Sara Diamond / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript
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.

Her work as an attorney has focused on estate planning. But she has also had a career as an Academic Sociologist, Investigative Journalist, and Political Author. She has published several books, she is a lifelong practitioner of meditation, a student of several spiritual traditions, and a practicing astrologer Sara Diamond, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer. It’s a pleasure to have you. I don’t know you personally but we were introduced by some individuals who heard about each of us from the podcast. I thought that, given your background that you would be very interesting to talk to and that people would be interested in what you do, because it is a little different than just sort of straight lawyering.



Sara Diamond

Well, thank you for inviting me.



Louis Goodman

Where’s your office located?



Sara Diamond

In Richmond.



Louis Goodman

What kind of work do you do these days?



Sara Diamond

Well, I started working as a lawyer, and at the end of 2003, early 2004, when I had just passed the bar exam, and I started my own office, doing Wills and Trusts and that’s what I’ve been doing since 2004.



Louis Goodman

So is your law practice primarily Wills and Trusts?



Sara Diamond

That’s all I do.





Louis Goodman

I see. Where are you from originally?



Sara Diamond

I grew up mostly in Southern California. And then I came to the Bay Area in 1989.





Louis Goodman

I understand that you were from a military family and so you lived a lot of places in your younger years.



Sara Diamond

Right. My father was in the military and he retired when I was nine. Then we moved to Southern California upon his retirement.



Louis Goodman

And you graduated from high school in Southern California.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, I grew up in Southern California from age nine until 18. Then I went to college at UC Irvine. As soon as I got out of there, I moved with my then partner to the Bay Area in 1980.



Louis Goodman

What was your experience at UC Irvine like?



Sara Diamond

Well, it was just going to college, there wasn’t anything that unusual about it. I majored in math, I was going to become an elementary teacher and then that didn’t work out. So after I moved to the Bay Area, I become an activist full time. And that led me to become a Journalist. So in 1983, I started writing various articles for newspapers, because I had a background in Spanish, I was a Central America Activist. And I was aware, be aware of the fact that the Christian right was becoming very heavily involved in Central America. This is during the Reagan years. So I started writing various articles and my journalism career absolutely snowballed around 2004 – 2005. At that point I decided that I wanted to ground my Journalism work in an Academic Social Science. So I applied for UC Berkeley’s Sociology Department. And I had never actually taken a Sociology course. But I was admitted, and I started Graduate School there in 1986. So by then, my Journalism career expanded to include a range of right wing political movements. The Sociology Department at UC Berkeley, which is actually one of the top two in the country, that and Harvard, they were like a really hospitable place for me to be doing my work. So I was both a Journalist getting published in all kinds of places on the radio a lot and also working on my first book, which I did during my first couple years of graduate school. And then my dissertation became my second and major book. So I was in graduate school for seven years. And then I was doing my project on the right wing for 15 years.



Louis Goodman

Well, let’s start with the first book. What was that about?



Sara Diamond

Well, the first book was published in 1989. It’s called Spiritual Warfare, The Politics Of The Christian Right. It’s very dated now. It’s over 30 years ago, but it was one of the very first books if you know, one of the very first full-scale treatments of what was going on with the Christian right in the 1980s, building a mass movement, and they were becoming the dominant faction in the Republican Party.



Louis Goodman

What was the second book?



Sara Diamond

Well, the second book was my dissertation. And so once I had published the first book, I was already working on a dissertation. And what I did is I went back and I studied a range of right wing movements from 1945 to the 90s, at that point was 1992 when my dissertation was finished 1993 so I went back and I read all of the literature that had been produced by five different right wing movements. So as soon as I finished Graduate School in 1993, I then turned that into Book Two. I read, you know, I edited into Book Two and that is called Roads To Dominion Right Wing Movements In The United States. I donated all of my archives to UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which created the Sara Diamond Collection on the US Right Wing. And that is one of the largest collections of primary source material on right wing movement.



Louis Goodman

Well, the study of right wing movements is pretty popular these days, too, isn’t it?



Sara Diamond

I wrote my second book by way of an explanation of what happened to the United States from the 19, mid 1940s forward so that when people would later, I predicted later, would be interested in the right wing, they would have all this source material to look through.



Louis Goodman

So in your view, what did happen to the United States in the post war period?



Sara Diamond

Well, gradually, the Christian Right in particular, that’s my main specialty developed itself from having really just been a subculture for many decades, or, you know, pretty much the whole history, the United States into becoming the most potent political movement on the scene. And that was already happening in the 70s and 80s.



Louis Goodman

How long went by between the time you went to college and the time you went to law school?



Sara Diamond

Oh, a long time, because, you know, I mean, I got out of undergrad in 1979. And I started law school in the year 2000. So 20 years. Yeah, probably 20 years.



