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.

April 26, 2015 – The 27th Annual Vintage Bouquet™ Food and Wine Event

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Barristers Can Facilitate Career Enhancement | By Doron Eghbali, Barristers President

Doron EghbaliMy friends and colleagues often ask me how their involvement in the Beverly Hills Bar Association’s Barristers could help them with their career. My response to them is often simple: become sincerely involved and you will appreciate the tangible and intangible benefits.

In fact, given more than 20 projects and programs that our Barristers’ section offers members and non-members alike, any serious and sincere Barrister would find a program to get involved with or even spearhead, of course with our help and support.

Such Barristers’ programs not only help the community, but also reward those dedicated Barristers who spend their weekends or evenings planning and executing such programs with credibility in the eyes of their employers and clients. This credibility often translates into new and lucrative attorney-client relationships.

Community

Indeed, impeccable reputation and integrity are sine qua non for a successful legal career. Community involvement on the level that Barristers have accomplished undoubtedly helps those volunteers with name recognition.

For instance, on October 25, 2014, Rachel Balchum and Elizabeth Peterson diligently and deftly planned and executed a legal clinic involving more than 30 volunteer Barristers serving more than 100 people as part of L.A. Law Library Pro Bono week.

Kudos to Rachel and Elizabeth who undertook this colossal endeavor under the able aegis of Barristers Immediate Past President Autumn Ronda. In addition, on November 8, 2014, Barristers presented “What Every Tenant Needs to Know,” a substantive two-hour free Landlord-Tenant seminar to the public, at Roxbury Park.

The other examples of Barristers’ constant involvement in the community would be our monthly Roxbury Park Free Legal Clinic and Samoshel. Every first Saturday of the month our volunteers, run by our able Barristers’ President-Elect William S. Wenzel, provide free legal advice to the public.

Every second Saturday of the month, at Santa Monica Shelter, our dedicated Barristers’ volunteers cook and feed around 60 homeless people under the tutelage of our own chef extraordinaire, LeRoy Williams. Another project involved a toy drive in December, before the New Year, to help the greater Los Angeles’ impoverished children.

Legal Community

In addition to community involvement, Barristers are also involved in the legal community by planning and executing a few substantive MCLEs a month, geared mostly toward the needs of the younger attorneys. Our revived “Lunch with…” Power Lunch Series, run by our own Brian Schaller and Yan Goldshteyn, brings together illustrious attorneys in different practice areas with a small group of younger attorneys for an informal and candid round table discussion.

Career Enhancement

Given more than 20 or so events and programs the Barristers spearhead, any member of this proud and humble community should feel rewarded. Hence, when Barristers state these accomplishments on their resumes, LinkedIn, Avvo, Twitter, or Facebook pages, clients and employers take notice.

Clients know that such dedicated lawyers will steadfastly champion their rights, while employers realize that such competent and accomplished lawyers are invaluable assets to their law firms.


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

SaMoShelling Out the Good Stuff

At the September installment of SaMoShel, the Barristers rang in the start of football season with wings and nachos!

The Barristers always meet on the second Tuesday of the month at OPCC SaMoShel (Santa Monica Shelter) to cook and serve a meal to as many as 60 of Santa Monica’s homeless population.  Join us at our next meeting on Oct. 11, from 3-5 p.m.

Supercharged SaMoShel

We had a great turnout at our last SaMoShel event, and everyone was chopping, grilling, scooping SOMETHING to perfection.  The menu was Carribean themed, and everyone we served was so greatful we even got some applause!  Check out pictures from the event below, and remember: the next SaMoShel will be this weekend on August 9!

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If You Build It, They Will Come | By Autumn Ronda, Barristers President

Autumn-Ronda-2013My managing partner was recently educating me on the “good ol’ days” in the practice of law, back when attorneys stayed with their firms for the length of their career and the industry was considered practically recession-proof. What really caught my attention, however, was when he mentioned that an associate attorney could actually make partner, without a book of business. Now, I know that firms have always stressed the importance of associates developing their knowledge of the law and perfecting their technical skills, but these days, good lawyering won’t always save you from the chopping block. In order to make yourself indispensable, even young attorneys must start building a healthy book of business.

The only way to do this is through business development, which requires marketing. I’ve met newly minted lawyers who flawlessly deliver their professional pitches, but generally, networking and branding are terms that strike fear into the hearts of young lawyers. So how can Barristers begin to develop these undisclosed prerequisites of a successful legal practice — in a painless manner?

