P u blis h er ’ s N ote
Welcome to the Premiere Issue of Attorney Journal, San Diego Edition! Attorney Journal is a monthly controlled circulation, 4-color, glossy print and digital business-to-business trade magazine produced specifically for and delivered to private practice attorneys in San Diego County at no charge. In each issue, you’ll find features on noteworthy and respected private practice attorneys and other industry related specialists. These will be people and organizations you will want to know, people with outstanding reputations who can provide you with fresh insight about their private practices in San Diego County. A special thanks goes to John Gomez for gracing the cover of this issue. If it weren’t for him, the culture of what it takes to be our cover story wouldn’t have been possible. John is talented, well regarded, and has an amazing track record of success. Another special thanks goes out to our inside-featured professionals that include our Professional Profile of the Month, Dana Dunwoody; Solo Practitioner of the Month, Elizabeth Koumas; and Litigation Support Firm of the Month, TERIS. Thank you for trusting us to share your stories of success. In upcoming issues you will continue to read from an array of topics including professional profiles, pending legislation, legal ethics, practice management, technology, marketing, lifestyle issues, summaries of recent court rulings, professional discipline, legal malpractice, community news, and much more. Attorney Journal has no strict agenda nor is it affiliated with any industry association. We are published by Sticky Media, LLC, which is a branded content media firm with an impressive history publishing other exceptional local business-to-business trade publications. We want to hear from you and welcome your nominations for attorneys and firms worthy of being featured in upcoming issues. Also, we are now accepting press releases and other submissions for our (soon to be released) local industry news section “Community News.” We look forward to contributing toward your future success.
2011 E d i t i o n — N o .100
Executive Publisher Brian Topor Editor LeAnn Gerst Creative Director Julianne Gleaton Circulation Angela Watson Photography Rick Starkman Vinit Satyavrata Staff Writers Jennifer Hadley Nalen Green Karen Gorden Contributing Editorialists Jennifer Mannino Gerry Oginski Trey Ryder WEBMASTER S. Chorng Advertising Inquiries info@AttorneyJournal.us Editorial Inquiries Editorial@AttorneyJournal.us Office 10601-G Tierrasanta Blvd., Suite 131 San Diego, CA 92124 P 858.505.0314 F 858.524.5808 www.AttorneyJournal.us Address Changes Address corrections can be made via fax, email or postal mail. Editorial material appearing in Attorney Journal is an informational service to 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.
Brian Topor Executive Publisher, Attorney Journal President, Sticky Media, LLC
Attorney Journal is a trademark of Sticky Media, LLC. Not affiliated with any other trade publication or association. Copyright 2011 by Sticky Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from Sticky Media, LLC. Printed in the USA
TABLE OF CONTENTS features 2 0 1 1 E diti o n â€“ N O . 1 0 0
4 What is Education-Based Marketing?
8 Video Marketing Tips for Attorneys
10 Litigation Support Firm of the Month Teris
12 Investigative Series- Resources and Methods to Conduct a Background Check on an Opposing Party
14 Attorney of the Month John Gomez
20 Solo Practitioner of the Month Elizabeth J Koumas
26 Professional Profile of the Month Dana J Dunwoody
What is EducationBased Marketing?
ou have two choices when you select a marketing message. You can choose selling-based marketing, in which you take on the role of a salesperson and deliver a sales message. Or you can choose EducationBased Marketing, in which you take on the role of a consultant and educate prospective clients about their problems and the solutions you can provide. Selling-based marketing is built around a selling message, sometimes called a sales pitch. The sales pitch is often delivered using methods that reach out to prospective customers, such as telephone selling, direct mail, and door-to-door sales. Education-Based Marketing is built around an educational message, which replaces the sales message. The educational message is commonly delivered to prospective clients through educational means. These include written materials, media publicity (articles and interviews), advertising, seminars, newsletters, audio and video tapes, and Internet web sites. Frankly, you can educate your prospective clients using any method through which they can get your information and advice. Typically, your Education-Based Marketing program works like this: You create an educational message, which you first put into the form of a written handout. Then you offer your handout to prospects who are interested in your services. Prospects call your office to get your free written materials. You respond by sending the materials and inviting prospects to an upcoming seminar. In addition, you keep prospects educated through your educational newsletter. You put your message in front of your prospects through paid advertising, articles in newspapers and magazines, and interviews on radio and TV. In addition, you communicate with people on your mailing list and invite them to attend your seminar and bring their friends and associates.
by trey ryder
Trey Ryder specializes in Education-Based Marketing for lawyers. He offers three free articles by e-mail: 11 Brochure Mistakes Lawyers Make, Marketing Moves Most Lawyers Miss, and 13 Marketing Misconceptions that Cost Lawyers a Fortune. To receive these articles, send your name and e-mail address to email@example.com and ask for his free packet of marketing articles. Attorney Journal
Selling-based marketing creates these problems: 1. Prospects go out of their way to avoid you because they are tired of selling and sales pressure. They don’t like to be approached by salespeople who have something to sell. 2. Prospects don’t think they can trust you because all of us have been burned by salespeople who gave us “inaccurate” and even false information in their eagerness to earn a commission. 3. Prospects are defensive and protective because they expect you to try to pressure them into buying something they don’t want or need.
Education-Based Marketing provides these solutions: 1. You give prospective clients what they want, information and advice—and you remove what they don’t want, a sales pitch. 2. You maintain your dignity because you never make any effort to sell. 3. You establish yourself as an authority because prospective clients see you as a reliable source of information. 4. You don’t seek out prospects; instead, they call you. 5. You reach prospects during the first stage of the decisionmaking process, often before they call your competitors. 6. You identify even marginal prospects who suffer from phone-call fear, but who aren’t afraid to call for your free information. 7. You prove that calling your office is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s a positive experience. 8. You save money because you don’t need expensive brochures. 9. You receive calls from qualified prospects who are genuinely interested in your services and you screen out people who are not your prospects. 10. You establish your credibility and make a positive first impression by offering helpful information rather than a sales pitch. 11. You save time by answering common questions in your materials and seminars, rather than answering the same questions over and over. 12. You begin to earn your prospect’s loyalty because you’ve made an effort to help him, even if he doesn’t become your client. 13. You know precisely how well your marketing works because you can count the number of prospects who respond—and the number who go on to become clients. 14. You gain a competitive advantage simply by using this method because few, if any, of your competitors currently use it. 15. You benefit from the synergy of several educational methods that reinforce each other. 16. You earn a true profit, rather than just creating more work and more overhead.
