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I welcome everybody to another episode of Canvas fumbles and today's guest, this environmental lawyer, Jennifer.
Jennifer, thank you for join.
Thank you.
So glad to be here, Jennifer.
You are well the the practice area that you manage is something that is not that common.
How did you get into environmental law?
I would love to be able to say that this is what I had always wanted to do, but that is not true.
I always wanted to be a lawyer.
And had the opportunity over 20 years ago to work for the California Department of Justice, which is our Attorney General's office, and at the time they needed an attorney with trial and litigation experience more than they needed an environmental lawyer.
But working within one of their environmental units.
So somehow, despite the fact that I did not have practice experience umm, in this specific subject matter.
You're really good.
Now, have you gone to myself in a question with the extra litigate and they need their skills.
So they I I really just wanted to get into that office.
I was willing to dabble in a new area of long, and then I spent a really long time.
Very simply, trying to learn the environmental law part of the thing environment.
Hey, so Welcome.
You always wanted to become a lawyer, and then your career took you towards environmental law.
That's what a person standing when years ago you stuff with it, where you just good.
Did you just fall in love with it?
What has it?
It's a variety of things.
I mean, first it's very fascinating because it it touches so much of people's day-to-day lives and trying to balance just the realities of the world that we live in, with the need to protect the environment, not permit further and still explore its effects on us as people and the world that in and of itself is very challenging.
And you always have to be dealing with the science of of the environmental regulations.
At the same time, the people who practice in this area tend to be really nice, really smart, and we work together for the most part really well, even if they're the ones who are regulating my clients or against me on a case, or you're trying to enforce the laws.
For the most part, I find we all have a belief in the environment.
We just have disagreements about how to prioritize because I don't know you, and we all have a job to do to make the system work.
So it's like a combination of this.
So yeah, I gotta say this not every day to somebody wiped up and say, OK, I'm gonna fight for the environment and the thing that really matter this it turns out that it's a very professional setup, not only what you have, those three people there with that.
I mean, I'm thinking even on an adversarial nature it can be very professional as well.
You must handle very sensitive cases as well.
It must be very exciting.
I I don't know.
Did I get that right?
You did.
There's a couple of things in there.
Is 1 is that for my own practice?
For the most part, we're representing the businesses or the people who own properties have to follow the environmental regulation and so they need to be concerned about what they're doing on a day to day basis.
But unfortunately, they're also dealing with the history.
What happened in the past with the business?
What chemicals or materials they may have handled, the property they bought where they didn't know there might have been a problem in the for the kinds of vehicles or they're allowing to travel back and forth behind their properties.
There's that element of it, but it is really important and so to be able to wake up in the morning and say these are really challenging issues.
Umm any any moment of this, whether it is protecting species or the water or the air and I'd like I said, trying to figure out how do you make this work.
So as an example, many of our clients are multigenerational business owners.
The the new generation comes in.
They've got all these great ideas for where they want to take this company.
They believe strongly in sustainability and environmental issues.
And then they get the news that they're a polluter because of the nature of the business or the property they sit on, and it's difficult to navigate those areas and also to work with people who made themselves not have created a problem, but they are still legally responsible for addressing it.
So we do a lot of hand holding.
We also try to educate people quite a bit about environmental issues and how to think about it and how to avoid them.
If you can do that now, I'm trying to imagine what it's like being one of your friends.
Because I I was gonna have what type of people do you work with?
And more than anything, do you work with desk?
You already said multi generation business owners, so I'm guessing families with latency and they want that legacy not only thick at the same time, there is a I'm moral even an ethical asked to everything that we do because you are making difference.
I imagine there's many days where you wake up at you, so they this made a difference for what we're doing today.
It's going to make it difference.
I'm wondering what can someone expect when working with me?
With few things.
The first is is you just noted our goal and what we tell people we do is we work with good people who are in bad situations for the most part.
That's true.
We work with people who do care about the legacy of their businesses or what their leading for their families.
They want to do the right thing and so I don't look at them as bad in any way.
I look at them, it's it's unfortunate situation the same time I have the opportunity to help them get through this sticky situation in a way that still protects their families and their businesses and their assets as much as possible, while achieving the goal of cleaning up or preventing an environmental problem.
And it can be hard and and you can't just wave a magic wand and make the past disappear.
What we can do is make a bad situation better and so I tell people that if you just want a yes, ma'am.
If you just want to come and tell me that it's not your fault, it's been fair.
Umm, we shouldn't have to face this.
I'm going to let you know what the Systems like and why it is the way it is, and hopefully we can work together, but if someone doesn't see their role in all of this, if they don't see their responsibilities that do come with our environmental laws, then it's going to be hard to work with us.
