Zoi Jones – Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
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!
Zoi Jones is a personal injury attorney, exhibiting passion and compassion for her clients. She fights tirelessly for the people who she represents. She is a partner in a successful family-owned firm. And most impressive to me is that she is the mother of three children. Zoi Jones, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Zoi Jones 00:54
Hi Louis. I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Louis Goodman 00:58
It’s a privilege to have you. Where are you talking to us from right now?
Zoi Jones 01:04
So I’m talking to you from the small town of Hollister, California. We are south of Silicon Valley and a very small community. I’ve grown up in Gilroy, which is the garlic capital of the world. So we’re just south of that.
Louis Goodman 01:18
And so your office is in Hollister?
Zoi Jones 01:20
Our office is in Hollister, yes. We were in Gilroy for the past 39 years. And we just recently moved to Hollister this last year.
Louis Goodman 01:28
What type of practice do you have?
Zoi Jones 01:32
So we primarily practice personal injury law. I’m law partners with my dad. So we’re a family-owned law firm and my dad still does a lot of criminal defense work as well and he has for the past 40 years. I dabbled in that for the beginning of my career, which was 10 years ago.
I started with more criminal defense and just found that it wasn’t my passion, I preferred the personal injury side, so I took over more of the personal injury of our firm. And he stayed with the criminal defense, but we do both, but primarily I would say 90% personal injury. And I’m 100% with the exceptional special appearance for my dad.
Louis Goodman 02:09
So, where did you go to high school?
Zoi Jones 02:11
I went to high school in Gilroy, so Gilroy high school, home of the Mustangs. And then I actually went, I started in community college there in Gilroy at Gavilan. I wanted to save money, I wanted to put myself through school knowing I wanted to go to law school and I didn’t want to have a lot of loans.
So I started at the community college there, and then I went over to San Jose State and stayed very local and close to my family and continued to work in the office throughout law school as well as bartending my way through school and directing musical theater for the local community.
Louis Goodman 02:42
So when did you first decide that you wanted to be a lawyer? It sounds like you’ve been involved in practicing law your whole life.
Zoi Jones 02:52
Yeah, I really have. I’ve been in the office since I was born. My parents had me when my dad passed the bar, he passed the bar and looked at my mom and said, okay, we’re ready to have another baby. And so I’ve kind of grown up in the office and my mom and dad both ran the firm together.
And yeah, it was, you know, two years old on my mom’s lap in front of a typewriter. And while she was typing letters, and as soon as I was old enough, I was sending faxes the old fashioned way and copying and filing papers and files. And I really grew up in the office. And so I want to say though it was about five years old that I was able to vocalize that this is what I wanted to do, and I wanted to be a lawyer and I’ve held with that my entire life and it’s never changed.
Louis Goodman 03:39
What at the age of five made you think I want to be a lawyer?
Zoi Jones 03:43
You know, I think that just the most vivid memory I have of it because I remember when I was five years old talking to someone, he was my Godfather’s coworker and just chatting it up with a five-year-old and asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said an attorney. And I have a photographic memory, so I have certain pictures in my mind of conversations that I’ve had and that’s the one that stands out, of when I vocalized and said, “Yes, this is what I want to do.” And you know, it was interesting growing up because a lot of people, they kind of, they would look at me, okay, that’s cute. But everyone says that, right? But everyone says they want to be a doctor or a lawyer. And so. It was more, that sounds cute. But in my heart, and in my mind I was thinking, oh no, this is what I’m going to do. And, this is the life I’m going to have because it was my life. Our law firm was always part of my life and my childhood, and it was our family.
So, you know, I did my homework in the conference room and, you know, knew our clients and was always active in the business and so just since five years old this has been my path. I didn’t always want to join the family business, though. I do have to say that there was a period of time when I was early in law school.
And I told myself that I wanted to be a big corporate lawyer. I wanted to work for Disney, I thought that would be really cool. And so I did an internship with Sony actually, while I was in law school. And just really didn’t like the grind of it. I didn’t see the life balance that those attorneys had. And the general counsel had a shower and a bathroom in his office.
