Join the BHBA Barristers in Supporting US Troops!

Drop off items from the Troops Wish List below to the Beverly Hills Bar Association at 9420 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212 to help ensure a brighter holiday season for our troops while they’re far away from home.

Troops Wish List

The Keystones of a Bar’s Bright Future

William S. WenzelThis article marks the conclusion of two years of my deep personal investment in the Beverly Hills Bar Association as a leader of the Barristers, first as President-Elect, then as President. I am deeply honored to have led and served during a period of fundamental change within our organization.

I am proud to report that our Barristers are as strong as they’ve ever been. Internally, we have had a greater voice and increased participation in Association and Foundation activities. Besides an active and vocal presence on both the Ex-Com and the Board of the Association, we have established a strong presence on the Budget and Finance committee and helped shape the resource allocation of the organization.

Our Barrister Board members sit on Membership and Ways and Means because we care about the benefits the Association confers on its members and the ways that it stays fiscally agile. And we have a committed group working on the Long-Range Planning Committee to ensure that the Barristers have a voice in the Association’s direction over the next 5-10 years.

Over the last two years, I have worked hard to ensure that our group of young lawyers has a place at the table in this Bar Association. And I am deeply grateful that the Association and Foundation have welcomed us with open arms in a way that is unmatched by any other professional organization.

But the Barristers’ enthusiasm over the last year has extended well beyond the walls of the Rolex building. We’ve made the Barristers a fundamental component of the Teen Court organization–they rely on us to fulfill their mission. And in doing so, we have helped hundreds of high-school-age kids around the Los Angeles area.

We’ve put our hearts into the Monthly Roxbury Park Pro Bono Legal Clinic in such a way that lines form outside the Clinic a half-hour before it begins. Roxbury has become a place where young lawyers who are not yet BHBA members can go to see the good works the BHBA does and be inspired to join our BHBA community. And the same is true for the Samoshel homeless project: the Board organized a 25% budget increase for this event this year. And it’s been used to make innovative and creative meals every single month – and provided a place for lawyers to bond over a beneficial activity.

This year, we’ve worked to make the Barristers’ role in the LA Law Library “Lawyers in the Library” event an annual standard. And the LA Law Library has come to depend on us to staff this major legal aid event.

We’ve put intensive resources into making sure that our monthly Thursday professional networking events are places where young professionals know they can meet colleagues and make solid connections.

The networking event is a go-to wherever our members meet young potential leaders who need an introduction to the BHBA’s activities. And this year, we’ve been coordinating with more young professionals than ever: from financial planners to CPAs, to young business owners.

We’ve held bike rides, and we’ve welcomed new bar passers. We threw our signature Vintage Bouquet and we’ve thrown ourselves out to the Los Angeles region in ways we’ve never done before. And in doing so, we’ve empowered our group to be stronger and more vocal leaders. We’ve had our members step up to an unprecedented degree. I’m honored to lead this group, and I’m proud to say I’ve left it better than I found it. My deepest thanks to everyone involved.


William S. Wenzel is a business and corporate attorney at The Law Offices of William S. Wenzel, APC. His office serves as outside general counsel for hire and can be contacted at 213 207 6885 or wsw@wswlegal.com.

Teen Court: Unexpected Connection to Traditions | by William S. Wenzel, Barristers President

William S. WenzelWith the onset of summer vacation, the 2015-2016 Teen Court season has come to a close. The 2016-2017 Teen Court season will begin in August/ September. And while the students are off playing for a few months – remember last month’s article on play? I admit I’m jealous – the Barristers are turning their attention to the many other projects that we do to help the community and bring attention to the BHBA.

But before I lay aside the Teen Court program for a while, I want to relate one more experience:

In prior articles, I’ve discussed my Teen Court at Anahuacalmecac Preparatory School in East Los Angeles / South Pasadena. I’ve mentioned it’s a Native American charter school with a largely Native-American student population. The Teen Court there is overseen by two Native American LASC judges.

I’ve always been impressed by the uniquely high degree of engagement that these high school students/peer jurors have with the Teen Court program. Even among the committed students around LA County, these kids stand out. They bring their personal lives and journeys to bear in questioning and deliberation in a way that I have not seen at other schools.

