Pay 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.

The Task: New Leaders | by William S. Wenzel, Barristers President

William S. WenzelIt is an honor to assume the helm of the Barristers Board. In a nimble, active, and activist organization, the Barristers are a flagship. We represent several hundred young lawyers – hungry to develop our careers and make impressions. Together, we are a force we cannot be alone.

An introduction: I’m from Denver. The Coloradan in me looks to nature and outdoor activities to offset the pace LA requires. For seven years, my home was Roger’s Park, Chicago where I studied directing in the theatre. Chicago and Chicago theatre require risk-taking and gritty living. There’s little room for nonsense: it’s just too cold much of the time.

I lived in Tokyo, Japan where I knew tight spaces and the feeling of being a minority. And in Sydney, Australia, where summer was winter, and which became my home-base for a walkabout of the entire coast of that continent.

Then, for three years I lived in San Diego. I’m proud to count myself as the second consecutive Barristers’ President alumnus of California Western School of Law. It’s a testament to a school that produces lawyers ready to take the lead in serving others. But San Diego was not a place to start a career – that was for Los Angeles. I opened my office in 2011 in business and corporate law and moved along successfully ever since; every day a new adventure. So I’ve got a diverse background, I’m traveled, I’m a small business owner, and I’m more than ready to start work for the Barristers.

Inside the Bar Association, my job is to foster leaders. If new leaders step up where they haven’t before, then I will be a success.

Our board members are leaders: they’ve taken off the blinders of the day-to-day job tasks and asked our organization how they can help; they’ve put in time chairing committees; they’ve looked at resources and evaluated the most efficient method of accomplishing a project; they’ve summarized that work in presentations to the Board. They show they have what it takes to lead in this association and in this profession. I will work hard to inspire, to empower, and to direct. So when – together – we hit and exceed our goals, we will know that the BHBA is well served.

Outside the Bar, the Barristers focus our resources on a major BHBA community service project. When you read this, we will have voted between five “community service theme” options developed collectively over the last seven months: veteran assistance, community-police relationship building, domestic violence prevention, human trafficking prevention, or teen court facilitation. No matter what we decide, we can’t go wrong because our aim is to help.

Our community needs help now more than ever. We’re going to meet that challenge together.


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.

 

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.

Love, Bonhomie and Professionalism | By Doron Eghbali, Barristers President

Doron EghbaliThe salient characteristics of the Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA) Barristers Board of Governors (BOG) are the bonhomie, love and professionalism it permeates and promotes among its members. These indispensable characteristics suffuse the 20 committees and projects the BHBA BOG have embarked upon.

Vintage Bouquet

Given these noble attributes, the BHBA Barristers’ BOG continued the glamorous Annual Vintage Bouquet event this year on April 26, 2015 with exquisite food and wine. Special thanks to our fastidious Co-Chair’s Dira Imam and Danielle Grabois whose dedication, along with the invaluable devotion of our Barristers’ BOG members Eseigbe A Omofoma, Lauren Gabbaian, Elizabeth Hall Peterson and Jeremiah Livesay, made this event possible. Also it is incumbent upon us to thank our previous Chair of Vintage Bouquet, Leigh Leshner and BOG members Nick Francescon and John Grimball for the past years’ successes.

Meet the Judges

Furthermore, thanks to our indispensable Megan Peitzke and the BHBA Barristers “Meet the Judges of the West District” was held on May 14, 2015 at the Santa Monica Courthouse. Eight judges and two commissioners graciously shared with participants the insight into many aspects of trial practice from ethics to civil discovery to trial work. It was a rare and informal meeting that participants undoubtedly relished.

Brunch for Eight

Again, we had the pleasure of hosting a select group of law students from Whittier Law School on April 12, 2015 at the BHBA, which was our fourth Brunch for Eight event in a month. Our wonderful Ariadne Giannis, the Chair of the Section, successfully arranged it.