Louis Goodman 05:18
Where did you go to law school?
Zoi Jones 05:20
I went to law school at Thomas Jefferson in San Diego. I wanted to go to a law school that had professors that had previously practiced or were actively practicing.
Louis Goodman 05:30
Did you take any time off between graduating from San Jose and going to Thomas Jefferson Law School?
Zoi Jones 05:37
I did. I lived a very busy life while I was at San Jose State. I was directing musical theater for kids and bartending, and then I became a regional trainer for Chili’s, actually, and started traveling the United States, helping them train other employees and opening up stores. And so I decided, you know, I’m going to take this year and travel for free to just other states and get to know other people and take a little bit of a break. And so I took a year off in between undergraduate school and law school.
Louis Goodman 06:07
And that’s when you were working for Chili’s?
Zoi Jones 06:09
Yes, I was working for Chili’s and just doing some traveling and still directing theater as well, actually.
Louis Goodman 06:16
Do you think that having taken that time off between college and law school, you were more focused on what you were doing once you got to law school?
Zoi Jones 06:27
I believe so, it gave me that mental break, even though I was studying for the LSATs, I was still very young. And so I graduated high school at 17, so I needed to have a little bit of time to myself, I think.
And so once I started school, I felt like I kind of got it all out and was ready to sit down and study again and spend my days in the library.
Louis Goodman 06:48
Well, how was that experience in law school for you?
Zoi Jones 06:51
Law school was great. I was down in San Diego, which was about, I would say eight or nine hours from my family. So I think that was the hardest part for me, was being separated from them.
I’d get a little homesick here and there, and when I went to law school, I bought a condo down in Little Italy, which was a beautiful area. And it was the first time that I looked around and said, “Oh, I’m alone here.” So it was a really good life lesson for me. I’ve really learned how to make myself happy before anybody else.
And just really grew up while I was in law school. I felt like just taking the time to live by myself and get through law school. But of course there were the days that were hard and my dad would tell my mom, well, we need to go see Zoi and put some wind in her sails and they would drive down and come and hang out with me for a couple of days. And so that was always nice. So I wasn’t too far from home, but just far enough.
Louis Goodman 07:43
When you graduated from law school, was your first legal job at the family firm?
Zoi Jones 07:49
No. I actually worked throughout law school interning. So my first year I worked for a law firm, a small family, it wasn’t a family firm, but a small firm there in Little Italy. And it was really neat because the two partners one was older and you had been practicing for 35 years. And the other was newer, she had been practicing for about five years and had graduated from the same law school.
But what was really cool about that experience was taking the old wisdom and the new modern thinking and the way they ran the firm together. And that was a great example for me, because then coming into the law firm with my dad I felt the same thing and how we’re kind of melding it all together. So I worked for that for my first year of law school and then my second year I had an internship with Sony and I did that and then my third year is when I went back to the family firm and I was working for the family firm and supporting that office for my last year.
And then right after law school, yeah, that’s what I did. I continued with the firm, however, my husband and I wanted to stay in San Diego to start. So I opened up a satellite office there in San Diego, and that’s where I started taking my own criminal defense and personal injury cases while still supporting the Gilroy office. And I was there for doing that for a couple of years and then my dad got into a horse accident, which brought me back home and then I never went back.
Louis Goodman 09:18
What do you really like about practicing law? You’ve been doing it for a while now, so you’ve had some time to think about it.
Zoi Jones 09:23
What I like about practicing law has changed in the last year. So the first nine years, I enjoyed helping people, but I enjoyed being a part of the family firm and just having a purpose. I think it felt good to me connecting with my clients. And then through the pandemic, that was a little difficult because we didn’t have the face to face with our clients as much anymore. And I started to kind of lose what I enjoyed about practicing law.
