Attorney Journal, San Diego, Volume 148

Page 1


Volume 148, 2015 • $6.95

How Your Law Firm’s Community Involvement Can Be a Win-Win-Win

Protecting Your Client’s Trade Secrets

An Open Letter to Attorneys: Please, for the Love of God, Get Reviews!

4 Signs That You Are Your Own Worst Critic

Mike Fuller

Grant Brott J.R. Oakes

Paula Black

People Can’t Be Held Accountable Until They are Given the Responsibility and Authority They Need

Attorneys of the Month

Allison Worden & Deborah Dixon

Bob Denney

of Gomez Trial Attorneys, San Diego Taking the Lead in the Courtroom and the Community






:★: :★:

:★: :★:


up our g n i p p a Wr splendid a r o f s . ishe ew Year N finest w s u o r e d prosp n a y a d holi


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W W W. J I L I O R YA N . C O M


2015 EDITION—NO.148

TABLE OF CONTENTS 8 Protecting Your Client’s Trade Secrets by Mike Fuller



16 Allison Worden & Deborah Dixon of Gomez Trial Attorneys, San Diego

Taking the Lead in the Courtroom and the Community EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER Brian Topor

by Jennifer Hadley

22 An Open Letter to Attorneys Please, for the Love of God, Get Reviews!

EDITOR Wendy Price CREATIVE SERVICES Skidmutro Creative Partners

by J.R. Oakes

CIRCULATION Angela Watson PHOTOGRAPHY Chris Griffiths STAFF WRITERS Jennifer Hadley Bridget Brookman Karen Gorden CONTRIBUTING EDITORIALISTS Bob Denney Paula Black Grant Brott Mike Fuller J.R. Oaks WEBMASTER Mariusz Opalka ADVERTISING INQUIRIES SUBMIT AN ARTICLE



24 People Can’t Be Held Accountable Until They Are Given the Responsibility And Authority They Need

26 How Your Law Firm’s Community Involvement Can Be a Win-Win-Win

by Bob Denney


by Grant Brott

30 4 Signs That You Are Your Own Worst Critic by Paula Black

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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 2015 by Sticky Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from Sticky Media, LLC. Printed in the USA

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Protecting Your Client’s Trade Secrets by Mike Fuller

Mike Fuller is the Co-Managing Partner of Knobbe Martens San Diego office and chair of the firm’s biotech practice group. Mike’s practice includes patent prosecution, strategic planning and counsel relating to infringement and licensing issues, and intellectual property due diligence studies and related negotiations for mergers and acquisitions.

hen you visit a client’s facility, did you ever wonder why you are required to sign in and agree to keep all information seen or heard during your visit confidential? In many cases, that confidentiality agreement is put in place to allow your client to maintain trade secret protection for their valuable information. Sophisticated clients use the confidentiality provisions to protect information that is readily seen, heard or read during a visit to their facility. For example, a company may have a special machine that performs an important manufacturing step. The use of that machine may be a valuable trade secret for the company because it makes their manufacturing process more efficient, and therefore less expensive. A visitor to the facility could easily see the machine on the manufacturing line and therefore know it’s being used in the process. Without some type of confidentiality agreement between the company and visitors, the trade secret in the use of that machine could be lost. Trade secrets need to be kept secret, or they lose their protection. Trade secret protection prevents the unauthorized misappropriation of valuable information, where the information has independent economic value from not being generally known to the public. California has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which defines what a trade secret is, and how it should be protected.1 In order for a company to maintain information as a trade secret, the information must be kept confidential by efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances. This requirement that companies use “efforts that are reasonable” leads to clients mandating that all guests visiting their facility sign confidentiality provisions before they can enter. Many companies don’t realize how much trade secret information they have within their business. Customer lists, vendor lists, purchasing information and financial results can all be valuable trade secrets that should be considered for protection. This information, along with computer code, drawings and designs, can be misappropriated when an employee leaves a company. Manufacturing tricks and techniques that improve efficiency and yields may also be valuable trade secrets. All of this confidential information should be protected so that competitors don’t benefit by gaining access to the information. The last thing a company needs is for its employees to learn all its manufacturing processes, and then leave to teach a competitor the same techniques. 1


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Cal. Civil Code §§ 3426-3426.11