Roxbury Park and Samoshel

On the first Saturday of the month in April and May, our efficient President-Elect William Wenzel and invaluable Co-Chair Danielle Grabois provided the public with free legal advice in a loving and welcoming ambience, along with other volunteers.

The second Saturday in April and May, our very own chef extraordinaire Leroy Williams, Jeremiah Livesay and other great volunteers, prepared delicious and eclectic food and served nearly 60 homeless people at the Santa Monica Shelter.

MCLE and Power Lunch

Our dedicated Barristers executed at least six ‘nuts and bolts’ type of MCLEs in the past two months on legal topics as diverse as Immigration, Real Estate, Labor and Employment, Law Practice Management, and Entertainment.

Thanks to Yan Goldshteyn, President-Elect for 2016-2017, and formidable Co-Chair, Brian Schaller, “Power” attorneys in entertainment law continued to share the keys to their success with the participants.

Happy Hour

Like previous months, David Paletz put on another Happy Hour with panache and class. Our Happy Hours are usually the third Thursday of the month at the Hotel Sixty in Beverly Hills.

You are welcome to become a part of us. We will embrace you with love and make you feel welcome.


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

Kudos To Our Incredible Barristers | By Doron Eghbali, Barristers President

Doron EghbaliThis article is dedicated to the noble work of our invaluable Barristers’ Board of Governors (“BOG”). The profound work of the BOG positively affects lawyers, law students and laymen alike. To demonstrate the lofty work of our Barristers’ BOG, let us review only about one week of the BOG’s accomplishments.

March 7 – The monthly Roxbury Park Free Legal Clinic helps the public with general legal services. It is Co-Chaired by our superb President-Elect William Wenzel and Danielle Grabois.

March 7 & 8 – Brunch for Eight is a BHBA Barristers’ program in which eight law-school students are invited to the BHBA to help them ascertain the salience of involvement in a local Bar Association and the noble work BHBA performs for “young and newer” attorneys. Two such brunches were held in March with students attending from Loyola Law School on the 7th and UCLA on the 8th. This year’s Chairperson is our able Ariadne Giannis. On both days, dignitaries from the BHBA and the Bench joined Ariadne and the students.

March 10 – Our superb Co-Chairs of the Committee for the Arts, Dira Imam and Anastasia Alen held an art and music event at the legendary House of Blues. This program was held in their architecturally beautiful Foundation Room and consisted of high quality music and ethereal artifacts put together by the homeless.

March 13 & 14 – The Barristers superbly led by Yan Goldshteyn, Lauren Gabbaian and Liana Yoon proudly represented BHBA at the UCLA Entertainment Symposium.

March 14 – Our chef extraordinaire, LeRoy Williams, chaired Samoshel at the Santa Monica Shelter. LeRoy, along with Jeanine Percival Wright (Barristers’ Past President), Jeremiah Livesay and other selfless volunteers served around 60 homeless people with a St. Patrick’s themed menu.

March 15 – Danielle Grabois, our diligent Chair of the Bench Bar Bike Ride, facilitated a fun and non-strenuous bike ride along Hermosa and Manhattan Beach.

In addition, the Barristers put on an MCLE program about how to start a law firm and another “Power Lunch” program with an entertainment “Power Lawyer,” ably Co-Chaired by Brian Schaller and Yan Goldshteyn.

Barristers have been preparing for the annual “Vintage Bouquet,” set for April 26, 2015. It is being Co-Chaired this year by our very own Dira Imam and Danielle Grabois.

Our invaluable Megan Peitzke is preparing an MCLE program with 11 judges of the West District for May 2015 on “Do’s and Don’ts” of court conduct.

Furthermore Leigh Leshner, Nick Francescon and John Grimball are planning an all-day seminar on the nuts and bolts of entertainment law for June 2015.

Thank you so much BOG for your lofty work.


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.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

It was a tough fight, but BHBA lost to SMBA by only one point, scored in the last inning!  But we had a blast anyway, and everyone enjoyed our BBQ.