But for those people who do fit in that category and then just good people and bad situations, we're very handful only.
We're very empathetic and compassionate.
We don't pass judgment.
And and we try to be straight features, we will tell you the way we see it and what the plan is.
And sometimes we just need to calm down our company.
It's a little bit play therapist, but we want to make this as stress free and as fast as possible.
And our clients often are the people who aren't looking to just fight for years and years and years and years and years.
They'll fight, but they also recognize that sometimes one of the better decisions is to find a solution and move on with your life.
No, I need to thinking I'm thinking about your trajectory.
I'm thinking about 20 years ago you started litigation, he started litigation, environmental law led you down this path.
Now you have detected people that you work with, you know how to work with the pieces.
There's already the like the pricing values that we have to have, the firm would need right?
Also look for Joes in your clients.
What very typical role, if it's gonna be an uphill effort?
Unless your firm always like this or did you started picking up all those phrases throughout the years and then decided, maybe not even decided, just involved the practice and come to this today.
By that I mean you're empathetic.
You know how to do the necessary handle, you guide your clients through the process.
I see you as a very important person.
You know somebody that knows how to pace themselves would do this and you just said something.
That to me is gold.
Like you don't wanna melt your clients every last time.
Let's take this loss of 10 years from now.
Let's let's either negotiate, settle it, fix it, and you know there's a there's a bigger picture behind all of this, which is why environmental law.
I'm wondering if this is something that you either resigned both.
What's your practice setup of this?
I would say it has been an evolution.
I mean taking a step back coming from the government where I represented the these regulatory agencies and they've been criticized by the business community for overreaching and you're doing too much.
They're criticized by the environmentalists for not doing enough and and I could see them trying to balance the mission of Environmental Protection with back that you can't just wave a wand and everybody now is living in a world where we don't have plastic or cars.
Know things like that that doesn't exist and won't.
So that's really in tune with who I am as a person.
I am I am very even keeled.
I'm not going to be a lawyer.
Who you'll find panicking and trying to make my clients panic or make my clients feel like they could only rely on me because it's so awful and they only one who can fix it.
And instead I'm.
I'm here just to, but let's take a call for a let's work the problem and let's figure out what this particular client want and and very often we are brought in to step in when something has been spinning for a long time.
Lines of working with other lawyers and they're not getting it.
And from the question is how do we approach it from a different place?
Had we be more creative and it's taken time to get to the place to acknowledge that that is what we're focused on, that's where we have some confidence of a comfortable with it and to also look at our clients and think in terms of are we the right fit.
I tell people all the time your relationship with your lawyer is a little bit like a marriage.
You have to be willing to have card conversations.
Have to believe that you're on the same team.
You have the same goals and you have to have trust, and if you don't have those things, that's OK.
But maybe this isn't the marriage for you.
Maybe you do need a different lawyer to take a different approach.
And that's OK too.
But obviously when you're a business owner, you don't come to that conclusion right away that ohh, I'm just not going to represent these people because you also have to eat.
And so it's a little bit of a a learning curve and we definitely have had clients that we took on believing we could work with them and help them do the right thing.
Sometimes we were able to do that for a while and sometimes we kept butting heads because they didn't want to follow advice, and there you can identify those relationships that they don't work out.
So I think it makes us happier and it took us a while to recognize that we do our best work when we love our clients and work well with our clients.
And we have those common goals.
I gotta say I'm loving work.
All of this is coming from because the sometimes the order to get a bad rap, and this is the complete opposite.
So this is just told me of a base that will how to do things better and I like the way that the phrase like we help them do the right thing.
Uh, you help them get on that path and that again puts up the bigger picture.
And if it's not a good fit, you also let me know that you don't wanna help.
You want to do what's fair, and I think that's a common trait among the lawyers and will sometimes very unappreciated.
I'll look for what is right and sometimes that process can be excruciating long.
But I guess when you have that purpose match, it's a lot easier to work with.
Everybody can be well, say, even tense, but happy about the process and the overall resolvers.
So you're saying that's what turns your fact is improve successful one.
You know who work with?
You know how to work with them and you clearly know your field.
You strike me and say very professional women's strike me as a very professional lawyer and I can tell you, you know what you're doing.
So I'm wondering, you know, this thought popped in my head.
You work a lot with businesses and legacy.
Is there anything on regulation?
Is there anything on the environment that you've seen as a constant that this owner should know, even if they wanted to approach you and say, OK, this is something that I need to focus on first of all, because there's so much to say on the coin, we do all the YouTube channel where I post videos from time to time, really trying to explain some of these issues to people and why it's so important.
