Manjula Martin / Louis Goodman – Podcast Interview
[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: In collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association. This is Love Thy Lawyer where we talk with members of the ACBA about their lives and legal careers. I’m Louis Goodman host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association. Welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
I’m Louis Goodman hosting. She is licensed in both State and Federal Courts. She serves as Vice Chair of the Criminal Law Section of the Alameda County Bar Association. And in that position and through her practice, she helps influence our community’s practice of law. She believes that diversity compassion and empathy are our [00:01:00] greatest assets and strengths.
She clerked for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. She has earned numerous professional awards. And as a member of the National College for DUI Defense, she has worked tirelessly on behalf of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She travels, she spends time with her family and perhaps most impressive to me, she is an avid and accomplished surfer. Manjula Martin, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.
Manjula Martin: Thank you Louis. It’s great to be here.
Louis Goodman: Happy to have you. We are certainly enjoy having attorneys on, especially attorneys who are active in the Alameda County Bar Association and contribute so much to the profession and to the community as you do. Where is your office located?
Manjula Martin: Office is located, we actually have 717 Washington, which is right across the street from our stomping grounds of Wiley.
Louis Goodman: What type of practice do you have?
Manjula Martin: Criminal, only criminal.
Louis Goodman: Now I noticed that on our video, it says Lamont Law. And how do have that moniker?
Manjula Martin: She is my boss, right? Yeah. She’s great. She’s awesome. I’m happy and lucky to work with her and for her.
Louis Goodman: How long have you been practicing law?
Manjula Martin: Since 2008. Yeah.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Manjula Martin: Well, that’s kind of a long story.
But I’ll keep it short. I spent most of my young childhood in England, moved to Los Angeles where my mother was originally from honestly, coming from cold rainy England, that was like moving to paradise. I know nobody says that about Los Angeles, but that’s how I felt. And then I moved up to the Pacific Northwest for a little while and then back to Northern California where I went to high school.
Louis Goodman: So how long did [00:03:00] you live in England?
Manjula Martin: Until I was 10.
Louis Goodman: When you came to Los Angeles, did you speak with an English accent?
Manjula Martin: I did. I had a Cockney accent because I lived in the East End. So I don’t know if anyone watches the show, the EastEnders, but I think a lot of people that watch that show have to have the subtitles on because that accent is so strong.
That it’s very difficult to understand when I would come visit my grandmother, she would actually have to ask my older sister what I was saying.
Louis Goodman: So did you have to sort of consciously work to lose that accent?
Manjula Martin: No. I guess accents stick at 14. So I’ve been in this country for four years and by that time, my California accent had firmly stuck.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to high school?
Manjula Martin: I went to High School in Benicia go Panthers.
Louis Goodman: And what was that experience like for you?
Manjula Martin: Oh, it was great. [00:04:00] Benicia High School was great. It’s actually a really good public school system. One of the best in Northern California, I had a very positive experience in high school.
I did some drama. I did some sports. I had a wonderful high school experience.
Louis Goodman: What sort of sports did you involve yourself in, in high school?
Manjula Martin: A little bit of a basketball and I did track. Mostly long distance.
Louis Goodman: Now we’ll get back to this, but I know you’re a surfer. Did you learn to surf when you lived in Los Angeles or did that come later?
Manjula Martin: Yeah, no, that was in LA. So my mother, she was a bit of a Gidget. She surfed in the sixties with my grandfather. So as soon as we moved back to California, she was, she just basically throw us in the water and said, you’re going to be water babies now. And we started body surfing. And then we got boogie boards and then I graduated to the standup hardboard.
Louis Goodman: After you graduated from high school in Benicia, where did you [00:05:00] go to college?
Manjula Martin: Actually went to college, I started out at San Francisco State and I moved over to Cal State Hayward, which is now Cal State of the East Bay because I at the time was competing in TaeKwonDo and my teacher started a program at Cal State Hayward, and I really wanted to be on the team.
So it was very intensive experience. We’d have two practices, one in the morning and one in the evening, and then we’d go around Northern California and compete.
Louis Goodman: Did you enjoy that experience?
Manjula Martin: I did a lot. I enjoyed TaeKwonDo a lot. One of the interesting things about TaeKwonDo is it’s full contact.
So for a lot of women, that’s extremely scary and uncomfortable. So it was kind of good being uncomfortable with that because you know, it helps you become comfortable with things that make you well.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that that’s a skill that you can take into the courtroom? I mean, not the full body contact, but feeling comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Manjula Martin: Yeah I do, because you know, of [00:06:00] course, sometimes it can go along very normally. And then sometimes all of a sudden, there’s this curve ball and you become very uncomfortable very quickly. So do you have to keep your cool head and stay comfortable?
