Attorney Journal, San Diego, Volume 180

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Volume 180, 2018 $6.95

Balancing Act— Lawyers, Time, and Life

Roberta Tepper Is There Gold in Your File Cabinet?

William Turley California Case Summaries Civil

Monty A. McIntyre

13 “MORE” SEO Specialists Share Their Best Tips for Lawyers

Chris Dreyer

Growing Your Practice: Small Law Firm Quick Guide

Bill Tilley

Law Firm of the Month

The Founders Group, San Diego

Finding the Best Answer to “What’s Next” in Business Transition Planning



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2018 EDITION—NO.180

TABLE OF CONTENTS 6 Balancing Act— Lawyers, Time, and Life by Roberta Tepper

10 California Case Summaries Civil™ Organized Succinct Summaries of New Civil Cases by Monty A. McIntyre EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor

12 Community News

EDITOR Wendy Price

14 Growing Your Practice Small Law Firm Quick Guide

CREATIVE SERVICES Skidmutro Creative Partners CIRCULATION Angela Watson


PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Griffiths STAFF WRITERS Dan Baldwin Jennifer Hadley CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Roberta Tepper Monty A. McIntyre Bill Tilley William Turley Chris Dreyer WEBMASTER Mariusz Opalka ADVERTISING INQUIRIES SUBMIT AN ARTICLE OFFICE 30211 Avenida De Las Banderas Suite 200 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688 ADDRESS CHANGES Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail.



16 The Founders Group, San Diego Finding the Best Answer to “What’s Next” in Business Transition Planning by Dan Baldwin

24 13 “MORE” SEO Specialists Share Their Best Tips for Lawyers by Trey Ryder

28 Is There Gold in Your File Cabinet? How to Really Help Your Clients and Make Money by William Turley


Editorial material appears in Attorney Journal as an informational service for readers. Article contents are the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of Attorney Journal. Attorney Journal makes every effort to publish credible, responsible advertisements. Inclusion of product advertisements or announcements does not imply endorsement. Attorney Journal is a trademark of Sticky Media, LLC. Not affiliated with any other trade publication or association. Copyright 2018 by Sticky Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from Sticky Media, LLC. Printed in the USA







“Rick is one of the best lawyers in the country. I call him every time I have any issue in Nevada and would not hesitate to refer him any type of case ofPERSONAL any size.” INJURY PA RTNER ~ C. Michael Alder, Esq., Alder Law, Los Angeles, California CAALA Past President and Former Trial Lawyer of the Year

“I recently co-counseled a serious Las Vegas injury case with Rick Harris and his law firm. Rick’s advocacy and skills are extraordinary, and were instrumental in resolving and maximizing our client’s sizable recovery.” ~ Carl Wolf, Esq., Callaway & Wolf Northern California Super Lawyers San Francisco, California

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Balancing Act— Lawyers, Time, and Life by Roberta Tepper

Finally, it is all coming together. You’re licensed. You are ready to practice on your own, in a firm or in some other setting. You’ve networked; you have prospective clients; you are getting referrals. It’s all falling into place. But is it all too much? There are so many demands on your time—clients, the court, friends, family, your pet—everyone wants some of your time. You are constantly running, worried about getting behind, missing something, or not having time to see friends and family, a movie, binge-watch your favorite series, or just get a good night’s sleep. Welcome to the balancing act. This is the challenge—how to build and grow your practice, provide great service to your clients, but allow yourself to have the life you’ve hoped a lucrative practice would provide. On the one hand, you don’t want to turn away clients or have them hire someone else. On the other hand, you are earning a decent income, would love to take a vacation, spend quality time with friends or family, or pursue the interests you set aside while you were in school and studying for the bar. The solution is not easy, but it’s simple. It will take discipline and determination, but it’s doable. It’s not rocket science: you should set priorities for your professional and personal lives, and then prioritize tasks and effectively manage your time. Certainly, some factors will always be out of your control and will be challenging—court dates, deadlines, and the uncertainty that comes with dealing with other people and their own priorities. Nonetheless, imposing some order on the chaos is necessary if you are going to thrive personally and professionally in the marathon that is the successful practice of law. So, how can you achieve balance? First, take a deep breath


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

and focus. No one thinks best under stress. Now that you have cleared the chaos from your mind, at least temporarily, here are a few tips.

Learn—and then consistently use a time management strategy There are as many books, theories, and guides to time management as there are days of the year. Not all of them work equally well for everyone, but they share some commonalities. “To do” lists tend to become repositories of all the tasks and goals you want to achieve; what you need is a “to finish” list. Take some time daily—not a long time, perhaps 15 minutes at the beginning of the day—to prioritize the three to five things that you must finish that day. Not just start but finish. Now, how much time will each of those tasks require? Make sure to allot the time necessary. Initially, you may not be expert at estimating the time needed for each, and a task may roll over to the next day’s “to finish” list. But you’ll get better at it. Set a specific day and time of the week for administrative tasks and then stick to it. By setting aside time that is sacrosanct, barring a true emergency—think volcano eruptions or an imminent meteor strike—you will be certain that these essential tasks are regularly done.

Admit that no one can multitask It’s not you, and you aren’t a failure. No one can effectively multitask. This myth that we can do multiple tasks at the same time with the same (high) level of attention and focus has led us to feel like failures when we must admit that we are unable to do that. What multitaskers really do, recent thought on this issue tells us, is either bounce relentlessly in minute periods of time or focus unequal attention to a broader range of simultaneous tasks. Either way, we are not doing a great job at any of them. So, turn off email notifications and put your phone on silent, vibrate, or even better, “do not disturb” while you are working on a task. Focus on one at a time, for a finite period, until it is done.

Set client boundaries and expectations for each representation No one is, or should be expected to be, available 24/7/365. No one can be all things to all clients, and certainly not always. An exhausted, over-stressed lawyer is the last thing even the neediest client needs or deserves. Make clear to clients the limitations of your availability. Maybe it is longer than the “traditional” 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. working day. But that doesn’t mean that you need to be available always. Explain to clients what qualifies as an emergency and what does not. This will vary with practice area, so there’s no bright-line rule. It is reasonable, however, to let clients know that if they call after hours they will need to leave a voicemail message, and when they may expect a return call for true emergencies. Do not give clients your personal phone number or your personal email address. You should have a separate office phone number and email address. Apps like Sideline allow you to get a second number for your smartphone so that you may decide whether to answer a call to your office number after hours. Virtual receptionist services, if that is financially viable for you, also allow you to better manage calls and your time. Remind yourself that you deserve a personal life, time to refresh and renew, and to enjoy family and friends.