And this last year, I’ve focused more on rebuilding that connection with my clients and finding better ways to do that in these times. And that has really fired me up again. So I love people walking in my door with their problem, you know, being injured, being overwhelmed, getting into an auto accident and holding their hand through the process and their trust in me. That’s my favorite part of what I do.
I used to love writing briefs, to be quite honest now I don’t. I prefer to just be the person who holds my client’s hands and work the business. I love working on the business and being a part of this legacy.
Louis Goodman 10:34
Would you recommend the law to a young person who was thinking about a career choice?
Zoi Jones 10:40
I think that would all depend on the young person who I’m speaking to. But yes, I would, I think that having a law degree opens up a lot of doors. I was recently talking to my niece and she lives in Texas actually. And she’s going into her senior year of high school and a few years ago, she said she wanted to be an attorney.
And then now she told me, “I’m not sure if I want to be an attorney anymore.” And I told her, “You know, you really want to think about,” and I tell my interns this as well. I say, you really want to think about the life that you want to live. Who do you want to be? Who do you want to surround yourself with? And then work backwards and figure out what you need to do to have that life and your career should support the life that you want to live and whatever brings you joy in your life. And a law degree, I feel offers that for a lot of people and you don’t have to necessarily practice law, but you can do so much with the law degree.
So you can teach, you can run your own firm. You can be a part of a corporation. You can be a part of a big firm. There are just so many options. So I would recommend it unless I was talking to someone who I knew was very artsy. Then I would probably not recommend it.
Louis Goodman 11:55
I’m not sure they would be all that interested in going to law school in the first place. How has practicing law either met or differed from your expectations, especially because you had quite a bit of experience actually being around a real law firm?
Zoi Jones 12:15
You know, I think that experience has probably made it so that it really has met my expectations and exceeded my expectations. And maybe because I’m very blessed with being a part of a family law firm. And so I was able to have my babies and bring them to work and nurse while I was working. And at the time my sister was working for us as well. So it’s just a very, the culture of our firm was centered around family and being able to do what I love and have a successful career while being a hands-on mom has just really exceeded my expectation.
Louis Goodman 12:53
Now you touched on this a little bit earlier, but what about the business of practicing law? How’s that gone for you and how’s that met or differed from your expectations about it? What have you and your firm done about running a business?
Zoi Jones 13:09
Well, again, we’ve changed a lot in the past year. The business of practicing law has changed a lot. However, I think that’s probably been the most frustrating part to me is that coming into this I felt like the legal profession was a little behind in certain things, case management systems were barely coming out when other companies had these, you know, amazing programs and options, we only had a couple options to start.
And so I feel like the practice of law has needed to speed up a little bit with the times and with technology and with the pandemic I actually think that’s helped the practice of law because now we’re utilizing Zoom for depositions. And, you know, my dad has most of his court appearances for a criminal over Zoom.
And it just saves a lot of time and a lot of money, especially with gas prices these days, having to travel for mediations and depositions, we no longer do. It’s more comfortable for our clients to be in our office for a mediation or a deposition than to drive to some Silicon Valley firm. So that’s been one change which has been great and we’ve also utilized Calendly as an online system for my clients to schedule calls with us, consultations can get scheduled on that as well. And it’s just really creating a lot more efficiency in our firm.
So the business itself from where we’ve started, and if you want to go back to 40 years ago, when my dad started this practice in his living room, oh, my goodness, I mean, we used to use Rolodexes and typewriters and all paper files. And now we have a document management system, a case management system, internet phone, so I can be traveling and take a call from anywhere. And it’s really improved a lot and it’s been a lot of fun to implement the improvements and see our business and feel our business grow as a small firm, we’re able to do a lot more. And it’s been incredible.
Louis Goodman 15:12
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you’d known, right when you had gotten into the business of practicing law?
Zoi Jones 15:22
I would say the main thing would be, and this sounds a little cheesy, but to be yourself. I felt when I started practicing law, maybe because I was so young when I started, that I had to fit this mold and I had to be this certain way, and I really learned and appreciated to just be authentic and be myself and take care of my clients and my business and the rest will follow.
