PROFILE ON WOOD & RANDALL 4 Local court reporting firm
FAMILY LAW SECTION UPDATE 20 Section hosts holiday event
2020 INSTALLATION DINNER 39 Photos of annual events
RES IPSA LOQUITUR january/february 2020
PUBLISHED BY THE KERN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
On the Inside
JOE HUGHESKCBA PRESIDENT The event in photos. PAGE 39
ABOUT THE RES IPSA LOQUITUR DESIGNER Amber M. Chiang firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTORS Jay C. Smith C.M. “Bud” Starr Timothy Swanson
ABOUT THE KERN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION
1112 Truxtun Avenue Bakersfield, CA 93301 661-334-4700 email@example.com The Res Ipsa Loquitur is published 6 times per year. Articles, announcements and advertisements are due by the 5th of the month prior to the publication date. The articles in the Res Ipsa Loquitur are written for general interest and are not meant to be relied upon as a substitute for independent research and independent verification of accuracy. The articles appearing in the Res Ipsa Loquitur do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Kern County Bar Association, the committee or the columnists. Acceptance of advertising by the Res Ipsa Loquitur does not constitute endorsement of products or services advertised. The content of ads was not checked by either the Kern County Bar Association employees or members. No representations are made by the Kern County Bar Association. The Kern County Bar Association reserves the right to refuse any advertising. The Res Ipsa Loquitur welcomes contributions from legal professionals and representatives from relevant businesses and organizations. All articles will be reviewed for appropriateness and those selected for publishing will be published at the convenience of the Res Ipsa Loquitur editorial committee. To have an article considered for publication, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO’S WHO AT THE BAR The Kern County Bar Association is led by a volunteer board of directors consisting of five elected executive committee members and ten elected directors. This issue introduces the last five elected directors for 2019. THOMAS FEHER has been a trial lawyer since 1990, and has successfully litigated hundreds of cases on behalf of clients ranging from individuals to large businesses and public entities, focusing on business and employment disputes but also embracing other areas of general business and litigation practice.
GABRIEL GODINEZ is the principle of Godinez Law which handles primarily Employment and Business law matters, plaintiff and defense. Gabriel has served as a Board of Director for the Kern County Bar Association for over five years and had served for three years on the Hispanic Chamber Board.
JAMES HARVEY practices civil litigation at Klein DeNatale Goldner, focusing primarily on business and commercial cases.
T. MARK SMITH is a partner at Zimmer & Melton, LLP. His practice focuses on business litigation and a wide range of areas including land use, healthcare, professional liability and water rights.
HUNTER STARR is a Deputy District Attorney. He started prosecution in 2013, and has handled cases ranging from DUIs to homicides. Hunter began teaching at the Kern County College of Law in 2018, where he teaches Professional Responsibility and Evidence.
LETTER FROM THE DESIGNER
ELCOME TO OUR third issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur in our new digital format. This new format opens up many opportunities for the Kern County Bar Association now we aren’t beholden to a page count affecting the bottom line of the printing budget. Over the past six months, Bonnie Thomson and I have worked to generate a variety of content from all areas of the Bar Association. We’ve had profiles on major law firms, updates on section activities, and peeks into the lives of our board members. Our goal is to maintain this level of content variety. With the help of our photographer, Nick Ellis, we continue to increased the visual elements in this magazine to make your reading more entertaining. If we’ve called on you to contribute, and you’ve helped us out, we appreciate your support so much! When we reach out to you, please know we are interested in sharing the work you’re doing with the broader legal community. If you have an idea for a story for a coming issue, please reach out to email@example.com. I hope you continue to enjoy the new Res Ipsa Loquitur, and happy reading! Amber M. Chiang, designer
ON THE COVER Annual KCBA Installation Dinner Event photos on page 39 [photos by Nick Ellis]
8 - A Rare Visit to the Juvenile Court Kate Iwanami
PEOPLE AND FIRMS
4 - Profile on Wood & Randall
COLUMNISTS 7 - Jay C. Smith A View from over the Watershed
16 - Expectations of Millennial Attorneys
18 - GBLA’s Volunteer Attorney Program Victoria Limbean
24 - KCCL Scholarships Pamela L. Starr
20 - Family Law Section Update Jeremy D. Swanson, Esq.
22 - Bernard C. Barmann, Jr. Getting the Most Out of Mediation
30 - Interview with Anton Labrentz
26 - Timothy Swanson The Renissance Corner
38 - Photos from MCBA Trivia Night
34 - H. Dennis Beaver You and the Law
32 - The Elephant in the Room Brian Cuban
15 - C.M. “Bud” Starr advocatus caecus
39 - Photos from 2020 Installation Dinner JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
PROFILE ON WOOD & RANDALL [photos by Nick Ellis]
HRISTINE RANDALL AND Susan Wood started court reporting in the early 1980s with local Bakersfield reporting firm of Fischer & Stockton, started by Debi Stockton Armstrong and Joni Fischer in the late ‘70s. During that time court reporters used a stenography machine and had to dictate their steno notes for a typist to transcribe. By the mid-1980s, the firm had embraced the new computerized technology which allowed the reporter’s steno strokes to not only be printed on the small paper coming out of the steno machine but also written to a disk/cassette. After the conclusion of the deposition, the steno notes would be transcribed to English back at the office on a large computer mainframe. The reporter would then do their edits and the transcript would be printed.
community with services like realtime reporting and videoconferencing. Clients were now able to cable their laptop to the reporter and receive the translated steno notes instantaneously. Clients could view, mark, and annotate the transcript during the deposition. If a deposition needed to take place out of state or internationally, instead of travelling to the location, clients could attend via videoconference using Wood & Randall’s appointed deposition suites. The steno machine had also advanced during this time. There was no need for steno paper or taking breaks to change the paper. Reporters carried laptops and their steno machines were paperless with multiple backups.
By the early 1990s, Debi and Joni had moved on to other endeavors, and Christine, Susan and their new partner, Cheryl Carlile, changed the firm’s name to Wood, Randall & Carlile. They continued to grow the business and soon became leaders in the local reporting community.
By 2000 Christine was managing the firm on a full-time basis and Susan was the lead reporter for its growing top-notch reporting staff. Susan’s focus was on multiparty litigation and large case management. She reported high profile cases in Kern County providing clients with realtime, dailies, and exhibit binders. During this time, Wood & Randall also opened offices in Fresno and Visalia becoming one of the largest firms in the Central Valley.
By the end of the ‘90s, Cheryl Carlile left the firm to begin a new life on the Central Coast. Wood & Randall had a new name and new mantra of Moving Forward with Technology and Excellence. They soon introduced the newest technologies to the local legal
To grow and promote the firm, Christine spent countless hours volunteering and contributing to the industry. She was the president of the Deposition Reporters Association of California in 2005. She was also the president of STAR in 2013, a national
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Christine Randall | Susan Wood JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
technology group, and she served as a delegate to Russia for the National Court Reporters Association. Through these experiences, the firm was able to learn and develop its technology offerings. For instance, transcripts were now available to clients through a HIPAA-compliant repository with a userfriendly mobile app. Reporters would not need to connect a client’s laptop by cable any longer but could easily connect an iPad or tablet. If a client wanted to monitor proceedings from a different location, he/she could watch the proceedings and have the transcript streamed to his/her device.
court reporters to work in a new setting to provide their clients and the judges with quality and timely transcripts. With new budgets and staffing, some of the counties have changed this situation, but when a reporter is not available, Wood & Randall continues to step up.
Technologies in the litigation arena continued to develop, and by 2013 there was a high demand for skilled videographers using high definition equipment and there was a shortage in the local market. After learning the ins and outs of video technology and video synchronization, Sarah Randall, Christine’s daughter, with the help of Victoria Wood, Susan’s daughter, stepped up and expanded Wood & Randall’s operation. Video depositions today continue to be on the rise and Wood & Randall has met those escalating demands.