Now I invite you to profit from this unique method.
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Attorney Journal | Volume 107, 2012
magine that you needed to hire an attorney and you decided to search out one online. For those attorneys that have web video, which one would you choose if you were to base your decision off their video? Would you choose the lawyer who tells you how great they are and what a fantastic law school they went to? On the other hand, maybe you’d prefer a lawyer who tells you how wonderful their firm is and how much money they’ve obtained for their clients over the last ten years? Better yet, would you prefer a lawyer who does nothing more than say “Come to me because I’m a lawyer and I’m here?” There is a recurring theme when you watch attorney videos; most attorneys’ videos are quite poor. I don’t mean technically bad, I mean their content is bad. What’s so terrible about their content? Let me count the ways: 1—They offer no useful information, 2—They don’t explain anything, 3—They don’t understand what their online viewer is looking for.
Video Marketing Tips for Attorneys
by gerry oginski
Offer Honest, Useful Information Gerry Oginski is a veteran New York medical malpractice and personal injury trial lawyer and is the only video producer who is also a seasoned medical malpractice trial lawyer. He has produced and created over 500 educational videos to promote his own law firm using his New York Medical Malpractice Video Blog. Gerry has also created the Lawyers’ Video Studio, to help get other lawyers get onto video. You can reach Gerry personally at 1-800-320-4314 or by e-mail at Gerry@lawyersvideostudio.com. He welcomes your call.
Why would anyone look for a lawyer online? The answer is simple. They don’t know a lawyer and they don’t know someone who knows a lawyer. They’d rather search online to see if someone can help solve their legal problem. That’s where 99.9% of lawyers miss the boat. This also applies to other professionals who use the Internet to market their services. People who go online and search attorney videos are people who have a problem. They are looking for someone to fix their problem. How can you be the one that resonates with them and compels them to pick up the phone to call? When an attorney creates an online video to market his or her services, he does so hoping that an online viewer will: 1—Find the video 2—Press play 3—Watch the full video 4—Be so compelled by that video that the viewer will request more information. Let’s go through these one at a time. 1) Searchers Must First Find the Video Many attorneys rely on their video production company to optimize their video for the search engines. Some producers know how, others don’t. You can see which ones ‘get it’ by reading the description of any attorney video on YouTube. Those do-it-yourselfers may not fully understand why it is so critical to have a compelling headline, a summary of the video in the description, and relevant keywords. It goes without saying that even with a technically perfect video, if nobody can find your video, you’ve wasted a lot of time and money creating your video.
2) They Must Press Play Just because a video is listed on page one of YouTube in the search results does not mean it will be watched. Unless you have a compelling headline and content, nobody will care about your video. Think about it again. Why would anyone beside your spouse, mother and best friend watch your video? Unless it’s a hilarious viral video, most people will not be interested in watching your attorney video. Then who will watch it? People who have a legal problem. People who need help. People who are searching for an attorney to solve their particular problem. Unless your viewer has a legal problem like the one you handle, your video will not be watched. It’s that simple. That’s why most lawyer videos never go viral. If you follow REELSEO’s Jeremy Scott’s viral video roundup every Friday, you see detailed reasons why video goes viral. Attorney videos never fit the pattern for widespread viewing of their video. Why Attorney Videos are Never Viral Attorney video is never funny, unless it’s a parody or a spoof. Lawyer video is pretty boring and never ‘cutesy’ in the way you might see in a viral video. “Objection! Judge…that video has no information. The lawyer just talks about himself.” “Objection sustained. You’re right. Next video please, and make it snappy, I want to go to lunch…” A video doesn’t need to go viral in order to be watched. In fact, for an attorney, if it does go viral, it’s likely a mistake. But, a video that’s unwatched is wasted marketing dollars. 3) They Need to Watch the Full Message That seems easy right? You spend your time making a good video. You think you have content that people want to watch. You upload your video and then watch your analytics. You can’t understand why your videos are not watched till the end. Most people are leaving after 15 seconds. Huh? Some stay to watch a full minute. One or two linger for 2 1/2 minutes. Yet nobody got to the five-minute mark. “What’s up with that?” Do you know why you must evaluate your analytics? So that you know what you’re doing right, and more importantly, what you’re doing wrong! If nobody is watching your video till the end, you need to ditch that video and start over. You need to edit and trim your content and fix your description and headline. Here’s a little secret that most online viewers inherently know but attorneys do not. Many lawyers talk way too much and don’t listen enough. If that’s how you come across on your video, you’ve lost your viewer
forever. Lawyers talk for a living. Lawyers give advice on a daily basis. Yet, it is the video producer’s job to control the attorney by guiding him and focusing what he’s trying to say. Remember, anyone can create a technically excellent video once you learn how. However, it takes an experienced video producer to know what your online viewer is looking for and how to get your talent, in this case the attorney, to convey that message in a way that the viewer will want to watch. 4) They Should be Compelled to Act Why would someone want to call you after seeing your video? Do you tell them something they don’t already know? Do you explain something to them that shows you’re an expert without coming out and saying “I’m the expert!”? Or, do you tell them about your credentials; where you went to school; that you graduated in the top of your class at Harvard law school; that you clerked for a Federal judge for a few years, and that if they’re lucky, you might just talk (down) to them? Guess what? If you’re a professional offering your services and using video to market your services, do you really think a viewer cares about you? They don’t. 99% of attorneys using video online today don’t understand that. A viewer who is taking the time to search for a lawyer doesn’t know a lawyer and is looking for someone to help solve their problem. Talking about yourself too much simply gives them a reason to look elsewhere. Ironically, the fault lies not with the attorney for talking about themselves, but rather his video producer, who should know better and understand what a viewer wants and needs to watch. The only way to get a viewer to pick up the phone and call is to create a compelling video that a viewer needs to watch. If you can learn how to do that, you’ll be way ahead of your competition. Conclusion – How to Create A Compelling Attorney Video So, how do you create a compelling video that a viewer will want to watch? Simple. Don’t talk about yourself; explain how you can help solve a viewer’s problem (without giving any legal advice); give information that nobody else is providing online; give the information away for free. Why do that? So that you are viewed as the wise man on the totem pole, and viewers will want to call you for more information.
