goodman: Well, if you could not be a lawyer, what would you choose to do?
Kim Burgess: I used to tell everybody I go to work at See’s Candy. That was my dream job to be one of those ladies behind the counter, in the little white uniforms.
Louis Goodman: What kinds of things keep you up at night?
Kim Burgess: There’s too many to list.
If I’m in the middle of a case, a case can keep me up at night. I do worry about, you know, the state of our world and sit there trying to come up with solutions, which you know, I know I’m never going to come up with. And also, I have this dog who keeps barking that does manage to keep me up at night because he insists on sleeping on the bed.
Louis Goodman: Well, if you had a magic wand, you could change one thing in the world, the legal world, or otherwise, what would you think that would be?
Kim Burgess: Well, I think right now it would be to totally eradicate this Corona Virus. It’s just messed up so many people in so many lives.
Louis Goodman: So Kim, if you came into some real money, $3, $4 billion.
What, if anything in your life, would you change?
Kim Burgess: I’d change few things in my life generally, I’m pretty happy with what I have and where I am right now. So I think I do use the real money to hopefully make a difference in the community. That’s what I would, I think I’d use more of it to fund education for children that don’t have opportunities that I had. And, and then hopefully I’ve given my kids, so that maybe we get a better world in the long run from it.
Louis Goodman: Kim Burgess. Thank you so much for joining me on Love Thy Lawyer today. It’s been a very interesting conversation. I’ve known you for a long time, but I’m glad to have found out a few new things too.
So thanks so much for being
Kim Burgess: You’re welcome, Lou. Thank you so much for having me. I wish I could say I’d see you in court, but I don’t know when that’s going to happen.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. Many thanks to my guests who have contributed their time and wisdom and make the show possible.
Thanks as always to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.