Christine refers to them as the A-Team. “Veritext’s industry-leading, proprietary litigation technologies coupled with Wood & Randall’s local expertise and experience is a win-win for all. Our staff and reporters will not change, and we are confident that moving forward we will meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.”
Also during this time, Kern, Fresno, and Tulare Counties discontinued providing court reporters in the civil departments. This swiftly challenged the reporting communities as well as the civil litigators and their staff. Wood & Randall quickly stepped up training
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Always looking to the future and moving forward, Wood & Randall made a bold and exciting decision recently. In September of 2019, the firm was acquired by Veritext Legal Solutions, the Number 1 court reporting company in the world.
She went on to say, “Our shared commitment to quality reporting and uncompromising service makes Wood & Randall a perfect fit with Veritext, and we are thrilled to begin 2020 as part of the Veritext family.”
THE VIEW FROM OVER THE WATERSHED Brother, can you spare a dime? by Jay C. Smith
HE ISSUE OF “the Homeless” continues to be both difficult and divisive. The day I finished this column (only one day past deadline!) the US Supreme Court declined to take up a Ninth Circuit case holding that a city cannot make it a crime to sleep in public when there isn’t proof the homeless have somewhere else to sleep. Everybody has to sleep. Locally a push to jail homeless folks arrested for petty theft, vandalism, trespass or possession of small amounts of illicit drugs is accelerating. As I admitted in my last column, I’m one of those softies who doubts jail is the best answer (and one of those cheapskates who thinks it too darn expensive.) I admit that I might be more willing to be harsh with homeless folks if I had a business or home near where they congregate. I only see them at intersections with cardboard signs saying they are homeless and hungry, or in parking lots near the McDonalds at Mt. Vernon and Columbus. My limited social conscience can handle those brief exposures. I suppose I am the evil face of the NIMBY, a FISEBY-- Fine If it’s in Someone Else’s Back Yard. (There are lots of us around. Perhaps nearer than you’d like to admit.)
By the 1930s the horrible economic times sent many more people out on the road. The issue made it to Broadway, with a song called “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (Often sung as Buddy instead of Brother.) Professor Google informed me today that the song was regarded as dangerously anti-capitalist at the time (1932) and efforts were made to keep it out of the Broadway show and off the radio. You can decide for yourself about that: many versions on You Tube. (I recommend the Judy Collins version, though her voice is almost too beautiful for the message.)
It’s not a new problem—more one that has come back in a new form. If you read the sort of American history books that covered the problems along with the triumphs, or read “muckraker” literature you know that there was a large transient population of (often homeless) workers in America from about the 1870s (possibly caused by the end of the Civil War and the Panic of 1873) until 1940, when mobilization for the war effort got us close to full employment.
(In the 1920’s my maternal grandmother was a naïve, softhearted housewife in a small Ohio Town. She had immigrated from Germany when she was 18. She annoyed and worried her family by giving handouts to tramps and hobos and talking to them about their lives. She never had any trouble from them. I have read that there was a set of symbols tramps and hobos could leave on people’s fence posts to let later tramps know there was a bad dog or a good chance of a handout. If so, I know what symbol was on my grandmother’s fence.)
There were enough, even in the Roaring Twenties, to be romanticized or used as comic relief like Charlie Chaplin’s the Little Tramp. Originally often called simply tramps perhaps because they tramped from place to place seeking work, by the 1890s, Professor Google tells me, there was a subgroup, Hobos, who “rode the rods,” traveling illegally and dangerously by climbing on freight trains. They camped in “Hobo Jungles” near the railroad and added whatever ingredients they could share into communally prepared Mulligan Stew, roadkill welcome.
It wouldn’t be honest to omit the (internet verified) fact that while this large population of tramps and hobos were traveling in search of work (though ready to accept a handout, of course) another identified subgroup were called Bums. The defining characteristics were staying in one place and being more interested in handouts than work. Deciding who was who mirrors the problem that faces us today: separating the different groups— criminals, drug addicts, the mentally ill, and the unlucky-that make up the Homeless. I think we’ll find need a different solution for each of the groups. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
A RARE VISIT TO THE JUVENILE COURT by Kate Iwanami
N NOVEMBER 15, 2019, the Multi-Cultural Bar Alliance (MCBA), hosted a rare event to visit the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC) to learn of the important work being done there. This was a unique opportunity given that generally, juvenile court proceedings are closed to the public. The event was a great success in large part due to the efforts of the Pre-Law Society of CSUB, and notably several Kern County Superior Court jurists. MCBA Board Member Kate Iwanami played “tour guide” for the day. The eager participants – many from CSUB’s Pre-law program and the Kern County College of Law - had an early start by speaking to attorneys Keenan Perkins, Mark Widelock, and Gary Riebesell who spoke of their satisfying experiences practicing in the juvenile court. They then visited Commissioner Cynthia Loo in Department J3, where Commissioner Loo spoke about the juvenile dependency court -child abuse and neglect proceedings -and her experience representing children in juvenile court, and then RES IPSA LOQUITUR
as a judicial officer in juvenile justice matters. Commissioner Loo encouraged the students to consider working in the juvenile law as this is an area where lawyers could help children and families and make a difference. She then touched on the emotional challenges of these proceedings, as well as of balancing the parent’s rights and best interest of children during the juvenile dependency proceedings. Attorney Michelle Trujillo echoed Commissioner Loo and shared her passion of helping children who have been subjected to abuse and neglect. In Department J4, Judge Raymunda Marquez explained her role as a judge in the juvenile dependency court. The students were introduced to court room procedures and terminology unique to the juvenile court. Judge Marques emphasized the importance of communication skills to effectively solicit information from parents and children who are often confused and in distress. Judge Marquez also discussed crossover and coordination among family, probate and juvenile courts.
The participants were introduced to attorneys, Chris Stahnke, Andrew Smith, and David Duket. These attorneys from very diverse backgrounds and experiences were peppered with questions by the students. They provided practical advice and insights into the practice of juvenile law. The participants then visited Judge Lorna Brumfield who presides over juvenile justice proceedings. Judge Brumfield expressed her dedication to do justice and efforts to help juveniles rehabilitate. It is a great joy to Judge Brumfield to see those who appeared before her often overcome their difficulties and become productive members of society. She shared that “my number one pet peeve” is marijuana use among juveniles.