pho t o gr aphy by v in it s at yav r at a
FEATURED ATION SUPPORT FIRM LITIGO F THE MONTH
by nalen green
Built on experience
ith most of today’s information stored on computer hard drives, network servers, compact disc, and mobile devices, litigators are faced with not only determining where and in what format evidence is stored, but how to properly retrieve the data in a way that doesn’t alter it. For many, it’s a daunting and expensive process—that is, unless you have TERIS on your side. Founded in 1996 by Stefan Wikstrom, the company that got its start with just one employee and one copy machine is now a leading litigation support services firm in the United States. TERIS provides services and products along the entire Electronic Data Reference Model (EDRM). They specialize in cutting-edge technologies for electronic discovery (eDiscovery) services and solutions, which include case strategy, legal holds, forensic data collections, data analysis and reduction, data processing and normalization, review, and document productions. TERIS is a ‘technology agnostic’ company, providing alternative approaches, options, and technologies to solve any given problem. Not only do they have the flexibility to provide different solutions for a variety of clients and challenges, their professional staff constantly researches and employs the most relevant, cuttingedge technologies to ensure the best solutions for their clients. “TERIS has handled our copy, graphics and document management needs since we opened our law firm in 2005. At the time, we were small and our needs were limited. Right from the beginning, however, TERIS treated us like their most important customer. We have 10 Attorney Journal
now grown to six lawyers and have needs virtually daily. No matter how big or how small the job, TERIS is fast, responsive and solves our problems,” says John Gomez, of The Gomez Firm. TERIS is one of the few litigation support companies that provide true end-to-end litigation support services solutions. By aggregating client-specific requirements into their Managed Services Program (TERIS MSP), they’re able to generate a cost accrual and predictability value model that allows their clients to better evaluate the long-term costs of managing litigation matters. Such is the case when TERIS was approached by a company with over 40,000 employees spread out across 30 geographic locations. Faced with a legal matter involving nine of their offices, the company turned to TERIS for a fast and flexible eDiscovery strategy that would streamline their litigation process. TERIS met the challenge by training the client’s local onsite resources on the data collection process. They also worked closely with the client’s General Counsel and outside counsel to develop an eDiscovery strategy that created repeatable results to reduce their review datasets by more than 70%. In addition, TERIS provided analytic processing that increased the speed and efficiency of the review by more than 40% over traditional review methodologies. Employee experience, professional education, certifications, and tenure are what provide TERIS clients with competent case and project partners. Among the 275 TERIS employees are a variety of industry-specific attorneys, paralegals, professional project managers, and certified software and database administrators.
With seven locations, TERIS services legal communities across the nation, including the Greater San Diego area. Among their growing list of clients are sole law practitioners, boutique law firms, AMLAW 100 law firms, and Fortune 50 companies. The success that TERIS has achieved over the past 15 years wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of their amazing team of professionals. They are the heart and soul of the company that depends on them day-in and day-out to support their clients’ litigation support needs. One such star is Patrick Conolly, Managing Partner of TERIS’ San Diego office. Conolly joined TERIS in June of 2000, making an immediate impact when he helped Kip Hauser, now COO of TERIS, open their San Francisco office. After experiencing tremendous success in San Francisco, Conolly became an owner in the TERIS group and helped to open and grow yet another successful office in Silicon Valley. In 2004, Conolly relocated to San Diego to become Managing Partner of TERIS, San Diego, where he continues his streak of success. “With Patrick’s excellent work habits, dedication, and great business sense, he’s been an enormous contributor to the success of TERIS as a company,” says Founder and CEO, Stefan Wikstrom. TERIS has built a great reputation for doing whatever it takes to take care of their clients. The company maintains the philosophy that the relationships they build between their customers and employees are the true cornerstones of their success.
TERIS believes in an open, collaborative culture of support for both internal and external customers, and encourages each employee to feel empowered to make decisions that cater to the best interests of their customers. “My staff and I enjoy working with TERIS on our paper and eDiscovery projects because we know from our experience with them that they will go the extra mile and we can count on them in a crunch. They’ve never let us down and they always react to our crazy, time-sensitive requests with a “yes, sure we can do it.” And they do,” says Nancy Stagg, Principal at Fish & Richardson P.C.” Discovery and litigation has always involved mounds of documents. But with today’s electronic communications, the volume has increased exponentially. TERIS’ proven strategies and unique client solutions centralize and simplify the document management process, providing litigators with the effective early case assessment, intelligent analysis, and decision making required to manage today’s cases.
TERIS- San Diego Patrick Conolly, Managing Partner 655 West Broadway, Suite 200 San Diego, CA 92101 P 619.231.3282 E sandiego@TERIS.com
e operate in a globally competitive business climate, and when conducting a background investigation, the legal community must be well-equipped with the resources and skillset to conduct a comprehensive background investigation expeditiously and economically. Attorneys and clients will use these reports to make key decisions whether in connection with a business transaction or in anticipation of litigation.