Louis Goodman: What did you take up academically in college?
Manjula Martin: I actually got a Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia and I was pursuing a Minor in Art History, but I had been in University long enough and I just wanted to graduate. So I did graduate with that Bachelor of Arts in Multimedia.
Louis Goodman: And you graduated as we call it here in Hayward from Harvard on the Hill.
Manjula Martin: Exactly. Exactly. I love Harvard on the Hill. I loved Hayward State. That’s great.
Louis Goodman: You went to law school.
Manjula Martin: I did.
Louis Goodman: Did you go directly from college to law school or did you take some time off?
Manjula Martin: I took some time off. I decided that there was a lot more out there in the world than what you would see in books. [00:07:00] And so I traveled extensively. I actually worked in the restaurant industry all through undergraduate and I was a bartender.
And so I was able to get funds together and then go on extended trips.
Louis Goodman: Did you do that for several years?
Manjula Martin: Quite a few years.
Louis Goodman: How much time did you take off between college and law school?
Manjula Martin: Five or six years.
Louis Goodman: And during that time you were working as a bartender and saving up some money and then go?
Manjula Martin: Exactly.
I would pick out new destinations and I would, while I was saving money, I would research them. And then I would go on these trips, you know, that were anywhere from six weeks to a couple months. My longest trip was to India for four months.
Louis Goodman: Now you have some Indian blood in your background, is that correct?
Manjula Martin: I do. My father is from India.
Louis Goodman: What did you think of India?
Manjula Martin: Very complex question. There are some amazing, [00:08:00] magical things about it, and there are some really difficult things about it.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I’ve been to India, myself and I agree completely. Okay. So ultimately you ended up going to law school. What made you decide to do that?
Manjula Martin: Well, my mother was very politically active. She was part of the free speech movement. My father, he moved to England when he was 18 and they impressed upon me the value and worth of justice about how you can make a difference. So I knew I wanted to do something where I could give back to the community.
I knew that was very important to me.
Louis Goodman: So did you start thinking about law school after you had graduated from college?
Manjula Martin: No, it was before. I went back and forth a lot about med school and law school. If you go to medical school, you’re in school for a long, long time. And as I said, [00:09:00] there’s a lot of math.
In some ways I had a better support system if I would’ve gone to medical school because I did, I am surrounded by Doctors and Scientists, but I decided the way that I could make change was to go to law school. I decided that was a better path for me.
Louis Goodman: So, what did all these Doctors and Scientists think when you told them you were going to go to law school?
Manjula Martin: They said they were very happy. And they said finally, because they were getting tired of me, bartending and traipsing about the world, looking for waves.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to law school?
Manjula Martin: I went to Golden Gate Public Interest Law School.
Louis Goodman: And how was that experience?
Manjula Martin: Well, I have to be honest, the first year was not very fabulous, but after that, you kind of get the hang of it.
I like the first year of law school to bootcamp for your brain, they kind of strip you down and put you back together again. So the second and third year were fine. Third year, I actually learned how to have fun. So law school was great. I had a great experience. Except the first year, the first year was, was really intense.
Louis Goodman: Well, I [00:10:00] guess they had to beat some of that bartending and travel out of you before they could make you a Lawyer.
Manjula Martin: Yeah, they had to teach me how to adult that first year.
Louis Goodman: When you graduated from Golden Gate, what was your first legal job?
Manjula Martin: My first legal job was actually in a Family Law Attorney Office. And I discovered pretty quickly that Family Law was not for me.
Louis Goodman: When did you start moving towards the criminal practice?
Manjula Martin: Well, I did, I was an intern for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, which was very interesting cause Kamala was there at that time. And it was pretty obvious from interactions with her that let’s just say it’s not a surprise to me that she’s vice-president. I dabbled in some other things like Personal Injury, as I said, the family law and it just, none of that really spoke to me. And so I started coming back to Criminal and eventually Joelle and I actually through restaurant connections met up [00:11:00] and she was generous enough to give me
Louis Goodman: Now you’ve been practicing for a while, what do you really like about practicing law?
Manjula Martin: I like being able to help people make a difference, be part of change instead of talking about it. I’d like, I know this sounds a little strange, I do like the personal interaction of going to court. There’s just never really a dull day. So I would say those things.