However, only requiring visitors to sign a blanket confidentiality form may not be reasonable enough protection depending on the trade secret being protected. Imagine the case where the client’s main product is a beverage that is marketed as having secret ingredients that competitors can’t determine. The secret ingredients give the beverage a unique flavor desired by customers and is a main selling point of the beverage. It may not be reasonable to only require guests to sign a confidentiality agreement on entering the office if the exact ingredient list of the beverage is posted on a wall that is easily viewed by everyone entering the facility. A court may find that for such an important secret, it would only be reasonable for additional steps to be taken to maintain that trade secret. For example, a court could find that the formula should be stored in a locked safe, with limited access by only selected employees. Each specific trade secret must be evaluated so that the required reasonable steps are taken to maintain that trade secret in confidence. In order for your clients to know what reasonable steps are necessary to protect their trade secrets, they should take a two-step approach. The first step is to specifically identify what formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process they want to protect as a trade secret. Without this identification step it can be difficult to determine what steps are reasonable to protect the information. Any information that is designated as a trade secret should be clearly labeled as “CONFIDENTIAL” or “TRADE SECRET” in a manner that is appropriate for the type of information being protected. Papers can be stamped with an ink stamp. Computer files can be labeled as confidential, and stored in a directory that has limited access to only certain employees. Machines or processes can be labeled with “CONFIDENTIAL” stickers to indicate to visitors and employees that there are trade secret aspects to the use of the particular machine. After the trade secret is identified, and labeled as confidential, the second step is to determine what would be reasonable, under the circumstances, to maintain that information as secret. Each different trade secret may require different steps to maintain its secrecy. Special formulas that hold tremendous value may need to be kept in a locked safe. Less valuable information could be protected with only the signed confidentiality provision on entrance to the facility. Particular machines may need to be segregated into locked rooms that require certain credentials to enter. In general, the more monetary value ascribed to a trade secret, the more extreme steps are required to reasonably maintain its secrecy. The company may also put additional layers of audit tracking or security in place to ensure that the steps they are taking to protect the identified trade secrets are reasonable. Employee access to certain computer files may be monitored and tracked. Electronic locks on doors can monitor who comes and goes from segregated rooms that contain trade secret information or equipment. Management may schedule regular audits of this

information to determine if unauthorized users are accessing the trade secret information. In some cases, security guards may be hired to individually check access credentials to very sensitive information. Your clients should also be proactive with educating their employees on the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of information that is designated as a trade secret. Employees need to clearly understand what information is a trade secret, and how they are supposed to act to maintain the confidentiality of that information. Reminding your client to perform regular educational and training updates with their employees who work with trade secret information is one good way to reinforce the value of the information. The company should clearly explain what is expected of each employee by the company to maintain its trade secret protections. The employee manual is a good place for your client to outline its policies and procedures for maintaining trade secret information. That manual should have a section devoted to informing employees of their responsibilities to maintain company secrets in confidence. In addition to a handbook, many companies also require their employees to sign nondisclosure statements which can prevent the employee from discussing any confidential work information with third parties during, or after, the term of their employment. Whenever an employee leaves a company, particularly on bad terms, there is a risk that the employee will take trade secret information with them in an attempt to jump-start their job search. This is where your client’s identification of its trade secrets becomes important. A company should first determine what access the departing employee had to particular trade secrets, and then look to see if that information was recently accessed by the employee. If such access is found, the company may want to write to the departed employee and remind them of their duty to keep all trade secret information confidential. If there is evidence that actual information was taken by the employee by, for example, downloading it to a thumb drive or emailing it to their personal email accounts, further steps and consultation with an intellectual property attorney may be warranted. Finally, a company may want to monitor where each employee that leaves the company gets hired. Some employees may move to a completely different career where any trade secret information would be unlikely to be used. Other employees may move to a direct competitor and be in a position where your company’s trade secrets could be valuable information. It’s this circumstance that is the most frightening for most businesses and where a managed and organized trade secret protection program will pay off. Help your clients protect their trade secrets by having them specifically identify each trade secret used to protect their valuable information. Then make sure they are using reasonable steps to protect those trade secrets so that if there is ever any misappropriation of the trade secret they have options to enforce their rights under California law. n Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015  15

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

COMMUNITY news n The San Diego-based law firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek is pleased to announce that Robert S. Brewer has joined the firm as of counsel. Brewer’s practice focuses on a variety of civil litigation and whitecollar defense matters including government investigations, fraud, business and commercial ROBERT S. BREWER torts, health care and intellectual property disputes. Prior to joining SCMV, Brewer was a partner in the San Diego office of Jones Day. Brewer gained significant trial experience as a prosecutor in Los Angeles, serving as a Deputy District Attorney and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney—including Assistant Chief of the Criminal Division—prosecuting cases involving espionage, bank robberies, smuggling, narcotics, murder for hire and civil rights violations. Brewer became a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1998 and received the Daniel T. Broderick Award for Ethics and Civility in 2008. He is a Master in the Enright Inn of Court and was a board member of Federal Defenders for 10 years. Brewer received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego School of Law and his bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University. n Gordon Gerson, founder of San Diego-based GERSON LAW FIRM APC, received the Power of Attorney Award from Freddie Mac. The award presentation was held at the government-sponsored enterprise’s annual Multifamily Conference in Chicago, Illinois on September 16, 2015. The Power of Attorney Award annually GORDON GERSON recognizes one or more lawyers for outstanding contributions to Freddie Mac’s Small Balance Loan (SBL) program—loans less than $5 million—for multifamily properties. Gerson was one of two attorneys recognized—Ted Abruzzo of Abruzzo & Linn in New York was the other recipient. For several years, GERSON LAW FIRM has been nationally recognized as having one of the largest, if not the largest, commercial real estate loan closing practices in the country for all types of commercial real estate, including (but not limited to) apartments, retail, industrial, office and lodging. The firm’s national reputation is built in part on its large national presence in closing apartment loans of all sizes (including $50 million and more) for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