Resources and Methods to Conduct a Background Check on an Opposing Party by jennifer mannino
S. Jennifer Mannino is a principal of RISC® a global due diligence and investigative consulting firm based in Phoenix, Arizona. Jennifer manages full cycle investigations and oversees the investigative strategy on background investigations for M&A deals and asset searches for commercial litigation disputes. She can be reached at 602-277-7472, ext. 105 or www.risc-llc.com. 12 Attorney Journal
Develop a Methodical Protocol To start the investigative process, we must first develop a methodical protocol used as the foundation of any in-depth background investigation. The protocol needs to take account of the process in which to conduct the investigation and the resources needed to locate the information. Similarly, we need to ensure that certain key components are included in the Background Investigative Report such as: a robust profile on the subject’s personal, academic and business backgrounds; a meaningful analysis of the subject’s investment activities, asset holdings and liabilities; an in-depth examination of the subject’s case history including for criminal convictions, regulatory investigations, civil litigation and insolvency proceedings; a methodical review of the press and social media; and a prospect reference list comprising contacts such as former employees, employers, clients and business partners. Understand the Subject When initiating a background investigation, we need to first understand the subject’s overall profile. If the focus is on an individual, this means determining personal and professional jurisdictional ties and tailoring the investigative process to encompass those areas. For this preliminary sweep, we can obtain a profile report of the individual through such resourceful data providers as Tracers Information Specialists, Merlin Information Services, IRBsearch, ChoicePoint’s AutoTrackXP, and Westlaw’s PeopleMap. When the investigation focuses on a corporate entity, the jurisdictions where it transacts its business will dictate the direction of the research. Generally, the first place to look is the company website if there is one. Investigators can also gather initial corporate profile reports through various resources such as: Dun & Bradstreet’s DNBi for privately held, for-profit companies; GuideStar for non-profit organizations; and EDGAR Online for publicly traded entities. While these may sound like a robust set of resources, the investigative process must continue onto a different set of research tools because as we understand the nuances associated with an investigation, we know that there are certain variables that adversely affect the information we strive to capture. To name a few pitfalls: there is no single resource that can produce all the information that a client seeks on a particular subject; databases, regardless if they are no-fee based or available through a paid subscription, do not provide pure nationwide coverage; and natural language and
Boolean queries are not viable search options through many resources. A partial solution to protect against these pitfalls is to subscribe to one or both of the dominating proprietary databases that have packaged information for the permissible use by the legal community. They are LexisNexis (a division of Reed Elsevier) and Westlaw (a division of West of Thomson Reuters). The benefit to these subscriptions is that we can run natural language and Boolean searches through thousands of databases, thereby capturing more information in one sitting than going to each and every source and running separate timeconsuming searches. However, even these proprietary databases have gaps in information, and fortunately for users they are both very transparent on what is not covered through their subscriptions. As a rule, when conducting searches through databases, it is equally important to know what information is not available through your resources, as it is to know the types of information that is available. This will help decipher what alternative resources need further exploration. Investigate Alternative Resources Once we have examined the subject, ensured that we have ran the appropriate search strings, and analyzed the resources we have checked to date, we need to identify the alternative resources. Taking some of the key components of a Background Investigative Report as described above, here are some recommendations for locating and examining the other alternative resources. In creating a robust profile on an individual’s personal, academic and business backgrounds, the social and professional networking websites are helpful in locating this information. A search engine tool that captures many of them is yoName, and it scours popular sites such as LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, and Friendster using an email address, username, full name or phone number. We must keep in mind that much of the information that we find through the social and professional networking websites is self-reported. To independently verify an individual’s information, with permissible purpose, we can search a degree through the National Student Clearinghouse and employment through The Work Number. When using these types of resources, it is imperative to read the fine print of your contractual obligations, as often times the subject’s consent is absolutely required to access this information. If the focus is a company, then we can obtain information through the relevant Corporate Commissions, many of which have accessible directly from their website for a nominal (or no) fee, the business registrations forms as executed
by the directors and registered agent of the company. If tracking the history of the company, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, which captures and stores archived web pages is a valuable resource. Licensure portals are also important when examining a subject’s professional profile. If we observe that the subject is conducting business as an SEC-registered investment adviser, undertake a search of the known name variations, using the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Investment Adviser Public Disclosure site. Similarly, search SEC-registered brokers and broker-dealers through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Again, knowing the nuances of these systems is important, as in this instance, if an individual’s broker license has lapsed for more than two years, a search through FINRA may yield no record, when in fact during the course of the subject’s license history there were numerous disciplinary actions against the broker. Other Options for Research In conducting an in-depth examination of the subject’s case history, often times we must look beyond the robust databases. Once we have examined our databases and determined which relevant courts are not covered, a favorable resource to turn to is “The Sourcebook to Public Record Information”, which is published by BRB Publications. The publication is available in electronic and hard copies, and encompasses thousands of resources, which include federal and state courts and other governmental agencies. The Public Access to Court Electronic Records (more commonly known as PACER) is also a reliable resource used directly by the federal courthouses. Generally, federal court pleadings filed in at least the last five years are available in a downloadable format through PACER. Beyond the courts, there are disciplinary hearings filed with the agencies that govern a subject’s licensure. For example, using the above instance where the subject is governed by the SEC, the SEC publishes on its website litigation releases, administrative or enforcement proceedings, regulatory actions and reports of investigations that otherwise would not appear through a court records search of a proprietary or non-proprietary database. Overall, the Background Investigative Report is complex in its investigative process, analysis and reporting, and as investigators, paralegals and attorneys, we must continually evolve our models, stay informed and research new resources that will help better serve our clients and achieve their objectives.
GIANT The Gomez Firm Packs a Punch In
The Courtroom, Offers An Open
OF THE MONTH
Hand To The Community
by jennifer hadley
ince the turn of the millennium, â€œThe Gomez Law Firm has been dedicated exclusively to representing people that have suffered harm. People who have suffered some kind of injury, some kind of loss to themselves or a family member,â€? says founder and nationally renowned consumer trial attorney, John Gomez. However, the desire to help people to obtain justice during some of the most difficult times of their lives has been the driving force behind everything Gomez has done both in and out of the courtroom for as long as he can remember.