Unplug from time to time You were not born with a smartphone in your hand—it’s optional (albeit very useful) equipment. You don’t have to check texts, emails, or social media every hour of every

day. Give yourself a break occasionally; decide to have a technology-free day on a weekend. Too radical for you? Okay, just give yourself a technology break a couple of hours before bedtime. The glow of your electronic device in the hours before bed may make it more difficult to get to sleep or maintain a restful sleep.

Wisely invest in and use technology Technology isn’t always the answer, but when it comes to being efficient and not spending “lawyer time” on support functions, it is important. Invest in a good practice management product. Many offer a bit of everything you need and can minimize the time you spend on administrative tasks. Yes, you will still have to allot administrative time. But why not use these systems to minimize that time? Even on a shoestring budget, practice management software is a wise investment. If you are in a state with a practice management program, the practice management advisors can assist by guiding you to a solution that will work best for you.

Use checklists and written procedures These mechanisms will help you be sure you aren’t missing any important steps, tasks or obligations. Having a checklist or written procedure will make time management simpler by memorializing the steps necessary for specific office tasks, like calendaring or docketing. Save time and mental energy—avoid reinventing the wheel when completing tasks that are not as commonly done. Why waste time wondering how you did it the last time when you could take a few minutes to create a checklist or document a procedure? Having written procedures also gives inherent value to your firm and will keep you organized.

Health and wellness You’ve heard a lot lately about lawyer well-being, mental and physical health, and mindfulness. These issues are vital to our competence as lawyers and to the success and longevity of our careers. Recent reports from national treatment centers and task forces highlighted what many have known for years—the physical and emotional toll of the practice of law can be extreme. Too many lawyers are burned out, stressed out, addicted, abusing alcohol, Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018


suffering anxiety and depression. Everyone has a different path to physical and emotional wellness. For some it may be physical activity, for some, it is yoga or meditation, for some… well, you get the hint. If you need help or think you may, don’t wait to ask or to check out the resources offered by your state or local bar association.

who can achieve this balance. It does, however, take some planning, some discipline, and some thought, to be able to achieve balance. Take it a step at a time, reach out to the practice management program at your Bar association, or to someone who seems to have mastered this. And don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t come together all at one time. It’ll happen if you persist. n

Find a practice buddy

Roberta Tepper is the Lawyer Assistance Programs Director for the State Bar of Arizona, where she assists lawyers with practice management through Practice 2.0, the Bar’s practice management advice program, and administers the Bar’s Member Assistance Program. Roberta is an active member of the ABA’s Law Practice Division and serves on the Law Practice Division Council and the 2019 TECHSHOW Board. She is also the current President of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association Board of Directors. You may reach Roberta at Roberta.Tepper@staff.azbar. org or, and follow her @AZPractice2_0 and ©2018. Published in Law Practice Today, April 2018, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

You may already know another lawyer with whom you feel comfortable. Find someone with whom you may exchange ideas, experiences, or just vent in your first years of practice. Of course, you’ll be mindful of client confidentiality, but having someone you talk with about your experiences and challenges, who is at the same stage of practice as you are, can provide a great outlet and resource.

It is possible to achieve balance You don’t have to have a life coach by your side; it’s not just those amazing people who never seem to need sleep

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

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The Federal False Claims Act Process is Complex Don’t let your client’s case be lost due to hyper-technical procedural mistakes

At Stephen Danz & Associates, our whistleblower attorneys and co-counsel, some with former government-false-claims positions, are experienced federal and California False Claims Act attorneys. We have obtained substantial recoveries for our clients because we understand the laws, the underlying types of fraud, and how to properly present a fraud disclosure claim to the government. We’ve been litigating FCA cases for 30 years, are active participants in the major qui tam attorney organizations, and regularly share expertise with other practitioners. Our co-counsel have extensive experience as former governmentfalse-claims prosecutors, so we know what aspects of the case to focus on to encourage the government to intervene.

Our firm also focuses on:

Wrongful Termination and Retaliation claims

Newest Co-Counsel: Hirst Law Group, P.C. For many years, Mr. Hirst supervised FCA cases for a U.S. Attorney’s Office in California, for which he received a DOJ Director’s Award from Attorney General Janet Reno. Later described by Attorney General John Ashcroft as an “exceptional litigator” and recognized by the Chief of the Forest Service for his “brilliant performance at trial,” Mr. Hirst’s FCA cases have been reported in numerous publications throughout the country and the subject of three books, one of which detailed his handling of a case that resulted in the largest fraud recovery against a single hospital in US history.

Some of the specific types of fraud that can result in substantial recoveries and rewards for whistleblowers are:

✰ Overbilling or billing for services never rendered ✰ Making misrepresentations to support bills for services or goods that were provided ✰ Improperly upcoding for services or goods ✰ Providing unnecessary treatments ✰ Obtaining kickbacks for making referrals ✰ Falsifying credentials ✰ Off-label marketing ✰ Fraud from other business sectors: Securities, Financial services, Aerospace and Defense GENEROUS REFERRAL FEES PAID PER STATE BAR RULES


Hirst Law Group, P.C., has had multiple 8-figure- and 7-figure-FCA recoveries in cases involving health care fraud, defense procurement fraud, grant fraud, and others.


California Case Summaries Civil™ Organized Succinct Summaries of New Civil Cases by Monty A. McIntyre, Esq. Below are some recent cases summarized by Monty A. McIntyre in his publication California Case Summaries Civil™, which provides organized succinct summaries, every other Monday, of every new published California civil case for only $7.99 a month. (Go to http:// Monty has been a civil trial lawyer since 1980, representing both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad variety of civil cases, and has more than 17 years of experience as a mediator and arbitrator. He has been a member of ABOTA since 1995 and is the past president of the San Diego County Bar Assn. and the San Diego Chapter of ABOTA. Monty mediates and arbitrates at ADR Services, Inc., where he handles cases in the areas of business, commercial, elder abuse, employment/wage & hour, insurance coverage/bad faith, legal malpractice, medical malpractice, personal injury, real property and wrongful death. To schedule a mediation or arbitration, contact his case manager Kelsey Carroll at ADR Services, Inc. at (619) 233-1323 or

CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT Civil Code National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. v. State of California (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 3150950: The California Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeal finding that Penal Code section 31910(b)(7)(A) was unenforceable under Civil Code section 3531 because compliance with the Penal Code section was impossible. Plaintiff alleged that dual placement microstamping technology was impossible to implement. The California Supreme Court ruled that Civil Code section 3531’s maxim that the “law never requires impossibilities” is an interpretive aid that occasionally authorizes an exception to a statutory mandate in accordance with the Legislature’s intent behind the mandate, but the maxim is not a ground for invalidating a statutory mandate altogether. (June 28, 2018.)