n Fish & Richardson has announced that two associates have joined the firm’s Southern California office: Megan Chacon and Veronica Sandoval. Chacon joins the firm’s litigation group. Her practice emphasizes complex patent litigation across a wide range of technologies, including pharmaceutical compounds and MEGAN CHACON delivery systems, biotechnology, chemicals, medical devices and consumer products. Prior to joining Fish, Chacon practiced as a patent litigator at a leading intellectual property law firm in New York focusing on HatchWaxman litigation. Chacon received her J.D. from Boston University School of Law in 2011 and her B.S. from the University of Utah in 2008. Sandoval also joins the firm’s VERONICA SANDOVAL litigation group. Prior to joining Fish, she served as a judicial extern to Honorable Charles K. Wiggins of the Washington Supreme Court and as an extern at the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Prior to law school, Sandoval earned her Ph.D. in Pharmacology & Toxicology, with a focus in neuropharmacology, and was a medical liaison for two different pharmaceutical companies. Her doctorate research focused on the neurotoxic effects of methamphetamine on the neurochemistry and dopaminergic system; her research had implications for drug addiction treatment and Parkinson’s disease. Sandoval received her J.D. from Seattle University School of Law in 2013, her Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 2002 and her B.A. from the University California, Berkeley in 1997. n For their excellence in the practice of law and their Martindale AV listing, Berger Kahn Attorneys Roberta Winston and Dale Amato have been included in the L.A. Times, American Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, National Law Journal and as attorneys listed in “Top Rated Attorneys.” Berger Kahn congratulates each of them on their honor.

Have a Press Release you would like to submit for our Community News? Email it to 12

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015



COMMUNITY news n Klinedinst PC has officially welcomed two new employment attorneys, Nadia P. Bermudez and Patrick Goode, II. Ms. Bermudez has represented businesses and individuals in state and federal courts in a wide range of employment matters such as sexual harassment, discrimination, wage and hour, wrongful termination, NADIA P. BERMUDEZ defamation, and trade secrets. She is also a professional trainer in sexual harassment prevention, as well as other employment topics. A fixture in the local community, Ms. Bermudez has held leadership positions in Lawyers Club of San Diego, San Diego County Bar Association, San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, and the Hispanic National Bar Association. She currently serves Senator PATRICK GOODE, II Dianne Feinstein’s Advisory Committee for the Southern District of California, recommending nominees for the positions of U.S. District Court Judge, U.S. Attorney, and U.S. Marshal. Mr. Goode provides clients with guidance on employment, business, and commercial litigation. He counsels corporations and individuals in labor and employment matters, contract disputes, and entity formation and dissolution issues. He has advised public entities in labor and employment matters, including collective bargaining agreements. Before entering the law, Mr. Goode was a high-level executive at a Floridabased construction company, managing the company’s financial departments, overseeing contract formation and enforcement, and supervising employment practices. n Latham & Watkins LLP1 is pleased to announce that 25 associates have been elected to the partnership and 31 associates have been promoted to the role of counsel, effective January 1, 2016. The group includes lawyers from across the firm’s five departments who are based in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United JENNIFER KOH States, reflecting a breadth of legal capabilities in the world’s major financial, business and regulatory centers. In San Diego, Jennifer Koh is a member of the Litigation Department whose practice focuses on patent litigation and related counseling, with a particular emphasis on matters pertaining to pharmaceuticals, medical devices, molecular diagnostics and DNA sequencing. Her experience includes trial and appellate work in cases arising under the Hatch-Waxman Act. She received her JD from the University of San Diego School of Law in 2005.

n HechtSolberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley LLP has been honored as a Tier 1 San Diego law firm in the areas of real estate law and land use and zoning law in the U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers 2016 rankings. The firm was also designated a Tier 2 law firm for San Diego in the area of corporate law. MICHAEL J. MAHER Firms included in the 2016 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence through consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of skill, integrity and qualifications. To be eligible for a ranking in a particular practice area and metro region, a law firm must have at least one lawyer who is included in Best Lawyers in that particular practice area and metro. Earlier this year, HechtSolberg attorney Paul E. Robinson was named the 2016 San Diego Land Use and Zoning Law “Lawyer of the Year.” Other HechtSolberg attorneys honored on the 2016 Best Lawyers ranking are Darryl O. Solberg for Business Organizations, Corporate Law and Real Estate Law and David W. Bagley II for Real Estate Law.

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015


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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015



in the courtroom & the community Gomez Trial Attorneys Deborah Dixon and Allison Worden have emerged as pioneers in unique practice areas for the renowned plaintiff’s firm, all the while standing as beacons of leadership in the San Diego legal community. by Jennifer Hadley

GOMEZ TRIAL ATTORNEYS is unquestionably one of the

most recognized and renowned personal injury firms in Southern California. However, due to the firm’s refusal to pigeonhole itself as a strictly traditional P.I. firm, in recent years Gomez Trial Attorneys has earned a well-deserved national reputation as the plaintiff’s firm that will not only take on all cases they believe in; they will take them to trial, and then they’ll win. With a dedication to helping and serving others through countless community service engagements, educational efforts, and unmatched trial expertise, Gomez Trial Attorneys is consistently at the forefront of fighting for justice in emerging plaintiffs practice areas. Senior Trial Attorneys Deborah Dixon and Allison Worden are two of the firm’s Senior Trial Lawyers who clearly stand as pioneers in these emerging and expanding practice areas for the firm. Dixon and Worden also happen to serve as beacons of leadership throughout San Diego.