And as a business owner, I get there are so many different rules we have to follow and be mindful of and you don't have time in the day to make everything a priority.
And unfortunately, environmental issues do fall in that same type of category.
Of all the things people have to worry about, it seems really easy to let these ones slide.
However, people need to recognize that the system is designed so that the people who have to follow the environmental regulations regulate themselves for the most part.
It also is very record intensive, meaning it's not just that you are doing the right thing, but you're documenting, and this is the paper become the evidence against you.
If you can't produce them, if it shows you're falling short, it's something spilled.
You know, whatever the case may be, and it's what we call strict liability and the lawyer world not 100% of the time, but most often meaning it doesn't matter if you try.
It doesn't matter if you didn't know it matter if it was a mistake.
A violation is a violation and that is why you do have to make it a priority and pay attention.
And it does help to rely on people whether share your employees or of trusted friend who knows something in this area or it's a consultant or it's a lawyer because a lot of times we see people making assumptions.
You know, they read it in environmental document and they think ohh this looks good.
It sounds good, but they're not.
Reading between the lines to see what are the answers and what questions were actually being asked to know what it really means, and so I do appreciate the people who have the foresight to say, can you just take a couple of hours to look this over and tell me, am I about to get into trouble, right.
For example, we we looked over some documents for someone who's buying his first home, and it's in an area that has had some environmental complications, and he was worried about bring a white and and starting a family and raising a baby in a house if it was not going to be saved.
And wow, you do that.
That's not somebody who needs $1,000,000 worth of legal work, but they just need those assurances that you tell me that this is OK, right?
That is a a small project.
Really tiny, right?
But of course you wanna help those people and you appreciate the fact they're not just gonna come to you in 5-10 years later saying I have a massive problem all like this.
Ohh sounds like even Brown.
Important because I I don't mean to diminish any legal situation for anyone, but just knowing that I'm doing the right move or the right call for me.
My this is my family in such a direct way.
It's not the big case.
It's not the spillage.
It's not like you're being featured in the New England, but something went wrong.
No, you're trying to do the right thing from the start, so that's why I call it like trying Brown points.
But you already got the VA.
Now you just the plus.
That sounds very nice, and I imagine it must be not necessarily easier, but the haps faster the work with that type of client.
With that, that situations and it makes you feel good.
It makes everybody feel good.
Yeah, I I don't mind.
The challenges that we do get involved in cases that go on for eight plus and years.
And those are good too.
I'd like to say that sometimes I need those to get my own aggression out, but at the same time it's harder to have that gratification of knowing directly.
So and in a situation where, for example, someone really wants to buy an industrial property because they're rare and you can't find something that's big and they're chomping at the bit to do it.
And then you look it over and say ohm, if you buy this property, here's what could happen to you down the road and helping someone make a more informed decision about their business.
Or if someone comes to you saying I'm worried I'm out of compliance, can you help us figure out our do we need certain permits?
Do we what do we need to do here and then to explain to them?
Thank you for avoiding a big problem down the road.
Let's work.
Let's work on this now and fix the problem before someone realized that there's a problem.
It is a good feeling to be and you know I can tell.
It's a smile from the get go because they tell you I want to do the right thing, like starting now versus somebody that says, OK, so this out that I'm breaking the law.
Idea, although it fix it.
Yeah, it makes it easier.
It must make it alive.
It does and my clients will tell you.
I mean, so people who come to me in those situations, I always say thank you.
Thank you for coming to me.
Before this became a big problem or the government is now angry at you and you're gonna have to go through all these negotiations or hearing or something.
But unfortunately what I find more often than not is the reason why they did come to me is because they had been burned in the past.
So they've learned lessons and now they don't want that problem anymore.
We've just means that for everyone else, if they haven't gone through it yet, knock on wood, they won't.
But we would love for them to avoid that entirely.
And I'm guessing that's part of what you're YouTube channel also does for people because you inform them of the situation they might be in before they go through, you know, one of those experiences retry to, I mean just based a lot of times on questions people bring to us assumptions.
We see people make just to be able to put it out there, like, OK, just because someone told you this does not mean it's OK or just because you sold the property and said it's as is, you know you take it over, you find it doesn't mean the government can't come knock on your door.
Later on, those kinds of you can't answer every question and certainly not specifically for any anyone, but from a high level point of view, we really need people to think about these issues so that they make their own lives easier.
They make their sandwich lives experience.
Yeah, I can see that happening or well, I I get that's happening otherwise you wouldn't be at this, right?
Umm, not only do I appreciate that, but I got a different question.