I suggest focusing on building your professional reputation before you build your “brand.” Anyone can brand themselves in a particular manner by perfecting their sales pitch and having a substantial web presence, but reputation is based on what other practitioners, referral sources, and clients say about you. Thus, the only way to build a good reputation is by consistently and successfully demonstrating your professional integrity and skill. While building a reputation is more difficult and takes more time, it ultimately serves you better, because it is built on substance.

Involvement in the Barristers Board of Governors, and its Committees and activities provides young attorneys with a plethora of opportunities to build their professional reputation:

• Plan and moderate a CLE panel – the panelists will be impressed with your contributions.

• Help plan a Bar fundraiser – influential members of the legal community will take note of your philanthropic nature and organizational skills.

• Write articles for Bar publications – readers will remember your name as a contributing member of our profession.

• Volunteer for pro bono work – you will work closely with experienced practitioners who may refer you cases.

• Participate in changing legislation with the Resolutions Committee – enough said.

There are so many subtle ways to develop your professional reputation through Bar involvement, and these activities tend to come more naturally than those that are solely networking- based. Before you know it, you will have branded yourself organically, without needing a degree in marketing.

Remember that all of this takes time. Work hard to craft your reputation now, and you will build the foundation you need to develop your own client base, while having made yourself an indispensable member of your firm.


Autumn Ronda is a Tax and Estate Planning attorney at Valensi Rose, PLC in Century City. You may contact her at ar@vrmlaw.com or 310 277 8011.

PI Summer Mixer a Success!

The Personal Injury section's innaugural summer mixer brougt attorneys together from all different practice areas. Barristers had a great time!

From left: Barristers President Autumn Ronda, Lawrence Freiman, and Personal Injury Section Vice Chair (and Barristers Treasurer) Jonathan Dennis

From left: Barristers President Autumn Ronda, Lawrence Freiman, and Personal Injury Section Vice Chair (and Barristers Treasurer) Jonathan Dennis

Batter Up!

Barristers from the Beverly Hills and Santa Monica Bar Associations went head to head last Saturday in Santa Monica to play an epic game of softball.  Sadly, the home team won in the last inning, with a final score of 7-6, but the weather was great, the game was a blast, and both sides came together for a pizza party afterward.  Thanks to Jonathan Dennis for organizing, and stay tuned for details about a rematch later this year!

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Celebrating the Convergence of Art and the Law | by Anastasia Alen

For those of you who are passionate about art, theater, film, music, and the like in addition to law, you will be happy to know that this year the Barristers Board of Governors has reinvented the Committee For the Arts (CFTA) with many thanks to our President, Autumn Ronda.  The CFTA coordinates programs and events promoting important legal and social issues through the Arts.  I, together with fellow Board member, Dira Imam, co-chair the committee and to start things off on a no less than fabulous note, we held our first CFTA event, “Sights and Sounds From the Courtroom” this past April 30. 

In connection with the Los Angeles Law Library’s Annual Law Week, CFTA co-hosted a free reception celebrating the rule of law through the extraordinary artwork of courtroom sketch artist, Bill Robles, and the music of Gary Green, Esq. and his Big Band of Barristers.  Bill Robles has sketched some of the most infamous trials of the past several decades including that of Charles Mansion, Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, and Michael Jackson, among many others.  Attendees were treated to a display of over 20 sketches while listening to the tunes of Gary Greene and his Big Band of Barristers as well as enjoying wine and appetizers.  Additionally, Bill Robles himself was at the reception promoting The Illustrated Courtroom: 50 Years of Court Art, a recently released book featuring Bill’s art on the cover.  The book has 140 illustrations featuring a range of the most memorable trials of the last 50 years, and Bill was kind enough to sign these for purchasers.

It was an unforgettable evening of art, music, law, and socializing to say the least, and a wonderful way to jump-start the CFTA.  Thank you to all who attended! 

For those interested in helping us plan future events, you are welcome to attend a meeting Dira and I will be having in the next month to brainstorm ideas.  Please feel free to contact me (anastasia.alen@gmail.com) or Dira (dira@lhjpc.com) if you have any questions or comments! 


Anastasia Alen is an attorney who works in Legal and Business Affairs at the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills.  Anastasia is a member of the Barristers Board of Governors.  She is the Co-Chair for the Committee For the Arts, the Liaison for the Entertainment Law Executive Committee, and a member of the Nominating Committee.   She can be reached at anastasia.alen@gmail.com or 310-210-4552.