Following in the Family Footsteps
Sometime in late June, I went to the bank to make a deposit. The banker, Kate, has known me for several years. Kate knew that my son, Garrett, was born in early December of last year. In the course of our conversation, she mentioned, “maybe your son will be a lawyer someday.” Without thinking, I blurted, “over my dead body!” My response gave rise to a curiosity; why did I have such a strong, immediate, and negative gut reaction? As a new mom, how would I feel if my little guy decided that he wanted to be a lawyer? How would I feel if he wanted to be a family lawyer like mom?
Family law attorneys are often exposed to the nastier side of the law, as well as the profession. This experience certainly impacted my reaction at the bank, and it ignited my curiosity about how attorney parents feel when their “little ones” enter this roller-coaster profession. So I decided to ask them.
This article is the second of several articles with condensed interviews of parent/child(ren) “teams.” This article features Justice James Marchiano (Ret.), Karen Marchiano, and David Marchiano.
Justice Marchiano was a Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge from 1988-98, after serving as a trial lawyer for 18 years. After his time in Contra Costa County, he served as Appellate Justice on the First District Court of Appeal, Division One, from 1998 to 2013.
Karen Marchiano practices franchise litigation at DLA Piper’s Palo Alto office. She is a wife and is a mom to her 2-year old son.
David Marchiano practices law at Archer Norris, PLC in Walnut Creek. He is a husband and is a dad to his 11-month old son.
LJM: Did you encounter expectations because of your last name?
DM: My dad’s name was of assistance in obtaining the position [with Archer Norris]. Back in 2007, Lee Archer was still at the firm. He came into the interview room and said something to the effect of, “…well, if you’re anything like your dad, you will be a great hire.” I was hired as a summer intern in 2007 following my first year of law school. I came back the following summer [when I was a 2L] for the more important period-between second and third years of law school. Ultimately, I was offered a full-time position at the firm in September 2009. Upon passing the Bar in November 2009, I was sworn in by Division 1 in Oakland, and my dad swore me in. That was a special day.
LJM: Tell me about that day.
JM: I did want to do it, naturally. It was an emotional day as I administered the lawyer’s oath to David and the other new admittees to the Bar in Oakland. I was very happy and proud to have my son become a lawyer because I think it’s a noble profession. To swear him in was an honor. My daughter, Karen, is more independent. I wanted to swear her in, but she wanted to do it with a group of friends at Boalt Hall, which has a separate swearing-in ceremony. I was there and they took pictures for Boalt Hall Magazine of a judge with his daughter there at the same time. It was also a very special time for me. Main point is that David and Karen were both outstanding students and candidates for the firms that they went into, and would have gotten their jobs on their own. The fact that many of these lawyers knew me was a help. When I was on the bench, I was very active in community affairs. I set-up a mediation program in Contra Costa County, which exists today.
LJM: Karen and David, when did you decide you wanted to go to law school? Did you think about it before? Was it a light bulb moment? Tell me about how that conversation went with your dad and mom.
DM: There was not a light bulb moment, but it was always in the back of my mind. After graduating from college, I wanted to work in business, as that was what my degree was in. Part of me wanted a change from academia. Colleagues of mine were taking the LSAT. I was happy to graduate, then come home. At the time of graduating, I was not thinking about law school. The more I got real-world experience, and had discussions with co-workers, they encouraged me to go to law school. So, I decided to go the law school path. I probably didn’t talk to my parents about it. I was 24. I’m sure I mentioned that I was applying. I’m sure they supported me but they didn’t steer me in either direction. They would have been happy either way. Whenever I had a question, they would answer, but were not pushing me either way.
JM: I felt law school for both Karen and David was an individual decision. It is hard work, transforms your mind’s thought process; and as far as the career itself, you have to go into it for the right reasons. For both Karen and David, we supported their decision wholeheartedly, but did not strongly encourage either of them. They both had the right skills, good reasoning skills, could speak well on their feet. Both worked well with people. I wanted them to make their own decision, do it on their own, and live with the consequences.
LJM: Karen, did you decide as an undergrad you wanted to be a lawyer or was it before then?
KM: It was something that evolved over time during undergrad. I started with an interest in medical research, which is why I was at Duke. But my interests changed as I spent three summers in the legal field. I spent one summer at a legal aid place in Oakland, doing intake on eviction cases; one summer at Harvard Law School in their Office of Public Interest Advising where I helped students with an interest in public interest law, and one summer in a large law firm in Oakland where I supported large-scale cases. I also did some volunteer work in Durham, North Carolina, at a legal aid office similar to the intake work in Oakland. It became evident to me the nature of being a lawyer was a good fit, the right direction to go.
LJM: Tell me about your two older siblings and what they do for work, Brian and Amy? The reason I’m asking is to distinguish your relationship with your dad simply by virtue of what you do for a living versus their relationships with your dad.
KM: We talk and shop more and we obviously have terminology that is immediately evident when we’re talking about work in a way that’s technical and specific.
JM: I’m the consultant, “what do you think about this issue…”
KM: When I was a junior lawyer, there was a lot of consulting going on. Now, even though I have been practicing for more than ten years, I consult my Dad on appellate issues or issues that are a judgment call. I also call him to let him know when I’m citing his cases.
