William Walraven / Louis Goodman
[00:00:00] 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 experience has been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.
He is the managing attorney of a criminal defense firm that practices in Oakland and in San Francisco. He has successfully defended clients throughout the Bay Area. He is an active member of numerous professional organizations, including the National College for DUI Defense. The California DUI Lawyers Association, the Asian American Bar Association and the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California.
William Walraven welcome.
William Walraven: Thanks Louis. It’s an honor [00:01:00] to be here.
Louis Goodman: Well, I’m really happy that you’ve agreed to come on the program. So it was a pleasure talking to you whether we’re recording or not. Where is your office right now?
William Walraven: My office is actually in San Francisco. That’s my main office. I also have a satellite office in South San Francisco.
Previously, I maintained an office for several years in downtown Oakland.
Louis Goodman: And you still practice quite a bit in the Oakland and Alameda County Courts. I used to see you there when we can still go to court.
William Walraven: That’s right. Louis. I practice in Alameda County and the Bay Area.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
William Walraven: I’m from San Francisco, born and raised.
Louis Goodman: Did you go to high school there?
William Walraven: I did. I went to Lowell High School. It’s an Academic High School and a Public High School, in San Francisco. And until I went to Law School, I attended public school, my entire life, a really good experience. I was fortunate to be active in numerous [00:02:00] activities and sports, played basketball and met a lot of great people from all different types of backgrounds. One of the things I really enjoyed about going to Lowell was the cross-section of people from all different backgrounds. And that was something that I really hold dear to me in terms of attending a public school.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to college?
William Walraven: So after I graduated Lowell, I actually attended Skyline Junior College for a couple of years after graduating and get into the schools that I was hoping to. And I saw, you know, my good friend’s going to, you know, very prestigious Universities and UCS. And it’s something that I wanted for myself, but just wasn’t ready.
So for two years I attended a Junior College at Skyline. And I actually, I really enjoyed my time there. I was working full time and I just had the mentality that I wanted to graduate and wanted to transfer to a UC. And then that’s what I did. And I ended up transferring.
[00:03:00] Louis Goodman: Let me just stick with Skyline for a minute.
Where exactly is that located?
William Walraven: Skyline is located in San Bruno in San Mateo County, just South of San Francisco.
Louis Goodman: Oh, you say you were working full-time what sort of work were you doing?
William Walraven: You know, I worked at Round Table Pizza. It was close to my house. That was probably the best commute that you could ever have.
I would wake up and five minutes later I’d be at work. And so I worked about 35 to 40 hours. And the reason why I chose Skyline was because, you know, a lot of my friends were attending City College. Some were attending College of San Mateo. And, you know, for me, I didn’t really want to have a continuation of high school, that experience.
I just wanted to focus on my academics and transfer. And that’s the reason why I chose Skyline. So it’s off of highway 35, right. Overlooking the ocean. And it, you know, I really enjoyed my experience there.
Louis Goodman: That experience that you enjoyed, that was
William Walraven: specific going to a [00:04:00] very competitive academic high school at Lowell, and then going to Skyline. It just allowed me to focus on myself and my goals and working towards the future.
Louis Goodman: When you ultimately left Skyline, where did you go to college?
William Walraven: After Skyline, I transferred to UCLA
Louis Goodman: Change from being in the Bay area
William Walraven: . It was I feel like growing up in San Francisco, we have a lot of preconceptions about Southern California and I think to a large extent, I think that that’s true.
However, I really enjoyed my experience at UCLA in Los Angeles. I feel Los Angeles is so big of a place that no matter what kind of background you’re from, or what you’re looking for, you can find it and thrive in Los Angeles.
Louis Goodman: Maybe I’m wrong about this, but my notion is that if someone [00:05:00] grows up in San Francisco and they go to high school in San Francisco and they’re from San Francisco and San Francisco is almost kind of a small town, even most small, even though San Francisco is very much a big city, but the experience of growing up in San Francisco because of the neighborhoods and because of, I don’t know, just the way people relate to each other there, it tends to be like all of the small town experience.
William Walraven: I would agree with that, especially for myself growing up on the West side, you know, in the neighborhoods, hanging out with friends, going to the park, you know, really until I became an adult, I never would have occasion to travel downtown. And so I definitely think growing up on the West Side, in particular West of Twin Peaks, it was almost like living in a suburb within a city.
Louis Goodman: And so then going to Los Angeles, if you say really going to a big city, you’re really exposed to big city things. Right?