The participants’ eyes were opened to see how prevalent drug use was a significant factor in both juvenile justice and dependency proceedings. After the courtroom visit, the participants had lunch joined by Judge Marquez, Commissioner Loo and Judge Louie Vega, who was a former Presiding Judge of JJC, and Judge Marcos Camacho who is currently hearing family law cases, but will begin at JJC in January. Judges Vega and Camacho graciously shared their diverse upbringings and their professional experience inside and outside of the legal field. They also shared their inspiring journeys to judicial appointments. The students were encouraged to aim high
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and were assured they could achieve anything that their minds set. “It was a great pleasure to see so many young people interested in going into the legal profession with their goal set in serving our community. Commissioner Loo is to be commended for the great work she is doing with these young folks and introducing them into the Juvenile Court system. It was clear that they were moved and excited about what they saw and heard,” Judge Camacho commented. Several students echoed their enthusiasm for the opportunity they were afforded that day, including Pre-law Society President Taylor Brown who expressed sincere gratitude for such an amazing opportunity. CSUB Pre-law student Cindy Xiao stated: “This was an enlightening experience. All the judges had highly inspiring stories.” Another student Mariah Martin paralleled that this was “an amazing experience” and she “enjoyed meeting all the judges and learned so much.” Shared Pre-law student Eileen Grimes, “Opportunities such as this, to attend events in the legal community to provide a bigger outlook
on all areas of the law, do not roll around often. Hearing from the judges on their journey’s and perspectives helped motivate me to continue to aim high. . . Being able to interact with Commissioner Cynthia Loo and Judge Raymonda Marquez outside of the courtroom setting, was a reassurance that they
truly are invested in the coming generations of legal professionals. This event has shown me that no matter the path or end goal, one must always be open to other experiences.” The MCBA is pleased to provide the opportunity to share the unique and important work being done in the juvenile
court, and thanks the judges, lawyers, and participants for making it such a worthwhile day for all. Kate Iwanami is a Senior Attorney for the Superior Court and board member for the MCBA
The State Bar of California’s Lawyer Assistance Program The State Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) is here to help lawyers who are grappling with stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse or concerns about their career. Our counselors can offer a free assessment of your situation and help you get the help you need, whether it’s for a mental health issue, substance abuse or a medical condition. (There are some fees if you join a group or need additional services.) Douglass Hull, Director Lawyer Assistance Program 877-LAP-4HELP 877-527-4435 Email: LAP@calbar.ca.gov
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employee investigations and training, as well as developing and preparing employee training and policy manuals. Excellent research tools are provided by the Firm. Salary is commensurate with experience and ability demonstrated after an introductory period. Please contact Thomas Anton & Associates. (661)327-7051; email@example.com
EXECUTIVE OFFICE SPACE AVAILABLE Full service Class “A” downtown fully furnished or unfurnished large executive office with secretarial space available as well. Full time receptionist provided,
with three conference rooms, reserved parking and other services available for $650.00 per month. Please call 661-327-7051 for information and availability.
WATER LAW ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY Established law firm in Bakersfield is seeking an Associate Attorney with approximately 2-5 years of litigation and/or transactional experience to join one of Kern County’s largest Water and Special Districts departments. Water Law or Public Agency Law experience is preferable but not required; willing to train the right candidate. The position’s primary focus will be working with a team of several other attorneys specializing in water resource and related
matters, including matters that involve water rights, contract, property, public agency, and environmental law issues. Applicants must possess strong advocacy, writing, and verbal skills and have case management experience. Salary commensurate with experience and includes a generous benefits package. Qualified applicants should send their cover letter and resume to Allison Stokes at astokes@ youngwooldridge.com.
Mercer is working with the Kern County Bar Association to provide direct access to the State Bar Sponsored Lawyers Professional Liability Insurance Program in a way that supports the KCBA and its mission. For more information please contact: Jack Witherspoon 415-983-5658
Information regarding the State Bar Sponsored Professional Liability, Life Insurance, Accidental Death & Dismemberment and Workers Compensation programs, including easy to complete on-line applications, is available at: www.mybarbenefits.com
ABOUT THE KERN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Joseph D. Hughes President Alekxia Torres-Stallings Vice President Xochitl Garcia Treasurer
Bernard C. Barmann, Jr. Secretary Douglas A. Gosling Past President DIRECTORS Anthony P. Azemika Carol Bracy Gina Cervantes Diana Christian Thomas Feher Stephanie Gutcher Paul Harman James Harvey T. Mark Smith Hunter Starr
ABOUT THE KERN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION CHARITABLE FOUNDATION EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Barry L. Goldner President
PAROLE HEARING POSITIONS
Patrick E. Jennison Vice President
THE BOARD OF PAROLE HEARINGS
Catherine E. Bennett Chief Financial Officer
The Board of Parole Hearings is seeking attorneys to represent inmates throughout the state of California in the parole suitability hearing process.
Susan M. Gill Secretary
Compensation up to $9750 for each week of assigned hearings; preparing and representing multiple inmate clients. For more information regarding the panel attorney appointment program, send an email to: BPH-AttorneyScheduling@cdcr.ca.gov
THE BOARD OF PAROLE HEARINGS htps://www.cdcr.ca.gov/BOPH
DIRECTORS Hon. Tom Clark John Stovall Seth O’Dell T. Mark Smith Joe Hughes Alekxia Torres Stallings JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
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14 KERN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION:
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Federally Insured by NCUA 1 On accounts other than New Solutions Checking, when minimum balances are met. 2 Funds on deposit at Spectrum Credit Union are federally insured up to $250,000 by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Chevron Federal Credit Union dba Spectrum Credit Union. Federally insured by the NCUA.
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ADVOCATUS CAECUS by C.M. Bud Starr For those of you who occasionally read these articles, you may conclude that they are often tirades on one subject or another. I have tried, over the years, not to continue a single tirade through multiple issues of Res Ipsa Loquitur. News from mid and late December, however, have caused me to violate that self-imposed proscription. James Comey, the former director of the FBI, is in my thoughts again. In the midst of widespread news about impeachment, came less sensational reports about the release by Justice Department Inspector General, Michael Horowitz’s report concerning the commencement and processing of the investigation into Trump campaign involvement in the Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential Election. Most news outlets announced the report’s conclusion that commencement of the investigation was not politically motivated, although the Inspector General found seventeen (17) glaring errors in the applications for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). [See Advocatus Caecus, Res Ipsa Loquitur, Sept. 2013.] A couple of days after the October 9 release of the report, Comey announced that he was fully exonerated by the report. It seems, however, that the Inspector General did not agree with this conclusion. The Inspector General has been the witness at Senate Committee Hearings recently. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham asked Horowitz: “The former FBI Director James Comey said this week that your report vindicates him. Is that a fair assessment of your
report?” Horowitz responded: “I think the activities we found here don’t vindicate anybody who touched this FISA.” The Inspector General has also testified that his investigation was limited because he could only interview Justice Department and FBI staff. He had no ability to subpoena and question former staff or other individuals. That is why, when asked in Senate hearings, whether the seventeen atrocious errors and omissions were politically motivated, he responded that they could have been politically motivated or gross negligence. Attorney General William P. Barr has directed a more thorough investigation of the politically sensitive 2016-17 investigation into Trump campaign advisors. In recent weeks, that investigation has apparently become a criminal investigation. That creates a new perspective to analyze James Comey’s October 27, 2018 comments at Politican. He noted, somewhat jokingly, that if President Donald J. Trump were reelected in 2020, he would be further commenting from his new home in New Zealand. Given the Inspector General’s comments and the Justice Department’s criminal investigation, perhaps Mr. Comey should inquire whether the United States has an extradition treaty with New Zealand. About the author: C. M. Starr II is an attorney retired from the District Attorney’s Office. He spends much of his time listening to audiobooks and is currently helping to establish the Kern County College of Law. He writes for Res Ipsa Loquitur as an outlet for his need to pose questions beyond those raised by his former legal work.
EXPECTATIONS OF MILLENNIAL ATTORNEYS T HE GLOBAL BUSINESS consulting group of Cushman & Wakefield estimates that in just six years, more than half of all law offices around the U.S. will be filled with a generation notorious for killing off entire industries and spending an excess amount on avocados.