Civil Procedure Samara v. Matar (2018) _ Cal. 5th _, 2018 WL 3097960: The California Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision reversing the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant in a dental malpractice action. Plaintiff sued defendant and defendant Dr. Stephen Nahigian (Nahigian) for malpractice regarding a tooth implant, claiming defendant was vicariously liable for the conduct of Nahigian. The trial court granted Nahigian’s motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations and lack of causation. Plaintiff appealed this decision, and the Court of Appeal affirmed on the timeliness issue but declined to address the causation issue. The trial court later granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment finding that the earlier no-causation decision precluded vicarious liability against defendant. Addressing the 10

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

issue of claim preclusion (res judicata) and issue preclusion (collateral estoppel), the California Supreme Court ruled that, when a conclusion relied on by the trial court is challenged on appeal but is not addressed by the appellate court, the preclusive effect of the judgment should be evaluated as though the trial court had not relied on the unreviewed ground. It overruled the earlier inconsistent decision of People v. Skidmore (1865) 27 Cal. 287. (June 25, 2018.)

Construction United Riggers & Erectors, Inc. v. Coast Iron & Steel Co. (2018) _ Cal. 5th _, 2018 WL 2188916: The California Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal. The “dispute exception” to prompt payment in California Civil Code section 8814(c) excuses payment only when a good faith dispute exists over a statutory or contractual precondition to that payment, such as the adequacy of the construction work for which the payment is consideration. Controversies concerning unrelated work or additional payments above the amount both sides agree is owed will not excuse delay. A direct contractor cannot withhold payment where the underlying obligation to pay the specific monies is undisputed. (May 14, 2018.)

Insurance Liberty Surplus Ins. Corp. v. Ledesma & Meyer Construction Co., Inc. (2018) _ Cal. 5th _, 2018 WL 2470975: When a third party sues an employer for the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision of an employee who intentionally injured that third party, does the suit allege an “occurrence” under the employer’s commercial general liability policy? The California Supreme Court answered yes to the question above posed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Defendants were sued in a state court action because an assistant superintendent that they

hired for a construction project at a middle school allegedly sexually abused a 13-year-old student at the school. Plaintiff carrier defended the state court action under a reservation of rights but sought declaratory relief in federal court arguing that it had no obligation to defend or indemnify. The district court granted summary judgment to plaintiff on the basis that there was no occurrence under the policy because the act of hiring the employee was too attenuated from the injury-causing conduct committed by the employee. The California Supreme Court ruled there could be an occurrence under the policy because California cases expressly recognize that negligent hiring, retention, or supervision may be a substantial factor in a sexual molestation perpetrated by an employee, depending on the facts presented. (June 4, 2018.)

granted a motion to tax costs and erroneously found that plaintiff’s settlement offer under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 was ambiguous. The Court of Appeal ruled that, in the context of this case, where two sophisticated parties were represented by counsel, allowing an offer to compromise to be clarified in writing after the offer was made served the purposes of section 998 and such clarification encourages reasonable settlement offers to be accepted. The trial court also erroneously denied plaintiff and cross-defendant’s motion for attorney fees under Penal Code 502. The Court of Appeal ruled that the causes of action in the cross-complaint all related to a common core of facts, and therefore attorney fees did not need to be apportioned. (C.A. 4th, May 18, 2018.)


AHMC Healthcare, Inc. v. Superior Court (2018) _ Cal. App.5th _, 2018 WL 3101350: The Court of Appeal granted a writ petition and directed the trial court to grant petitioners’ (defendants in the underlying putative class action for wage and hour violations) motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal held the stipulated facts established that the use of a payroll system that automatically rounded employee time up or down to the nearest quarter hour, providing a less than exact measure of employee work time, was neutral on its face and as applied, and complied with California law. (C.A. 2nd, June 25, 2018.) Krolikowski v. San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 2326119: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling for respondent, following a bench trial, on the writ of mandate and declaratory relief issues. It also affirmed the trial court’s order sustaining a demurrer to conversion and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action. Petitioners sued to stop respondent from seeking to recover overpayment of past monthly pension benefits after it discovered an error in calculating the monthly benefits. The Court of Appeal ruled the demurrer was properly sustained because respondent was immune from tort liability under Government Code sections 815.2 and 820.2. The Court of Appeal also ruled that no legal doctrine identified by petitioners prevented respondent from seeking repayment of the overpayments. (C.A. 4th, filed May 23, 2018, published June 14, 2018.)

Arbitration Smythe v. Uber Technologies, Inc. (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _ , 2018 WL 2752620: The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action for unfair business practices and intentional interference with prospective economic damage alleging that defendant engaged in a practice of directing its drivers and others to create and use fake Lyft accounts to request rides, thereby sending Lyft drivers on wild goose chases to pick up nonexistent passengers. Plaintiff was a driver for defendant and for Lyft. When plaintiff joined defendant, he signed two agreements containing arbitration provisions. The trial court properly ruled that plaintiff’s allegations were beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement and that the delegation provision was unenforceable in the context of the claims advanced in plaintiff’s complaint. (C.A. 1st, June 8, 2018.) Williams v. Atria Las Posas (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 3134869: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order denying a petition to compel arbitration in a personal injury action by plaintiffs (a husband and his wife). The trial court denied the motion due to an integration clause, but the Court of Appeal ruled that an integration clause in a residency agreement did not preclude proof of a separate arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of arbitration as to a claim for loss of consortium by plaintiff wife. The Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court to rule on the other objections raised against the petition to compel arbitration. (C.A. 2nd, June 27, 2018.)

Attorney Fees Prince v. Invensure Ins. Brokers (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 2276603: The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part a judgment, following a jury trial, for plaintiff in the sum of $647,706.48. The judgment was affirmed but two post judgment orders were reversed. The trial court erroneously


Torts Coyle v. Historic Mission Inn Corporation (2018) _ Cal.App.5th _, 2018 WL 2998888: The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order granting summary judgment to defendant in a case where plaintiff sued for injuries caused by a black widow spider bite while eating lunch at defendant’s restaurant. The Court of Appeal ruled that defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care in relation to black widow spiders that pose a risk of injury to patrons on its premises, and the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. (C.A. 4th, June 15, 2018.) n

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018


COMMUNITY news  Johnson Fistel, LLP is proud to announce

the addition of Tiffany R. Johnson to their firm. “Tiffany is a terrific addition to our team. She brings nearly two decades of government trial experience to help our firm meet the needs of our clients,” said Frank J. Johnson, Johnson Fistel’s managing partner. Mrs. Johnson focuses her practice on complex business litigation and civil rights matters. She also has experience TIFFANY JOHNSON representing clients in family law matters. Prior to joining Johnson Fistel, Mrs. Johnson was a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California for over 12 years where she primarily litigated civil rights cases through trial. In addition, Mrs. Johnson served as a Judge Advocate General in the United States Navy for close to 10 years where she achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander. While in the Navy, Mrs. Johnson represented hundreds of sailors and marines in criminal proceedings through verdict, administrative boards, and disability hearings.