Louis Goodman 15:51
What do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received? And then let me ask the flip side of that at the same time, what advice would you give to someone who was looking for some advice about starting a career in law?
Zoi Jones 16:05
So the best advice I’ve ever received was do what feels good for you and no one else. And the best advice that I’d give to my interns and to anyone deciding to go into hanging their own shingle would be progress, not perfection. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and you know, it can really slow you down and there’s a million and one things to do every single day, but one thing at a time and being present and focusing on that one task at a time has been a game changer for me.
Louis Goodman 16:43
Is there anything about the legal system and the way it works that you would like to change?
Zoi Jones 16:48
Well, it’s starting to improve and change. I think that the legal system and from my standpoint in personal injury, I mean, I can go on and on, but I’d like to see the laws change for uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage, as well as the minimum liability limits in California, which consumer attorneys of California are actually working on doing.
We’re trying to get the limits raised from $1,530, you know, to a higher amount because $15,000 for a person in an auto accident is not enough money in this day and age. It was 55 years ago that those limits were set. And a hospital bill alone is at least 60 grand. So it’s just, it’s unfair, so I would like to see a lot of changes in that.
Louis Goodman 17:37
Do you think the legal system is fair?
Zoi Jones 17:40
I think the legal system really tries to be fair. I don’t believe that it’s fair 100% of the time. And what I just spoke about about the minimum liability limits is one way, it is completely unfair. You know, I’ll have a client who is in a terrible auto accident and the person that hit them had no insurance, or they had the minimum liability insurance and they don’t own anything, so there’s nothing to go after to recover. And you know, these people are left with injuries and high medical bills, and it’s very sad. And that’s the most heartbreaking part of what I do, are those cases.
Louis Goodman 18:20
I know you have three children, what’s your family life been like, and how has practicing law, especially in the firm setting that you were in, managed to fit in with your family life and the practice of law?
Zoi Jones 18:38
Growing up in the family business, I’ve really made that a priority for my family as well. So like I said, when I had my babies, I had them in the office for the first few months until they were too mobile. So I have three under five years old. So it is busy. Yeah, it is a very busy life, but it is so much fun, but I really have to have boundaries between work and home life and that’s important to me.
And so I really work my time strategically as best I can to allow the time that I need for my clients and the time that I need for my kids as well. And of course, asking for help, I have a nanny who’s great and she helps me as well. And sometimes that just means that I’m working from home. So I get to pop in and out with my kids, but I know she’s handling other parts of the house and pickups and such like that.
So it’s been a wonderful balance, but it can also be what I call beautiful chaos. And that works too. We make it happen sometimes, you know, if I’m getting ready for trial or things are picked up a little bit in the office, I just explain it to my toddlers. And what I tell them is mommy’s helping people and so I’ll be home a little later, but for the most part, I really am home by dinner time and get to tuck them in at night. And that’s important to me.
Louis Goodman 20:06
What do you like to do as a family? Any recreational things?
Zoi Jones 20:10
Oh, yes, we love the outdoors. So we love to go camping, boating, we love horseback riding. We live on five acres here in Hollister, so we have chickens and our labrador. We love to travel as an entire family too, so my parents, I’m really close to my parents. So we’ve gone to the same lake every summer for the past 35 years as a family and we still do that. We just love to be outside, really. Anything in the outdoors. And play tennis, we love to play tennis as well.
Louis Goodman 20:39
Is there any book or movie about the law that you really like, or really don’t like?
Zoi Jones 20:47
I love Lincoln Lawyer. I think it’s a great movie. And it’s so funny. It reminds me of my dad because as you know, my dad practices criminal defense and he actually had a limo like that, that was given to him by a client who had to make a payment, so they gave him this old limo. And so for a few years, my dad had a driver that drove him back and forth to court, which was genius because he got to work on the case while he’s traveling an hour to Silicon Valley with the traffic and everything, and then coming back, you know, he’d get to rest and do work on other cases. And it was just so cool. So when that movie came out, I was like, “Oh dad, there’s you!” It was a great movie.
