Vicki Jensen / Louis Goodman – Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
Welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, where we talk to practicing attorneys about their lives and careers. I’m Louis Goodman. My guest today, Vicki Jensen is a genuine down to earth attorney who fights for her clients. From the beginning she knew she wanted to do courtroom work in the criminal arena. She takes on jury trials, preliminary hearings, and motions to suppress. Vicki was born and raised in Alameda County. She developed her people skills while tending bar. Vicki speaks at continuing education programs and teaches litigation skills to other attorneys. Vicki Jensen, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Vicki Jensen 00:45
Well, thank you.
Louis Goodman 00:46
It’s a pleasure to have you here. Vicki, where is your office right now?
Vicki Jensen 00:51
I just moved to Alameda. I am on Harbor Bay Parkway, which is Harbor Bay Island.
Louis Goodman 01:00
How do you like being there?
Vicki Jensen 01:02
I like it. The weather is nice.
Louis Goodman 01:06
Where are you from originally?
Vicki Jensen 01:09
I grew up in the Bay Area. I was born and raised in San Leandro, California and went to high school at San Leandro High.
Louis Goodman 01:18
And when you graduated from San Leandro High, where did you go to college?
Vicki Jensen 01:23
I’m a local girl. I went to Chabot College and then Cal State Hayward.
Louis Goodman 01:28
And when you graduated from Cal State Hayward, you ultimately went to law school. Did you take some time off between Cal State and law school or did you go right through?
Vicki Jensen 01:37
No, I actually took time off between high school and college.
Louis Goodman 01:41
Oh, really? So what did you do between high school and college?
Vicki Jensen 01:45
I was a waitress for a while, and then I was a bartender.
Louis Goodman 01:50
So you had some real world experience before you went to college?
Vicki Jensen 01:54
And a daughter.
Louis Goodman 01:55
And a daughter. Wow!
Vicki Jensen 01:57
Yes. I went back to college when I was pregnant with my daughter.
Louis Goodman 02:01
Well, how was that experience?
Vicki Jensen 02:02
It was interesting. My daughter went to preschool at an early education center up… It really focused me to do my best in school and take everything very seriously because I had a family of two.
Louis Goodman 02:26
So do you think having taken some time off and worked and then having a daughter, do you think that really kind of focused you for college and for law school?
Vicki Jensen 02:35
Louis Goodman 02:38
When did you first start thinking about being a lawyer?
Vicki Jensen 02:43
I grew up in an era that, you know, when I was in high school, women were either waitresses or secretaries and nobody really thought of ever going to law school.
Louis Goodman 03:00
But you did, but you did. You thought about going to law school.
Vicki Jensen 03:05
Well, yes. So things started changing when I was getting older and growing up and the idea was kinda like a fantasy at first. And then when I started doing well in college, then it was kinda like, okay, I think I could really do this. And when I was bartending, you know, cuz I used to bartend at night and go to school during the day, some things happened that really focused me. And, you know, I decided I really wanted to do it.
Louis Goodman 03:40
What really focused you?
Vicki Jensen 03:42
Well, you know, there was an elderly lady that, you know, used to come into the bar and she used to come down there and she used to meet with her sister that would get off work at Glass Container at Illinois, whatever you wanna call it. And she got arrested for a DUI. And this is the lady that I never heard where, used to bake brownies and she came in and, you know, she was barely split eight. But uh, and we’re talking about a very senior, little old lady that may be sopping wet, was a hundred pounds. She had huge bruises on her wrist and she was just treated very poorly by the police. So, you know, she used to bring me cookies and stuff like that. So I just kind of was very inspired to help people.
Louis Goodman 04:37
And that’s when you decided you should go to law school?
Vicki Jensen 04:41
Well, I mean, I had always wanted to go to law school, but that’s when I kind of decided that I wanted to help people that were accused of crimes.
Louis Goodman 04:48
Where did you go to law school?
Vicki Jensen 04:50
I went to Southwestern down in Los Angeles.