The final Teen Court of this year was no different – the students took their responsibility seriously and structured the Defendant’s probation in a way that ensured that she would continue her schooling while increasing her exposure to community service and making sure she received some counseling to keep her from repeating her crime.
Once the sentence was rendered, I figured that the day’s proceedings were over. But I was in for a surprise. One of the school’s moderators appeared and began a ritual with several of the older Native American students. Judge Gilbert Manuel Lopez caught on first to what was going on. “It looks like we’re having a gifting ceremony now,” he observed.

Judge Lopez described to us all that for his judicial career, he gives back to his tribe and other tribes by building the big Pow Wow drums for use in Native American ceremonies.

He never sells them, but gives them away at his cost, with the only restriction being that the recipient never sells the drum; if they want to get rid of it, they must gift it.

Judge Lopez then described how sacred giving is a central part of Native American culture. It is a means of giving thanks, bringing the people together, and maintaining the balance that keeps a nation together: keeping individuals in the right relationship with the community.

And now the students of Anahuacalmecac were including us Teen Court participants in a giving ceremony. The students presented me with maize and a bandanna with the school’s sacred emblem on it. They were deliberate and conscious of the ceremony attached.

I was deeply, deeply moved by what I experienced. I hesitated to even share it in this article. But through that gifting ceremony, I was able to see my part in not just the judicial traditions of the United States, but a much older and deeper spiritual tradition. It was an impactful experience.

I encourage you all to take several hours out of your schedule every month to connect with the opportunities that the Barristers provide to aid our community. I can attest to the fact that the rewards are much greater than what is expected.


William S. Wenzel is a business and corporate attorney at The Law Offices of William S. Wenzel, APC. His office serves as outside general counsel for hire and can be contacted at 213 207 6885 or wsw@wswlegal.com.

Play to Play | by William S. Wenzel, Barristers President

William S. WenzelOur Teen Court program continues to build momentum, with five new volunteers just since my last article! If you haven’t heard about what we’re doing yet, please take a minute to look us up on the BHBA’s website for more information, or contact me directly for a personal touch.

I want to take a small detour from Teen Court for this article to talk about “play.” Perhaps it’s not so much a detour as spotlighting a lesson the Teen Court student participants impart to me. They are, after all, young people for whom play is still an integral part of their lives and development. But for us, as lawyers and (mostly) adults, have we left play behind? And is the absence of play to our collective and individual detriment?

Recently, I had occasion to go to Chicago. There, I had dinner with a mentor of mine from college. As I’ve discussed in prior articles, I was a theatre major and my mentor, Dr. Jonathan Wilson, is a renowned director teaching acting and directing at Loyola University Chicago.

As we ate, we reflected on politics and philosophy until we both realized that we were wading, in his words, “into way-too-heady stuff.” He asked me point-blank: what was I doing for play? I admit I struggled to find an answer. Jonathan, too, admitted that his personality led him often to try to solve the world’s problems in his mind – despite his career in an industry that may emphasize play more than any other.

Dr. Stuart Brown, MD, head of the National Institute for Play, defines “play,” as “something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”

Dr. Brown, in many publications, emphasizes that grown-ups play creates community. It helps us maintain our social well-being. Play with others is how we connect and maintain healthy relationships. It’s also how we stay sharp. And the lack of play has consequences. Dr. Brown says, “What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around. You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.” That’s serious stuff.

Now, I love the practice of law. I love the study of law. And I love the philosophy of law. I’ve made these things the pillars of both my livelihood and of my worldview.

But the law and its aspects, particularly its commercial aspects, leave little room for play. They are not done for their own sake: they pay the bills. And falling into a lifestyle where everything I do advances my career also runs the risk of making my life much more laborious.

To increase play in my life, experts suggest the following minor changes:

  1. Change how I think about play: remembering that play is important for all aspects of my life, I can give myself permission to play every day.
  2. Take a play history: Mine my past for play memories as a kid – what did I do that excited me then? How can I recreate that today?
  3. Surround myself with playful people: I can make conscious choices to select friends who are playful and play with those people.
  4. Play with little ones: Playing with kids can help me to experience the magic of play through their perspective.

Nearing the end of my dinner, Jonathan and I made a mutual promise to each other: that we would go forward from here with a greater emphasis on play. That we would play more often in our lives. I am pleased to report that I’m making good on my promise. And our Barristers Board and I will work to ensure that, as lawyers, we create more opportunities to connect with each other through play.