Louis Goodman

And when did you first start thinking about going to law school?



Sara Diamond

When I was broke, and when my job at Cal State, Hayward was clearly not going to turn into a full time tenure track academic position. I had made the decision when I got out of grad school not to do a nationwide job search because I wanted to stay in the Bay Area because I was in a relationship. And what was happening is a lot of faculty around here doing this thing where they were teaching at two or three different community colleges and their lives were completely uncertain and tenuous, and they had no benefits and all that. And I really didn’t think that I could keep doing that for 20 or 30 years. So at that point, I decided, well, what I could do is I could go, I could take the savings I’ve got and go to law school. And within about a few weeks of law school, I realized that the job I was probably going to get was going to be self employment. I’m, you know, I’m somebody who’s like, my politics don’t fit with like Corporate America. So by year two of law school, I picked up this book, which I actually still have, it was called How To Start And Build A Law Practice, by Foonberg. I read this book over and over cover the cover. And I knew that I needed to have a job that was going to be like, consistent with Buddhist ethical practices. So as I sat through all those classes in law school, I kept saying, Okay, well, how am I going to, I don’t litigate, I’m not going to do anything that involves conflict, what can I do? And so by, I think about year three of law school, I realized, well, I can just study estate planning, and then I can just go do that. And while I was waiting to get my bar exam results that fall, I started studying how to do wills and trusts, so that as soon as I got my bar exam results that I passed, I was ready to start my own office, because I was 45 years old when I got out of law school.



Louis Goodman

So where did you go to law school?



Sara Diamond

I went to what I now call the Kamala Harris Law School, which is UC Hastings, San Francisco.



Louis Goodman

And how did you like Hastings?



Sara Diamond

I hated every day that I have been in an academic environment with like real intellectuals and academics for seven years. So I was pretty spoiled from having been at UC Berkeley, Sociology Department for seven years. So I was not from a, you know, construct of like sitting in classes with 100 people memorizing what somebody said, from the front of the room. So I took all of the Bar Exam subjects, and I got a bunch of books on how to prepare for the bar exam. And so I was preparing for the bar exam throughout law school.



Louis Goodman

That’s a very smart thing to do.







Sara Diamond

Yeah. I mean, I certainly studied, I mean, after law school got out, I spent, you know, 10 hours a day for during that summer, but I was already pretty prepped. So it’s not like, I wasn’t like going to law school in order to like, find myself or something like that.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that having had all that academic experience and the work experience and the book writing experience helped you focus on law school and getting through law school?



Sara Diamond

Oh, absolutely. Because, you know, I mean, when I went to law school, I mean, there were lots of different people there. There were only a few people who were not in their 20s. Almost ass of the people were like 20 to 23 starting off, and many of them were there only because their parents wanted them to be or because they couldn’t think of anything else to do with themselves after college. And so I had a very clear idea, which is that I’m going to make a living. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to work in any of these law firms, then I turned to the phonebook for how I’m going to start my own office, or what I’m going to do. So as soon as I got my bar exam results, I sent an email. I made up a list of 100 people I knew in the East Bay. And I announced that I had passed the bar exam. And I was going to start my own office where they like to work on wills and trusts with and I started getting clients. And I rent a little closet sized space in somebody’s office. And you know, I had my own law office by February of 2004. So yes, I had a very clear point. You know why I was doing this, this is a job. I’m creating a job for myself in order to put food on the table. And so I don’t really care how boring this stuff is. I just do it.



Louis Goodman

Have you ever met Jason Berg?



Sara Diamond

I have. He’s really one of my heroes. I think he’s, I just think he’s brilliant. I think he really understands a lot about running a law practice.



Lous Goodman

I’m just impressed that you bring him up.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, well, the book was really helpful, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to work in a job. I already had the Moonbird book, I’d kind of knew I was not going to work in a law firm. I knew that the only way for me to survive was going to be creating my own job. So that’s what I did. And it’s been very successful.



Louis Goodman

So would you recommend to a young person thinking about a career going into law school, going into law?



Sara Diamond

Well, you said, it’s been very successful for you. And you know, it was successful for me, as somebody in my middle age years creating my own job, I don’t think that a 25 year old coming out of law school was going to be able to start their own law firm and be able to take on clients. I would tell anybody in their 20s, to take a major that’s really, really broad, that you can have many possibilities with, because most people these days have more than one career in life. And you don’t want to get boxed into something, you want to have, you know, if you want to major in History, or English, or something that you’re really, really interested in, because you’re probably going to need some other training after that. And your whatever you think, at 21, or 22, that you’re going to do for a living is probably not what you’re going to do your whole life. So you want to create some, like broad possibilities for yourself.



Louis Goodman

How has actually practicing met are different from your expectations about it?