New PI PRESIDENT 14 Attorney Journal 14 Attorney Journal
ph oto gra ph y by Je ff Corrig an
HAS MUCH TO OFFER
Attorney Journal 15 www.TheMethodistHome.org Gateway 15
A magna cum laude degree from the University of San Diego provided the necessary bedrock from which Gomez would begin building a law career, granting him acceptance to Yale Law School. By the time he graduated in 1993, John was determined that his life’s work would focus on achieving “extraordinary results, for ordinary people,” a priority that remains to this day the cornerstone of his award-winning practice and innumerable personal achievements. “The idea that I could actually make a difference in the lives of people during their most challenging times by obtaining justice for them spurred me to become an attorney,” says Gomez. With that conviction driving him, Gomez spent the remainder of the 1990’s working tirelessly to do just that. After a year of clerking for a Federal Judge, he honed his legal chops as an attorney for Latham & Watkins, representing Fortune 500 clients in complex litigation matters before being offered a position as a Federal Prosecutor in 1997. As a prosecutor, John’s skills in the courtroom continued to garner him attention. He was in his element in front of a jury, and his passion for providing justice was evidenced not only by his performance in trial, but in the results he earned as well. In 20 consecutive felony jury trials he tried, including several lengthy and high-profile criminal prosecutions, Gomez won. 16 Attorney Journal
While the recognition that Gomez was now receiving for his professional achievements was flattering, it didn’t compare to the sense of accomplishment he felt every time he was able to help a victim. Recognizing that his talents in the courtroom—and particularly in his areas of specialization—could be used to help even more victims of harm or injury, as a private practice, he opened the Gomez Firm in 2000. KO’s in the Courtroom With the launch of the Gomez Firm, John had narrowed his focus of legal expertise to assisting plaintiffs in civil cases. From serious personal injury, to wrongful death, elder abuse to products liability, Gomez became the voice for those who through no fault of their own suffered incredible harm or loss. In fact, years later, Gomez recalls with the precision a case early in his career that is still a preeminent shining achievement, in a long career laden with accolades. “I represented an 8-year-old girl who suffered triplegia from a terrible accident. Her parents had a small home that wasn’t wheelchair friendly or suitable to her needs. We resolved her case with sufficient money to purchase a home and work with the developer to make her home wheelchair accessible and suitable for her needs. This was one of my proudest moments,” he recalls. There have been countless other victories of this
the home of the Trial Lawyer of the Year 3 times in 5 years.
“The idea that I could actually make a difference in the lives of people during their most challenging times by obtaining justice for them spurred me to become an attorney.” type for the Gomez Firm. With each successful outcome for a victim, the Gomez brand expanded rapidly, tackling cases that made national headlines, including the wrongful death lawsuit against Kristin Rossum and San Diego County in the “American Beauty Murder.” This headline-grabbing case eventually resulted in the largest wrongful death verdict in California history at a staggering $106 Million. It was also Gomez who fought for the family of off-duty CHP Officer Mark Saylor, who was killed along with his wife, daughter, and brother when the Lexus car they were driving accelerated on its own accord. In addition to the settlement, Gomez fought for and won for the family’s survivors, the trial also played a role in the 2010 nationwide recall of millions of Toyotas. It’s not surprising, considering the visibility that the Gomez Firm has attracted, that even greater personal attention would be granted to the firm’s namesake. With more than 50 recoveries for plaintiffs in excess of $1Million, and more than $250 Million in verdicts and settlements to date, John has found himself in the spotlight more than once. As such, he has been a seven-time recipient of the “Outstanding Trial Lawyer” award from the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. He’s also been named “Trial Lawyer of the Year” in both 2006 and 2010. Incidentally, Robert Hamparyan, Gomez’s colleague in the firm, also received the award in 2008, making the Gomez Firm
Compassion in the Community The compassion that John and his colleagues at the Gomez Firm (7 trial attorneys, 5 paralegals, clerks and assorted office staff) feel for their clients is matched only by their compassion to help ordinary people outside of the courtrooms. According to John, “We love what we do. It makes a difference. It’s our responsibility not only to make a difference through the legal system, but also as community leaders.” To that end, the Gomez Firm contributes their time and talent and regularly opens their pocketbooks to numerous charitable, not-for-profit organizations and community associations. Some of the many local and national organizations that the Gomez Firm assists or partners with include MADD San Diego; La Cuna/The Chicano Federation; The Muscular Dystrophy Association; The March Of Dimes; The Special Olympics, The National Latino Police Officer’s Association; and the California Youth Athletic Center, amongst a great many others. But the Gomez Firm also lends its own brand name to help raise additional awareness for vital issues in the world via innovative social media marketing. An integration of web, cause-marketing and co-branding, which is tied to causes close to the hearts of the Gomez Firm (dangers of drinking and driving, autism awareness, and the support of challenged athletes), has been enormously successful as both a branding strategy and a means to increase visibility of local and national public health issues. Extraordinary Results For Ordinary People: The 1-2 Punch In keeping with the Gomez Firm’s motto of “Extraordinary Results For Ordinary People,” John’s team is committed to going to any lengths to help those who need it. This is evidenced by the fact that “there are no fees unless, and until we win our cases,” he explains. “Our clients become our friends.” And like all successful businesses in today’s world, that means that the Gomez Firm keeps in touch with its friends via popular social media and networking sites including Facebook and Linked In. These sites allow for John and his team to keep in regular contact with past clients. This coupled with targeted SEO strategies, online videos, co-branding with like-minded socially conscious Attorney Journal
companies and organizations, have all played a role in continuing to keep the firm busy with referrals. Certainly the firm’s standing as a company dedicated to maximizing goodwill in the community doesn’t hurt their word of mouth referral business either. Yet there is always room for growth, and John plans to grow the firm over the next five years through the acquisition of more high-value cases of the kind they’ve successfully won for their clients. This will undoubtedly require bringing additional attorneys to the Gomez Firm he acknowledges. However, he is cautious to explain that “sustained and greater community involvement, and maintaining the level of commitment and dedication that we exemplify,” will remain the top priority of the Gomez Firm. Although this extraordinarily comprehensive approach to helping ordinary people is demanding, John remains steadfast in his commitment to go the distance for those who need advocacy the most. Because to hear him tell it, he’s simply an ordinary person too, crediting his wife Lisa for being the person in his life whom without, none of his professional success would have been possible. To further prove John, a former collegiate football star, is just an ordinary guy, he humbly admits that his greatest pleasure is spending time with his 4-yearold son, 2-year-old twins, and even the family dog, Emma. Oh, and he gets really pumped up for Jiu Jitsu practice by listening to music by none other than Eminem.
Education: • Yale Law School • USD Undergrad
AWARDS: • 7-time recipient of the “Outstanding Trial Lawyer” award from the Consumer Attorneys of San Diego • 2010 and 2006 Consumer Attorney of San Diego “Trial Lawyer of the Year” • Lawyer USA’s 2010 National Lawyer of the Year • 2011 and 2010 San Diego Metro Mover as per San Diego Metropolitan Magazine • Top 25 Attorneys in San Diego as per San Diego Metropolitan Magazine • Awarded of Top San Diego Attorney by San Diego Daily Transcript, including personal injury and property damage multiple years • Recognized as Tier 1 Best Lawyer, personal injury and product liability • Recognized as Super Lawyer, personal injury
The Gomez Law Firm
625 Broadway, Suite 1200, San Diego CA 92101 (619) 237-3490
www.thegomezfirm.com 18 Attorney Journal
and product liability • One of San Diego Magazine’s Top 50 to Watch in 2010 • Selected for premier Trial Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College
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FEATURED SOLO PRACTITIONER OF THE MONTH
J Elizabeth .