Louis Goodman 21:30
Have you ever had a job or an interest that you pursued or one that you would pursue if you didn’t practice laws or some sort of career that would interest you?
Zoi Jones 21:40
I wouldn’t necessarily say a career, but there are other hobbies that I love that I did going through school. And I would love to kind of reignite them at some point in my life. One of them being directing theater for kids. I absolutely loved doing that and I could make a career out of it, but I don’t know if I would, I just would like to do it again someday. And then I worked for Pure Bar when I was in law school and after law school and I went to love to open a bar studio for women someday.
Louis Goodman 22:15
How do you define success?
Zoi Jones 22:17
I define success by looking at your daily life and finding joy in most of your day. So to me, it’s about living with intention and just being present and being happy in your day to day and whatever that looks like for you, that is success.
Louis Goodman 22:39
What keeps you up at night?
Zoi Jones 22:41
Right now? Or last year? I would say it changes, but right now I think it’s just the instability of the world and having young kids. The future for them makes me a little nervous right now. I have to say, I wish it didn’t, but it does.
Louis Goodman 23:04
Let’s say you and your husband came into some real money, a few billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Zoi Jones 23:13
Well, there are a few things, there’s business and there’s homes. So for business, if I came into a few billion dollars, I would love to give my staff more money and increase their salaries and hire a couple of attorneys for the firm so that I can do more of working on the business and holding my client’s hands instead of doing the day-to-day paperwork, I’d also love to offer scholarships to young women who are looking into starting their own firm, because I think that the balance between family and a legal career is really hard and a lot of women struggle with it and aren’t able to have the work-life balance that they would like to have, but it’s also scary to start your own firm. So I would love to offer scholarships for women to do that and have that balance and work for themselves.
And I would travel more with my family, I would love to take my kids and just show them the world and homeschool and show them different cultures and countries and the United States and do that together where both my husband and I can just take a couple of years off and travel the world with our kids. That’d be a lot of fun.
Louis Goodman 24:30
Let’s say you had a magic wand and there was one thing in the world that you could change, the legal world or otherwise. What would that be?
Zoi Jones 24:39
I think the biggest thing would be to wave a magic wand over everyone and just teach them respect and kindness. If everyone had a little more of that, I think the world would be a better place.
Louis Goodman 24:52
Let’s say that you had 60 seconds on the Super Bowl. Someone gave you a 60 second ad on the Super Bowl. So you had a really big platform to speak to the nation, speak to the world. What message would you like to put out there?
Zoi Jones 25:11
Well, I would put out a couple of messages, one being to slow down and be present. And the last would be to get underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage.
Louis Goodman 25:25
I think if no one gets anything else out of this podcast, it’s make sure you got plenty of insurance.
Zoi Jones 25:33
Yes. Make sure you have plenty of insurance for everybody else, but the under-insured and under-insured motorist is for you because most people are grossly under or uninsured.
Louis Goodman 25:43
So not only should you have plenty of insurance for damage that you might do, but also have plenty of insurance for damage that someone might do to you. Is that a fair statement?
Zoi Jones 25:54
Exactly. Yes. Protect yourself and protect your families with proper UM and UIM coverage.
Louis Goodman 26:02
Zoi, is there anything else that you want to talk about? Anything that you want to say or put out there?
Zoi Jones 26:09
No, I think that’s my biggest message and I appreciate the time today. It’s been a lot of fun.
Louis Goodman 26:14
Zoi Jones, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.
Zoi Jones 26:24
Thank you. It’s been my absolute pleasure to be here.
Louis Goodman 26:26
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 for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Zoi Jones 27:05
And they’re the worst drivers out there. The ones that don’t own anything and don’t have insurance, or they have the minimum policy, they honestly are the worst drivers out there.