William Walraven: UCLA is a fantastic school. I think the draw of [00:06:00] attending that University was very special and it was an adjustment going in there as a transfer student because it was my first experience at college and yet I was already a Junior. And so my peers in my classes had already had two years of forming their experiences. And yet for myself, it was almost like I was a Freshmen and new to the college experience. And because of that, I formed relationships with other transfer students with whom I’m still friends with today.
I studied Psychology. I graduated with a degree in Psychology from UC.
Louis Goodman: Now after you graduated from UCLA, you went to Law School. Where’d you go?
William Walraven: I did. So after graduating from UCLA, I actually started working and I worked as a Paralegal for several years before I attended Law School at Golden Gate University in San Francisco.
Louis Goodman: When did it become clear to you that you wanted to go to law school that you wanted to [00:07:00] be a lawyer.
William Walraven: I think that point was when I was working as a Paralegal after experiencing litigation, seeing how law firm dynamics work, it was something that I felt that I could take on as an attorney. And so it was probably at that point where I became serious about becoming an attorney.
I worked at a small litigation firm in San Francisco. Our office was originally near the Transamerica Pyramid at 550 Montgomery and then our office relocated to the Ferry Building. So that was kind of a fun experience right after it was renovated too, to be working.
Louis Goodman: When you first told your family that you were interested in going to law school, what was their reaction to that?
William Walraven: They were supportive. My family has always been very supportive of me and furthering my academic and professional career.
Louis Goodman: Do you think that having worked in the legal field [00:08:00] before going to law school was helpful to you in having some focus in law school about what you wanted to do in terms of career or not necessarily even specifically career, but really being focused on law school, doing well in law school, getting through law school?
William Walraven: The experience of working as a paralegal gave me an insight to a particular practice area. And so from that standpoint, I think it was very helpful because it did give me exposure to the law, the practice of law.
And in terms of the actual practice area that was not something that, or with respect to the practice area of the firm that was in Civil Litigation. And I’m not practicing in that area of law right now. I’m doing primarily Criminal Defense and an emphasis on DUI Defense.
Louis Goodman: When you got out of law school, what was your
William Walraven: So I graduated from Golden Gate in 2008. And that obviously was not a [00:09:00] very good time for the economy. And I was very fortunate to be able to go back to the original firm I was working with as a paralegal and to be hired on as an associate attorney. So I was very fortunate to have that opportunity.
At the firm, we primarily did Civil Litigation with an emphasis on Bankruptcy Litigation on the creditor side. So it was a very specialized area of law. I think that it was obviously something that I was very fortunate to have a job, but in terms of my career path, it was not something that I was going to be doing for, it was not something that I would be doing for the balance of my career.
Louis Goodman: At some point you decided you wanted to move into the criminal defense area. What prompted that necessity?
William Walraven: It’s funny. When I think about my transition from Civil Litigation to Criminal Defense, you know, sometimes like you mentioned my experience in practicing [00:10:00] or my experience as a paralegal exposed me to one area of law, but sometimes I think that the experiences, not necessarily being exposed to something that you want to do, but sometimes it’s a process of elimination or deduction. And so for me, I did have experience in law school. I was an intern at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, and it really started with covering for other attorneys doing special appearances.
And then from that, I started to, you know, get my own cases and I started building up my practice that way. And I really feel a sense of comradery with the Criminal Defense Bar community. And I think that was also what helped propel me into this area.
Lois Goodman: So how long have you been practicing criminal law?
William Walraven: This will be my sixth year.
Louis Goodman: It seems to me whenever I talk to, when you’re someone who really enjoys being a lawyer, enjoys doing criminal defense enjoys, going to court. Tell me, what you really like about practicing law?
William Walraven: [00:11:00] What I like about practicing law is helping people. I personally have been in situations and have been affected by the law and to be able to stand up and advocate on behalf of someone to be the only thing that’s standing in between a person and incarceration in which could mean losing their job, losing their family is a responsibility that I hold and it’s a responsibility that I carry with me. What I enjoy about practicing law and going to court, when we could go to court, was the people such as yourself when I was first starting out, trying to get the lay of the land. There’s a lot of downtime when people are waiting for their cases to be called, and I would just strike up a conversation.
Finding out, asking questions, maybe asking about the DA, maybe asking about the Judge. And I found that other attorneys, for the most part, obviously, if they have a hearing or a trial, obviously, you know, they need to focus on that. But I found that other Criminal Defense Attorneys are very approachable [00:12:00] and very helpful and friendly.
And that’s something that I, yeah, I’ve always appreciated that as well.