“The law affects everyone in some way, every day we interact with laws,” Dixon says of first becoming interested in law. “I loved the idea of learning about something that affected so many of us in our lives, and then having the ability to help people navigate the legal system and legal issues.” After graduating from California Western School of Law, she went on to begin her career in complex litigation. Knowing she wanted to be able to help as many people as possible in one action, Dixon joined Gomez Trial Attorneys and emerged as leader of the firm’s class action practice. She quickly found that she was one of very few woman practicing in class actions. She would soon find even fewer women taking class action cases to trial. 16 Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

Dixon says, “My typical client is a representative of hundreds or thousands of other clients, sometimes nationwide. Class actions are unique because we never have the privilege of meeting all of our clients; we can’t because the class is so big. But we are able to provide a remedy or a benefit to many people who have been harmed by fraud or a defective product or unlawful practices.” In addition, Dixon points out, “Class actions do not go to trial often, rarely, in fact. But our firm is designed for trial. John Gomez and I had the unique opportunity to try a nationwide federal class action in Central District recently. We navigated new areas and experiences as non-security class action jury trials just don’t happen often. We are also able to help other lawyers as they are getting close to trial and often meet with attorneys to strategize about what it looks like to get to trial in a class action case.” Dixon is well equipped with the resources and the training to go to trial as well. “We have a full mock courtroom that we use often, and coordinate focus groups and mock trials to hear from mock jurors their feelings about the case and observe their deliberations. It is very useful preparation, and not all firms are able to dedicate these resources. We do have the resources and in every class action it is really insightful. We want to make sure that we can truly help people on a large scale level, so we try to ensure we are taking cases that will get certified so that we can be the voices for many people. “These cases aren’t just about one person. They may start with one person, or a few people, but ultimately hundreds or thousands are affected,” she says. From automobile defects to defective products, to victims misled by large scale false advertising, Dixon says that helping those she has never met is particularly fulfilling. “It is the benefit of class actions and is a constant reminder that it would be impossible for all of the

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people harmed to bring an individual case, because it would not be worth it on an individual level. Class actions allow a lot of people to get a benefit when just a few stand up and fight.” Given Dixon’s natural proclivity for standing up for others, it’s not surprising that her desire to serve in capacities which help as many others as possible extends outside of her work as a Senior Trial Attorney. As current President of Lawyers Club of San Diego, the largest specialty bar association in San Diego, whose mission is to advance the status of women in the law and in society, Dixon says that her desire to “advocate for women’s equality and celebrate the status of everyone, not just women lawyers, but all women,” drove her to her leadership position. “I am very passionate about equal rights for women and helping women not just break the glass ceiling, but smash it to pieces so that it cannot be recreated in future years. The organization and its members inspire me; it is so great to educate about the pay gap and lack of parity, but to also coordinate action and develop solutions of what we can do to ensure San Diego rises above the gap and leads the charge to ensure women are given fair and deserving opportunities to be promoted, recognized for their work, and to be evaluated on the same criteria as their counterparts.” Likewise, Dixon is devoted to giving back to the school she says she has “nothing but good things to say about.” She credits her law education with the life she has now, and says she feels an obligation to pay that back, through serving as the President of California Western School of Law Alumni Association Board. “I love meeting fellow alumni and hearing their experiences and successes, and I enjoy mentoring younger lawyers. Seeing people raised up in all capacities is fuel for me.” 18

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“I grew up in a law enforcement family. My dad was a police officer with the San Diego Police Department and always instilled in us a sense of duty to public service and helping the community in which you live. He joined the Police Department as a cadet at 17 years old and retired as an Assistant Chief after 38 years of service. He sat on numerous boards, including Crime Stoppers. He felt a sense of responsibility, and was not content to be a bystander. My mother stayed at home with us, and we watched as she volunteered consistently for the hospitals, and sat on auxiliary boards of volunteers. My sisters and I were candy stripers and began serving our community when we were very young. There was almost no chance I wouldn’t become a public servant,” Worden says with a laugh. “I thought becoming an attorney would enable me to help people and contribute in a significant way to the community,” she adds. As such, after earning both her Bachelor’s Degree and Law Degree from the University of San Diego, she began a 12-year career as a Deputy District Attorney in San Diego. “I became an attorney to help people who have suffered significant harm achieve some justice.” During her time as a Deputy District Attorney, Worden tried more than 80 cases to a jury verdict along with an additional 25 bench trials. She prosecuted crimes including domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, narcotics, fraud, vehicular crimes, property crimes, assault, robbery, and homicides, gaining invaluable trial experience in all levels of criminal law. It was

campuses has become all too prevalent of late. Holding these perpetrators accountable and bringing these issues to the forefront is the only way we are going to be able to change the culture on school campuses and protect the future students and generations from being harmed.” Worden’s involvement in one particular case where a 14-yearold student was videotaped in the school bathroom, which led to relentless bullying both on campus and online, solidified her determination to fight for victims of on-campus bullying. The student committed suicide two weeks after the bullying began. “No amount of money is going to help families recover from this type of loss. What they are looking for is accountability. Principals of schools have a mandatory duty to protect and prevent bullying on campus. Unfortunately, no one is taking action,” Worden says. To that end, Breach of Mandatory Duty cases often run parallel to wrongful death lawsuits. Named defendants may include the student perpetrators, but also often include principals or counselors, or the school itself. “Bankrupting the perpetrator’s parents isn’t the end goal. We look at ways to have the students who are bullying take accountability in various ways, including going to speak to other students about the severe consequences of bullying on campus,” Worden says. “We want to educate the public and the schools, and administrators

