The trial judge was presided over by a female judge -a trailblazer. Jacqueline Taber had become a California lawyer in 1947, practiced as a litigator, and tried cases until she was appointed as a judge
The trial judge was presided over by a female judge -a trailblazer. Jacqueline Taber had become a California lawyer in 1947, practiced as a litigator, and tried cases until she was appointed as a judge. By 1994, she was a senior judge presiding over civil trials. She was described as a “lioness” by the Oakland Tribune when she retired in January 2011 — at age 88 — after 45 years on the bench.
Over the course of that very long trial of several consolidated cases, Judge Taber took an interest in me. She became aware that I was soon to be a new entrant into the profession. I would get to court Los Angeles business lawyer early or stay late, before and after the real lawyers and the jurors were gone but while the clerks were finishing up minute orders and the like. During those times, the judge might come out with a cup of tea in her hand and engage me in small talk and, I realized later, dole out pearls of infinite wisdom. She understood my legal support background and capability (since she saw me daily organizing trial files and folders and making sure the trial lawyers had copies, transparencies — yes in those days we used transparencies- and other evidence at their fingertips), and she frequently complimented me on my logistical ability.
One day, however, she imparted to me one especially important pearl that may not have occurred to me if she hadn’t just plain said it. A petite and small woman, especially so after court without her robes and not up high on the bench, she came over to me and said: “I’ve noticed what a great job you have done supporting the lawyers in the trial, and I understand you are going to be a lawyer soon. When I graduated law school I was hired by a civil litigation firm, the only woman lawyer at the time, but the work I was given was pretty much all secretarial. I did it as a way to get my foot in the door until they understood my value and I took every opportunity that nobody else wanted. You’ve got a lot going for you and a bright future, I can tell. Don’t let them make you a secretary!”
She smiled and walked away. Soon after that, I got my law license and that same woman judge swore me in as a lawyer in a special ceremony with my own family and friends.
I was offered a job as a lawyer at the same civil litigation firm. I had been working at. In deciding whether to take that job, I asked what I would be doing and was told I would be assigned a caseload to litigate and manage from filing to the time of trial so I could get some experience with the nuts and bolts. Truthfully, I had already had that experience from my years as a paralegal.
Although I went to law school not knowing exactly what I was going to do as a practicing lawyer, I had a pretty firm sense of what I was not going to do. I went to law school to be a trial lawyer. Beginning, middle, and end of the story for my vision of my legal career. “Trial lawyer or bust!” was my mental motto. I have come to believe it is in my DNA and genetic code.