Louis Goodman: In one sense, that’s why I started doing this podcast because I really miss seeing my friends and my colleagues in court. And this was a way to communicate, have some discussion with them. And I’m, you know, I’m always interested in people’s background and their personal biographies. I think that’s part of what we talk about when we see each other in court.
William Walraven: Absolutely. You know, seeing every time I see you in court, out in the hallway, it’s, always something that I look forward to and other Attorneys in Alameda County. Especially, I could probably, you know, list a whole bunch should probably take the rest of your podcast to name everybody.
Louis Goodman: Would you recommend the practicing law as a career choice for a young person coming out of it? Let’s say UCLA?
William Walraven: That’s a great question. I had a friend who’s also an attorney characterize it this [00:13:00] way. The cost of attending law school is very expensive. I think the cost of education in general is very expensive, but the way my friend posed this question was, imagine if you had $300,000 in your pocket, what would you do with it?
Attending law school, becoming an attorney is an investment. I don’t want to dissuade someone from pursuing their career, their dreams, but at the same time, I think it’s important that they have exposure some experience to the law to understand kind of what it is. Sometimes you may not know what you want to do until you go through it.
But in attending Golden Gate, I have seen some of my classmates who have gone into the law and then decided to go into something else, which is perfectly fine, because as long as you’re benefiting from that experience into some other practice area or some other field it’s certainly worthwhile. You know, I just say for anyone thinking about going into law school or become an attorney is just to kind [00:14:00] of know what you’re getting yourself into and don’t go just because you don’t know what else you want to do. That’s probably not the reason for doing it.
Louis Goodman: How has practicing law met or is different from your expectations about it?
William Walraven: It has met my expectations for the most part. One of the challenges of running your own firm is that you’re wearing different hats.
You’re promoting your business. You’re trying to sign clients. There’s also kind of the administrative aspect of it, you know, making sure that nothing falls through the cracks and then there’s the practice of law. And so being a solo it’s always a struggle to figure out how much time you wanted to devote in one particular area.
So that’s a challenge because it’s not just practicing law. If I could just say that all I’m doing is practicing law, I would say it’s great, but I can’t have that singular focus right now.
Louis Goodman: Speaking of that, what about the business of practicing [00:15:00] law? How’s that gone for you? And what’s your thought about the business aspect of it?
Say that when thinking about practicing law as a private attorney, you’re wearing multiple hats. I think some people are good attorneys and good businesspeople. Some people are bad attorneys and good businesspeople. Some people are maybe bad attorneys and bad businesspeople. It’s always a challenge for me personally. I like to incorporate technology to see if I can become more efficient in terms of the practicing to focus more on the practice of law and the business of law.
I think it’s always a challenge because you want to figure out, you know, where can I best allocate my resources? Where are you focusing your attention? And so from that standpoint, it’s something that is ongoing.
Louis Goodman: Tell me about a case that went well for you. When you really feel that you helped a client.
William Walraven: Cases that I think of, you always want to think of the cases where you got not guilty at trial. I had a client that was [00:16:00] fired from her job as a security guard. There was a fight at an Oakland A’s and Giants game. It was on video. It was in the news. But it didn’t tell the whole story. And that was an example of a case that went well, because as we were able to present the full story to the jury, they understood what happened that she was acting in self-defense even though only her response or her defending herself was captured on video.
The initial aggression was not actually shown on video, but we were able to prove that, and that not guilty verdict was kind of an example of a case that went well, but, I also think of the cases that went really well as the cases that I was able to reach a resolution that avoided a more significant penalty.
It could have been a person going to jail. It could have meant that a person would have lost their license if they had been convicted of a particular charge. And so I think more often the cases that really go well are the ones where we’re able to avoid a worse outcome [00:17:00] consequence.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that, you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing?
William Walraven: Well, that’s a great question. I think there are so many things I think on a daily basis. We’re always learning and always being presented with a scenario or situation where I feel like if we had known that in advance, we could have avoided or made things easy.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the system is fair?
William Walraven: I think it’s fair when everyone is playing fair. And by that, I mean, we have laws, we have rules, but I have seen some attorneys, take advantage of that. And I think it’s only fair when everyone is playing fair.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that you would want to change about the way the legal system works?
William Walraven: Man, where to start with that. I think that the legal system is unfair in a lot of ways. I think that it’s a war of attrition, the way that [00:18:00] the system or the way the courts kind of grind down defendants in cases. And it’s very difficult for them to stick it out. So it could just be the amount of time that it takes having to show up to court and taking time off, maybe to attend trial and see it through. And so, sorry, I think I forgot your question.