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precisely this hands-on experience as a prosecutor that made her transition to a plaintiff’s trial attorney remarkably seamless. “The burden of proof is on the plaintiff in a catastrophic injury case, just like the burden of proof is on the prosecution in a criminal case,” Worden says. “Joining Gomez Trial Attorneys was a perfect fit for me, since we are known for going to trial, and many of our civil cases do have criminal overlays.” Moreover, like Dixon, the firm’s history of service to the community resonated loudly with Worden, and was a determining factor in her decision to transition into plaintiff’s work specifically as a trial attorney with Gomez Trial Attorneys. “Giving back is so important to John Gomez. I have watched him shut down the office so that we can be involved in community service events, or fundraisers. We aren’t just writing checks, we are out participating in our community.” Given Worden’s experience in prosecuting so many heinous crimes, and a true passion for helping victims of injustice, she focused her attention on victims of catastrophic injuries upon joining Gomez Trial Attorneys. However, one case would open the door for a new niche. “Recently I have focused a portion of my practice on representing children who have been victims of bullying, or injured, whether by sexual or physical abuse, on a school campus. Unfortunately bullying and sexual assault on school

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015



Dixon and Worden are unequivocally powerful plaintiff’s trial lawyers. For all of their differences in their individual practice areas and niches, they share a nearly identical philosophy regarding the undeniable link between leadership and lawyering. “Being an advocate does not mean you have to be adversarial. Professionalism is paramount in our community, and I believe in making connections, being an active part of the San Diego legal community and giving back through interests I am passionate about,” Dixon says. Worden agrees, “Helping the legal community by serving in leadership roles, helps the community at large, because better lawyers mean that people in our community are getting better representation.” n Contact: Gomez Trial Attorneys 619-237-3490 655 West Broadway Suite 1700 San Diego, CA 92101


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015


so that students who are being bullied can speak up, and feel confident that they will be protected,” Worden says. The publicity from that case led to an influx of referrals from fellow attorneys who simply didn’t know how to take and handle similar on-campus bullying and assault cases. Suffice it to say, Worden has been more than willing to serve as an advocate for numerous bullied students since then, thereby inadvertently creating a niche for herself as the trial attorney who literally stands up to schoolyard bullies. Worden’s ingrained desire to help others and serve her community has led her into prominent leadership roles outside of her work as a Trial Attorney. She is currently serving as the President for the San Diego Inn of Court, where she is also an instructor and workshop leader for the Colleges of Evidence and Trial Advocacy Programs. “The programs may have as many as 300 students at a time. We are working to help them become better trial lawyers. It’s always better to go up against a good, skilled lawyer than a bad one, because it makes you work harder, provides better representation for the client, and it pushes you personally to become a better lawyer.” Worden has also served as an adjunct professor at her beloved University of San Diego, where she was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions as a Star of the Month, after being named to the West Coast Conference All-Conference Team as a soccer goalkeeper four years in a row. She has taught Criminal Law, Procedure and Politics at the school over the years.

Allison Worden

Deborah Dixon



• University of San Diego, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), English • University of San Diego School of Law, Juris Doctor


• Board of Directors for the San Diego Inn of Court • President for the San Diego Inn of Court • San Diego County Bar Association • Federal District Court for Southern and Central Districts • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego • Consumer Attorneys of California • American Association for Justice • Adjunct Professor for the University of San Diego


• Jogging, hiking, snowboarding, waterskiing, and spending time with her husband Evan and their two children Avery and David


“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” –Winston Churchill

• California Western School of Law, Juris Doctor


• San Diego Bar Association • President of Lawyers Club of San Diego • California Western School of Law, Alumni Association—President


• San Diego Metro Magazine, “40 Under 40” designation, 2014 • San Diego Business Journal “Best of the Bar,” 2014 & 2015 • Super Lawyers, “Rising Star,” 2014 & 2015 • The San Diego Daily Transcript, Top Attorney, 2015 and Top Young Attorney, 2012 • The San Diego Daily Transcript, Women of Influence, 2012


• Hiking with husband Matthew and their dog, Nikita, and fostering dogs through Second Chance Dog Rescue



nyone who has been in the search marketing business for more than a month will tell you that getting online reviews is one of the most important and effective marketing activities in which local businesses can invest their time and resources. The reason is “social proof.” From Wikipedia: Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. In the age of Amazon and Google, people simply put a great deal of faith in online reviews of products and services. In fact, according to the results of a survey by BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. In other words, technology has changed the way “word-of-mouth” advertising works. Most law firms have a rich history of depending on referral relationships with other firms. A referral is powerful. Attorneys know this. But, given the reach of search marketing, online reviews can also allow your law firm to put its good work in front of thousands of people. In this sense, reviews may be even more important than referrals to your law firm’s success. This graphic is similar to one we used in a presentation last year in a meeting with clients who had been struggling to understand the importance of online reviews. Each one of these firms has probably paid tens of thousands of dollars to search vendors to grab a spot in the top three. Which firm do you think is getting all the clicks? Correct, Madalon Law!


