Well I've taken the plunge. I have officially opened my own law office. It's an exhilarating feeling. And, as any newly minted solo practitioner seemingly must do, I am starting a law blog, which I'm naming “Justice Blvd.” Take a ride with me down Justice Blvd if you will…
At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I suppose my first subject for the blog should be myself—a brief (hopefully) introduction of who I am (professionally speaking), what my background and experience is, and what my practice aims to be.
As a quick intro, I’m a trial attorney. I enjoy negotiating, analyzing the nuances of cases, and competing in courtrooms. By college, it was clear I was not going to become a professional athlete. Who am I kidding—by high school that was evident. What I discovered, though, is that fighting out cases in the courtroom is not that much different than sports. Just go with this for a moment… I mean, what other profession provides such a confined setting for high-stakes competition? Sure, the business world is fiercely competitive. Companies compare their numbers to their competitors’ sales on a quarterly basis. (Okay, I suppose business has its comparisons to sports, too.) But, back to lawyering, much like professional sports, a jury trial has rules, a referee of sorts (i.e., a judge), and a lot on the line in a confined arena (i.e., the courtroom). One side inevitably wins; the other loses. Is that not much different than what takes place on a basketball or tennis court? I mean the comparison of a trial attorney to professional athlete is not that off, right? I know, I know, likening myself to a professional athlete is a ridiculous (and failing) attempt to sound a lot cooler than I am. This blog is off to great start! The bottom line is I do what I do not only to compete (though that is an exciting perk of the job), but really to pursue justice and help people get their lives back on track.
I didn’t grow up thinking I'd become a lawyer. Even as an undergraduate student at UCLA, where my job during college was working at the law school (helping to coordinate various alumni events), the legal profession was not on my mind. In fact, I recall a time a distinguished law professor scolded me for riding a dolly down a main hallway and interrupting his lecture. In retrospect, I probably should have networked a bit more while I was there.
This is not the brief introductory blog post I envisioned. I’ll try to be more concise about my life story…
My path to becoming a trial attorney began after UCLA, well more than a decade ago, while working for a mortgage refinancing brokerage. While there, I was frequently outraged by the rampant extent of deceptive business practices taking place in the industry—practices which contributed to the market crashing a few years later—and, at that point, I determined a career in law was my chosen path. It was an “Aha!” moment for me.
Back in my hometown of San Diego, I enrolled in the University of San Diego School of Law and quickly discovered my passion for courtroom advocacy. I clerked or interned for various government and private offices that introduced me to the complex world of litigation: the Civil Division of the San Diego City Attorney’s Office; the Criminal Division (Major Frauds Section) of the United States Attorney’s Office; the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office; and Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire LLP, a leading plaintiffs' civil litigation firm in San Diego. I achieved First Place in three Mock Trial tournaments, received an award for “Best Closing Argument", and competed in a national criminal law Mock Trial tournament, which further solidified my passion for court. I also received the “Honors” award (top grade) in both my Negotiations course and Lawyering Skills course (covering legal research, writing, and oral advocacy) in addition to an award for “Best [Legal] Brief.” Following law school, I post-bar clerked for the San Diego County DA’s Office and additionally worked for Perez & Associates, a civil litigation practice in San Diego. Suffice it to say, I was set on being a courtroom litigator.
My court experience dramatically increased when I was hired as a deputy district attorney for multiple counties—first the Santa Barbara County DA’s Office and, next, the Amador County DA’s Office in Northern California. As a DDA, I handled hundreds of cases every year, successfully prosecuted a wide variety of misdemeanors and felonies, and, in total, completed over 20 jury trials. Being in court on a daily basis and handling large caseloads helped solidify my skill set as a courtroom litigator. In sum, I greatly enjoyed my years as a prosecutor, worked with really good people, and walked away with significant experience.
Thereafter, I moved to the Bay Area to marry my then-fiancée (now wife)—a peninsula resident. When I arrived, I practiced civil litigation for Kaufman Law Offices, a consumer protection firm. But, as a former prosecutor, I missed criminal law and being in the courtroom more regularly.
So, here we are today. It’s 2016, a new year, and I’m proclaiming from the mountaintop that I’ve opened my law office, Rief Legal! (Initially I considered the name "Rief Law" but I kept seeing the word "flaw" and that bothered me.) I’m primarily focusing on criminal and DUI defense and aim defend decent people. What distinguishes me from most others is my prosecutorial background and courtroom experience as well as my straightforward nature, practical approach, empathy, "speedy justice" philosophy, and overall reasonableness. I’ll handle other types of cases, too, such as restraining orders and representing consumers in lemon law (consumer warranty) disputes with manufacturers. But, in sum, I’m a criminal defense attorney focused on helping clients who really don’t belong in the criminal justice system.
I take my defense role just as seriously as my former role as a prosecutor. Our American freedom and the stability of our justice system is premised on a fundamental right we all share—the right to a worthy defense. I look forward to the next stage of my career where I get to use my negotiation and trial advocacy skills to provide clients a worthy defense.
And lastly, in case you were wondering about the picture above, yes that is me jumping.