Louis Goodman 04:54
And what prompted you to go to LA to go to law school after living so much time in the Bay Area?
Vicki Jensen 05:00
I was ready for a change. And also they offered me a scholarship. It wasn’t a full scholarship, but it was enough to make a difference. And I felt as though, you know, I visited the school and it seemed like it was a very good school. It was a challenging school, it wasn’t easy, but it had some very good benefits to it as opposed to some of the, I think going, getting out of the area where I knew everybody allowed me to really stay focused because as you know, law school, very hard.
Louis Goodman 05:38
Did your daughter go down there with you?
Vicki Jensen 05:41
Louis Goodman 05:43
What did your friends and family say when you told them that you wanted to be a lawyer? That you were going to law school and you were really headed in that direction?
Vicki Jensen 05:51
Like I said, you know, when I was young people, you know, when I was like in high school and whatnot, people didn’t really think that women could do that kinda thing. But you know, then when I graduated from Chabot, people started thinking, oh my gosh, she’s really gonna do this. And then when I graduated from, you know, then when I got accepted in law school and I graduated from Cal State and it was like, oh my gosh, she’s really gonna do this. And so yeah, and they were all behind me, but like I said, at first they thought I was just kidding around.
Louis Goodman 06:29
When you graduated from law school, what was your first legal job?
Vicki Jensen 06:35
My first kind of legal job was when I was, well, I was clerking and I clerked for a stand at Santa Cruz. I was a defender and then, when I was studying for the bar and waiting for the bar result I worked for an attorney over in San Francisco.
Louis Goodman 06:55
You did some work for a District Attorney’s Office too, didn’t you?
Vicki Jensen 06:59
I did a semester of work study or whatever you wanna call that, yes. For the LA District Attorney’s Office.
Louis Goodman 07:06
What did you think of the prosecution side?
Vicki Jensen 07:08
I felt much more in my environment when I, you know, went to Santa Cruz and I started working at the PDs Office.
Louis Goodman 07:18
You’ve been practicing law for over 20 years now. Is that correct?
Vicki Jensen 07:22
Louis Goodman 07:23
And you have a very successful practice where you have your own office. Can you talk a little bit about how you got to the point of running your own law firm?
Vicki Jensen 07:37
When I graduated and asked the bar, nobody was hiring, so I actually ended up bartending for a little while. And I met another attorney at a seminar and he offered me to be able to use his office for a couple of appearances a month. And, you know, that was my rent. So I just started practicing and I made appearances with other attorneys and pretty soon I was able to start picking up my own clients. And it just, and I blossomed from there. I got onto the court-appointed and I like doing that because it gives me some variety that I don’t normally get. I get to represent people who are indigent, and you know, can’t afford an attorney. They’ve never had a whole lot and I’m helping people.
Louis Goodman 08:40
You did very well when you were in college. Obviously you’re a very bright person, you could do pretty much anything that you wanna do. What is it about practicing law that you really like and that keeps you in the practice of law?
Vicki Jensen 08:57
I would say helping people, you know, being able to, you know, I mean our clients, they gets themselves into predicaments that they, I wouldn’t say that my clients are necessarily bad people, they just made a mistake. And for the most part, you know, they sometimes need a little help figuring out how to straighten their life out.
Louis Goodman 09:24
If a young person was just coming out of college, would you recommend the law as a career choice?
Vicki Jensen 09:30
Louis Goodman 09:32
Vicki Jensen 09:32
It has its benefits. And I, you know, there’s a lot of versatility with law, so there’s areas of law that, you know, could be beneficial to various people, you know, depending on what they wanna go into. And, you know, if you get tired of one area, you can always modify your practice to give yourself a little bit more variety.
Louis Goodman 09:57
What kind of cases do you usually handle?
Vicki Jensen 10:00
For the court-appointed cases I’m a class three felony attorney, which means that my clients are facing up to 10 years of state prison and they’re typically people who are charged with burglaries and robberies and various low-level felony cases. Sometimes they had driven a car that wasn’t their own or they were involved in something that brought them into some trouble.