Louis Goodman: As part of your practice, you’ve been involved with the Alameda County Bar Association. What sort of things are you doing with the Alameda County Bar Association right now?
Manjula Martin: I’m working on Juvenile Justice Programming. Talking about racial justice or injustice and how that works in terms of the juvenile setting.
They put on a lot of great content or constantly looking for ideas that can help our fellow attorneys learn.
Louis Goodman: If a young person was thinking [00:12:00] about a career choice, and you know, coming out of college, would you recommend that person to go into, or at least give some serious consideration to a law career?
Manjula Martin: I would, if their overriding concern was not money. I think if you want to do good work, then I would definitely say, go ahead and be a lawyer.
But if you’re looking for the money, you’re probably going to have a quality of life that is not so great.
Louis Goodman: What advice would you give to someone who decides, Yeah, I do want to get into law? I want to have a career in law. What advice would you give to that?
Manjula Martin: Find an area in the law that really speaks to you because you are going to be working a lot.
Louis Goodman: When we came on this zoom call, you and I were talking a little bit about the business of practicing law and how in your firm, you have a separation where you do the legal work and your partner [00:13:00] really kind of handles most of the business aspects of it. I’m wondering. What do you think of that? How’s that sort of model is working out for yourself?
It’s great for me because I don’t, that’s one less thing that I have to worry about and I can really focus on what’s happening with the caseload and what’s happening with the cases. So for me, It’s great.
Louis Goodman: When you and your firm get new business, do you do most of the interviewing of clients or does somebody else do that?
I do most of that. I would say, I don’t want to put a number on it, but I have the overwhelming amount of communications with clients comes through me.
Louis Goodman: And that starts right from the beginning.
Manjula Martin: Yes.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now, that you really wished you knew before you started into the endeavor of practicing law?
Learn how to take a big breath. Because as I said, sometimes things happen and you’re literally like what? Okay. [00:14:00] So you just have to take a breath and you know, kind of reset yourself a little bit, but very quickly,
Louis Goodman: This podcast is presented and supported by the Alameda County Bar Association. ACBA provides a wide range of Certified Continuing Legal Educational Programs, networking opportunities, and social events. If you’re a member of ACBA. Thank you. If you are not yet a member, we hope you will consider joining this organization, that is by, for, and in support of practicing attorneys. And now back to our interview, what do you think is the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Manjula Martin: Move cases along.
Louis Goodman: What do you mean by that?
Manjula Martin: I worked very briefly for a civil rights firm. They also did a lot of elder abuse, which I did, which was very interesting and quite sad, obviously.
And the lead guy, who was very intelligent, said one of the most [00:15:00] important things that you can do as an attorney is make sure you’re moving your cases along so that people can get on with their lives. You know, for us, it’s our job, but for a lot of people, this is something that is consuming them and they’re scared and they’re stressed out and you want to keep those cases moving along to help people with their peace of mind and with their lives.
Louis Goodman: What aspect of practicing law do you think is your strong suit?
Manjula Martin: I have to say probably the interpersonal skills. Part being able to have a conversation with someone I don’t tend to, I’m not very hotheaded. So I’m content to just kind of let things roll off my back and try to focus on the big picture here, which is helping my clients.
So I think that that’s a skill actually learned in the restaurant industry. Like you can’t get upset every time someone doesn’t get, you know, whatever they want. You just got to kind of let it roll off your back and continue on about your business.
Louis Goodman: Do you [00:16:00] think that some of that bartending experience kind of helps you out in that circumstance?
Manjula Martin: Definitely
Louis Goodman: You do deal with a lot of different personalities at varying points of behavior, perhaps.
Manjula Martin: Yeah. You know, it’s always interesting when I used to have to cut someone off and they’d argue with me and it’s like, you’re arguing with me. So I’m like, that’s not making me not want to cut you off, like either way, I’m going to cut you off.
Like, you know, but you have, obviously you have to do it in a way where you don’t have people losing their minds at the bar. That’s not good for anyone.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that the legal system works? Do you think that it’s a fair system?
Manjula Martin: I don’t think it’s fair. I think that people like OJ that can buy a good defense are always going to do better.
I think there’s a reason why rich people tend to do better in our justice system. I do think that sometimes it works. I went to school in [00:17:00] Thailand. I took a semester during Law School in Thailand, and I did comparative criminal law and we actually had an opportunity to go to the big prison there outside of Bangkok.