Sara Diamond

It’s the same. I didn’t have any other real expectations other than I would, you know, work and make money. You know, that’s what I do. I mean, I do wills and trusts. I’ve done the same thing for all these years. I try to keep it as low stress as I can. I try to be really good about, I never take on anything that involves litigation or conflict between parties. Or if somebody doesn’t like a bunch of their relatives, I generally don’t take them and I just plug away at it. And then it leaves me the headspace and the energy for all the other things I do. So I need a job that, you know, doesn’t like totally burn me out.



Louis Goodman

Right. I want to get into the other things you do in just a minute. But before we get there, what about the business of practicing law? You know, I mean, it seems to me that you really have a really clear and good focus on the business aspect of this and have for quite some time.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, well, you know, I’m fairly entrepreneurial. And like I said, this is not rocket science, believe me, okay. I mean, I read the Berg book, I took all the courses that were offered with continuing education as a bar. Every single one of them, it took several years to get through all those. And I read all the books I put on estate planning, and I went to all the brown bag lunches that were offered by the Bar Association. You know, I did all that continuing education very early on. And I knew a lot of people in the Bay Area already. And I’m a grown up. So I step by step, I’d say within the first couple of years, I was you know, is making a profit, I don’t need to be rich. I’ve never aspired to be like financially wealthy, I aspire to my idea of being well off. As I go into a grocery store, I eat only really healthy foods. I go into my natural grocery store, and I buy whatever I need a lot. And I don’t have to think about not being able to afford it. That is my standard. So then since I’m now able to do that, and I have for many years, I consider that successful.



Louis Goodman

Now, in addition to practicing law, you have several other interests that you’ve referred to, and I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that?





Sara Diamond

Well, as you said in the introduction, I’m a lifelong meditator. I started meditation practice at age 14 and the hand I have been and there was a period during when I was an activist and writing my books where I didn’t meditate but I have been a consistently meditating since the early 1990s. And I have been very fervent student in a number of spiritual traditions. Since my teens.. So that’s my main, my main life focus really is on spiritual study and practice. And one of the reasons why I keep my job as stress free as possible is that I want to have the mental and mental bandwidth and energy to be able to focus there. So what I always really wanted to be was a writer and teacher. And I got to be both of those. And I’m now working my way back to being a writer and teacher eventually, again, and you know, when I can retire from my job eventually. So I’ve always been interested in Astrology, which is kind of, you know, grounded in my spiritual studies of various sorts. But about seven years ago, I signed up for my first, very first Astrology class, which is now very doable with everything on the internet. And within a few months, I realized, Oh, I want to actually practice Astrology. So I have since 2015 been pursuing various certifications. I’m in year three, starting year three next week, have a very intense four year certification program for professional astrologers. And once I finish that, I’ll be taking a number of certification tests with some of the leading organizations of astrologers. So weekends, for example, I pretty much devote myself to my astrology practice, I write a twice monthly essay for the new moon and the full moon, about astrology that goes on an online journal. And I’m also part of a group of people think it’s all women at this point who study other other esoteric subjects together. So you know, I work full time work about 45 to 50 hours a week at my job as a lawyer. And then I spend most of the rest of my time working on my other studies. So I’m a lifetime student, this gives me a way of having creativity, having intellectual experiences being around other intellectual people, you know, it checks a number of boxes. For me, the astrology does, because it’s academic, it’s really rigorous. It’s really challenging. And it’s also really creative. And so it fulfills, you know, a lot of different needs I have.



Louis Goodman

Do you practice astrology in the sense that you have clients who you do astrology for?



Sara Diamond

Yes, I do readings. And so I’m getting myself out there. It’s just slow. And then the job enables me to be able to afford all that. So yes, I do. I do natal chart readings, transit readings, all that kind of stuff.



Louis Goodman

What other recreational pursuits beyond the astrology and the meditation. I mean, are there any other things that you enjoy doing?



Sara Diamond

Yeah, I have a full scale, a big vegetable garden. So I’ve done that since high school. I grew up living where I live. I grow tomatoes like crazy. I grow squash, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach. Sometimes I do carrots and beets. But I mostly stick to what works in my backyard. And I cook a lot. And I knit every day and I hang out with various friends. And I also walk an hour a day, and I have two dogs that absorb a huge amount of my time. They’re not with me right now because they would be barking. So I’m sitting in my office where they’re not allowed to come in. So yeah, so I have rescue dogs. I have, you know, a very active home and do a lot of walking and exercise.



Louis Goodman

What sort of things keep you up at night?



Sara Diamond

I don’t stay up at night. I go to bed very early and I sleep very soundly.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that’s in part due to the meditation and the spiritual practice?