I got a question for its environment, OK and something that I believe all attorneys went through or well, not only all attorneys, pretty much everybody did.
So when the legal work started going revoked, when people started working through, this was before the pandemic, then we have pandemic times.
Everybody had to work remotely and now people are sort of torn in between.
But I also believe there's an important aspect to this profession being able to I just work in it remotely.
I'm thinking that not not.
I'm thinking I know that has had a big impact on me on economics, on the speed of process, but also on environment.
So from your point of view, someone who is an attorney who specializes on this field, who lived through that, that's where actually where we met.
Umm, how do you use it?
Impact of the way that we've worked out meaning legal work is mostly done with mostly, and I'm wondering if this is something that also applies to environmental law.
Maybe not all the time.
Not all the cases.
How we answer this, I think there's a couple of elements in your question, so let's start first with the types of properties and businesses that are subject to the environmental regulation.
And very often, those are things where your transporting your manufacturing your crushing grapes.
You know you're growing food, so those are the kinds of things that cannot go fully remote.
There's always going to be the regulations that people have to follow and even if the business itself is remote, that doesn't mean that whatever happened in the past has gone away.
So the if the business then it's real to the landfill.
If there was a spill on the property that still exists, it may not be discovered as quickly, but it's still in shape.
That also leads me to the point that around the pandemic we started to see real estate transactions skyrocket.
What that meant in my world is that you had a lot of people who decided that they wanted to sell off.
Now commercial and industrial properties or they wanted to purchase them.
And then as the banks started forcing environmental reviews as part of the financing process, that's when people discover that they actually have environmental problems that they do.
So we started to see a lot more of that work come up because the nature of the transaction with respect to offices and people not being on the road commuting and the and they're being maybe less of an impact on the environment because so many people remote.
I know there are studies out there on this, so I, I and I don't know all the particulars of them for circle for some environmental issues when everyone would come and when people were off the road, we saw him provement and things like air quality on the boys, we starting to see impact that when other chariot more single use plastics being used and then discarded into the way spread the maps for sure.
So and even though we may not think about it, the fact that we're so tied now to electronic devices also Hunt is that you need the materials to to have the computers and the Internet and the electricity to power things and so and and actually here in Los Angeles, I have to tell you the three of the theme Justin has they did prepandemic.
So I'm not sure that we're all hybrid or remote these days.
Yes, everything we do has an impact on the environment when we're together, whether we think about it or not.
But it's also always in flux, and it's also awaiting of little.
We might be alleviating one impact and creating something someplace else, and that also makes it tricky, right?
Anything we do, we did more solar power.
Well, that has no environmental cost too.
Wind power has an environmental cause.
Oil and gas environmental cost.
So pick your poison.
Yeah, yeah, I agree.
I think that happened.
We're all of that completely, but I do see is a new way of working.
Just remove it just by the fact that you're able to work remotely.
It's so bad that that that traffic in LA Stills is still the same thing.
But I think at least the legal process has set up a little bit.
It's moving a little bit faster.
That's why they're not going fast.
So maybe the economy of process is something or a niche where this was actually a positive thing because on the long run it looks like nothing changed.
It just involves a little bit, but really not change.
What do you think?
I think from a business owners perspective, certainly it opened up the need on the opportunity to reach out a little bit more.
And so we can be a better employer because some of my employees you want to promote part times, I have a phenomenal person working for me who does not even live in this country and we would not have taken the chance of doing that.
But for the fact that we were already getting used to being online and working through various apps and.
Other types of video conferencing, so it it did move on from more of a traditional what we call brick and mortar into something much more flexible where we kind of attract better talent.
We can be more hospitable for our employees and we can utilize technology to lower than the culture of the firm and strengthen all relationships without needing to set it Office together all day and well, I know you have somebody working from another country, but I also feel part of your staff is also remote, maybe part time full time.
Was this prepandemic?
Where did you guys adaptation vault into something better?
So prepandemic umm, we did have folks who were part time in the office part time remote post pandemic.
I would say most of our folks are hybrid.
Ohh and one is fully remote.
Well, for the person that is fully remote.
Umm well, because they're from another country.
Did you have any sort of this?
Will this person had any sort of difficulties adapting towards your law firm and how you work and how you do this?
You have very established processes.
Or was it a good fit because of the new on board them?
Personally, what made it different?
We do spend a long time on boarding people at this point in time.
And that has been an evolution as well.
I do videos that I recorded myself trying to explain the history of the firm, what's meaningful to me, how you will succeed here, what my expectations would be.
We have process, procedures and systems that we are constantly working on.