All jokes aside, Millennials have received their fair share of criticism over the past decade, being described as “lazy” and “entitled” when it comes to how they work and live. In reality, Millennial attorneys aren’t looking for bean bags and foosball tables in the office. Their requests are far more practical. TECHNOLOGY They understand technology, look to it for answers and expect firms to provide the most up-to-date systems and processes. MENTORSHIP HR solutions company TriNet found that nearly 90 percent of Millennials would feel more confident if they received regular check-ins with their superiors. Although independent, this generation of attorneys is still looking to learn and find guidance from firm leadership. FLEXIBILITY The 2019 Mindset of the Millennial Law Student Report found that when law school students were asked to rank various firm attributes, 85 percent said work/life balance was important to them. Despite this reality, many law firms lack insight into the generation, which creates challenges for appealing to and retaining Millennials. According to the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute’s 2019 State of U.S. Small Law Firms Report, 66 percent of attorneys stated technology was the biggest difference among lawyers of different generations, followed closely by work/life balance with 58 percent. What these numbers show is that what worked in the past for your firm might not hit the mark for your Millennial attorneys. By recognizing the difference between previous generations and this group of talent, your law firms will be better positioned to meet their RES IPSA LOQUITUR
expectations. Focus on taking these small, yet effective, steps to motivate and inspire attorneys in your firm. PROVIDE TOOLS TO WORK SMARTER The life of any attorney typically means working untraditional business hours. But offering ways for employees to work in their own time and own space make long hours easier to handle. Legal software such as cloud-based applications, online chat and call services and AI research tools all aid in increased productivity, even when someone might not be in a physical office. This is especially important to Millennials, with 93 percent reporting that working for a company with updated technology, services and solutions was an important factor when choosing a workplace. INCREASE OFFICE ENGAGEMENT Engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to quit their jobs. Finding ways to incorporate engagement in the office doesn’t have to be a difficult task. It could be as simple as setting up monthly happy hours, birthday parties or work anniversary celebrations. And remember to seek your associates’ input on cases, projects and business development efforts. Millennials want to know their voice is being heard. Taking an interest in their opinions is a surefire way to increase workplace satisfaction while decreasing the threat of turnover. IMPLEMENT 360-FEEDBACK According to How Millennials Want to Work and Live, only 17 percent of Millennials say feedback they receive from superiors is meaningful. Because guidance is essential for this generation, firms need to have a clear and frequent way of providing genuine feedback. Methods such as 360-feedback allow each attorney the opportunity to share their opinions with others in the office, creating transparency between leadership and associates while helping promote consistent and open communication in the office. Reprinted with permission by Thompson Reuters. Original article located at: https:// legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/insights/articles/ expectations-of-millennial-attorneys
GBLA’S VOLUNTEER ATTORNEY PROGRAM by Victoria Limbean, Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance
AKE A MOMENT to envision a state of extreme vulnerability. Your hours have been cut at work, you’re struggling to pay the bills, and your children are hungry. Its been raining for a week straight and your roof has a leak that the landlord is refusing to repair. You can’t afford to fix it on your own and now it’s a battle just to keep the family warm. You are trying you best, but its beating down on your mental and physical health. What would you do? This is the reality for many clients when they walk through our doors for help. Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, Inc’s (GBLA) founding philosophies are deeply rooted with antipoverty programs. We represent those who are unable or too afraid to speak for themselves, either because of racial, economic, social, or legal barriers. We have a wide variety of departments and an amazing group of dedicated staff, but one office can still only do so much – especially in a County the size of Kern. This exact reason is why the GBLA Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP) exists. GBLA and the Kern County Bar Association invite local Attorneys, Paralegals, and Law students to assist low-income Kern County residents through the Volunteer Attorney Program. Legal professionals can serve in a variety of ways including: accepting pro-bono case referrals, co-counseling with GBLA Attorneys, assisting with legal research and writing, making court appearances, and offering community workshops in their area of expertise. In 2019, VAP collaborated with 18 Attorneys, four law students, and three legal professionals to contribute over 1,300 hours towards local individuals and families in need. These volunteers assisted clients with cases involving housing, guardianship, consumer debt, conservatorship, employment, and more. One of VAP’s most dedicated volunteers, James Modig, Esq. shared that “the counsel and advice I provide enables many of my clients to avoid pitfalls in their dealings with landlords; and, allows them to establish a managed method of asserting their rights and/or preserving their defenses. I also feel the work RES IPSA LOQUITUR
that I do reduces the number of cases that would otherwise be resolved through litigation” This program helps fill gaps in the services GBLA typically offers, and even expands into other areas. On November 7, 2019, VAP partnered with the Justice Bus Project of OneJustice to provide pro se records clearance workshops and was able to serve 16 participants who received assistance with 71 petitions. Several other expungement clinics were held earlier in the year in collaboration with the Kern County College of Law to help clear records and remove barriers to employment and other opportunities. A variety of workshops are offered monthly by volunteers, and provide basic assistance with topics involving bankruptcy, probate, employment law, and more. These are just a few examples of the impact that VAP makes on our underserved communities. Each volunteer makes a unique difference in these clients’ lives that can keep them going during their hardest times. GBLA is thrilled to have had 17 volunteers who were eligible for the Wiley W. Manuel Certificate of Pro Bono Legal Services in the 2019 cycle. This certificate is awarded by the State Bar of California, and to qualify, the recipient must contribute 50 or more hours of pro bono legal services within a 12-month period. Whether its 1 hour, 50 hours, or 500 hours, pro bono legal help is invaluable for our community. In addition to the impact this work makes on each client, volunteers can also develop contacts, gain experience in litigation, and recover fees from the opposing party when authorized by statute. Please consider getting involved this 2020 to change the lives of our most vulnerable populations in Kern. For more information or to start volunteering, contact Cynthia Bradshaw, GBLA Volunteer Attorney Program Coordinator, at 661-321-3996 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you!
Ana Sanchez | Hon. Robert Anspach JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
FAMILY LAW SECTION UPDATE by Jeremy D. Swanson, Esq.
HE FAMILY LAW Section of the Kern County Bar Association has long been one of the most active sections, maintaining regular monthly MCLE programs, keeping lines of communication open on logistics and courtroom issues with the bench, and providing opportunities for camaraderies and socializing amongst members. Continuing education is particularly important in family law because the California Family Code has been undergoing significant changes each year due to evolving social issues and shifting legislative priorities. The changes to case law are also significant from year to year. For this reason, the Family Law Section regularly brings in the top speakers in the state, including Judge Thomas Trent Lewis (the presiding family law judge for Los Angeles County) and specialists who contribute to the CEB and Rutter Group guides, such as Ron Granberg. A high level of educational content has long been considered to be the key to a vital and useful section, and remains a main focus and project of the board. The sectionâ€™s main social event each year is the annual Christmas Party. The nature of family law, and the emotions involved, is that the litigation tends to be contentious and tense. Frequent court hearings means that litigators see each other literally on an every-day basis. The party, traditionally held at the Petroleum Club, allows attorneys put a close to a year of arguments and disagreements, and also to thank the court staff that deals with the mountains of paperwork that family law entails. This year, an award was also given to out-going judge Marcos Camacho, thanking him for his time in family law and his hard work. He will be replaced in Division D by Judge Chad Louie, who was also present to meet many of the people that he will be working with on a daily basis on January 1. The board for 2019 consisted of Section President Jeremy D. Swanson, Vice-President Jeffrey Travis, Treasurer Edward Thomas, Secretary Diana Christian, and board members Nicholas Azemika, Anthony Azemika, Stephanie Childers, and Keith Cramer. RES IPSA LOQUITUR
Vincent Gorski | Jacqueline Bahena
Hon. Marcos Camacho | Hon. Gloria Cannon
Hon. Susan Gill | Mike Kilpatrick | Seth Oâ€™Dell | Hon. Chad Louie JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF MEDIATION by Bernard C. Barmann, Jr. PART 2 - DECIDE WHETHER YOU ARE READY FOR MEDIATION
HIS IS THE second installment in a series of articles in which I provide some tips for getting the most out to mediation. In this series, I will cover the following three topics: • • •
Topic 1—Positioning a case for mediation Topic 2—Using the mediator effectively. Topic 3—Negotiating effectively.