Koumas A Comprehensive Approach To “Just The Facts” by karen gorden
t’s been twenty years since Elizabeth Koumas received her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, packed all of her belongings into her car, and set out to launch her legal career in San Diego. But her fascination with the legal system began even earlier. As a teenager growing up on Long Island, New York, Elizabeth Koumas excelled in high school, granting her an exclusive opportunity to take courses at a local college before graduating high school. Business Law immediately piqued her interest, and would ultimately result in an extremely successful profession in precisely that field. icontinuing education seminars where she is speaking, Koumas does
Encouraged by her parents to pursue her passion for the law, during a time in which that industry was still a predominantly male profession, Elizabeth Koumas landed her first bona fide legal position as an associate with San Diego based Chapin, Shea, McNitt, & Carter (originally Chapin Brewer) before heading west. Since that time, Elizabeth, now founder of Koumas Law Group, has cultivated a spectrum of specialized practice areas including employment disputes, class actions, personal injury defense, and other business-tobusiness disputes. But even with the multiple niches, Koumas’ core conviction as an attorney has remained consistent regardless of whether she’s educating businesses on litigation prevention, providing ongoing legal advice to long term clients, or defending individuals. That professional commitment boils down to an unwavering resolve to always place her clients interests ahead of her own. Being involved in a lawsuit can be one of the most stressful times in a client’s life. Therefore, Koumas tempers her professionalism with an informal approach
to avoid the adverse financial (and emotional) effects of litigation, they need to put their best foot forward earlier rather than later. I am a proponent of alternative dispute resolution, where possible. However, if my clients have been reasonable with an early settlement offer, I will not hesitate to litigate the case through the court system. But I have to let them know that the longer a case lingers, the more expensive it will become, since the client will have to compensate me regardless of the outcome, and potentially the plaintiff’s attorney.” Especially in cases involving individuals where pride can sometimes get in the way, Koumas admits that sometimes she has to be the one to remind clients that “principles cost money.” At this point she has to laugh as she concedes that “I’m often talking myself out of work, which is definitely not in my best interest.”Alas, it is precisely this type of ethic that has won Koumas the longtime loyalty of local San Diego businesses and individuals, as well as national insurance companies, who understand the true value of Koumas’ forthcoming approach. Recognizing two challenges currently facing the legal
“To be able to save personal liberties and assets for an individual to accept insurance limits is incredibly rewarding to me.” to communicating with clients. Elizabeth says she “tells it like it is,” but admits that her reluctance to sugar-coat is risky, and occasionally is not initially welcomed by some clients. Moreover, it often has an adverse effect on her own financial gain. “I could be less direct, take more time to communicate, and in turn, line my pockets. But that is not my M.O, nor is it what I believe is a true measure of an attorney’s success. My job is to help, not hurt my clients, especially in these difficult economic times.” It has been Koumas’ experience that as a result of her counseling style, clients find her more credible because it reflects her respect of both their time and their bottom line. Before The Fact The reality of the latent cost of litigation is something Elizabeth is determined to make certain her clients understand. “It is important at the start of any legal claim, that clients use common sense. If they truly want 22 Attorney Journal 22 Attorney Journal
profession—the impact of budget cuts and the public’s dissatisfaction with “stereotypical” lawyers—Elizabeth acknowledges that clients aren’t always eager “to pay for advice before the fact.” After all she admits, not many people like to spend money on what-ifs. However, it is precisely these types of precautionary measures that have saved her clients countless dollars in litigationrelated costs. With Koumas’ expertise in employment litigation and compliance in particular (from drafting of personnel documents, and conducting internal audits of business practices, combined with her in-house training of management and HR departments to ensure that every business she works with is in compliance), it’s no wonder she has earned a reputation as the go-to attorney for all employment-related matters. Saving Personal Liberties Accidents do happen, and to Koumas there is nothing
more tragic than such an accident where a death occurs. She recounts a personal injury case where a young mother was driving her daughter to school before the sun was up. She reached the top of a hill, where children were crossing the street at an intersection devoid of lights, a crosswalk, or a crossing guard, even though they were attending a nearby school-sponsored early morning program. The ensuing collision resulted in a death. Koumas’ client was then sued for damages above and beyond her moderate insurance policy and was facing criminal charges as well as the potential loss of her home and driver’s license, which had the potential to adversely affect her employment and her ability to support her child. “To be able to save personal liberties and assets for an individual client by getting the other side to accept insurance limits is incredibly rewarding to me,” says Elizabeth. In other areas of civil litigation law, Koumas represents plaintiffs and defendants in cases ranging from breach of contract, to property owners and lessees facing disputes over equal access to public accommodations.
Koumas also takes her role as an educator very seriously. From conducting in-house luncheon programs on key employment law topics, to providing complimentary passes for clients and prospective clients to attend continuing education seminars where she is speaking, Koumas does not underestimate the value of teaching. “California labor laws are generally very misunderstood,” she says. Educating the San Diego business and legal community about the intricacies of ever changing employment laws and our complex legal system is therefore a priority for Koumas, who regularly participates on panels hosted by continuing legal education associations such as Lorman Educational Services, Sterling Education Services, and the National Business Institute, and at events hosted by East County Personnel Association, San Diego County Medical Society, and the American Payroll Association.
client by getting the other side
The Ongoing Fact: Arguably, there are plenty of attorneys who focus exclusively in employment law in San Diego. Moreover, there are numerous larger firms who specialize in personal injury and other tort insurance defense. So what is it about Koumas that has kept her existing clients loyal, and the referrals pouring in, since she opened her doors as a solo practice in 2007? It boils down to her personal work ethic. “The biggest complaint I have heard about lawyers is that they do not return calls. Being responsive to a client or prospective client is foremost since it creates a lasting impression-namely that they are important to me,” she says. In order to reinforce just how important her clients are to her, Koumas guarantees a return phone call within 24 business hours, with no exception. To assist in this, she has a subscription to a VOIP program which enables voicemails to be transcribed into emails, which she receives even when she’s not in the office.