Louis Goodman: We were talking about the fairness of it or anything you wanted to change.
William Walraven: You know, I think right now, especially, there is a call for change in our system. Some of it good and some of it bad. I think the focus and attention on criminal justice, I think is beneficial. And I think that as long as the greater public is aware of what’s going on, I think the better.
Louis Goodman: What about your family life, what things that you do outside of practice of law?
William Walraven: Now that’s tough to. Think about [00:19:00] what I would be doing, but I do enjoy hiking with my wife. We go hiking throughout the Bay Area, Sonoma and Marin, San Mateo County.
Recently I’ve started playing golf, which is a pandemic friendly sport to be playing. I’m still not very good at it, but I enjoy that. So those are some of the things that I like to do.
Louis Goodman: If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other profession that you think you would enjoy Involving yourself in?
That’s a great question. My career has been exclusively the law. It’s actually, but kind of challenging for me to think of me doing anything else. One of the benefits of running your own firm is that practicing law is a part of maybe a majority, maybe a smaller subset of your practice. And so it’s, I feel like I’m a small business owner in addition to being an attorney.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night?
Generally, I sleep pretty well, but what does keep me up at [00:20:00] night is usually when I’m in trial, or I have a big hearing the next day and just the adrenaline, the energy thinking about what I want to accomplish. You know, that’s something that usually keeps me up.
Louis Goodman: Let’s say you came into some so real money, three, $4 billion. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
William Walraven: I would probably start a foundation, donate money, something along those lines
Louis Goodman: . Do you think you’d still practice law?
William Walraven: To be honest, probably not.
Louis Goodman: Gamble with the truth, you know, have you ever had outside of an automobile, near death experience?
When I was young, my family, we would travel up to Calistoga and I have a memory of swimming in the pool. And for whatever reason, I just lost contact with the side and I just remember, kind of just drifting down into the water and my [00:21:00] grandfather dove in and saved me. That’s probably my strongest memory of kind of a near death experience.
Also I have memories of like walking and stepping into an intersection and a family member, like grabbing me and holding me in a car, kind of speeding by. And I think especially the line of work that we do, I definitely know that in one split second, your life can be taken from you or your life can change forever.
And it’s something that I try and remember on a daily basis.
Louis Goodman: Well, William, have you had any mentors in the system, someone who you think has really helped you out?
William Walraven: I have. My first job as a paralegal and also my job as an attorney, I worked for Bill McGrane who ran his own practice and still practices law in San Francisco.
And he certainly was probably one of the major reasons why I did end up becoming an Attorney.
Louis Goodman: What was it [00:22:00] about Mr. McGrane that made you want to be a lawyer?
William Walraven: I went to high school and good friends with the son, Gavin, and Bill’s firm was about to start a very contentious trial and they needed some extra assistance.
And so I kind of came on board right in the middle of trial and it was such an exhilarating experience that I decided to pursue the law.
Louis Goodman: What about in the Alameda County system? Any judges who you’ve admired?
William Walraven: Judge Hing during the time when I was thinking about starting my own firm, I wasn’t sure about what.
I wanted to do Judge Hing, invited me to meet with him and just talk about his own experiences, practicing in Alameda County. And, you know, I really appreciated that someone of his stature would make the time for me to offer me some advice and be very supportive. And it wasn’t something that was singular or different about [00:23:00] me necessarily because he’s done the same thing for many other law students and young attorneys throughout Alameda County.
Louis Goodman: What’s the best piece of advice that you think you’ve gotten from somebody else?
William Walraven: I would say with respect to practicing law, obviously you always want to have and end result. You always want to have a goal. I would also maybe to answer that question, I would say another piece of advice that an attorney gave me was that the courtroom is a great equalizer. I have found as I’ve progressed in my career, that as long as you have your Bar Card and you step into that courtroom or you’re in trial, none of that matters. All that matters is, you know what you put in front of the judge and the jury in the courtroom.
Louis Goodman: Thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
William Walraven: Thanks Louis, it has been an honor to be here.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer.
If you enjoy listening, please share it with a friend and [00:24:00] subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments, 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 to our guests who share their wisdom and Joel Katz music, Brian Matheson technical support. Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
William Walraven: Sorry, that probably wasn’t a good answer, but we’ll just say this one for the B team B roll. I did, I did read these questions in advance and I did write out some answers, but some of them there, they just, they stopped me just because I feel like I could just like go on and on and on.
And it’s, and it wouldn’t be like, you know, like a podcast friendly answer.