I am informed that tradition dictates that, in the VCBA President’s first President’s Message, he or she is required to tell everyone how he or she got here.
Well, in the words of Bill Cosby, I started out as a child. And, from there, and I don’t really know how, I have wound up being the first VCBA President to start his term of office after starting on Medicare.
I was born in the San Fernando Valley in 1947. After the Korean War, my father, a pediatrician, was drafted into the U.S. Army at age 35. He was stationed in Okinawa for two years and we all followed him there. Those were great times, mostly because it was the first time my father was not spending all his time building a practice, and he actually had time to be with his children. I celebrated my 7th and 8th birthdays there – truly a life-shaping experience.
My next life-shaping event, however, was not as pleasant. My mother passed away of cancer when I was 14. While at the time I really did not appreciate what was lost, years later I came to realize that her death really did shape my life – some for the better and some for the worse.
I went on to an illustrious career at Van Nuys High School, where, in addition to editing the school newspaper, during my first year under orders from our Head Yell Leader and my best friend, Rich Goldman (later Ventura and Santa Ba r b a r a Colleges of Law Dean Goldman) I served as the school mascot, Willie the Wolf. You have no idea how fun it is to dress up for every football and basketball game in a ratty old tuxedo and a paper mache wolf ’s head. I never fully forgave Rich for that.
In January 1965, I graduated and started at U.C. Berkeley. That was another life shaping event. From the Free Speech Movement to the People’s Park, I saw it all. In so many ways the Berkeley experience was the best time of my life, but I would never ever do it again.
In 1969, it was on to law school at U.C. HastingsCollege of the Law. I know for a fact I was the last student to be admitted in my class. You see, the dean of admissions was a career military lawyer before joining Hastings’ “65 Club,” and he apparently was extremely skeptical about admitting one more of those Commie-loving Hippies from Berkeley to his school. In my final interview, I assured him with all sincerity that I had never made love to a Commie, at least as far as I knew. He reluctantly told me he had one more spot open and it was mine.
In 1972, I traveled to WashingtonD.C. where I met a young politician-in-training, Zev Yaroslavsky, who encouraged me to go back to California and work for the George McGovern campaign. I showed up at the LA headquarters and met a very nice woman, Norma, who let me work with her in the finance office and help her put on fundraising events. At every one of those events, Norma somehow seated me next to the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. It turned out that the beautiful girl, Leslie, was Norma’s daughter. I fell in love with Leslie immediately. Leslie, on the other hand, needed six years to say yes and finally marry me.
We had two daughters, and they led me into my next passion, youth soccer. I coached and refereed, became the AYSO Regional Commissioner for the park in Encino, California. Eventually I was elected to the AYSO National Board of Directors, and then served as the AYSO National President for four years. After that, I became Chair of its independent Audit Committee, and was inducted into the AYSO section of the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2008. A year later, the National Soccer Hall of Fame ran out of funds and closed. How does that make you feel? No sooner do you get “enshrined” in a hall of fame then it closes. Go figure.
My daughters? They grew up excellently, gave us sons-in-law and even grandchildren. And both are happy, gainfully employed and entirely off Daddy’s payroll.
Professionally, I started out as a litigation associate at Macdonald, Halsted & Laybourne in Los Angeles in 1973, handling primarily professional liability matters for lawyers, stock brokers and accountants. In 1987, we merged with the international law firm of Baker & McKenzie. Then, six years later, kind of like the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Baker & McKenzie closed its Los Angeles office. Again, go figure. A few years after that, in 2000, we moved to VenturaCounty and I joined the Nordman firm.
I have concentrated virtually exclusively in business litigation, but I also spent 14 years on the State Bar Committee on Mandatory Fee Arbitration, twice served as its chair, and just concluded a four-year stint as State Bar Presiding Arbitrator in December 2012. I also served one term on COPRAC, the State Bar ethics committee. With that experience, somewhere along the way, between being the petrified young lawyer making his first court appearance in 1973 and getting my Medicare card, I must have learned something, as I also have been able to serve as an expert witness in ethics, attorneys’ fees and litigation practice over 50 times so far.
I also was surprised the other day when I added up all of my years of volunteer service. Over the years, it turns out that I have had 29 years of volunteer service with multiple MFA Programs, 16 years with State Bar committees, 28 years with AYSO, four years on United States Soccer Federation committees, and now six years and counting with the VCBA. That is, what, 83 years of volunteer service overall (without even counting the Willie the Wolf gig)? Why? I just followed my heart, and found out that John Lennon was right – life truly is what happens when you are making other plans.
And now my heart has taken me here. I am looking forward to yet another year of volunteer service, for the VCBA, and to working with all of you to keep it on course and help it grow and flourish. Thanks in advance for all the help and support I know I can count on from each of you to give back to the VCBA this year.
Joel Mark is a partner at Nordman Cormany Hair & Compton in Oxnard.