This article is part 2 of Topic 1. In this article, I discuss timing—deciding whether you are ready to mediate. In a perfect world parties would agree to mediate as soon as possible after their disputes arise. In the real world, however, people are often inclined to do the opposite and wait until the eve of trial. One reason for this is that most people recognize that concessions can often be obtained when the other side is faced with a deadline, and for most litigants the deadline does not occur until they are faced with going to trial. Also, most people want to avoid the uncertainty of trial, and as they get closer to that moment of truth they become more inclined toward compromise. Of course, the psychological pressure of a looming trial and the uncertainty that brings works both ways— your side may also be more inclined to granting concessions and compromising the closer to trial you wait to engage in mediation. To evaluate whether you are ready to mediate a dispute, ask yourself three questions: IS ENOUGH KNOWN ABOUT THE DISPUTE? In negotiation, information is key. To effectively negotiate a settlement you need to have a reasonable degree of confidence in your understanding of the facts and the supporting evidence. Often our clients have all the information we need out of the gate, but sometimes there are RES IPSA LOQUITUR
gaps in the evidence that need to be filled in or factual disputes that need to be addressed before the parties can effectively negotiate with each other. If you can identify those information gaps early, some focused investigation or discovery can get you in a position where you are ready to mediate. IS ENOUGH KNOWN ABOUT THE PARTIES? In addition to knowing the facts, to effectively negotiate on behalf of your client and get the best available settlement that meets their needs you need to know your client and their interests. It also helps to have at least basic information about the other
parties tick and understand their interests, in other words, what makes them tick. ARE THE LAWYERS AND THE PARTIES OF THE RIGHT MINDSET TO FULLY AND HONESTLY PARTICIPATE IN THE MEDIATION? You already will have a mediation mindset as discussed in the first article in this series. But if your client or the other side is not in the right frame of mind, mediation can be difficult if not a total waste of time. Putting aside any animosity between the parties, you must assess whether the other side is likely to be willing to at least listen to what you and your client have to say and to share their own perspective on the dispute with an aim toward reaching some reasonable resolution. If the other side has made it clear, however, that they are not interested in negotiating, you may need to work on their mindset, which you can do in a variety of ways, including by diligently and aggressively preparing your case for trial and signaling to them that you are not afraid to try the case. ALWAYS CONSIDER EARLY MEDIATION Many disputes are ready for mediation before a lawsuit is filed or shortly thereafter. An early mediation can be an opportunity for a plaintiff to reconsider an ill-advised lawsuit. If it is a “thin” case, the plaintiff may want to settle before a lot of time and expense have been put into it. Even the better cases will sometimes lend themselves to an early mediation. For example, an injured plaintiff may be interested in an early resolution in order to alleviate a financial hardship. In these situations the lawyers will first need to investigate the facts, do the necessary discovery and allow the defense the opportunity to make an intelligent evaluation of the claim. Accelerating your preparation will be the key. TALK TO OPPOSING COUNSEL If you are wondering whether it is the right time to mediate, the best way to find out probably is to talk to your opposing counsel. Find out if she feels that the case is ready to settle, and the reasons why or why not. It can also be helpful to have the mediator speak confidentially with both sides in advance to find out if they are ready to resolve the case. YOU’RE NEVER TOO FAR APART TO MEDIATE One of the most common reasons you hear when lawyers say their case isn’t ready for mediation is that the parties are too far apart. Another common reason given is that “it would be a waste of time because the other
side is so unreasonable.” This is when mediation is most appropriate. If the parties were already close, they would settle without help. It is precisely because the parties are so polarized that they could use a mediator to help. Many cases that were thought to be hopeless have settled at mediation. Parties that have been litigating for years and unable to resolve their differences in the adversarial system often find, to their surprise, that mediation can lead to settlement. Most cases in mediation begin with the parties at opposite ends of the spectrum. The parties disagree about responsibility or other important matters. When numbers are put on the table, the initial demands and offers sound like they are not even in the same ballpark. The trick is to get a dialog started and then to keep it going because the longer the parties talk the closer they will usually get to a solution. JUST DO IT—GET TO THE TABLE Many disagreements are grounded in emotion rather than reason, and it takes time for emotions to subside. Mediation facilitates this dissipation of emotion and opens the door to possible resolution. So my advice to parties who are unsure about entering into mediation would be to just do it. Bernie Barmann is a mediator and business trial attorney who for thirty years has effectively represented businesses and individuals in a wide variety of civil disputes in state and federal courts throughout California and in other jurisdictions.
Board of Parole Hearings State of California Administrative Law Judge I Positions Available Statewide
Monthly Salary Range: $8,984.00-$11,300.00 Benefits: Health Insurance (health, dental, vision) and retirement plan Regional Office Locations: Sacramento, Fresno, Wasco and Chino Job Description & Duties: An Administrative Law Judge I presides over Suitability and Mentally Disordered Offender hearings at prisons statewide, writes decisions on Nonviolent Offender Parole, Administrative Reviews, Petitions to Advance and Parole Discharge. MQs: 1) Active member in good standing with California State Bar; 2) five years of experience practicing law; 3) two years of experience in judicial capacity (defined as judge pro tem, mediator, arbitrator, hearing officer conducting interrogatories, depositions and other inquiries). Some criminal experience is helpful, but not required. Apply at: CalCareers https://calcareers.ca.gov. Create an account and complete the test titled “Administrative Law Judge I, Board of Parole Hearings.” Mail Examination Application and Qualification Assessment as indicated in the job posting. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
KCCL SCHOLARSHIPS by Pamela L. Starr, Kern County College of Law
N NOVEMBER 14, 2019, Kern County College of Law (KCCL) announced the recipients of their first ever scholarship
Dawn Alejandro received the Veterans scholarship award, Ajab Gill received the Academic Achievement award, and Jazmin Barba-Suarez received the Academic Excellence award. Dawn Alejandro and Ajab Gill are in their third year of legal studies, and Jazmin Barba-Suarez is in her second year. Each recipient shared a lunch with the Campus Dean and the Assistant to the Campus Dean at B.J.s Restaurant and got to discuss their plans for their future legal endeavors.
As a new law school, KCCL has not had the history or support to yet establish sustaining scholarships. The school has, however, slowly collected a few dollars to help support their hard-working students. The first KCCL students will be eligible for the Bar examination in 2021. The KCCL professors and administration, as well as the administration from our primary campus in Monterey are hoping that these scholarship recipients can lead the way for their classmates in preparing for that daunting challenge. KCCL will expect to give three scholarships next fall. Anyone who is willing to financially help these hardworking students is invited to contact the school and donate to our scholarship program.
SAFEGUARDING YOUR PRACTICE AGAINST WIRE FRAUD
Our strength is your insurance
Have you received a request for a wire transfer? Before moving forward with disbursement of any funds entrusted to you, consider the following:
Wire fraud generally involves an attempt to defraud your ﬁrm, your client and could damage your reputation; therefore consider implementing the following:
• Receiving an urgent email to disburse funds. • Communication that does not match original wire instructions. • Slight variations on an email address of the sender. • Communication request via email only (without verbal instructions). • Messages from the sender using incorrect spelling or odd phrases. • Incoming phone call requests from an unfamiliar contact number. • Request for an urgent wire transfer after receiving an unexpected check from your client.
• Ensure well-deﬁned protocols are in place for all wire transfers. • Initiate verbal authorization no matter the urgency of the request. • Institute electronic security and authentication controls. • Educate employees on the risks associated with phishing schemes. • Refer back to your clients’ primary cotact information. • Regularly update spam ﬁlters and ﬁrewalls. • Before initiating any wire transfer, always call your client.