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

I have to include a caveat: Reviews, like everything else on Google, can be manipulated. You definitely will find SEO firms that have workflows in place to “game the system.” We strongly recommend that you stay away from this approach to online reviews for two very important reasons: • It’s unnecessary. If your law firm truly provides excellent client service and deserves great reviews, you should be able to get them naturally. • It’s risky. If you try to manipulate online reviews with Google, you will run the great and highly costly risk of ruining your online visibility. Additionally, whatever techniques you use to help collect reviews for your law firm, make sure that they are in line with

your State Bar guidelines and with the requirements of the specific review platform. If you need a further nudge to start collecting online reviews, consider this number: Law firm clients have shared with us that 60% of their intakes mention reviews as a main decision factor in hiring the firm. (I wish I could make the font size of that number bigger, but our marketing director won’t let me.) Finally, if you are concerned that reviews will be impossible to get, I want to share a story that should change your mind: I have had the same mechanic for 20 years. I hung out with him for a few minutes last year when he was working on my wife’s car. Since I am a web geek, I pulled up his Google local page while I was there. To my astonishment, he had one review (even though he had been working with a marketing company for quite some time). “What are you doing?” I asked. “You have such a great relationship with your clients. Why do you have only one review?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “I guess I never really thought to ask for them.” As I sit down to write this letter, I can report that my mechanic now has 20 reviews. And I can guarantee that those reviews have helped his business to grow. He simply started asking his customers to provide them.

This brings me to the bottom line. If your web vendor has been urging you to get reviews for the last year, shared materials and strategies with you to gain reviews, and even though you are ranking well for your transactional searches (i.e. “car accident lawyer”) but still are not getting clicks—don’t blame your vendor. Blame yourself. There is nothing more that your web vendor can do safely— other than, perhaps, increasing your PPC spending—which will allow you to get more click-throughs to your site for important keywords. In other words, by getting your firm visibility in the top three positions for important search terms, your web vendor can get you to the finish line. It’s up to you to cross it. Will you start asking? Sincerely, J.R. Oakes J.R. Oakes is in charge of developing and managing our comprehensive approach to search engine optimization for our law firm clients at In this role, J.R. constantly analyzes and adapts our SEO strategy to address the constantly changing factors that go into high search engine rankings. He can be reached at: (800) 872-6590.

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015


“ Accountability: Being required to answer for or explain” “ Responsibility: Authority, obligation or duty” —The Oxford Dictionary

“A People Can’t Be Held Accountable Until They are Given the Responsibility and Authority They Need by Bob Denney

Bob Denney is a recognized authority on strategy, management and leadership for law firms and companies. He serves as an outside Director on company boards and has also served as an interim CEO in turnaround and crisis situations. For further information visit our website at


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

ccountability” has become one of the most frequently used terms in management today. Starting with the CEO all levels of management are, more than ever, being held “accountable” for their performance and for the performance of the people who report to them. Holding people accountable is necessary. But it’s not where you start “Accountability” has a negative connotation. As the definition above states, it requires people to answer for or explain their actions. Instead of emphasizing accomplishments and successes, accountability tends to focus on lack of accomplishment or failure. On the other hand, the concept of “Responsibility” is positive. Electing or appointing a person to a responsible position or asking someone to assume responsibility for accomplishing a project shows trust and confidence in the person’s ability to fulfill that responsibility. But they must also be given the authority to fulfill the responsibility they are given. If they are not given the authority to go with the responsibility, they can’t be held accountable. The most effective leaders in any business, professional firm or organization welcome and thrive on responsibility and the obligation to provide the direction and guidance that go with it. Furthermore, because so much responsibility is placed on these leaders, they have learned one of the tenets of successful leadership: They delegate certain responsibilities to others and also give them the authority they need. Responsibility vs. accountability is not a matter of semantics. It reflects a basic understanding of human nature and leadership. Most people do not like to be held accountable. But they do welcome and usually thrive on being given responsibility. It is no mystery that successful companies, professional firms and organizations have a culture in which everyone in them welcomes and assumes responsibility for the success of the operation. n

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How Your Law Firm’s Community Involvement Can Be a Win-Win-Win by Grant Brott


live in South Carolina. The large storm that hit in October caused a great amount of destructive flooding in my state and heavily impacted the lives of people and the operations of businesses. Most of us were stuck inside and glued to our smartphones because the power was out. The pictures and stories were all over the news and social media. Within a couple of hours, the interaction was explosive across the Internet. People were sharing links and stories with friends and family across the country, which led to even more people on the Web researching the events. Despite the dreadful circumstances of the natural disaster, all of the resulting activity created opportunities for lots of “wins.” First, and most importantly, it allowed people and businesses to provide help to those who were in need. That is a big “win” for the community. Flood relief efforts in South Carolina brought funding and supplies to many who were in very difficult situations. Donations came, and volunteers worked tirelessly to help improve the situation wherever possible.