To further keep in touch with existing, past and prospective clients, Koumas authors electronically distributed Newsletters and Alerts on various Employment Law issues. Her publications include updates on new labor laws, amendments, and/or court decisions impacting San Diego businesses, all of which are also available on a complimentary basis through her website. So how does a solo practitioner build her business when she’s not educating clients, working to help businesses avoid litigation, or assisting individual clients during trying times in their lives? For starters, to further strengthen relationships, Elizabeth is following up with her clients to solicit feedback and testimonials Attorney Journal
at the end of representation, to ensure her clients are satisfied. Elizabeth also makes it a priority to stay personally connected to the legal community through her involvement with numerous associations, including the San Diego County Bar Association and Lawyer Referral and Information Services. Elizabeth also gives back to the community at large. She provides pro bono services to military service members under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, volunteered at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla served as a panel judge for both the University of San Diego Law School moot court competition and James Madison High School Senior Exhibitions, and acts as a resource to the San Diego County Medical Society. Elizabeth also works with Christie’s Place, a non-profit service organization providing HIV/AIDS education to women, children and families, and contributes to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Girls Think Tank, a local non-profit for advocacy and activism for the homeless. But, for all of her affiliations and active professional life, Koumas is also busy during her non-working hours where she relishes her role as a single mother by choice to her 3-½-year-old son. It is during this time that Koumas transitions from educator and expert to student, saying “Every day I re-learn something through his eyes.”
» Elizabeth J. Koumas, Founder Koumas Law Group
110 West C Street, Suite 1300 San Diego, CA 92101 T (619) 682.4811 • F (619) 503.4530 firstname.lastname@example.org
www.koumaslaw.com 24 Attorney Journal
Education: • Juris Doctor, Syracuse University College of Law, 1991 • Bachelor of Science, Accounting, University of Delaware, 1988 Credentials: • California State Bar, 1991 • California Supreme Court, admitted 1991 • U.S. District Courts, Southern District of California, admitted 1996 • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, admitted 1999 • U.S. District Courts, Central District of California, admitted 2000 • Judge Pro Tem, Small Claims Court (1996- 1997) • Arbitrator for the San Diego Municipal and Superior Courts (1997-2001) Designated Subject Teaching Credentials, Vocational Education (1997-2002) • San Diego Regional Occupational Program Instructor, Sweetwater School District (1997-2001) • Dale Carnegie, Management Course, “How to Win People and Influence Friends”
Associations: • San Diego County Bar Association • California State Bar Association • San Diego County Bar Association, Lawyer Referral and Information Services- Employment Law Attorney Panel and SCRA volunteer panel • San Diego County Medical Society • California Continuing Education of the Bar • Volunteer, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla Awards: • Nominated to San Diego Business Journal’s “San Diego Women Who Mean Business 2005.” • The State Bar of California and University of California, Expression of Appreciation (CEB Program), 2001 • Sweetwater Union High School District, Regional OccupationPrograms,Award of Appreciation, 1997
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Attorney Journal Feature: Dana J. Dunwoody
ven as a child in San Diego, Dana Dunwoody, Office Administrative Partner at Sheppard Mullin, enjoyed a good debate. His instinctive sense of fairness evolved over time into an interest in justice. As luck would have it, he’d been born with a natural flair for persuasion. What better foundation upon which to build a successful legal career? Dunwoody realized though that these natural gifts would need supplementing, not only for his career, but also for his personal growth. Recognizing that “successful people must constantly learn new skills and stretch themselves,” Dana went on to pursue his J.D at UC Berkeley.
In 1985, Dana made the leap from student to advisor, and began cutting his teeth in the areas of law that would ultimately become his specialties. Today, 26 years after admission to the California Bar, Dunwoody’s practice is almost equally divided between real estate disputes and corporate/business litigation. Representing clients ranging from publicly traded energy companies to hotel brands, to banks and private equity capital, to real estate developers and national retailers, Dunwoody has developed a deep and successful record of trial and arbitration experience, and in the process has also received numerous awards and accolades. On his success, Dunwoody said “normally I have no truck with mission statements, but I happen to agree with Sheppard Mullin’s statement and it declares what should be an attorney’s primary professional objective: “Our Mission Is Your Success.”” Elaborating, he said, “if your clients and colleagues succeed, then you do also. The job was harder before I understood that.” The Inner Workings With personal and professional growth as his driving forces, Dunwoody set about to learn all he could in his areas of expertise. But becoming a successful attorney doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from years and years of work (including 15 years as a partner in a trial boutique), adaptation, learning from failures, and discerning which traits and skill sets would best serve him in his efforts to help his clients and his partners succeed. He says, “In my earlier years I did not listen effectively, and I was too ego driven.” However, whereas many attorneys would have continued to stay the course as long as business was coming through the door, that approach simply didn’t appeal to Dunwoody. He was determined to evolve both inside and out of the courtroom. “I was incurious about too many things I needed to be curious about.” What emerged as a by-product of his desire to personally improve was an atypical perspective on the practice of law. “I have concluded that as in life the best way to sustain business is by focusing on the relationships and by truly listening. All good litigators have similar skills within a reasonably small range. Litigators with trial capabilities have more skills than litigators without significant trial experience, but most trial attorneys have reasonably similar technical skills to one another. Clients see this. Clients (including the largest companies) want an attorney with the required skill sets, but also someone who understands the clients’ issues, goals and headaches. They want someone who can tell their narrative in a way that enhances the best aspects and makes the worst aspects understandable or relatable. What sets great lawyers apart from adequately good ones is their ability to empathize, to see the larger picture, and to listen. That requires developing more compassion in addition to hard work and focus; but a better mastery of those skills pays off on all levels.”