Louis Goodman 10:35
I know you also do a fair amount of DUI cases and you seem to have a certain expertise in DUI law. How did you get involved in that and what interests you about DUI law?
Vicki Jensen 10:47
Well, when I first started practicing, the attorney that I was borrowing the office from or working, you know, off the office from, he did a lot of DUI work and he helped me learn how to do it.
Louis Goodman 11:02
How about the business of practicing law? How’s that gone for you? You know, as attorneys, we are lawyers and we lawyer and we represent clients, but we also run businesses. How is the business of practicing log on for you?
Vicki Jensen 11:17
Well, it’s ok. My … taught me how to just keep track of my expenses, and he’s really trained me along. I used to bring all my receipts to him, and he said, oh, no, no, no, no, we can’t. So I got a lot better with it because as you know, in the middle of doing trials and everything else, you know, when you’re a practice of one person, you tend to not be able to keep track of things as good as you need to. So I, over the years, learned how to get much more disciplined in keeping track of things.
Louis Goodman 12:02
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing?
Vicki Jensen 12:08
Oh yeah. You gotta keep balance, you gotta keep your hobby. They say that the law is a jealous mistress, and there’s a certain amount of truth to that, you have to keep balance or it’ll make you crazy.
Louis Goodman 12:28
What do you think’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Vicki Jensen 12:32
Don’t be afraid to take …, be prepared.
Louis Goodman 12:35
And what advice would you give to a young lawyer who was just starting out?
Vicki Jensen 12:40
Take cases to trial.
Louis Goodman 12:44
Why? Why? Why do you think that’s so important?
Vicki Jensen 12:48
Because when you announce ready for trial, amazing things happen.
Louis Goodman 12:53
Yeah, that’s true, isn’t it?
Vicki Jensen 12:55
Mm-hmm. I mean, you’ll always get what the pretrial offer is.
Louis Goodman 12:59
Right. So if you take it right up to the moment of trial, it might get better. And if you actually try the case, well.
Vicki Jensen 13:07
You never know what could happen.
Louis Goodman 13:09
Yeah. No one ever knows what a jury’s gonna do, do they?
Vicki Jensen 13:13
No, and I mean, you’re certainly not gonna take a, you know, a terrible case to trial, but if there’s some defense and your client wants to take the case to trial, then certainly, you know, don’t try and discourage them. They were there, they know what happened. and you know, if they’re willing to, you know, take it to trial, then by all means do it.
Louis Goodman 13:38
Do you think the legal system’s fair?
Vicki Jensen 13:40
I have doubts at times.
Louis Goodman 13:42
What would you change about the way the legal system works, if you could?
Vicki Jensen 13:47
I think that, you know, it needs more social services, more things like diversion, you know, again, most of my clients, they’re not bad people, they just made a mistake. And sometimes, you know, sometimes they just need to get the tools to be able to turn their life around. I’ve seen a lot of people, you know, turn it around, you know, knowing that they would be able to get this case dismissed if they went through and did what they needed to. You probably remember back in the day when we had drug diversion in Peggy Hora’s courtroom.
Louis Goodman 14:23
Vicki Jensen 14:25
Yeah, and I saw a lot of people turn their lives around in that as well. A client of mine, you know, that went through Peggy Hora’s drug diversion, she showed up one time to be the notary to do my loan documents when I bought a house.
Louis Goodman 14:42
Wow. That is turning things around, isn’t it?
Vicki Jensen 14:45
Yeah. You know, I mean, sometimes these people just need some help.
Louis Goodman 14:52
What’s your family life been like and how has practicing law fit into that? I know you have a daughter and your, I think your daughter’s an attorney as well and been quite successful.
Vicki Jensen 15:01
That’s true. She is an attorney up in Redding.
Louis Goodman 15:07
What sort of work is she doing?
Vicki Jensen 15:09
She is actually doing felony.