Any time something goes wrong, everyone knows, OK, we need a policy on this and make sure that we avoid it in the future.
Umm, but I think it's also a matter of people being open to working together and collaborating and being open to new ideas as well.
And so for my remote worker, most mornings were either communicating back and forth.
Yeah, asked for emails or the we hop on a call together and we do a video call.
Even if it's five minutes, 10 minutes to check in, ask questions, resolve the day.
How are you doing today and move on.
So we we definitely have implemented things to try to make a stronger culture as we all work remotely and I'll give one example because I read it and a book and I exactly Min as my own.
But we have what we call with.
We've got.
It's just wish word.
So when people sit down for coffee together for 5-10 minutes, so every week you're assigned to fika partner here and for 10 minutes sometimes it's half an hour so that people are going a lot longer.
But you can just hop onto a call over video, or just sit down in the office or go get coffee.
Sometimes people go off and get a hike, but the rule is you cannot talk about work.
You have to just talk about life and people have told me that at first it seemed like, uh, I Ball roll like one more thing you have to do.
But they've come to appreciate it because you really do get to know your coworkers, and it is a nice break.
Umm, the thing not be talking about work all the time and instead there about each other as human being.
But I I gotta be fully transparent.
We met you three years ago and I'm not the only one that's talked, man.
I want to be working with her.
I think you have an amazing culture.
It's starting to show now. I understand.
Yes, you must be very fun, and even the fact that you get to talk about work.
I remember when we first had our initial interview, and I remember the topics that we mentioned that you look, which is the same thing that you've already mentioned in this talk, that the type of work that you do, everybody was like, I don't know if you remember, but everybody in that call, it was like this eyes wide open like, wow, that's so cool it.
It is very exciting.
So even talking about words and then not talking about work because you do get the chance to develop a relationship with somebody, that's well, you only see them once or twice a week.
But maybe you've never seen them before.
Maybe they do work remotely?
Umm it does help create a stronger bond, a stronger relationship between you guys, so it helps towards your overall culture.
It helps to the overall result.
There is a moment where you no longer do what you do because of it's a job.
You do it because you know that's next to you, front of you, or in that other country.
I don't want it to start with you.
I want you to be great, right?
So I see your culture being very, very powerful and your message from the overall picture, again, the big picture of what you do, I see it as it very powerful pretty much statement that I'm turning in as a business.
Umm, but it wasn't really happy.
I'm very much somebody who I I do believe that it's important to get FaceTime in an office, for example, especially if you're starting out and learning.
It's often what you're overhearing, or the chance to just throw a question out at somebody randomly.
That helps, but in this day and age we have to find substitute for that, give people those same experiences and definitely and I'm doing as much reading as I can to ensure that we are creating that strong team where people aren't just doing it for me or for the paycheck or the firm or client.
They're doing it for each other.
Well, now I get a better picture of how you practice what your clients can expect from you and how awesome it must be equal.
So what we'll do so, Jennifer, I can't thank you enough for showing up today.
And if I could leave with one final question is can you please please let people know where they can find you and what they can do to them.
So the easiest way to find us is through our website, which is and we just like having conversations with people to let them know if they need to worry about an environmental issue in their lives or for their families.
We offer a free 15 minute calls where people can just ask this questions a lot of times we tell people you don't need a lawyer or, you know, here's some.
Here are some tips on what you can do to help yourself and not have to get involved until legal situation, but sometimes it's really eye opening for people as well and so we're here to educate and we're here to help.
Thank you very much, Jennifer.
And again, it's a.
It's an honor meeting you, and it's been an honor having you as again.
Thank you.
And so happy to speak with you.
And I've been so pleased with that.
Thank you.
And you know, on that note, I think by now we we're pretty much done it.
If there's anything in the reporting that you want to edit, cut for us to specifically send to you, please let us know so that my video editor to check it out.
I trust you.
Everything OK?
Everything was fine, Jennifer.
I mean every single word that I've, I, I I mentioned that I said.
I remember you from that first call.
I'm never gonna forget.
I was.
I was nervous, like, because I remember somebody telling that you called her at 6:00 AM.
Once your problem and to me why this is important is you have a certain attitude.
Have a certain phone and you use that exact same phone back then as we use it here, that's that's what I meant with.
I see you as a very comfortable person.
Very, you have a lot of emotional intelligence, I can tell.
And believe it or not, uh, you are or I believe you.
Well, you got stacked up.
I believe this person has already working directly with you, but the fact is that your highlight among our clients because not everybody does environmental law and not not everybody speaks to you get such kindness when you give me a call at 6:00 AM to sell.
I don't know.
Like, appreciate everything you guys have done.