And we got to talk to some of the inhabitants there. And a lot of them were there on drug charges because they just have no tolerance for that in Asia, not zero. And they told us about their experience in the criminal system. And basically you got arrested. You didn’t, you weren’t given a translator or you weren’t given a lawyer.
They said, well, you can take the deal that we give you or you can face the death penalty. It’s totally up to you and each and every one of them took the deal they were offered because of course, when they say death penalty for drugs in Asia, they mean death penalty for drugs in Asia. So I think in that way, our system is very favorable.
But I do think that there’s work to be done. A lot of it.
[00:18:00] Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other job or profession that you think would interest you or that you would choose to do?
Manjula Martin: Yeah, I’d probably be a bartender. I enjoy it. I enjoyed it.
Louis Goodman: You think you have some kind of a super power or if you don’t, what kind of superpower would you like to have?
Manjula Martin: I don’t have a super power. I wish I did. If I had a super power, I’d probably want to fly. I think that would be really fun. And then I could surf the sky, drafts at all that maybe should take up hang-gliding.
Well, I dunno, my grandfather used to hang glide and got in a very bad accident.
So I’ll skip the hang-gliding. I’ll stay in the water.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Manjula Martin: I’m trying to do the best for my clients. You know, I really do want the best for them. And so sometimes I’ll wake up at night and I’ll start thinking about cases and this, that, and the other thing.
Louis Goodman: So let’s say you came into some real money, you know, three or $4 billion.
What if anything, would you do differently [00:19:00] in your life?
Manjula Martin: I would probably do a lot more of philanthropy. I would probably start some organizations that were focused on education and racial justice. That’s probably what I do.
Louis Goodman: How has practicing law impacted your personal life or fit into your personal life.
And how has, how have those two things worked with each other?
Manjula Martin: Well, pre COVID there’s pre COVID and during COVID. pre COVID, it was definitely a lot more of a balance of doing physical activities that I like to do. So like surfing, snowboarding, all those things, you know, when I was a bartender, I could go snowboarding like midweek when no one was there.
So it was a little different now during COVID things have changed a little because everything is more remote, but overall, I wouldn’t say it had that much of a personal impact.
Louis Goodman:. So you’ve managed to kind of have a you know, sort of work-life balance.
Manjula Martin: You know, [00:20:00] I find that in the legal world, it ebbs and flows.
Like sometimes you’re just really slammed with time-sensitive things and you don’t really have a lot of work-life balance during those times. And then sometimes there are those moments that you get to kind of like exhale a little bit, and do the things do more of the things that you like to do.
So I would say that’s something of an ebb and flow with the legal world. It really depends on what’s going on in cases.
Louis Goodman: I have one more question and then I would like to see if anybody who is on our zoom call has a question or a comment about anything that we’ve discussed or a question specifically for you or something that they’d like to comment on.
But my final question to you is if you had a magic wand and there was one thing in the world that you could change, legal world or the world in general, what would that one thing [00:21:00] be?
Manjula Martin: I would like to see more, I know this sounds kind of trite, but I would like to see a lot more equality globally. I mean, Louis, you went to India.
I mean, there’s some people that live a certain way and there’s some people that live a different way. I would like to see a closer balance too, less of the one percenters and more of everyone just having what they need and having a good life.
Louis Goodman: Jason, you’ve always come up with a question.
Are you there? Yep. Nope.
Jason: I just tried to unmute myself. Good. Thanks so much for doing this. Mandola pretty short notice to having been in the DA’s office previously and now working in criminal defense. Is there anything in particular that you feel works? The one side’s advantage or another, and I’ll let you elaborate on that.
Manjula Martin: Let me think on that for a second, because yes, I do. I do think that to a certain extent with government [00:22:00] resources, I do think that there’s kind of an advantage to those institutions that have the full weight of government resources behind them.
Louis Goodman: Taylor Moudy, I know that you have a question. I had a question. Yeah.
Non-legal perhaps is that as a previous bartender, what cocktail would best convey the practice of law? Would it be the old fashion or the dark?
Manjula Martin: I would say the Negroni.
Manjula Martin: Yeah.
All right. Well, I don’t want, I’m having to week bitter, but also a little bit sweet. That sounds good
Louis Goodman: . It gives me some ideas for the weekend.
Thank you. Just out of curiosity, I was wondering if you could enlighten me as to what’s in a sweet vermouth.
Manjula Martin: So that’s like the sweetness of when you do good in your law practice gin, which is a floral and can be spicy, which is kind of the excitement we get. And then compari, which can be a little bitter.