External Rewards And they have paid off, indeed. The rewards Dunwoody has received are numerous and prestigious and stem from a variety of sources. He’s been named one of the “Best Lawyers in America” in multiple categories, including real estate litigation, banking and finance litigation and land use and zoning litigation. The San
Dunwoody isn’t just talking the proverbial talk; he’s ‘walking the walk’ with his clients. To illustrate how understanding the psychology of a dispute plays such an integral role in the outcome, he recounts a recent case: “Recently I arbitrated a case in which my client (an energy company) had been sued for breach of fiduciary duty and other claims by its 50% partner in a partnership
“My approach to cases is unusual, because I spend effort early on (and throughout) to assess the psychology of the situation.” Diego Daily Transcript named him a San Diego County Top Attorney in 2010, and he is a perennial Super Lawyer in San Diego. He is one of three editors in the two-volume Matthew Bender resource text California Contract Litigation. He is one of three authors for the annual LexisNexis publication California Federal Civil Rules: with local practice commentary. He is one of eight members to LexisNexis’ Advisory Board. But with all of these accomplishments, Dunwoody maintains a reflective demeanor that conveys anything but a personal ego. He explains, “My approach to cases is unusual, because I spend effort early on (and throughout) to assess the psychology of the situation. Most disputes come down to various human interactions and human factors. Peoples’ attitudes, their capacity to be flexible, their empathy and compassion or their lack of it, their neediness or manipulative qualities, their sense of themselves in the world – these are the things that motivated them to act in the way they acted which contributed to the dispute, and these are the things that continue to drive them and their counsel.” Continuing in the same reflective manner, he adds “I believe that most counsel spend too much time on the task details such as discovery and motion practice, without actually thinking about their cases and without having first attempted to understand the human drivers and the pressure points. This is like embarking on a journey looking only at the GPS screen in front of you from moment to moment without having any real sense of the probable route or even the probable destination. Most attorneys consider case themes (if at all) for the first time when they are preparing for trial, and they consider various arguments for closing only during trial. This is too late to be effective.”
which owns a cogeneration power plant. Tens of millions were at stake. My client did not want the partnership to be dissolved, while the plaintiff partner and its New York lawyers clearly desired that result. My client’s affiliate operated the power plant, and the operating agreement (which was coming to an end of term) was also something the plaintiff wanted to terminate so that they could bring in an unaffiliated operating entity. The plaintiff’s complaint was replete with the rhetoric of discord, accusation, and business dissolution. The same type of accusations could have been hurled back at the plaintiff, and certain potentially very valuable remedies were available only if such cross claims were asserted (such as being able to buy out the other partner for net book value rather than fair market value). If we had cross complained for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and other causes of action similar to those contained in the complaint, the arbitrator would be left wondering whether the two parties could ever get along as partners – and we might lose the partnership simply because the arbitrator would see the case as a zero sum situation and be forced to “pick a side.” I felt that the case was winnable on the facts, and we had really good people. I worked extensively with the client to achieve alignment of our themes well in advance of the deadline to draft our cross-complaint. Ultimately our cross-complaint alleged simple breach of contract and declaratory relief, and it took quite a neutral tone. Our rhetoric was “marriage counseling” rather than the “divorce” rhetoric of our opponent. The opposing counsel ridiculed our position in the litigation phase and throughout the arbitration, characterizing it as weak and “an admission,” On the night before the last day of the arbitration, the arbitrator began to talk about “reconciliation” rather Attorney Journal
What’s On the Inside Manifests Itself On the Outside With his knack for looking at the whole picture from the inside out, it’s not surprising that Dunwoody’s professional life beyond casework extends into other areas of service for his field. His firm has a robust pro bono program, whereby the more than 550 Sheppard Mullin attorneys are all encouraged and supported to provide pro bono legal services to those in need. But again, this isn’t just talk. “The San Diego office has been awarded the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year award from the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program five times in the last fifteen years. We also contribute to local charities, and throughout the year, we sponsor numerous events of a charitable nature, including the Legal Aid Society of San Diego,” he says. Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, LLP also provides legal updates to its clients and anyone who is interested and was an early adopter of blogs. The firm now has approximately 25 informative blogs where legal updates on various areas of the law ranging from art to video game law, as well as more traditional areas such as corporate and real estate law, are available to anyone with an internet connection. Again, matching his firm’s efforts, on a personal level, Dunwoody is also actively involved.
than “organizational divorce.” Settlement discussions began that night and culminated the next day on very favorable financial terms for my client, including that the opponent agreed to a new multi-year contract for my client’s affiliate to operate the plant. The partners have peacefully coexisted since the settlement. Everyone got what they really needed. Sometimes it’s so important for a person to publicly tell his narrative that he’s willing to engage in some self-destruction to do so; that was the other side’s story.”
» » »
Dana J. Dunwoody
Office Administrative Partner Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP 501 W. Broadway, 19th floor San Diego, CA 92101 619.338.6500
www.sheppardmullin.com 30 Attorney Journal 30 Attorney Journal
Education: • J.D., University of California, Berkeley • Boalt Hall, 1985, Associate Editor for the Industrial Relations Law Journal: • B.A., University of California, San Diego, 1981 Recognition and Positions: • San Diego Super Lawyer every year since 2007 • Best Lawyers in America, 2012 and 2011 (in multiple categories, including real estate litigation, banking and finance litigation, and land use and zoning litigation) • Former Chair, Executive Committee of the then 12,000 member Litigation Section of the California State Bar • Editor-In-Chief, Litigation Section’s newsletter, 1990-1994 • Former Board member, Association of Business Trial Lawyers of San Diego • Trial Master, American Inns of Court Article Contributions: • One of three authors on the annual Lexis/Nexis publication called California Federal Civil Rules: with local commentary • One of three consultants on the Lexis/Nexis publication called Matthew Bender® Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation originally published in 2005, and still in current publication • One of Eight members of the LexisNexis California Advisory Board for Legal Publications. • Served as a Consulting Editor for CEB’s “Action Guide” series •Co-authored a chapter on Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation and Arbitration of hospitality disputes in “Hotel Investments: Issues & Perspectives”- 4th Edition • Edited portions of CEB’s “Effective Use of ADR in California” •Written numerous other articles on legal topics and topics affecting the hotel industry Associations: • Member (and former Board Member) of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers • Member (and former Chair of the Executive Committee) of the State Bar Litigation Section • Member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) Volunteer • Scripps MemorialHospital, La Jolla
Attorney Journal, San Diego Edition, Premiere Issue