 Continuing its accelerated growth over the last

two years, civil defense firm Tyson & Mendes LLP has opened its third office in San Diego, marking its 10th office across the country. The new office, located at 4435 Eastgate Mall, Suite 400 in the UTC area, will focus primarily on the firm’s Automobile Liability Litigation practice, which has increased in size exponentially in the last two years. BOB TYSON “While we continue to expand our services across the country, a significant portion of our growth has been in San Diego,” said Tyson & Mendes Managing Partner Robert Tyson. “And, with 50 open attorney positions across the firm, the space will help us accommodate more new talent.” Tyson & Mendes’ other San Diego offices are located at 5786 La Jolla Blvd. and 5661 La Jolla Blvd. in Bird Rock. The latter will remain the firm’s official headquarters.

 Sullivan Hill is pleased to announce the

relocation of its San Diego office, as of August 20, 2018, to 600 B Street, 17th Floor in Downtown San Diego. After more than 30 years as a tenant at 550 Corporate Center, the firm has decided to relocate. The new location will be a more modern and efficient space allowing us to continue to provide the best, most cost-effective service and solutions to clients. SULLIVAN HILL Sullivan Hill has provided efficient, aggressive and responsive legal representation for more than 40 years. The firm provides full-service representation to clients in a variety of industries with an emphasis in insolvency, construction disputes, insurance coverage, real estate, employment, business disputes, civil litigation, and transactional work. The firm has offices in San Diego and Las Vegas. 12

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

 Higgs Fletcher & Mack

announced the addition of Zane Bryant as an associate in its Immigration & Nationality Law practice group. Bryant’s experience includes working with Fortune 500 companies, small- and medium-sized businesses who seek employmentbased solutions to their inquiries on ZANE BRYANT immigration. His expertise includes representation in cases filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of State and Department of Labor, including employmentbased nonimmigrant and immigrant petitions, PERM labor certifications, applications for adjustment of status, consular processing and naturalization applications. Before joining Higgs Fletcher & Mack, Bryant committed himself to pro bono including his representation of asylum seekers, applicants for temporary protected status and DACA applicants. During law school, Bryant interned at various immigration organizations where he gained experience representing individuals in their applications under the Violence Against Women Act, assisted in case strategy and research in removal defense cases. Bryant was also a member of the Hastings Center for Gender and Refugee Studies’ Human Rights clinical program and was recognized for his achievements and commitment to Pro Bono services.

 Finch, Thornton & Baird, LLP is recognized as one of the San Diego Business Journal’s Best Places to Work for 2018. Finch, Thornton & Baird, LLP provides trusted legal representation and experienced advice to help successful construction, business, and individual clients achieve their goals. The firm’s RANDOLPH FINCH JR. construction expertise includes local agency, municipal, and state contracts; federal procurement and claims; claims and dispute resolution; employment and labor counseling, and litigation; insurance coverage; collections; real estate; and corporate matters. Other practices include general business and commercial litigation and transactions; liability defense; and trusts and estate planning, administration, and probate law. Finch, Thornton & Baird represents clients in state and federal trial courts, arbitrations, before administrative agencies, governing boards, and alternative dispute resolution forums. The firm also received Martindale-Hubbell’s highest rating in recognition of the firm’s professional excellence and highest level of skill and integrity, and the firm is listed in the exclusive Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of preeminent Construction and Employment lawyers.

 Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith, LLP Partner

Michael B. Lees has been named one of San Diego’s Top 40 Under 40 by The Daily Transcript. The annual list recognizes the best of San Diego’s young professionals. With a practice spanning 14 years, Lees has substantial experience in business, real estate and taxation law, representing families, individuals and businesses in personal and corporate transactional matters, as well as both buyers and sellers in MIKE LEES acquisitions and divestitures of businesses, real estate and capital assets. He is also well versed in preparing and negotiating formation and operative documents for corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies, including complex joint ventures and investment funds. Lees has been involved with Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) for nearly a decade and has served as a board member for the past four years. He also serves on the Professional Advisory Committee of the Jewish Community Foundation. Lees is a member of the Scripps Ranch Old Pros and serves on the board of directors of the University of Arizona Alumni Association’s San Diego Chapter.

 Buchanan Ingersoll &

Rooney welcomes commercial law and transactional attorney Bradley E. Wolf as shareholder, and civil litigator Teresa M. Beck as of counsel to the firm’s San Diego office. Wolf represents banks and other financial institutions on a wide range of BRADLEY E. WOLF TERESA BECK secured and unsecured lending transactions, including leveraged financing, first and second lien financing and other transactions. He has more than 20 years of commercial lending experience, with half of those spent as in-house counsel at Wells Fargo Bank. Beck, who will also serve as co-chair of California Litigation and chair of Arizona Litigation, has nearly 30 years of experience working with employers in employment-related litigation, personal injury defense, construction matters, contracts, and civil litigation of all types and serves as outside general counsel for several corporations.

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018


Growing Your Practice: Small Law Firm Quick Guide by Bill Tilley

Turning Business Development Ideas into Reality Growing your firm is essential for small law practices. It is something that needs to happen but to which most attorneys fail to dedicate an adequate amount of time. One takeaway that you need to have when strategizing business development ideas is that they need to be actionable. Big picture talk is great, but you need to have step-by-step goals to reach the big picture. Without these actionable items, your ideas will rarely become a reality.

Focusing on the Return on Investment No matter what the strategy is for growth you need to focus on the ROI or return on investment. Without tracking expenses and gains, you will likely be throwing money away. Before investing any money in a new marketing scheme or business development idea, you should define the goals of the investment. Knowing your goals will help you to measure your ROI. The goals should be broken down into benchmarks that will help inform your decision on whether to keep investing in the opportunity, change tracks or go in a new direction. Say your firm decides to sponsor an event or program. Sponsorships are a great way to get the word out about your firm. They are also a valuable networking opportunity. But sponsoring an event without trackable goals could be a waste of time and money. Start with an overall goal of the sponsorship such as generating three new clients. Then establish a plan to make that happen. Decide who will represent the firm and what their individual goals will be. Any contacts that are made during the event should be noted, and a follow-up email or card sent. You can weigh the expenses of the event against any new business that was obtained through contacts or referral sources and decide if the ROI was justified.

Understanding the Reach and Impact of your Content Any marketing communication should be tracked and analyzed to see what kind of an impact it is having on your contacts. One of the most natural areas to start is with email communications.


