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time, guns a-blazing every day. That’s why
we can only do a small number of cases.
You can’t dabble in this. My core team
is the same core team I’ve had for a long
time. We’re a pretty well-oiled machine.
Usually they test us, and once we get to the
point where they’re like, “Oh, she’s really
getting to the corporate level,” sometimes
the cases settle because they don’t want to
run the risk [of going before a jury].
Q: Are there cases so egregious that you
want to go to trial because you want to
expose the bad behavior?
A: My ethical obligation is to my present
client, it’s not to the public at large, even
though my personal motivation is that I
want to expose the bad that’s out there.
Q: How did you get into elder law?
A: I worked for this great law firm:
Q: Why the law in general?
Horton, Barbaro, Reilly. Jay Horton is
a famous mediator now and he was
my boss, then Frank Barbaro was my
boss. Great, great lawyers. And I got
a case that I worked on with them. It
came to us as a medical malpractice
case, but the gentleman who died was
much older— 86 years old, if I remember
correctly. We have these microcaps in
California where your life is not worth
more than $250,000, so people were
like, “This case is going to be worth
about $100,000 because he’s 86 and
who cares?” And I’m like, “Really? That
can’t be.” I was totally outraged. My
nature is to be the voice and advocate
for a vulnerable class of people. I’m
privileged that I get to represent the
elderly because they need a voice.
A: [As a paralegal] I would get frustrated
because I would tell my boss how I
wanted him to go into these depositions
and into trial, and I would lay out how I
wanted him to ask the questions. I felt
very much that if you ask the 10 precursor
questions, by the time you get to the
big question you’ve caught them and
there’s no way they can say anything
other than the answer you need them to.
But he would start with the big whammy
question and they’d say whatever they
wanted. Eventually, I thought, “OK, you
need to just ask it yourself.”
Q: And as for becoming a paralegal?
A: When I was in the Marine Corps, I was
sitting at my desk and one of my co-Marines came up and said, “I think I might
go to paralegal school,” and I was like,
“What’s that?” and he’s like, “It’s this law-related thing.” So I haphazardly fell into
that. I went to paralegal school and on day
one I was like, “This is so for me.”
LEFT: Growing up in Long Beach. By the time she was 14, she had
left home. By the time she was 15, she was a single mom.
ABOVE: The Marine Corps was a way to escape. Not that there
weren’t incidents. But “I stand up for myself really well,” she says.