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SCAN & VISIT
THE RENAISSANCE CORNER G
In this issue’s installment, Timothy Swanson reviews Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin. O TELL IT On The Mountain is James Baldwin’s most autobiographical book, with the characters drawn largely from his own family. The book is told largely from the point of view of John Grimes, a 14 year old young man growing up in Harlem in the 1930s. He is intelligent and sensitive, and fits the mold of a person who sincerely, desperately, wants to be good and to be loved. John is essentially Baldwin himself. The book is divided into three sections. The first, entitled “The Seventh Day,” sets the stage, introducing the characters, and takes place during the greater part of a typical Saturday in John’s life—but a day that would lead to a great change in him. The central struggle for John is his competing desires. On the one hand, he wishes to break free from his fundamentalist—and fanatical— stepfather; on the other, he is drawn toward his stepfather’s religion and toward the ideal of salvation. John’s stepfather, Gabriel, is both extremely religious and also violent against his family; John’s mother, Elizabeth, has had a hard life, and wishes the best for her children, but is blamed by Gabriel for their faults. John’s half-brother Roy, is as stubborn and rebellious as his father was. The middle section is subdivided into three parts. It is entitled “The Prayers of the Saints,” and each subsection tells the backstory of a character largely from that character’s point of view. So, we hear of aunt Florence, who eventually escaped from her life in the South, caring for her invalid mother and putting up with the drunken debauchery of her brother Gabriel. Her life in the North isn’t much better, as she suffers through an abusive marriage and poverty. We next hear of Gabriel, who battles his demons through his religious convictions, but has a humiliating failure that haunts him and that he hopes is not discovered. Finally, we hear from Elizabeth, who experiences a tragic love (which results in the conception of John), and who must balance her own guilt and regret with her duties to her children and husband. RES IPSA LOQUITUR
One of the things that I truly loved about this book was Baldwin’s amazing ability to empathize with his characters. His own stepfather was as violent and unloving as Gabriel, and yet, Baldwin portrays him as a complex and startlingly sympathetic character. As far as that goes, he dedicates the book to his mother and father—and I believe he means his stepfather. (He refers to Gabriel as John’s father throughout the book, in recognition of the fact that Gabriel raises John.) To
take a person who was abusive, haunted by his own demons, and who was fatally conflicted between his guilt on behalf of his own wayward biological son, and his jealousy of the docile nature of his stepson, and make him into a character that can be understood and pitied takes a level of grace and charity that is rare. The final section is entitled “The Threshing Floor,” and tells of John’s conversion experience and his own epiphany in his life’s journey. Baldwin portrays the complex relationship that the African American community has had with religion. On the one hand, it was and remains a source of community, solidarity, and inspiration. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most inspiring ideals sprang in significant part from his faith, and that faith was in so many ways a binding factor in the Civil Rights Movement. On the other hand, though, religion has also served as an agent of repression and an enabler of hypocrisy. Gabriel is able to “rule” his family with a violent hand in large part because of his beliefs. He is convinced that he must beat the wickedness out of his son Roy lest he meet the violent and tragic fate of his illegitimate son— the first Royal. Likewise, Gabriel believes (wrongly) that it is Elizabeth’s softness that has led Roy to rebel, and thus he beats her while blaming her for Roy’s choices. Gabriel cannot see that Roy cannot respect his father, because Roy realizes that Gabriel is a total hypocrite,
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unable to control his own passions or be loving to his family. Obviously, these dynamics exist in a variety of communities, not just the one that Baldwin describes. The story becomes even more interesting, though, when one follows the progression of Baldwin’s life past the end of the book. At the end of the book, John has his salvation experience. He becomes “saved” both from an outside perspective and from his own. He feels he has met God. James Baldwin had a similar experience at age 14. He would go on to become a Pentecostal preacher like his stepfather. But after that, things changed. In his late teens, Baldwin became disillusioned with religion. As he later explained to Elijah Mohammed (one of the early leaders of the Nation of Islam), “being in the pulpit was like working in the theatre; I was behind the scenes and knew how the illusion was worked.” It wasn’t just the hypocrisy, though. Baldwin was gay, as he came to realize. You can see the genesis of this (in the book) in John’s obvious attraction to his cousin Elijah, which he sublimates into a religious adoration. Later, Baldwin would write more controversial works about sexuality, which led to him being marginalized in the Civil Rights movement. (At the time, homosexuality was associated with communism and generally treated as suspect, so his existence was inconvenient for the
movement.) There are some lines I think are worth quoting. First is Roy’s response to his mother who tries to convince him that he is lucky to have a father who works to support him. “Yeah, we don’t know how lucky we is to have a father what don’t want you to go to movies, and don’t want you to play in the streets, and don’t want you to have no friends, and he don’t want this and he don’t want that, and he don’t want you to do nothing. We so lucky to have a father who just wants us to go to church and read the Bible and beller like a fool in front of the altar and stay home all nice and quite, like a little mouse. Boy, we sure is lucky, all right. Don’t know what I done to be so lucky.” A little later, after Roy gets into a fight, Florence takes her brother to task: “Don’t you worry about my language, brother,” she said with spirit, “you better start worrying about your life. What these children hear ain’t going to do them near as much harm as what they see.” “What they see,” his father muttered, “is a poor man trying to serve the Lord. That’s my life.” “Then I guarantee you,” she said, “that they going to do their best to keep it from being their life. You mark my words.” Near the end of the book, when Florence confronts Gabriel with the way he treated his baby-momma years ago, he tries to wiggle out of it by claiming he is past all of that and just following the Lord. “And if you have been but a stumbling stone here below?” she said. “If you done caused souls right and left to stumble and fall, and lose their happiness, and lose their souls? What then, prophet? What
AREAS OF PRACTICE GUIDE Advertise in this area. Contact the KCBA at info@ Paul Lafranchise The Lafranchise Law Firm email@example.com (661) 549-2737 Employment law on behalf of employees only, including wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and wage-and-hour violations.
then, the Lord’s anointed? Ain’t no reckoning going to be called of you? What you going to say when the wagon comes?”
He lifted up his head, and she saw the tears mingled with his sweat. “The Lord,” he said, “He sees the heart--He sees the heart.” “Yes,” she said, “but I done read the Bible, too, and it tells me you going to know the tree by its fruit. What fruit I seen from you if it ain’t been just sin and sorrow and shame?” And this is indeed a question for all of us to ponder. If all we have left behind us is a trail of destruction and shame, what matters it if we have keep some sort of theological orthodoxy? One final one. This comes from the story of the young Gabriel, in his first days as a preacher, when he is naive, and also a bit full of himself. He has not yet taken his first real fall, but he can recognize the hypocrisy in some fellow preachers. They seemed to him so lax, so nearly worldly; they were not like those holy prophets of old who grew thin and naked in the service of the Lord. These, God’s ministers, had indeed grown fat, and their dress was rich and various. They had been in the field so long that they did not tremble before God anymore. They took God’s power as their due, as something that made the more exciting their own assured, special atmosphere. They each had, it seemed, a bagful of sermons often preached; and they knew, in the careless lifting of an eye, which sermon to bring to which congregation. The young Gabriel never wants to “hold the gift of God so lightly.” And yet he too, cannot really grasp the point, as he himself cannot learn to show love. It’s either showmanship or hellfire and legalism for Gabriel. He finds he has neither the talent to be a successful showman nor the ability to live up to his own standards, so he compensates by loading rules and pressure on his family. Baldwin’s writing is perceptive and thoughtful, and he brings the psychology of his characters to life. I try to read at least one book by an African American author for Black History Month (February) each year. This book is a worthwhile selection. Timothy Swanson is a local attorney. He and wife, Amanda, are the parents of five children. Swanson also performs as a violinist in the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra.