JM: Our son Brian until recently had been with Contra Costa Television as a program manager where he taped the Board of Supervisors and other public agencies and organized the videos on Channel 27, which is the public access television. Our daughter Amy has been in human resources and corporate training.
KM: Amy is very much in the corporate world, ascending the HR and corporate executive ladder, while focusing on talent management.
LJM: Have either Brian or Amy ever expressed they feel you have a closer relationship with your dad?
KM, DM: No (simultaneously).
LJM: To the contrary?
DM: No, not to the contrary. Just like my dad mentioned, Karen is independent. I think all of us are independent just like our parents are quite independent. We all have a unique relationship with each parent including our mother.
KM: Geography plays a role because of where we all live. David and Brian see our parents the most since they’re all in the East Bay. I see them the next most being in the Bay Area. Amy sees them the least because she’s in Virginia. As a family, we do family cruises, three generations to ensure a closeness across the family. I don’t think the lawyer piece makes a difference. But, we do share that mindset that dad mentioned earlier about how going to law school changes your mind set. We see more risk assessment across the board in all situations, and are more attuned to evaluating risk. David and I share that mindset more than Amy and Brian. I don’t know if this is a function of our personalities prior to law school or our jobs. It’s probably a combination – having the job for a while exaggerates these qualities.
LJM: How do you feel your Dad’s profession has made you better lawyers?
DM: We’re at the beginning of our careers, so…legacy of the last name. It’s important to not only represent the firm well, and be a good lawyer, but also to represent the name well. He spent a lifetime on this. It makes me a better lawyer, just because you want to make sure you’re representing the name well. The judge will likely know the name when I am in court so it is important to me to be an excellent lawyer to carry on his legacy.
KM: My answer would be similar. People are in the profession for different reasons. My dad’s vision has always been inspiring. He wasn’t in it for financial gain. He took a substantial pay cut by leaving private practice.
LJM: You are unique from the other three interviewees in that they all worked with a parent. Did you ever think you may go into the judiciary like your dad? Do you have those aspirations after knowing what your dad has done and been through?
DM: I certainly would, but is it possible and what is the path? I’ve only been a lawyer for seven years, and I need trial experience. Karen is in a better position right now with her background.
LJM: Karen, what are your thoughts? Have you thought about joining the judiciary at some point?
KM: I’m not sure how seriously I’ve thought about it. Perhaps I’ll think about it more after this interview.
LJM: Jim, what do you think you’ve learned professionally from your kids being lawyers? I can imagine they’ve taught you something in the course of their impressive, yet young, careers?
JM: Each of my children is unique and has his or her own special talents. I’ve seen David grow as a lawyer, grow in his reasoning process, and also begin to understand some of the important values in the law such as fairness and compassion, honesty.
I’ve watched Karen develop her intellectual capacity as she went from general civil litigation in the beginning, then carve out a niche where she speaks at conferences on franchise law, and then watching her develop her career and abilities. It’s been very satisfying for me to see individually each of them becoming better lawyers year after year and increasing the values that you should have as you’re doing it.
LJM: Have you learned anything from them in this day and age, opposed to when you were practicing or on the bench, from their perspective about the law or practice of law, the legal world in general?
JM: Watching Karen practice, I see it’s still a demanding profession for women. I thought that might change. Court appointments are more female today. I would like to see more of this. Women bring a different perspective to the judicial system.
From David, he is learning the practice can still be contentious. And very few cases are going to trial for the young trial lawyer. The vanishing civil trials end up settling. Collectively, from 50 jury trial cases per year when I was a judge in Contra Costa County doing fast track with five departments, to around only eight or ten a year today. It’s amazing. The vanishing civil jury trial and emphasis on mediation or ADR is good. But cases aren’t being tried anymore, and that’s something I’m seeing David experiencing in his practice.
LJM: David, what is the best professional knowledge that you’ve gained by either watching your Dad or something he’s said to you?
DM: So many different things, but probably the values that he instilled in all of us – treating everyone with dignity and respect – whether it’s the parking lot attendant, or the janitor or the highest-ranking partner, everyone has a voice. The value of hard work, integrity, compassion, it can be used in any profession. Especially, as a lawyer, it’s about being a good person and dealing with people. That’s the most important part.
LJM: It would be about maintaining this integrity and level of character across the board?
JM: One thing that didn’t come out was the extraordinary impact my wife had on our children. She was a professional working woman all her life. She was in charge of the main employment office for Contra Costa County, East Bay Works, counseling people who are laid off during some hard times. Some of the family law judges would even send people to her to make sure they were looking for work. And she tells retirees like me, “You don’t retire, you rewire.”
A Bay Area native, raised in Fremont, Lisa Mendes has a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature, a Masters in Business, and a Juris Doctorate. Lisa worked for five years in corporate America for a Fortune 50 company before deciding to become a lawyer. Lisa practices primarily family law at her own law firm in Walnut Creek. Lisa currently lives in Contra Costa County, with her debonair hubby, Steve, their adorable baby boy, Garrett James, and their 12 year old fur baby, Bailey. Lisa appreciates irony, and strategically-placed sarcasm. She is a professional bruncher and enjoys glamping, shopping, reading TheSkimm, and is an avid proponent fine wine, still and sparkling (drink responsibly, folks).
Filed Under: Featured