Q&A: Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer?
California Lawyer
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Q&A: Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer?

February 2014

Leslie Soley

Both of my parents were lawyers and both practiced family law, which is a pretty small world to begin with. So I certainly had some input from them when I was making career choices. I worked in my mom's office during the summers growing up, and that influenced me a lot. My mom was in a wheelchair and very recognizable, but one thing that still struck me about her profession was that people would always approach us in public. Her clients absolutely loved her and would come up and thank her, and seeing her having that impact had an impact on me. Before I started doing family law, I did insurance coverage and bad faith litigation, and there wasn't a lot of that in that practice area.

A lot of people will tell you they wouldn't touch family law with a ten-foot pole. I had a dual perspective on it-my mom really liked it, but my dad went through phases where he really didn't and tried to talk me out of it. What sealed the deal for me was that my mom was always available when I was growing and came to everything I did. Seeing that flexibility made me want to do what she did and have my own practice.

Leslie Soley practices family law and represents plaintiffs in personal injury actions at Judith Leslie Soley, Inc. in Fresno. She is the first vice president of the Fresno County Bar Association.

Daniel Myers

I grew up in Salinas, and I had a grandfather, Jacob Abramson, who was a lawyer there (one of many in my family). He had a fairly prominent legal career during which he argued and won a commerce clause case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. (39 US 137 (1970)). The case is still cited fairly regularly; in fact, the U.S. Supreme Court cited it last year. Also, after World War II he went to Germany to work on the Nuremberg trials as part of the U.S. government; he spoke German and interviewed people to assist the prosecutors. He then went into private practice in the late 1940s in California.

He died when I was very small, about three or four years old, but hearing about him is what got me interested in being a lawyer. I don't have many memories of him, but a few years ago, I was able to hear his Supreme Court oral argument online through the Oyez Project, which was really great. Overall, his body of work made me realize that even though I'm in corporate real estate, as a lawyer, you can give back to your community in a lot of ways, because you have the leadership skills and critical thinking skills to really contribute.

Daniel Myers is a partner at Wendel Rosen Black & Dean in Oakland in the firm's real estate and land use groups. He represents real estate clients in all aspects of real property transactions, including lease, purchase and sale, financing and title matters.

Dawn Collins

Honestly, I didn't consider being a lawyer for much of my life. I actually did financial planning for three years as a career, and I kept thinking, there must be something to do other than what I'm doing. And then, as cheesy as this sounds, I remembered Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird had always been one of my favorite books, and also one of my favorite movies. As a character, Atticus was a huge inspiration. Not that I have ever done anything as important or interesting as what he did in the book, but what he did inspired me when I was looking for a career change. I wanted to go to grad school, and I watched the movie again and thought, maybe I'll be a lawyer.

There was something about that character and that story that really highlighted what an honorable profession it can be. So I applied to law school, and now at times I'm a trial lawyer. As all lawyers know, a lot of it is a grind and stuff no one will ever know about or care about, but at the end of the day it's all about the same goal: trying to get a good result for your client.

Dawn Collins is a shareholder in Ogletree Deakins's Los Angeles office. She represents employers in all areas of employment related litigation, including wage and hour class actions, sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination.

Jerome Fogel

When I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad, I was really interested in numbers and business, but I also was interested in reading and understanding challenging rhetorical theory. I took classes at Haas, the business school, where I had a communications professor who had a profound impact on me. It turned out that he was a former commercial attorney. Then, I had another professor who taught classics, and I found out that he, too, was a former attorney. We talked a lot about crafting arguments, about ethos, logos, and pathos, and how you really motivate people to take action. He was a great communicator, and he understood his audience and how to really think through an argument and the response to it.

So those two professors really inspired me, and I started trying to figure out how to merge my two interests, rhetoric and business. I decided to go to NYU Law since they have a great track record of placing corporate attorneys. Eventually I came back to California to be an attorney here, and my current position at Special Counsel (a legal staffing and search firm) is a good way to leverage my legal background and still be involved in business.

Jerome Fogel is the business development director at Special Counsel in Los Angeles and is on the board of Christian Legal Society's Los Angeles chapter.

Aaron Murphy

The practice of law is the most poorly understood profession in America. Everyone thinks they have a really good idea of what lawyers do, but almost no lawyer's life bears any resemblance to that image. Law school is the refuge of failed writers and artists. It seems interesting, but often you don't know exactly why you're there and what you're going to do with that education.

Once I got to law school, I was very attracted to the idea of helping people solve very complicated puzzles and problems, and so I planned to be a tax lawyer. In school I loved that stuff and took every tax class I could. But when I started practicing, I found out the actual work itself was not interesting to me. So the real question for me is not what inspired me to become a lawyer, but what inspired me to stay a lawyer. These days, most of my clients are big Fortune 500 multinational companies that have corruption issues overseas. What I love the most about what I ended up doing is the human drama of it. There's always a story about things that people did in difficult situations that got them in a quagmire personally and for the company. I love the inherent drama in that, and I never get even remotely tired of it. I find it endlessly fascinating.

Aaron Murphy joined Akin Gump's San Francisco office as a litigation partner at the beginning of this year. He is a white-collar criminal defense lawyer who focuses primarily on corruption cases and particularly foreign bribery cases.

Reader Comments

Abishek - April 22, 2014
Thank you very much, this helped me in a difficult time.

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