Sara Diamond

Well, yeah, of course. It’s also due to taking effect of magnesium at night during a big mug of Kim loyalty. I believe that I’m like, extremely health oriented. So like I don’t I do a thing called intermittent fasting where I only eat between eight and two. So at night I just drink this big mug of cannon loyalty. And I take my supplements, including magnesium, which is fantastic for sleeping. So I’m not up at night, I’m up at four, four or five in the morning.



Louis Goodman

That’s just when you get up out of bed.



Sara Diamond

That’s when I get up.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came into some real money, like $3 or $4 billion. What if anything would you do differently in your personal life?



Sara Diamond

Well, if I got to even like $2 million, I would pay off my mortgage. I would close my law office and I would spend my time doing what I want to do and I will also go back to being an activist and a writer. We take billion when take billions.



Louis Goodman

It sort of seems like in a lot of ways, and you alluded to this earlier that you live a life that is comfortable. And to you the great luxury is being able to go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want not worry what it costs. I get that.



Sara Diamond

I buy a lot of books.



Louis Goodman

And you make enough money to buy whatever books you want?



Sara Diamond

Pretty much, I mean, on space permitting, I mean, I will fill any amount of bookshelves I have. So I have to kind of like not go crazy. I mean, you know, if I had more bookshelf space, I would have more books. But yeah, I can’t afford to travel or do those kinds of things.



Louis Goodman

Is that something that would interest you if you had the funds to do it?



Sara Diamond

I am a traveler inwardly. I’ve traveled to places inwardly that most people wouldn’t even dream about. And to talk about that a little, I mean, people that are like really serious with meditation and other spiritual practices have a very rich inner life. And so a lot of times, I think a lot of the focus on traveling as people are seeking experiences that are out of the ordinary, which is a deep need that a lot of people have, which is totally legitimate. But when you’re traveling on the inner levels, on a daily run regular basis, then yes, it would be nice to go to Mexico, it would be nice to go see Europe, it would be nice to go to some of those places. I’m not going to feel bad if I never get there.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand. What was one thing in the world that you could change, what would that be?



Sara Diamond

Well, it wouldn’t be one thing because things are related. I would obviously end war, I would end capitalism. I would end you know, world hunger. I would first off and environmental pollution and the forces that have created it and made it worse and worse. So all of these things are there, you can’t segregate those things. They’re all bound up together. They’re all interrelated.



Louis Goodman

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







Sara Diamond

I’m not a standard issue type person. And I already had a personality and a philosophy of life before I went to law school. So what law school is like, if somebody writes my obituary one day, I don’t think they’re going to be mentioning that I went to law school.



Louis Goodman

Well, you are a lawyer.



Sara Diamond

Well, I work as a lawyer, yes. But it hasn’t been the dominant, it’s not the dominant theme in my life. It’s not mostly what I’ve done. It’s a job. It’s a good job. It’s a job I’m very grateful for. I’m very grateful for this job. It works for my lifestyle. And I’ve made it work for my value system, it keeps a roof over my head, I can have dogs, I have a garden, I get to go where I want to go, you know, I have mostly nice clients. I don’t do anything mean a nasty, I never tell a lie. It’s good.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, just from a personal point of view, I like lawyers in general. And I think that law is a very big place that can accommodate a lot of people with a lot of different interests in life. And I find it great that you’ve managed to use the law, to your advantage that you’ve managed to practice law successfully and ethically, and in a way that supports a lifestyle that works for you.



Sara Diamond

Yeah, that’s why I say I’m really grateful to try to keep it as stress free as possible. It’s not always possible. Sometimes, there are clients who can be, you know, challenging, and I haven’t been able to detect that early enough. But for the most part, it’s just kind of runs itself.



Louis Goodman

To do that thing that Jay Foonberg says like, if you have a client, and ultimately you’re just not getting along, and you just say, Hey, how about I just give you all of your money back? And you take your case to some other lawyer?



Sara Diamond

Yeah, I have on a number of occasions, I’ve done that. I don’t want to take money from people where there’s negative energy associated with.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I get that 100%. You know, I do nothing but criminal defense, and even doing criminal defense, I will not take money from someone if I think there’s negative energy there. And I have not, haven’t had to do it very often. I have on occasion, and fairly recently followed that Jason Berg advice and given the 100% refund, even though I did a lot of work on the case, because there was no way that client was ever going to be happy. And I just gave him every dime back.





Sara Diamond

Well, the thing is, when you let go, you know, things will happen. Yeah, mysterious phenomenon. I definitely appreciate my job very much. But I put it in perspective.



Louis Goodman

Sarah Diamond, thanks so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. We’ve had a very interesting and very frankly, kind of a different conversation. And I appreciate it. Thank you.



Sara Diamond

Well, thank you.



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



Sara Diamond

I was then impoverished, I decided that I would, in order to have a sustainable job, I would go to law school. So I started law school at 42. And in order to have a sustain a fairly relaxed way of making a living, and that’s what I did.




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