HOW LAW FIRMS GET INVOLVED WITH COMMUNITIES When events such as this one occur, law firms often get involved. They initiate and promote efforts to gather donations of money and supplies, and in some cases, they volunteer their


Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

labor to assist victims. Additionally, many law firms and their team members are involved with ongoing charitable and philanthropic efforts. Through involvement in these types of activities, firms have a chance to benefit while benefitting their communities, organizations that do good and individuals who need assistance. This is where the other “wins” come into play. A law firm has the opportunity to win by building goodwill within its communities. By showing the people in your region that you are a group of people who cares about others, you can connect with them in deeper ways than simple marketing can offer. They may not remember the law firm billboard that they drive past from time to time. However, they will likely remember the firm that sponsored a 5K for their favorite charity. That deeper connection is definitely a “win.” Lastly, there can be a “win” for your firm’s website, your search engine optimization and your online marketing efforts in general. When you get involved in your community and promote good causes and activities that benefit various groups, you naturally create conversation and activity online. That activity can benefit your firm’s website in the form of visits, links, citations, social media interaction and brand mentions.

HOW LAW FIRM WEBSITES CAN BENEFIT FROM THE FIRM’S COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Let’s say your firm is hosting a charity dinner to benefit an organization that was involved in aiding victims of pancreatic cancer. You would likely add a page to your website describing the event, taking donations and selling tickets. You would

promote the event on social media, sharing it with as many of your followers as possible. You might even reach out to other organizations with similar interests and ask them to share your event with their followers, too. Naturally, those who care about the cause will share your event with their friends and followers on social media platforms and, perhaps, link to your event page from their own websites. Hopefully, a much larger group of people will hear about it and be interested in participating. You may also post your event to websites that list local and regional events, which can increase “event citations” on the Web. While all of this is happening, the social media activity, links, mentions of your law firm’s brand, event citations and additional visits to your site can all have a positive effect on your website. It can improve your site’s ability to rank and appear when a search engine shows results to its users. In essence, all of the “hoopla” surrounding the charitable effort that you have initiated can send signals to search engines that your website is valuable and worth visiting. They may be more likely to offer your page to its users in a higher position. That would make it more likely that your search listing would be clicked, and your website will get another visit.

WHY SOCIAL MEDIA IS SO IMPORTANT TO LAW FIRMS Law firms that serve the general public have tons of experience in serving and supporting people during times of crisis. Because of the type of law they practice, they know how to be compassionate and encourage people in difficult times. They do this in person, with their clients on an ongoing basis, but social media provides a platform where they can serve and support their communities and increase awareness of the firm at the same time. By sharing and commenting on relevant news stories, promoting various causes in which your firm is involved and being a part of the conversation, you can develop top-of-mind awareness among groups of people with whom you want to connect. They may not have a reason to need your services at present, but by nurturing a relationship with them, they may reach out to you in the future. Why else is social media important? Because it is a huge source of news for the American public. In turn, having a presence for your law firm on various platforms can garner more exposure. How do social media sites stack up on news? When you take into account the total reach of a site (the share of Americans who use it) and the proportion of users who get news on the site, Facebook is the obvious news powerhouse. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use the site and half of those users get news there, amounting to approximately 30% of the general population.

YouTube is the next biggest social news pathway— about half of Americans use the site, and one-fifth of them get news there. This translates to 10% of the adult population and puts the site in the same category of relevance as Twitter. Twitter reaches 16% of Americans. Half of those users say they get news there, or 8% of Americans. Although only 3% of the U.S. population uses Reddit, for those that do, getting news there is a major draw—62% of users have gotten news from the site. Percent of social networking site users how have... Shared or reposted news stories, images or videos


Discussed a news issue or event Posted photos they took of a news event Posted videos they took of a news event

46 14 12

Source: Pew Research Center, phone survey. Feb. 27 – March 2, 2014

KINDS OF NEWS ON FACEBOOK Percent of Facebook News Consumers who Regularly See News on Facebook about... 73%

Entertainment People & events in my community




National gov’t & politics




Health & medicine


Local gov’t & politics


Local weather & traffic


International news


Science & technology Business

37 31

Source: Pew Research Center, Based on Facebook news consumers N=1,429. Facebook News Survey August 27, – September 2, 2013

Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015



MEET MELISSA DELEON Melissa Deleon represents victims of personal injuries and wrongful death. She is the past president of Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego, affiliate leader to the National Chair to San Diego County Bar Association’s Ethnic Relations and Diversity Committee, and a current board member of the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce. She has been named one of San Diego’s “Top Young Attorneys,” “Top Young Influentials,” “Best of the Bar” for personal injury litigation and a Super Lawyers “Rising Star.” REFERRALS PAID

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

Surely, your firm is in touch with local and national news. Be proactive when something happens in your community and act fast. You want your firm to “be there” in the beginning. You can even use your blog and social media to start conversations about important topics. Use the techniques below to boost your social media presence and produce traffic to your site: • Share on Social Media—Especially on Facebook and Twitter. Share your own blog posts or other articles. • If possible, generate a video about an event on your YouTube channel and Facebook page. Video can be very engaging, especially when the topic is important to social media users. • Add content to your homepage that talks about a newsworthy event and what your firm is doing to help your community. • If your firm is involved in any community projects, ask them to share your pages and post on their social media profiles, and ask for links on their websites. You could get participation from schools, churches, local hospitals and nonprofit organizations.