William S. Wenzel is a business and corporate attorney at The Law Offices of William S. Wenzel, APC. His office serves as outside general counsel for hire and can be contacted at 213 207 6885 or wsw@wswlegal.com.

Teen Court | by William S. Wenzel, Barristers President

William S. WenzelI’m encouraged by the strong response we’re getting from all of you regarding our Teen Court program. I share your enthusiasm. If you’re still not on board or want more evidence of the power of this program, let me relate my recent experience:

Three Barristers representatives were proctors at the inaugural Teen Court at Anahuacalmecac High School in South Pasadena/East Los Angeles. Anahuacalmecac (pronounced “anna-WALK-a-may-a”) is a Native American charter school; its teachers and students are primarily Native American.

Teen Court at Anahuacalmecac is overseen by two Native American judges: Judge Sanchez and Judge Lopez. Incidentally, both judges are Beverly Hills Bar Foundation Scholarship recipients – the BHBA’s good works resonating through our community!

Before the Court stood a 17-year-old from an affluent school. She was an honor student with a 4.1 GPA and intensely involved in extra-curricular activities.

We learned she had an internship with a congresswoman lined up after graduation. To all outside appearances this young woman was entirely on the right track. But her charging documents indicated she had caused a car accident (with no injuries to the other driver) and she was accused of driving under the influence of prescription medication. Now she and her parents stood before the student jurors.

The questioning was intense. The students asked about the accused’s family life. They grilled her about the pressures she faced at school. They did not stop with initial questions – they dug deep and asked follow-up after follow-up. It was revealed that, though the parents didn’t believe they applied pressure to succeed, the accused felt a strong internal pressure to please everyone. Between school, extra-curricular activities, and her world’s expectations, she felt she just couldn’t keep up. The night of the accident, it emerged that she got into an argument with her parents and – fed up – took two full bottles of her own prescription medication, intending to kill herself. She got into her car to drive to a friend’s house, passed out, and ran into another car.

The heart-wrenching facts couldn’t have hit closer to home for the jurors. They’ve also faced home and school anxieties, intense pressures to succeed: to get good grades but also to have laundry lists of extra-curriculars. And they saw a person their own age driven to the breaking point. It was clear they were absorbing the lessons, and remember: it was up to them to determine what should be done.

While the jurors deliberated, the two judges discussed the case with the student audience. They talked at length about the consequences for the accused had she not been diverted into Teen Court. A DUI at 17 would mean her dreams of a successful career would be put on hold if not entirely shattered. All her hard work might have evaporated over a single decision.

The jury returned a guilty verdict. But for this young woman, her sentencing was tailored to rehabilitation and growth. She received counseling and community service. She will get the help she needs to deal with the pressures she faces. And if she successfully completes her probation, her record will be clear.

It’s a concrete example of the second chances that Teen Court provides. If you’re ready to lend a hand, please contact Aimy Zodieru at aimyzodieru@gmail.com or 310 975 9694. We want your help.


William S. Wenzel is a business and corporate attorney at The Law Offices of William S. Wenzel, APC. His office serves as outside general counsel for hire and can be contacted at 213 207 6885 or wsw@wswlegal.com.

 

Welcome to the New Year! | by William S. Wenzel, Barristers President

William S. WenzelI wish each of you and those you love a happy and prosperous 2016.

With two months between each of my articles, there is never enough room to tell you about all of the accomplishments of the Barristers – I can’t keep pace with our tremendous team. So I dedicate this article to our ongoing project: Teen Court.

In a previous blog post you can read about what Teen Court is, so I don’t need to explain it again here. Rather, I think you may find it useful to know about what Teen Court means and represents to me:

In law school, I served for a summer with the Alternate Public Defender’s office in El Cajon, outside of San Diego. For those outside the criminal field, the APD handles cases where an inter-defendant conflict prohibits the Public Defender’s office from representing both defendants. My assignment was a capital murder case. Our client waited behind the wheel while his buddy ran inside a gas station to steal some beer; the buddy decided to shoot three people, two died. Our client was 19 at the time and faced death under accomplice liability for felony murder.