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

If you send out a newsletter or other templated email you can track the number of people that are opening the email (open rate), those that opened the email and clicked on a link (Click Through Rate) and those that have unsubscribed. Tracking these metrics will determine not only the reach of your email marketing efforts but also if it is having a positive impact on your audience. You can assess whether to continue the campaign or to change the format. Social media campaigns, blogs, and other online marketing efforts can also be tracked and analyzed. Some programs can help you determine the number of website visitors, their engagement and if they are converting into paid clients. The world of digital marketing and tracking your digital marketing efforts could fill pages; suffice to say here, you should be monitoring each campaign and using metrics to guide your spending. If you do not have an in-house marketing department, you should be working with a reputable outside company. Basic knowledge of digital marketing will go a long way in making sure that your firm is having success with each of your campaigns.

Investing in the Future Once you have the data, your law firm will be able to track information on the success of your investments. Regular meetings about your business development ideas and marketing strategies will help you assess what is working and what should be reconsidered. A firm grasp on your firm’s investments and the ultimate revenue from those investments will help to inform your decisions for each year to come. Over time if you do not see substantial growth, then your strategy should change. n Bill Tilley is the Founder & CEO of Amicus Media Group (AMG). AMG brings to the table an unparalleled network of media relationships and services to drive quality cases to law firm partners at the most costeffective economics possible. Utilizing the power of television, radio, and the web, AMG combines our extensive experience in legal marketing focusing on areas such as Mass Tort, Personal Injury, and Family Law. Amicus Media Group’s range of services spans from media buying, media management, performance marketing, campaign financing, and creative production. Learn more by visiting

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018


Finding the Best Answer to

“What’s Next” in Business Transition Planning


t some point in the natural life cycle of a closely held company, self-made entrepreneurs find themselves contemplating what’s next. For many, there’s a two-way magnet in play. The business has been central to their lives, and it is human nature to be drawn to what’s known and proven. Yet the magnet also pulls toward possibilities: what if they wish to slow the pace? The answer to “what’s next” for businesses and entrepreneurs approaching a transition is found in a unique process created by the five partners of The Founders Group. Together they lead business owners through all phases of transition where increased clarity, net cash flow, and market value expands and solidifies choices for business transition: if, when, how, how much, and to whom. Partners Melisa Silverman, Shelley Lightfoot, Jeffrey Kates, Joseph Strazzeri, and Stephen Mancini realized that many of the conversations the business owners have already had about business transition have not addressed the design of the transition itself. The topic has been prematurely narrowed: keep or sell. “It’s all about process for us. The uniqueness of this company is that it is not a law firm. It is a collaboration of five partners bringing five specialties to the table to help business owners increase the value in their company and understand their options,” Lightfoot says. By systematizing the magic originally created by the entrepreneur, the business can transition from a Wisdom-driven business which only generates cash flow to fund livelihoods, to a Value-driven business that will command the highest market value if the owners decide to sell.

Strength in Numbers One of the strengths of The Founders Group is that the firm is one of four specialized companies in the Care to Know™ Family of Resources. Strazzeri Mancini LLP helps affluent families get to the heart of highly relevant matters and resolve messes in the areas of estate, business and tax planning, and family wealth counseling. California Estate and Elder Law LLP focuses on planning for potential disability and estate planning, probate, and trust settlement, based on the belief that legal documents should be the outcome of a great planning process that preserves family relationships as well as family assets. The Southern California Institute is a Thought Leader Community providing resources, education and


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018


The Founders Group Partners from left to right: Joe Strazzeri, Melisa Silverman, Jeffrey Kates, Shelley Lightfoot, and Steve Mancini

© Bauman Photographers



© Bauman Photographers

From left to right: Melisa Silverman, Managing Partner; Nathalie Fairfax, Strategic Assistant; and Shelley Lightfoot, Partner

advice via collaborative think tanks, events, programs, online content, and introductions. This incredible lineup of talent and experience is unmatched in California and provides an unparalleled level of resources available to the firm’s clients.

Care to Know™ Planning Too often, business owners think they only have two choices: hold on to the business and hope for the best or try to sell and hope for a good deal. The Founders Group process identifies clear and carefully planned options designed to facilitate the most efficient and profitable transition regardless of which path the owner chooses. Their proven and highly successful process is based on their unique Care to Know™ planning model which begins by driving increase in value, and therefore expanding choices. Those who decide to keep the business find that the Enhancements that increase value likewise improve workplace dynamics and drive cash flow. For those who choose to transition the business internally, the Enhancements stabilize the company to thrive


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

financially during and after transition. For those who decide to sell to an outside buyer, the Enhancements are impactful in commanding higher value. The Care to Know™ process apprises the client in clear terms the rewards and risks of keep vs. move on. Many of their clients have found that the firm’s model converted their fear of the unknown to a sense of clarity and purpose. They find that just the relationship gives them a place and time to think clearly and to make the best decision. The collaborative approach is also a holistic one that is designed to determine the true value of the organization, its attractiveness to the marketplace, and its readiness for the transition. “One of the most common reasons business transitions derail is what we call Expectation Gaps. These are blind spots and pot holes that, once revealed, prevent a business owner from confidently executing their plan. That’s why our Care to Know™ model helps business owners see the full picture of their situation early on,” Mancini says. The five partners engage their clients in a carefully crafted process of four stages.

Current State Led by Melissa Silverman, the Current State begins with a thorough diagnostic at two layers. The first is a true valuation process conducted by credentialed valuation professionals. It offers a realistic picture of the company’s value from a buyer’s perspective. The second layer involves assessments in two distinct areas: attractiveness and readiness. Together, the Founders Group and the business owner learn whether the company in its current status can command its full potential value in the marketplace. By eliminating Expectation Gaps at this early stage of the journey, it helps the owner apply their investment of time, financial resources, and emotional energy to decisions and initiatives that will increase the value of the business. Silverman, the managing partner handling this crucial initial contact, says, “The key to getting the entire process started is a professional valuation. We can’t continue until we have the value

of the business, a benchmark to build from. From that point we can work closely with the client to discover and implement the best transition option for his or her specific needs.” The valuation, combined with the assessments, uncovers realizations, options, choices, and action plans that will lead to increased business value, cash flow, and more personal time for the owner. The Founders Group will take the owners through the results of the Assessments and Valuation reports, identifying gaps, concerns, and opportunities. Then, together, they set the parameters, goals, fees, and timelines for the next engagement, the Future Vision.