Louis Goodman 15:12
As a private attorney or is she working?
Vicki Jensen 15:15
She was a Public Defender for a while and then she left the office and went to their court-appointed panel, which operates a little bit differently than ours, and she’s a felony attorney up there. She’s actually working on a murder case right now.
Louis Goodman 15:34
Well, so she’s following in the family footsteps. In practicing law and in raising your daughter. How did those things work together?
Vicki Jensen 15:44
If I knew that my daughter had anything pending, like a band recital or a peer competition or something like that, that I wanted to attend, I would just cross that off on my calendar and say I’m not available. And so I was able to attend all those things, which, like I said, you gotta have balance in this, otherwise it’ll make you crazy. So I was able to watch my child grow up.
Louis Goodman 16:16
Are there any books or movies about the law that you really liked, that you think are interesting and would recommend to someone?
Vicki Jensen 16:25
My Cousin Vinny.
Louis Goodman 16:28
A lot of people seem to really like that. What is it about My Cousin Vinny that you enjoy?
Vicki Jensen 16:34
Oh, Joe Pesci does a fabulous job and you know, I think that comic relief and not being the bad guy, in other words, being the good guy for a change.
Louis Goodman 16:46
What mistakes do you think lawyers make?
Vicki Jensen 16:48
Not being prepared enough or just accepting what they’re told. You know, they don’t question the police report enough. I love that we have videos now.
Louis Goodman 17:02
Do you think that really helps defendants?
Vicki Jensen 17:05
Louis Goodman 17:06
How do you define success?
Vicki Jensen 17:09
In where? In life? Being happy. Feeling as though you have fulfilled some of your dreams and you’ve got people around you that are happy and you’re able to find joy in life.
Louis Goodman 17:29
Have you ever had a near death experience, and if so, tell us about it. Did that in any way kind of change your view of the world or how you saw your life going forward?
Vicki Jensen 17:44
Well, I had cancer about 10 years ago, and I went through radiation and chemo, and it was a life-changing event.
Louis Goodman 17:57
In what way?
Vicki Jensen 17:58
Well, you know, we’re only here for the short amount of time, so you need to, you know, make the best of it. We forget how finite we really are.
Louis Goodman 18:09
Yeah, no, I think that’s true. Vicki, if you came into some real money, let’s say 3 or 4 billion dollars, what, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Vicki Jensen 18:21
Oh, I’d retire and just travel.
Louis Goodman 18:24
Where would you go?
Vicki Jensen 18:27
Europe. I’ve never been to Europe. I’d love to go a lot of places, China.
Louis Goodman 18:33
See the world?
Vicki Jensen 18:34
Yeah, pretty much.
Louis Goodman 18:37
Let’s say you had a magic wand, there was one thing in the world, legal world or otherwise that you could change. What would that be?
Vicki Jensen 18:43
Oh, I would, if there was something that I could change, have people be nicer to each. I think there’s just too much nastiness in the world now.
Louis Goodman 18:55
Vicki, how do we get in touch with you? If somebody wants to talk to you, an attorney wants to ask you some questions about court, litigation or someone listening to this wants a lawyer and they wanna reach out to you for representation, what’s the best way to get in touch with you? Is there a website where we can reach you?
Vicki Jensen 19:16
Well, there is my website and you can always call me.
Louis Goodman 19:20
So what is your website?
Vicki Jensen 19:21
Vicki Jensen, well, I’m not even sure what it is, but if you Google me, it comes up.
Louis Goodman 19:26
So just Google Vicki Jensen attorney and we’ll get to your website? Okay. And what’s the phone number that people can reach you at?
Vicki Jensen 19:36
There you go. 510 7855700.
Louis Goodman 19:42
Vicki Jensen, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
Vicki Jensen 19:49
Yes, thank you.
Louis Goodman 19:50
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.
Thanks to my guests and to Joel Katz from music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Vicki Jensen 20:30
You wanna start over on that? Well, let’s try a different question. Let’s not talk about this one.