At 21 years old, our client was found guilty and it was my job to make sure he spent his life in prison, rather than having it ended by the State. Drudging up mitigating evidence, it became rapidly clear that our client had lived a life in the System. He had been neglected by family and school. Cast aside by society, he spent his developmental life in institutions. From his first juvenile arrest and conviction, he lived as an outcast – it shaped his existence. He currently serves life in prison and will never see the outside; his face and story never left me.

Teen Court gives us a chance to prevent this. Here, young accused have a unique opportunity: stand before your peers, submit and comply with their sentencing, and you won’t be “in the System.” Sentences are designed to offer counseling, structure, and guidance where there was none. And a clear record is the carrot for successful completion. Could my former client’s life have been different if he had counseling opportu- nities and his first offense wiped from his record?

There’s more: Across from the accused sit twelve young people. Through Teen Court they have learned their role in our judicial system (and its place in our larger civics system). They’ve learned about strong, smart questioning, how to ask follow-up questions, and how to critically analyze answers – skills many older people lack. Through participation, they prepare themselves to be responsible members of our society.

Finally, our Barrister proctor volunteers get a chance to be role models. A chance to credibly say, “If you want, you can be a lawyer, or a judge.” Plus, they get consistent, long-term exposure to members of the judiciary. They help their judge conduct the proceedings. Perhaps, after building a relationship, they might request that the judge write a crucial reference – after all, they’ve demonstrated skills that make good lawyers and good people.

As you read this, we’ve already begun to provide key support to the LA Teen Court program. To find out how you can be a proctor, or help in any way, please contact me directly.


William S. Wenzel is a business and corporate attorney at The Law Offices of William S. Wenzel, APC. His office serves as outside general counsel for hire and can be contacted at 213 207 6885 or wsw@wswlegal.com.

BHBA Barristers team up with LA County Teen Court Program
Volunteers are needed to support youth and change lives

Around the state, jails are overcrowded, courts have been shut down, and kids are getting lost in the shuffle. Nearly ninety thousand (86,823) juveniles were arrested in 2014 in California alone. Just shy of 80 percent of those arrests were for misdemeanors or status offenses (crimes only applicable to juveniles, such as truancy and curfew violations). As just one of hundreds being pushed through the courts daily, each child is not given the individual attention or support he or she needs.

That’s where Teen Court comes in. By casting trained, volunteer teenagers in the roles of attorneys and jurors, the program allows first-time juvenile defendants accused of misdemeanors to be represented and judged by the people who understand them best. Jurors ask a wide range of questions of the defendant as well as his/her parents, allowing them to get a complete picture of the person. The sentences exclude confinement or fines and are directed to rehabilitate rather than to punish. They range from a letter of apology to community service to counseling. If the sentence is carried out within six months, the defendants avoid a stain on their record.

This is great for everyone. People with convictions have a harder time getting admission to college and securing jobs and housing. Not only does Teen Court prevent those first-offense convictions from appearing on a student’s record, but studies have shown that Teen Court-style programs can help keep them out of trouble in the future.

While beneficial, Teen Court often lacks support from schools that can’t provide staff or classrooms; some schools are short on volunteers to guide the process. This is why the Beverly Hills Bar Association’s Barristers have made it their mission this year to partner with Teen Courts around LA County. With plans to donate volunteers and resources, the Barristers’ partnership with Teen Court will help many dozens of students change their lives for the better.

We need your help! Volunteers make sure all court sessions proceed as intended. Volunteers can be attorneys, judicial officers, or even law students. All volunteers must attend a training session, which will take place on January 28, 2016. Currently we have planned to work most closely with the program at Santa Monica High School, and we are adding more schools all the time. Program schedules will be added to the calendar.

If you would like more information or to volunteer, please call the BHBA at (310) 601-BHBA (2422) or email Barristers President Wil Wenzel at wsw@wswlegal.com.