Future Vision Family members of the business owner and the business leadership team are often essential participants in refining the direction of the Future Vision for the company. Including them can lay the foundation for buy-in from all team members

Melisa and Joe teaching at last year’s EPI Greater LA Business Owner’s Forum

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who will contribute to enhancing the business value. Lightfoot is an expert in helping companies achieve owner and team alignment. The development of company vision and getting the clients in line with the team so the business can move through the Five Stages of Business is key. “This is a critical juncture for any business. They can’t continue to grow if they don’t have the team in place to do it,” she says. As reviewed in the Current State, a certified valuation involves much more than just EBIDTA and a multiple to derive value. For most businesses, moving though the five stages of business is the greatest factor for increasing enterprise value and stability. The evolution of who is responsible for separate core functions, decreasing risk, increasing standardization of processes, and reporting is vital. The Founders Group’s Future Vision process facilitates team alignment and empowerment, refines the directions of the company, and lays the foundation to create efficient, targeted implementation plans for the business that increase the value and stability. This stage involves three primary steps: Owner and Family Visit; Owner and Leadership Visit; and Team Tactical Planning sessions. The team creates a comprehensive and prioritized list of Enhancement Initiatives so that the business, its Founders Group team, and other collaborative advisors can set parameters, goals, fees, and timelines for the rest of the process.

Enhancement Initiatives Jeffrey Kates, who has an extensive background as a turnaround specialist for corporations, primarily manages the Founders Group and business teams for the Enhancement Initiatives using 90day sprints, which include multiple team meetings and owner update meetings. Ninety-day sprints run in 30-day cycles to help the business owner progress through the process in a measurable and accountable way. In the team meetings they review data, responsibilities, and resources, set timelines and metrics, set benchmarks, progress reports and results, and incorporate education and training. Owner update meetings set team initiatives, owner initiatives,

note obstacle remediation, set timelines, and report on the progress of the process. Kates says, “As the Enhancement Initiatives are implemented, options begin to present themselves and choices are expanded. Business owners remark that their choices are now on their terms. Owners know that regardless of their decision to transition or not, their largest asset is now performing well: primed to capture any opportunity that presents itself.”

The Decision Once the business reaches the owner’s targeted attractiveness, readiness, and value, the Founders Group team will facilitate “The Decision:” whether to continue to keep and grow the business process or transition it. The knowledge, experience, and significant backup resources of The Founders Group team makes the decision easy—or certainly far less challenging than originally believed. Strazzeri says, “Our clients’ goals and dreams vary but often include multi-generational ownership of the business, the sale of a business, new ventures, philanthropy, travel, as well as other ways to make a difference in the “what comes next” time of life. As part of the process, we facilitate these goals with the same detailed care as we do for their business.” “Ultimately, Care to Know™ reminds the owner that they have a choice to gear up or back away. If the choice is to gear up for sale, the model helps them navigate choices around internal versus external, and in whole or in part. It helps ensure the owner sells at the prime time and for the highest value. Many owners remark that the model converted their murky fear of the unknown to a cathartic sense of clarity. They find that the relationship itself gives them a place to think,” says Mancini.

The Founders Group Partners Who “Care to Know” Melissa Silverman, Managing Partner, JD, CEPA, CVA, SBA, CMEA, is also the President of Avenue M Advisors, Inc., a national boutique business valuation and consulting services company. She is passionate about providing business transition services for closely held companies using a holistic and collaborative process that interferes the least in the business, yields business results increasing cash flow, profits and business value, and frees up time for the business owner. Shelley Lightfoot’s unique combination of experience,


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

The Five Stages of Business

Vision & Drive

Attracting and Engaging Customers

Working with Customers & Administration

Stage 1



Team supported by Owner

Stage 2

Owner supported by Leadership

Owner supported by Leadership

Team supported by Leadership

Stage 3

Leadership supported by Owner

Leadership supported by Owner


Stage 4

Leadership supported by Owner and Team

Team supported by Leadership


Stage 5

Leadership supported by Team



passion, and creativity are excellent business resources for owners seeking objective help, active collaboration, and team alignment. She is also Executive Director for the Southern California Institute (SCI). Jeffrey Kates, MBA, CEPA, has extensive accounting, financial reporting, operations, and process improvement experience in a multitude of industries and corporate environments. Kates is also the president and owner of JIK Consulting Inc., a business advisory services firm specializing in workouts & turnarounds, interim CFO work and Mergers and Acquisitions. Joseph J. Strazzeri, Esq. is a partner and owner in all the Care to Know™ Family of Resources. He brings an exceptional ability to shed clarity on the issues at hand and reach insights that offer illuminating resolutions. While he takes on numerous roles in his everyday work, the common denominator is how he works with others—courageously arming clients with the right questions and resources. Strazzeri developed an in-depth awareness of the business world as a general contractor, land developer, business owner, and lawyer—a rare combination. Stephen J. Mancini, Esq. is also a partner and owner in all

the Care to Know companies. As a former retail business owner and with more than 37 years of experience as an attorney, he provides a unique perspective for advising business owners, families, and their wealth advisors. Mancini’s practice focuses on educating families, business owners and wealth advisors to find the answer to “what’s next” for their future wealth needs. The Founders Group with its five highly educated and experienced partners (with their collaborative team), and its proven four-step process, is the go-to firm for businesses and entrepreneurs facing or approaching a business transition. They have earned that designation by providing the best answer to the overriding question relating to business transitions— “What’s Next.” n Contact The Founders Group 3636 Nobel Drive, Suite 450 San Diego, CA 92122 (858) 200-1915

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018




Share Their Best Tips for Lawyers by Chris Dreyer



his is the question we posed to more than 50 SEO specialists who have done SEO for lawyers. Their answers will provide you with good direction whether you’re formulating your own law firm SEO strategies or just looking for general advice. If you want to improve your own website rankings or your clients’ website listings in the search engines, then this expert Q&A roundup is what you’re looking for. Enjoy and share it with others. Thank you!



I recommend studying your Google Search Console data and focusing on tactics that will have the most impact in your high priority practice areas. There is a tremendous amount of useful information in GSC. Use it to improve your search results and your lead generation.



To start with, I’d make sure their site is local SEO’d to the max. Local SEO is a very simple thing to do, so will only take them three minutes to complete. My second tip is to create 4000 pages of the same content but change it slightly to target specific geographical areas. Example: create a page that targets the term “Lawyers for sex offenders in Florida” this term is low competition with 6000 searches a


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

month! Bingo! Create the page and gather up the leads. My final tip is to create resourceful content that people want. A guide on “how to get off a murder charge” or “legal advice for animal sex perverts” spring to mind as popular content that will get people linking and sharing like mad.