INTERVIEW WITH ANTON LABRENTZ
WHAT DREW YOU TO LAW AS A PROFESSION? LABRENTZ: I have always been drawn to serving others. I saw the law as one avenue to permit me to do so while at the same time affording me with a good education and the ability to provide for a family. Plus, Hollywood made it look pretty cool to be a lawyer. And I like Abe Lincoln, whose’s the paradigm of cool.. HOW DID YOU COME TO SELECT YOUR LEGAL SPECIALTY? LABRENTZ: I didn’t. It selected me. I was at a mom and pop burger joint in Shafter when I struck up a conversation with my current boss’s sister in law, which later landed a job interview. I had excelled in trusts and estates a decade before in law school and my love for it was rediscovered on my first day at my then new job. Next year marks number four with Darling & Wilson, PC. IF YOU DIDN’T BECOME A LAWYER, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE PROFESSIONALLY? LABRENTZ: An underwater welder or race car driver. Either those or a cowboy. But it’s hard to compete with good trade jobs like plumbers and electricians so one of those would have been a good fit for my kinesthetic personality. WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR CAREER? LABRENTZ: Finding a positive resolution to a matter that otherwise seemed insurmountable. They exist. And they are wonderful to witness. WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU DEAL WITH REGULARLY IN LAW WHERE YOU HAVE TO TAKE A DEEP BREATH AND STEEL YOURSELF TO START WORKING? LABRENTZ: Mondays. That and billables. I’m sure I’ve given away more free time than I care to admit. But I’m a ferocious biller and often healthily compete with my colleagues for the monthly title. IF YOU WERE TO SPEAK AT A HIGH SCHOOL ABOUT ENTERING LAW AS A CAREER, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY? LABRENTZ: Like any profession, the law isn’t perfect. It’s subject to human error and emotion and unlike the physical sciences isn’t static or predictable. Law slowly reacts to social norms and mores, which sometimes produces unusual results. The results that are often born, however, are those that are a direct cause of the work contributed. What goes in, comes out. To that extent, lawyers can make a sizable impact on real life issues, often correcting circumstances that have derailed people’s lives. A career in law is rewarding and the education and training required can be used across professions. It is also something no one can ever take away from you. Now if only they’d all just start calling us Dr.... WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE KCBA EVENT OR ACTIVITY AND WHY? LABRENTZ: This past year I have been given the fortunate opportunity to choreograph seminars for members of the KCBA on various topics from people around the tri-counties. Getting to meet other professionals and allowing them to share their wisdom experience with our local bar has been educational and makes us all better. I’ve also got to meet and befriend some pretty neat people. WHY ARE YOU A MEMBER OF THE KERN COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION? LABRENTZ: So I can write about myself in a RIL article - aren’t we known for loving to talk about ourselves? That, and the opportunity to work with and serve others. Hobnobbing with dear colleagues and meeting new ones is also a great perk. We’re a small but great legal community and of that I am proud. FINISH THE SENTENCE “IN MY FREE TIME, YOU’LL FIND ME...” LABRENTZ: ...outdoors. Our profession spends enough time within the confines of four walls. When not at the office, I’m outside with my kids playing in the dirt.
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THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM I by Brian Cuban
RECENTLY GOT TOGETHER for lunch with a long-time friend. He is a senior partner at a very respected, mid-size firm in Dallas-about sixty lawyers. In the course of catching up, we discussed my work/advocacy with regard to wellness in the legal profession. I asked him if he or his firm had taken notice of the push for more awareness. Here is what he had to say: He cares that his collogues and friends are doing well as individuals. If they are struggling with substance use or problem drinking issues, he hopes they would come to him. He, however, does not care about lawyer wellness as a profession-wide initiative. To the best of his knowledge, his firm as a whole, does not care. He is not aware of anyone at any level, ever broaching the topic. He had not heard of the ABA/Hazelden Betty Ford study on the subject. He had no idea what the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) does. He cares intensely about the following: a) His family b) Servicing firm clients 3) Maintaining his lifestyle If a client project requires a ninety-hour week, so be it. This is the nature of the profession we chose. As he ticked through his viewpoints, I could feel the tips of my fingers begin to tingle. The temperature at our tiny table, in a small, crowded restaurant, seemed to rise ten degrees. Sweat formed behind my ear lobes. I was angry. I had no reason to be angry. He was being honest. Did I expect him to lie about the realities of the profession beyond my bubble
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of confirmation bias? The echo chamber of fellow warriors of wellness? He articulated the elephant in the room when we talk about such things. Other real-life priorities of diverse individuals. Mary Meditation, Millie Mindfulness, and Joe Yoga are great, but they don’t bill. Whether this seems shortsighted in the face of the mentalhealth crisis the study lays out, many don’t know or don’t care regardless. This seems to be especially the case outside of Biglaw. Work, family and other priorities don’t leave much time for Mary, Millie, or Joe. Time is a prime asset that cannot be recovered. Within the billable and client-responsive realm of our profession, it must be rationed to maintain the prime directives of day to day life. Friends, family, clients, and lifestyle. Mortgage, rent, car payments, massive school debt, a sliver of social life; all can be threatened by any hint of not being a team player
It becomes more complicated when we drop below Biglaw. A lawyer may not have an EAP. He/ she/they/them may know about their lawyer’s assistance program but assume it’s only for “alcoholics and addicts”. I know many who don’t trust their LAP despite messaging that it is confidential. The lawyer may not have health insurance or have such a high deductible that for anything major, they are defacto uninsured. All of this can add up to the fear, insecurity and drive to put money in the bank that makes the high hour work-week an acceptable
reality. We get the resulting vacuum in which the practice of law is pretty much what it was ten years ago in terms of priorities and views on wellness. I asked my friend to expand on our irritating lunch discussion He graciously agreed. When I first started practicing law in 1985, no lawyer I knew had a computer. I worked for a large downtown law firm, which had a Word Processing division—but secretaries were obligated to type any document shorter than eight pages long (which meant re-typing for any significant changes that could not be corrected with Whiteout). Longer documents were put in your secretary’s outbox to be picked up by the intra-office mail person, who would take it to the Word Processing room. A document that went in intraoffice mail at, say, 4:00 pm in the afternoon would be delivered back to your secretary’s inbox at around 10:00 am the next morning. You would hand mark your changes—and then put it back in intraoffice mail. As a result, trading documents with attorneys for the other side in litigation or a corporate transaction was slow, and delays were expected. In other words, the turnaround cycle for legal work matched the rhythms of life, and you could leave the office for dinner and socialization at a decent hour. A large corporate transaction might take five or six months.
Now, with ubiquitous computers and tablets, with editable Word documents that can quickly be duped and revised, cut and pasted by the attorneys themselves, documents have doubled and tripled in length, and the complexity has increased correspondingly. With e-mail and texts, documents can be zipped around the world in different time zones with the click of a Send key, so the turnaround time for large corporate deals has shrunken to sometimes 60 days or fewer. And now with ubiquitous WIFI and cellular hotspots, you can work anywhere, on a plane, in your car, on a dock by the bay—so clients, with compressed deal times, expect you to. Frequently, you’ll see a client’s name pop up on your office phone. When you don’t answer, your cell phone will ring. When you don’t answer that, they text you. The expectation is that you’re always available. If you’re on vacation, great — but that just means that they expect you to get the document out before your wife and kids get up for breakfast. And if you’re not willing to be always accessible, you’ll lose the client to another lawyer who will.
