Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Looking Back

Reflection can be a good thing, and lately I've been doing a lot of looking back.  There are a lot of things I would have liked to do in this life, but my life sort of threw itself at me, and I took it as it came.  Looking back, it is actually more interesting than I realized.

Prior to marriage, I worked for a Workers' Compensation attorney (who later became a Workers' Compensation judge).  I also worked for an attorney who really pioneered products liability in California.  In that capacity, we worked with Ralph Nadar on a case or two, and I met him.  Little did I know the impact products liability would have in this country.  (I'm sure George Littlefield is rolling over in his grave at how it is being abused.)  I remember working on the Pinto case when we had an entire vehicle dismantled in the conference room.  We worked on getting manufacturers of children's pajamas to make them out of nonflammable material.  We got safety trip switches installed on space heaters.  I worked on the DES cases, which was a drug that was given to prevent miscarriage that caused the children to get cancer.

When my first child was born, I wanted to quit and be a stay-at-home mom.  George Littlefield was adamant that I take work home with me.  He sent me home with his books, and I kept his books for a couple of years.  Later, he told me to bring a playpen in the office, and do some "overload" typing.  When that no longer worked, he loaned me a typewriter and a transcriber, and told his favorite private investigator to hire me to transcribe reports.  I didn't realize until after George died what a great favor he did for me to keep my skills current.

As the kids grew older, I worked nights in law offices all over Sacramento doing overload typing and transcription.  I worked on a lot of very interesting cases.  The most long-term part-time job I had was for Gallawa, Brown & Kroesch.  I learned a lot about insurance defense there, and it was a good flexible job.  I worked 2 or 3 nights a week by myself after closing time.

The most fascinating job I had when the kids were growing up was transcribing parole hearings for life prisoners from my home.  My son was about nine years old, and he was mesmerized.  He would sit on my water bed and read over my shoulder.  Occasionally, I would let him listen with the headphones.  He was really too young to be reading some of this stuff, but I'm quite sure that's why he never joined a gang or took drugs.

One of the most memorable parole hearings was a woman who shot her husband execution style as he slept in bed.  The she rolled him off the bed onto a quilt, wrapped him in it, and dragged him to a cellar door in their closet where she dumped the body.  She left the house "on vacation" for six or eight weeks to let the smell dissipate, came home, and reported him missing.  Eventually, he was declared dead, and she remarried and had children.  At some point, her second husband discovered the body in the cellar, and the party was over.

There was a gang member who stabbed an 80-year-old woman 18 times as an "initiation" into the gang.  My son listened on the headphones to the victim's family testify at the parole hearing.

I also transcribed California Energy Commission hearings, California Building Standards Commission hearings, bankruptcy court hearings from Los Angeles, and some district court hearings from Hawaii.

When it came time to go back to work full time, I worked for Bill Kochenderfer.  At that time he was doing civil litigation and unlawful detainers.  He also managed six apartment complexes in the Fairfield and Suisun area.  He taught me how to take an unlawful detainer pretty much from start to finish -- except I never quite got down the final judgment.  I would try and try and finally put it in what he called my "too hard pile," until he could help me.  I also helped him with the quarterly reports to the property owners on the apartment complexes.  I LOVED that job!

The worst two years of my career were spent in a family law office.  I hated family law, and the working conditions were less than desirable.  'Nuff said.  That job did teach me never to take my marriage for granted, however.  I believe that's why I fell into that job.

Then came my stint as George Murphy's appellate secretary at Farmer, Murphy, et al., which later split into Murphy, Campbell, et al.  I loved that job, as well, and I learned so many things.  Each attorney in that office sort of had his/her own specialty, and as my responsibilities changed, I learned about construction law, real estate law, and typed coverage opinions for school districts and community college districts in California -- in addition to doing appellate briefs.

The last 3 1/2 years, I've worked at Pacific Legal Foundation, which is a nonprofit.  This has been a very exciting job for me.  I've worked on briefs for many courts in many different states.  There have been briefs in federal courts, state courts, and even the United States Supreme Court.  We fight for liberty and freedom, and defend the Constitution.  We fight for individual rights, property rights, and basically protect the little guy from big government.  Of all the jobs I've had, I feel this one is the most important -- and the job for which I'm most proud.

Well, I didn't start out to be a legal secretary.  I wanted to be a writer.  My Dad told me that writing was not a dignified enough profession for a lady.  Yes, I'm that old.  Times have changed.  Dad actually did me a favor, I think.  I've been able to help support my family quite well as a legal secretary.  Hopefully, along the way, I learned a few things that will help me later if I ever get around to writing the great American novel.  Who knows?  I'm not dead yet.


  1. I wasn't allowed to work at A & W either. "Nice girls" didn't do that!

  2. Cheri, you just be glad you weren't around the day during the energy crisis when I told him that I wanted to work in a gas station pumping gas. Wow! I ended up working for 1/4 the money filing billings at an insurance company!