Celebrate Pro Bono Week: Volunteer for the Lawyers in the Library Clinic

The Barristers are proud to announce their second year in a row of official sponsorship of the L.A. Law Library’s Lawyers in the Library event to be held in conjunction with the Library’s annual Pro Bono Week.
Lawyers in the Library offers complimentary 20 – 30 minute consultations to members of the public who are in need of legal advice, and is held at the L.A. Law Library on a monthly basis. The special Pro Bono Week edition of the clinic will run from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 24, 2015.
The BHBA has pledged to serve the 100+ members of the public attending the clinic, so we need YOU to volunteer for this fantastic opportunity to give back!
Each volunteer only needs to commit to a one-hour time slot on Saturday, October 24th between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. (though you are able to volunteer for the entire four-hour clinic, or any portion thereof, if you so desire).
For more information about the clinic and to sign-up, please visit www.bhba.org/lawyersinthelibrary

Pro Bono Committee Co-Chairs and Program Chair: Elizabeth Hall Peterson, Jack McMorrow and Autumn Rhonda.
Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.
– Author Unknown

(SaMo)Shel’ing Out a Lot of Love

On the second Saturday of every month, the Barristers visit the Santa Monica Shelter (map), where we cook together in an industrial kitchen to bring a delicious meal to as many as 60 residents.  Check out the pictures of past visits below, and join us on Saturday, September 12 (tomorrow) at 3 p.m., when we get a Back to School-themed menu:

GRADE SCHOOL GRILLED CHEESE SAMMIES
ROASTED CHICKIE FINGERS w/ BBQ DIP
FRESH ROMA TOMATO SOUP
CLASSIC FRUIT CUP
(KINDER)GARDEN SALAD
YUMMY CHOCO CHIP COOKIES

Thank You for a Beautiful and Blessed Year | by Doron Eghbali, Barristers President

Doron EghbaliThis is my last piece in Bar Brief as the President of the BHBA Barristers. Accordingly, it is important to reflect on the successful and jovial year we have had as Barristers and express our deepest gratitude to our beloved Barristers BOG members for their profound dedication and sacrifice.

Even though it is rather impossible to bestow individual accolades on more than 20 committees and many MCLEs we spearheaded, here is a summary of our notable activities this past year.

Roxbury Park – Every first Saturday of the month William S. Wenzel, our wonderful President-Elect, along with ebullient Danielle Grabois, Co-Chaired this event to provide free legal services.

Samoshel – Every second Saturday of the month, our chef extraordinaire, LeRoy Williams, joined by amiable past President of Barristers, Jeanine Percival Wright, and superb Jeremiah Livesay prepared eclectic food and served around 60 homeless people at the Santa Monica Shelter.

Vintage Bouquet – Like previous years, our indomitable Co-Chairs, Dira Imam and Danielle Grabois, spearheaded another electrifying Vintage Bouquet along with our invaluable Elizabeth Peterson, Jeremiah Livesay, Eseigbe Omofoma, Lauren Gabbaian and Yan Goldshteyn. Special thanks to Leigh Leshner, John Grimball and Nicholas Francescon for their efforts during past years.

Pro Bono Committee – On a Saturday, during Law Week at L.A. Law Library, Autumn Ronda along with Elizabeth Peterson, Rachel Balchum, and Dira Imam, provided free legal advice to more than 100 people. In addition, with the diligence of Jack McMorrow and other members of this great Committee, we succeeded in continuing to inform the public of noble pro bono activities in our neighborhoods through our meticulously prepared Pro Bono Newsletters.

Power Lunch – Nearly every month Yan Goldshteyn and Brian Schaller planned a “Power Lawyer” lunch with legal titans for an intimate roundtable discussion.

Committee for the Arts – Anastasia Alen and Dira Imam brought to fruition an ethereal evening of memorable art, music and food at the former House of Blues.

Tolerance Through Education – Liana Yoon and Eseigbe Omofoma taught elementary school children the meaning of love, respect and tolerance through educational activities.

Meet the Judges – Megan Peitzke deftly assembled eight judges and two commissionaires for a private and rare evening at the Santa Monica Courthouse.

Brunch for Eight – Ariadne Giannis executed four separate Brunch for Eight programs with UCLA, USC, Loyola and Whittier law schools.

Mentorship Committee – Our tireless Zev Shechtman, Autumn Ronda and Diana Ovsepian sought to continue matching qualified mentors with receptive mentees.

Social Media Committee – Special thanks to Lauren Gabbaian for her expertise in supervising our Social Media.

Happy Hour – David Paletz, our convivial Chair, ensured every Thursday of the month that we all had a classy place to go to for professional networking.

Join me in my heartfelt thanks of our beloved and blessed BOG.


 

Doron F. Eghbali is a Senior Partner at Law Advocate Group, LLP. He practices Business, Real Estate and Entertainment law. Contact him at DoronEghbali@LawAdvocateGroup.com, or 310 651 3065.