We’ve all been a little bitter about some cases at some point. So those three ingredients, and then [00:23:00] you stir them. I like to have them on one of those big fancy tubes. You see? And then you garnish with a little orange peel. Delicious.
Louis Goodman: Well spoken like a true bartender, Renee. Perko do you have a question or a comment for modular?
Renee: I guess my question for you is you have maybe some very difficult situations and how do you help your clients? Do you, do you ever pray for them?
Manjula Martin: Yes. And sometimes out in the water, that’s where I go to kind of like decompress and think about things. And I’ll think about them in the water. And I’ll think about like, you know, whatever universe kind of body is out there.
And, you know, I give them, I send them my thoughts. Yeah.
Louis Goodman: Let me ask you this. Renee, do you pray for your clients? And if so, how’s that gone?
Renee: Well, I’m a city attorney. Know what I’m saying?
Manjula Martin: What I meant by that as well. My client is a city really in the city council. So [00:24:00] I do, I have had what comes to my mind mostly is very difficult opposing counsel sometimes, you know, there’s a lot going on there and yeah, and I certainly pray for our police officers, everybody, our first responders, people to make the right decisions, you know, and yeah.
Pray for myself to make sure I’m doing it. You know, doing a good job for my city. I take it really seriously. So, you know, just like you, it’s a lot of times, you know, a lot of things are on your mind and it’s good to get out. You know, I don’t surf, but I run a lot. So anyways, but I bet it, but I really have enjoyed just listening to, well, the humanity and all of that, that you’ve shared, you know, you haven’t really, you’ve spoken really more about how law has touched you and how you are influencing, you know, our area.
We all have, you know, just not, as officers of the court, but just as people, it’s a good profession for us to help others. So it does take out a lot of that out of us. [00:25:00] So I do think prayer is a way to help, at least me along. Yeah. That’s a long answer.
Louis Goodman: Thanks for that. Yeah. Janice Stillman.
I see that you have a very interesting picture up. I’m wondering if you have a comment or a question?
Janice Stillman: Yeah, that’s a picture of me and my sisters. I haven’t changed it yet. Thank you so much. It’s interesting. I just passed the bar. Congratulations. Congratulations. That’s great. And I’ve been deciding if I want to go.
When I graduated law school, I interned at the Marin Public Defender’s Office and I really like criminal defense too. So this is kind of helpful to make up my decision if that’s where I want to go back or if I wanted to try other areas. So I really liked your answer.
Louis Goodman: Okay, Helen,
I see that you have just signed into the chat with a question.
Helen: I would love to know where your favorite place to surf near in the Bay Area, you know, region?
Manjula Martin: Gosh, that, you know, that’s an interesting question. My [00:26:00] home break is Pacifica, which is down Linda Mar just down South. That was fun. I was actually out this morning. I did semi Dawn patrol. Dawn patrol is where you’re out with at first light.
I didn’t get out at first light. I got out like around 7:30. That’s kind of my local. That’s my home break. I, I love surfing. There are so many magical places to surf in Northern California though. One day I was surfing at Montara, which is even further South. And I saw this big like, look like a boil pop-up and of course I was freaking out like, what is that?
And all of a sudden, this eyeball shows up like, you know, the size of my head and it was a whale. And I was like, okay, wow, that’s really cool. And then another little, you know, shape pops up and it’s her calf. And she was, you know, maybe 20 feet away from me. And she was teaching him how to slap on the water.
Did they do this thing where they slap on the water? And that was really awesome. It in ocean beach, I’ve been there and there’ve been [00:27:00] dolphins surfing in the waves. So I guess my favorite place to surf locally is wherever the surf is best. On that given day,
Louis Goodman: Manjula Martin, Thank you so much for joining us today for the Alameda County Bar Associations podcast in conjunction with the Love Thy Lawyer Podcast.
And I appreciate everyone else who has been on the zoom call as well.
Manjula Martin: Thank you. And goodbye.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s edition of Love Thy Lawyer in collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association. Please visit the Love Thy Lawyer.com website, where you can find links to all of our episodes.
Also, please visit the Alameda County Bar Association [email protected], where you can find more information about our support of the legal [00:28:00] profession, promoting excellence in the legal profession and facilitating equal access to justice. Special. Thanks to ACBA staff and members, thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Manjula Martin: Not off the top of my head. Yeah. I’m sorry. Not off the top of my head, but I think everyone that’s watching has had one of those situations where your mind it’s in your mind, there’s crickets and you have to, you know, kind of, you know, kick the brain into gear again.