DO WELL BY DOING GOOD There are always groups of people who need your help and support. Take the opportunity to assist your community during difficult times and on an ongoing basis. Take action as a law firm to provide assistance through volunteering, raising money, organizing a blood drive, increasing awareness for a cause or engaging in countless other ways to help. Whether it is the floods in South Carolina, a charity dinner that your firm is hosting, a 5K event that you are sponsoring to benefit a good cause or any similar effort, lots of people get involved. You can build relationships, your firm’s reputation and the strength of your online marketing campaign all at once simply by reaching out and helping people. n Grant Brott, the lead Marketing Consultant with, works with our clients and account managers to determine relevant business data for creating effective marketing strategies. Grant can be reached at 800-872-6590.

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Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015


4 Signs That You Are Your Own Worst Critic by Paula Black

Drawing on over twenty years’ experience in branding and positioning, Paula Black has advised law firms around the globe on everything from powerful and innovative design to marketing strategy and business growth. She is the award-winning author of “The Little Black Book on Law Firm Branding & Positioning,” “The Little Black Book on Law Firm Marketing and Business Development,” and “The Little Black Book: A Lawyer’s Guide To Creating A Marketing Habit in 21 Days,” as well as founder and President of Miami-based Paula Black & Associates. For more information visit


reasonable amount of self-criticism can be a good thing. It allows us to reflect on our actions and decisions, and it helps us push ourselves to improve. Certainly, having self-awareness of our shortcomings is vital for anyone who wants to build and develop a business, and lawyers are no exception. BUT… many lawyers go beyond reflecting and become their own worst enemy. Does that sound familiar? Harsh judgement and analysis is important for winning in the courtroom, but not so for your business development efforts. Too much self-criticism will only serve to derail your business development efforts by sapping your enthusiasm to move forward. Are YOU your own worst critic? Here are four signs that you might be…

YOU THINK MORE ABOUT WHY IDEAS WILL FAIL… RATHER THAN SUCCEED When you prepare for court, you must poke any holes you can in your plans and ideas in anticipation of the opposing counsel’s attempts to do the same. This leads many lawyers to constantly search for reasons their ideas for business development and other aspects of their lives will fail, rather than thinking about the ways in which their ideas could succeed. To prevent yourself from derailing your business development efforts, train yourself to think about how your ideas could work…not how they will fail. Another way to look at it… train yourself to LOVE every idea for five minutes. Think of all the ways this action will benefit you and how you can make it work for at least five minutes. Then you can look at the dark side, not before.

ONLY PERFECTION WILL DO Do you stay up all hours of the night poring over documents and case files getting ready for court or client meeting, only 30 Attorney Journal San Diego | Volume 148, 2015

allowing yourself a moment’s rest once you are comfortable that everything is perfect? You are a lawyer…of course you do. But perfection is not necessary for your business development efforts. It is better to make progress with “good” or “great” plans and ideas than to stagnate while waiting for a level of perfection that may never come. The best ideas do not begin as perfect ideas… they are perfected over time.

YOU DON’T TAKE TIME TO ENJOY YOUR VICTORIES If you are your own worst critic, you probably do not take the time you should to enjoy your victories. Even small victories matter, and if you are constantly moving on to the next thing without taking the time to reflect on your accomplishments, your victories will lack fulfillment. If you do this, you will eventually lose the incentive and enthusiasm to continue reaching for new heights and working to achieve your goals.

YOU FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVES IN YOUR ACTIONS INSTEAD OF THE POSITIVES Negativity is one of the worst enemies of successful business development. Do not spend too much time focusing on what you did wrong…think about what you did right and how you can build on those actions. Always strive to be positive, no matter what! Learn from the situation. What will you do differently the next time? If you are your own worst critic, it’s time to stop getting in your own way. Do not allow self-criticism to derail your business development efforts. Fire your worst critic and your practice will be able to THRIVE. If you’d like to talk more about this subject, I’d love to chat with you. Let’s schedule a thirty-minute coaching session to discuss how I can help YOU create a thriving practice! n

“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 of any size. We recently settled a significant case in Nevada after two days of mediation. Rick was masterful in dealing with the retired judge mediator, the defense team, and our clients, and he maximized the recovery. Whenever I need anything in Nevada, the Richard Harris Law Firm is there for me.” ~ C. Michael Alder, Esq., Alder Law

CAALA Past President and Trial Lawyer of the Year 2004 Los Angeles, California

“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. The case was expertly worked up, litigated, and masterfully mediated. Everyone I worked with on Rick’s team was outstanding. For either a referral or a co-counsel arrangement, I wholeheartedly recommend Rick and the Richard Harris Law Firm for any Nevada case.” ~ Carl Wolf, Esq., Callaway & Wolf Northern California Super Lawyer 2010 San Francisco, California

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