Look beyond technical legal content. Previously, I worked as an in-house SEO at a law firm and at the time, we did not have a technical legal writer, so we focused on entertaining legal and personal injury-related pieces such as “10 Texting While Walking Accidents Caught on Video.” Here is an action plan: 1. Propose 5-10 possible topics. 2. Analyze potential blogs to target during outreach to see if they reference external articles with links (in this example, we targeted sites that post outrageous videos). 3. Quickly identify if the niche you are targeting is not viable. For example, mommy bloggers typically have a clear business model and will not meritoriously link out without payment, so you need a budget to target this niche. 4. Start with 100 outreach actions which include blogs, social media accounts with a large following, and relevant communities, such as Reddit. 5. If posting in relevant communities such as Reddit, you need to first establish yourself by contributing to the group instead of simply promoting your content.



I would first check the firm’s competitors, check what keywords they are targeting, and work backwards from the competitor’s most shared content to their backlinks. I would improve further the value being presented by the client website by using social media as a platform to increase social validation and followers, and then I would create a weekly podcast where the client will answer questions about law. Value = Service.



Remember that it’s not about you. This can be difficult, but the people who are coming to your site don’t want to be hit with information about where you went to law school and how many awards you have. Instead, focus on their needs. When someone comes to your site, they’re looking for information to help them—to solve their problems. They’re overwhelmed and in search of someone who cares and connects with them, so use your site as an entry point to build upon an educational, trusting relationship with them.



My number one tip would be [that] your on-site SEO is taken care of. I would focus on local citation building—this is the building of your listings within high-quality niche-specific directories that do not necessarily link to your website. Why are these important? The value of your business being mentioned with the presence of NAP (name, address, and phone) means that Google sees your business as a legitimate one within the right directory. The more mentions of your business within these directories, the better you will rank in local rankings. The thing to remember here is that even though links are important for SEO, these citation listings do not need to have links, as Google views them differently than how it views normal website links. Also, do not forget the local directory site within your local area.



My #1 tip would be to answer questions and solve the problems your prospective clients have using content. Maybe that means creating on-site content that’s worth linking to and sharing socially, or maybe it involves doing guest posting that drives links back to the relevant content on your site. Not only will this support both your SEO and content marketing campaigns, it’ll make the people who do encounter your content trust you enough that they’ll hire your services (or keep you in mind for future projects).



The number one tip I’d give an attorney looking to rank in Google is to first take the time to evaluate the competition in your local area and do your keyword research homework. Finding a bunch of keywords with less competition, but enough search volume, will likely lead to more success than swinging for the fences and trying to rank only for “Personal Injury.” I’d recommend tools like SEMrush and Google Adwords to start.



The most important aspect will be localized SEO and getting your results into the local 3 pack. That means getting your NAP (name / address / phone number) accurate and consistent throughout the many different localized search and citation services (there are many tools out there to help you with this, such as Moz Local) and making sure you create a simple and easy way for your customers to review you online. Finally, make sure your content is localized to your market. Identify the problems occurring in your neighborhood and address them with your content vs focusing on national or international issues.

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Marketing your law firm can seem like a daunting task. If I had one suggestion for attorneys to take advantage of that would bring them results, it would be to create useful and substantial content based on frequently asked questions their firm gets. Start by asking yourself and your staff what questions people ask and make a list of these questions. Then brainstorm the related topics and answer these in a substantial and informative matter better than anyone else has done so far. Write the content in a way that represents your brand and the way you want your firm to be displayed online. Think of it as a part of your personal reputation. Once this content is written you can post it on your website, optimize it, and make it visually appealing. The key, however, is to not stop there. One of the added benefits to doing this is that the content can be re-purposed. When potential clients email you or you have calls with people that don’t turn into clients, you can collect their email address and send them the information. This also acts as a positive brand building experience for your firm while increasing your visibility in the search engines. Useful content like this can also be re-purposed for email newsletters or videos!



Have a plan to execute, which is different than an SEO plan. We do way too many consultations where the attorney says they are going to blog regularly, and then doesn’t write a blog for months. Or promises to track where intakes come from, but makes no changes to their processes. Or makes it a goal to double the number of Google reviews, but never puts anything in place to ask more clients. SEO has very few secrets. It is about implementation and consistency. And implementation and consistency is directly tied to accountability. Take the extra five to ten minutes to form an execution plan, that includes accountability measures, so that ideas become tangible progress.



Claim and fully complete your Google My Business listing and fill out all the details. This is your first step to showing up for relevant business searches in local, the more complete the more likely everything else will back it up and get you search results. 1. Business name = what is on your business license, not Car Accident Lawyer or some other practice area fill phrase. 2. Address = if in a suite or other space, make sure to list it as part of the address. 3. Phone = that location’s main line that is answered by a receptionist or intake person. 4. Hours = actual hours someone can walk in and talk to someone, not 24-7 unless you have people there 24-7. 5. Category = as specific as you can get. If you are a personal injury firm, then personal injury; criminal would be criminal defense, etc.



With how localized the Google landscape has become, I would recommend focusing on both building local links, and creating local content that’s focused on setting the law firm up as an expert in its niche / areas that it serves. There are a ton of local publications and blogs (this varies, depending on the city) that the attorney can reach out to and build a relationship with, which could lead to partnering on content, a column, Q&As, or other content to generate links/ traffic back to the firm’s site. Links are definitely not a dead thing, regardless of what Google says. Obviously, getting links from larger, national publications will be beneficial, but I think a strong local play is needed first and foremost, as that’s where their immediate market will most likely be. There is also content that can be created on their own site to promote and earn links. The goal here would be to establish them as a “go to” resource for people who may be experiencing legal trouble and looking for advice, and hopefully convert them into clients. n

Chris Dreyer is the Founder & CEO of, which provides SEO (search engine optimization) services to lawyers, to help them obtain more clients, cases and revenue. To learn more, visit or email Chris at


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

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7/12/13 5:04 PM


Is There Gold in Your File Cabinet? by William Turley

How to really help your clients and make money— where you’re not trading your time for money


hat do doing the right thing, helping your clients, Sutter’s Mill, Robert Kiyosaki, and you making a lot of money all have in common? I’m sure you’re thinking, “Bill, how in Mark Twain are you going to spin a yarn that includes California’s Gold Rush, the life-changing book Rich Dad Poor Dad, my file drawers, helping clients, and making a lot of money?” Well, stick with me a few minutes and we’ll see if we can’t put it all together for you. I suggest you don’t jump to the end about you making a lot of money, but instead, read the whole article so you understand how this all goes down.

The California Gold Rush My ten-year-old daughter performed an end-of-the-year school play recently about the California Gold Rush. You probably know the story about gold being discovered at Sutter’s Mill and that thousands of people migrated to California in 1849 in hopes of striking it rich with gold. The economy was booming in Northern California during the Gold Rush.