We’re all in a race to the bottom to ruin our lives. And by the way, partners expect associates to be always on, too, so if a client needs something at 10:00 pm on a Sunday night, the partner expects the associate to hop right on it. We don’t care where the associate is. We’re feeling heat from the client, so we need always-on responsiveness from the junior attorney. So, we drink to calm down at the end of the day. For some of us, every day. For senior attorneys who are in the later stages of our careers and are making a bunch of money, we can look at our brokerage statements and gut it out for the five or six years to retirement—as we grind the junior attorneys who work for us. For the junior attorneys who work for us, life is miserable—and they’re looking at a long career of misery in front of them, so I can understand why they are likely depressed or have substance abuse problems. But we don’t give much thought to that (and, at mid-sized or smaller firms, are not trained to look out for or give any thought
to it). As noted above, clients are bombarding me with demands 24/7/365. I need my associates to be responsive in the same timeframe. If they are slow in responding or are slow in turning workaround, or turn in inadequate work, I don’t have time to counsel them. I move on to another associate. Too much emphasis on billing and collecting to add counseling services to the mix. It’s very Darwinian. There you have it. It’s anecdotal, but don’t kid yourself. It’s not an outlier. Those who advocate are doing great in getting the message those in the rarified air of Biglaw. We have a lot of work to do below that, where the majority of the profession resides. Brian Cuban (@bcuban) is The Addicted Lawyer. Brian is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Addicted Lawyer: Tales Of The Bar, Booze, Blow & Redemption. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he somehow made it through as an alcoholic then added cocaine to his resume as a practicing attorney. He went into recovery April 8, 2007. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2020
YOU SOUND WHITE— I CAN’T HIRE YOU by H. Dennis Beaver, Attorney at Law
I AM A recent college graduate with a degree in business administration and applied for a sales job at a black-owned insurance agency. Within seconds of meeting the owner for an interview, he said, ‘You will do well anywhere except here! Even though we are both black, you sound like a white TV anchor! Our clients come from the black part of town, and hiring you would cost me business. Some time ago, when I hired a black gal who sounded white, the other employees gave her the cold shoulder and my agency lost business. It’s unfair, but reality.’ “Mr. Beaver, I came from a family of teachers who respected the English language. They spoke Standard American English and over the phone you would never know their race. “At my mostly black university, it was crazy—because I both spoke and wrote grammatically correct English, most black students shunned me, but I was welcome among the white and Hispanic kids. In fact, in my entire life, I only felt racism and bias from blacks, not from any other race! I have been accused of being a traitor to the black race! “But what about this insurance company? This is discrimination, isn’t it? Friends have suggested filing a complaint with the EEOC. What do you recommend? Thanks, ‘Teddy.’” CAN AN EMPLOYER BASE A HIRING DECISION ON ACCENT OR LANGUAGE FLUENCY? I ran Teddy’s extremely interesting RES IPSA LOQUITUR
situation by attorney Ernest Haffer with the Office of Legal Counsel at the EEOC, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C. “Can an employer base a hiring decision on poor language skills or accent?” I asked. “You need to examine what language skills are needed for the job,” he replied. “A telephone receptionist would need much better abilities than a custodian, for example. “When it comes to accents— typically foreign accents—the issue boils down to this question: Does the accent interfere with the applicant’s ability to communicate on the job? Does the person’s accent materially interfere with job duties? “Teddy’s situation has one more significant element: Race. He is black and was facing racial discrimination by a black employer. It is illegal to base a hiring decision on the applicant having a black accent, or sounding white. Would it materially interfere with his job duties? We might find the employer’s assumption that it would to be illegal and file an action against him. “Also, customer preference can’t be the basis for discrimination, or attitude of co-workers, even if the employer has been in a similar situation before. If Teddy were hired and did not perform—loses sales—and the criteria for who to keep and who to let go is applied neutrally—he could be let go,
but not because of the way he sounded,” Haffer concluded. TO BUSINESS THIS IS A LOSELOSE SITUATION I spoke with a number of HR people in the worlds of insurance and media advertising for their opinion. All were sympathetic to Teddy, but felt, as did “Pete,” an advertising manager for a Northern California media group, who stressed common sense business realities. “We buy from the people we like, trust and admire. If a job is primarily, or initially “over the phone, “your voice is a great tool. However, if you sound markedly different from the typical client, this could represent a difficult challenge. “So, to a local insurance broker who works with predominantly black customers, it would be well
within the realm of common sense to want to hire people who have a higher likelihood of identifying on a personal level with his prospective clientele. “This is a lose-lose situation. If he hires Teddy, from experience he knows that his sales will not be as good as someone else who “sounds black.” End result: the owner loses money. If he doesn’t hire him for “not sounding black enough,” he will probably lose a lawsuit and lose money. Even if the employer wins, he has to pay legal fees. And voila, welcome to the paradigm of modern day American business where common sense has little place.” WHAT DO EMPLOYMENT LAWYERS SAY? I ran this by several employment lawyers and received varying recommendations for Teddy. Could be file a claim with EEOC? Yes, he could, or, if he were in California, with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment. “But should he, that is the question,” Southern California attorney “Trisha” told me, asking that her name not be revealed. At his young age, this is not the time to establish a presence online as someone who sues an employer. If advised by an attorney to file a complaint, he must ask himself this question; “Who has more to benefit—me or the attorney who takes the case?” Dennis Beaver Practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to (661) 323-7993, or e-mailed to Lagombeaver1@Gmail.com.
2020 KCBA SECTION LEADERSHIP CRIMINAL DEFENSE SECTION Elliott Magnus, President Mai Shawwa, Vice President Timothy Hennessy, Treasurer Emily de Leon, Secretary ESTATE PLANNING AND PROBATE Anton H. Labrentz, President Joshua G. Wilson, Vice President Anton H. Labrentz, Treasurer Stevie Jo McDonald, Secretary WOMEN LAWYERS SECTION Stephanie Gutcher, President Tara Deal, Vice President Mayra Estrada, Treasurer Julia Vlahos, Secretary Leanne Wilder, Stephanie Bouey, Alisyn Palla, Vanessa Sanchez, Emily Stearwalt MULTI-CULTURAL BAR ALLIANCE Pinky Ghuman, Co-Chairs Claudia Lopez, Secretary Esther Schlareth, Treasurer Marcos Rodriguez, Advisor YOUNG LAWYERS SECTION Hunter Starr, Chair Sam Van Eerden, Vice Chair Alekxia Torres-Stallings, Immediate Past Chair IN-HOUSE COUNSEL Nicholas Ashley, President Melissa Frank, Vice President Michael Abril, Treasurer Alyssa Reed, Secretary FAMILY LAW SECTION Jeremy Swanson, President Jeffrey Travis, Vice President Edward Thomas, Treasurer Anthony Azemika, Secretary Board Members Nicholas P. Azemika, Stephanie Childers, Keith Cramer, Diana Christian
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MCBA TRIVIA NIGHT [photos by Nick Ellis]
RES IPSA LOQUITUR
2020 INSTALLATION DINNER [photos by Nick Ellis]
2020 INSTALLATION DINNER [photos by Nick Ellis]
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2020 INSTALLATION DINNER [photos by Nick Ellis]
2020 INSTALLATION DINNER [photos by Nick Ellis]
KCBA MEMBERSHIP UPDATE FOR NOVEMBER/DECEMBER NEW MEMBERS MICHAEL “DD” DONALDSON Michael “DD” Donaldson Attorney at Law 20833 Lake View Drive California City, CA 93305 760-770-0723 firstname.lastname@example.org
EMMANUEL F. FOBI Law Office of Emmanuel F. Fobi 131 Chester Avenue Bakersfield, CA 93301 661-631-0280
SEBASTIAN SWAIN-GILL 1216 L Street Bakersfield, CA 93301 661-213-9142 email@example.com
DANIEL RUDNICK Colemam & Horrowitt, LLP 201 New Stine Road, 300 Bakersfield, CA 93309 559-248-4820
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BERNARD BARMANN, JR. Kuhs & Parker 1200 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 200 Bakersfield, CA 93301 661-322-4004 firstname.lastname@example.org
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rodriguezel@kerncounty. org RENWALS ROBERT KUHS Kuhs & Parker 1200 Truxtun Avenue, Suite 200 Bakersfield, CA 93301 661-322-4004 rgkuhs@kuhsparkerlaw. com
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