Wages and company profits Similarly, our current economy has been booming now for over 10 years. There has been and is huge pressure on companies—from mid-sized companies to Fortune 500 companies—to show growth and profit every quarter during this sustained bull market. One easy way for companies to increase profits is to decrease wages. For most companies, wages are the number 28

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

one expense each quarter. In the corporate world, time is money for labor costs. When a company cuts wages, then the quarterly profits increase. One way to increase profits is to steal wages. This can come in the form of not providing legally compliant breaks, not paying for all time worked, not paying overtime, shaving wages, not reimbursing workers for business expenses, misclassifying employees as independent contractors and literally dozens and dozens of other California Labor Code violations.

Truth is, companies profit by stealing wages When workers’ wages are stolen, even if the company is caught (read a class action case or Private Attorneys General Act [PAGA] case is filed), the company usually only must pay out a fraction of the wages that were stolen. Companies profit by “cutting corners” of the California Labor Code. This happens every day across California. Companies keep on stealing wages and getting sued for it again and again because the company knows that they almost never have to pay back all the wages that were stolen.

It’s easy to justify when you see the California Labor Code as being unfair to the company These companies feel that the California Labor Code is unfair. Let me give you an example. I was at my kid’s game the other day. One of the parent’s asked me what I did. I

told them that I represent workers in unpaid wages class actions. Their response was, “You don’t do those tickytacky technical ‘I didn’t get my breaks,’ cases do you?” That’s how these business owners see worker rights to a meal break and rest break—as “ticky-tacky.” Meaning, they don’t see worker’s right to a break as something that is important. At least, not to them. They think it’s ticky-tacky that workers want to get paid while they stand in a security line while coming and going from work. They think it’s ticky-tacky that workers want to get all the wages that they have coming to them under California law. It’s well known that California has some of the strongest worker-friendly wage laws in America. Most companies see it as unfair that they must pay California workers’ wages that they don’t have to pay to their workers in other states. It’s easy to justify cutting corners when you see it as “ticky-tacky,” technical, and completely unfair to the company. Which is also why so many companies don’t see it as wrong. So, companies steal wages from California workers in droves. This happens across California daily. You might be thinking, “Bill how do you know this?” Because I’m on the front lines with unpaid wages lawsuits. I’m frequently asked to testify before the California Senate and Assembly on potential wage theft legislation. I represented the workers in what many lawyers consider the most important California Supreme Court case for unpaid wages—Brinker v. Superior Court. I have one of the largest wage and hour class action law firms in California. I see wage theft every day, day in day out.

Millions of dollars in Labor Code violations What you’re going to see is two things. First, workers (and some lawyers) don’t know the ins and outs of California unpaid wages law. For example, in the Brinker Supreme Court case in which I represented the workers, the California Supreme Court laid out four requirements employers must follow during meal breaks: 1. To relieve workers of all duties. 2. To relinquish all control. 3. To provide a reasonable opportunity to take the break. 4. Not do anything to discourage breaks or provide an incentive not to take the break. And in the Augustus case, the California Supreme Court followed the suggestion that I laid out in my Supreme Court brief that employers have the same duties in providing rest breaks as they do meal breaks. There are many nuances for a company to follow the law in Brinker and Augustus.

There are dozens and dozens of other California Labor Code sections and Wage Orders that companies must follow which all have nuances and “technicalities.” What I see time and again, is companies not following what they consider to be these “ticky-tacky technical” laws. For example, California workers are entitled to an hour’s pay for every missed meal and rest break. Which also give rise to paycheck stub violations and waiting time penalties. What you are going to see is these violations (and a myriad of other California Labor Code violations) add up fast. And for a medium sized company we are talking about millions of dollars and a larger company we are talking about tens of millions of dollars.

Helping your clients and finding gold in your file drawers You may be thinking right about now, this sucks (or you might not even care), but what does this have to do with me? If you’re a lawyer that has real people as clients, then you should listen up. Because we’re just getting to the part about how you can help your clients and do the right thing, while finding gold in your file drawers.

Mining the gold in your file drawers During the California Gold Rush, miners would stand in the rivers of Northern California, sifting the water and sand, looking to find gold nuggets. I suggest that you could and should do the same with your file drawers. Instead of mining for gold, you are looking for clients that work for companies that have 100 or more workers. They don’t all have to be hourly employees. Viable unpaid wages cases involve sales persons, improperly calculated incentive pay, workers mis-characterized as independent contractors, hourly workers and the like. The biggest problem you’re going to have is that you’re not going to know whether there are Labor Code violations or not. In other words, as they say in law school, in most instances—you’re not going to be able to “spot the issues.” So, what I suggest is that you team up or work with a respected unpaid wages class action lawyer/PAGA lawyer. The problem here is that many lawyers say they have expertise in this field and they will only see the more obvious Labor Code violations. Time and again, I have had clients hire us after first contacting other law firms and we have gone on to recover seven-figure or even eight-figure results for them because the first lawyers they contacted, literally, didn’t spot the issues. Of course, every case is different and past fantastic results in cases don’t guarantee any result in future cases.

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018



We’ll help you put your best foot forward. From logos and brochures to websites, strategy, writing and beyond, we’ve got you covered! Jenny Strauss, Partner & Brand Strategist (215) 460-0835

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 180, 2018

The good things you accomplish by referring an unpaid wages class action case First, you are helping your clients get the unpaid wages that they are entitled to under California law. Many of these clients live paycheck to paycheck and the unpaid wages you help them recover will be greatly appreciated by them and their family. It is very satisfying when you help your clients. Second, you are deterring other companies from stealing workers’ wages. Third, California law encourages you to refer legal cases to a specialist. The client benefits and you benefit by making the referral. The client gets money compensation for their unpaid wages. The lawyers we work with really appreciate it when they get a large attorney referral fee in a seven-figure or even eight-figure unpaid wages case. Fourth, let’s get back to Robert Kiyosaki and his book, Rich Dad Poor Dad. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend you do. When you trade your time for money—like most lawyers do by billing clients hourly, you are limited by how much income you can make. But if you refer one of these unpaid wages to a good, honest unpaid wages class action/ PAGA lawyer then you are getting a referral fee and you are no longer trading your time for money.

Make sure you refer your unpaid wages case to a law firm that protects you and your client For example, my firm has a system set up to screen cases referred by other lawyers and to make sure that the State Bar rules regarding referral fees are followed to protect the client and you. Whether it’s with my firm or one of the small handful of great, honest unpaid wage class action/PAGA law firms in California—you will be helping your clients and yourself by referring clients. This really is about helping clients and doing the right thing. n William (Bill) Turley has one of the largest and most successful unpaid wages class action/PAGA law firms in California. He represented the workers in the Brinker vs. Superior Court case and regularly is asked to write amicus curie briefs before the California Supreme Court in unpaid wages cases. Bill is known as the go-to lawyer at the California State Capital for consulting on unpaid wages legislation. Bill regularly testifies before the California State Senate and Assembly.



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