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Here's what's next on the nice guys on business, having seen all the different things that have to get balanced.
Then when I opened my own firm, it made it very easy for me to see that you can't.
You can't be all like environmental things are bad.
You can't be all burn everything down and go back to nature.
So where in the middle do we reside?
And that's where most people reside and most people want clean air.
Want clean water?
But they recognize there has to be a balancing between how we get there and making sure everyone does their part locally sourced organic, gluten free and topic to table.
It's the nice guys on business podcast.
Those from where you are now to where you could be get expert tips to grow your business to be more productive and more efficient.
Whether you're trying to build influence, grow your community, or make it rain, best selling author of nice guys finish first.
Doug Sandler can lead the way.
The Nice guys on business is produced by turnkey podcast productions.
Now here's your host, Doug Sandler.
Nice guy community if breathing, eating, drinking and sleeping are important to you and who the hell would they be important to?
Today's episode will educate and spark some conversation at your dinner table tonight.
Well, Jennifer Novak, she's a second generation California attorney fulfilled her childhood dream of becoming an attorney.
See that I wanted to be a podcast producer when I was in second grade and she wanted to be an attorney and changed the world with over 2 decades of litigation experience.
She has handled complex legal matters with her own law firm focusing on providing fair representation to clients navigating environmental regulations.
That is right, this is a topic that we all need to become here and dear to our hearts now.
Jennifer aims to ease the stress of legal challenges by demystifying the laws and offering unwavering support to those looking for her assistance.
This will be a unique talk, so stay tuned in.
Jennifer, welcome to the Nice guys on Business, Pop Guest.
Thank you.
Appreciate you being you.
Thank you.
I appreciate being here, those things, all of those things I know and and have the intro written by my mom.
She doesn't really good job right now.
Doesn't absolutely alright, so environmental law and and entrepreneurs you would think maybe oil and water but it's not really the case.
I mean, it might be the case if you're in the oil business and you wanna have clean drinking water.
But but tell me a little bit about why environmental law should even be important to those in our listening community.
And then I want to share a little bit of your background and some of the cool stuff that you been able to accomplish with your like, sure.
I mean, for those who are in business and that is a variety of things, everything from manufacturing and transportation and wine making or your anybody who needs to handle chemicals or metals or any products like that, they sell products, environmental regulations are very much a part of your day to day life.
So if you don't understand what they are, how they're changing day to day, and why we have them, then it can be really easy to fall into the trap of racking up violations or not doing your part to keep the system going and keep the environment protected.
So even from a dollars and cents standpoint, when business owners don't understand the basic rules, they can end up paying huge penalties or being swept up into lawsuits later on down the road.
So now they both have an environmental problem and they have a money problem that they could have avoided.
Or let me let me ask you some questions because I I think from a practical application of this, as you started to talk about the types of businesses and I'm like, oh, my girlfriend J, she actually has a wine label of her own.
Now she is not involved in the in the grape growing, but I'm assuming if somebody drinks her wine and gets sick all of a sudden now there's a question of, hey, where would the grapes grown?
Was there any?
I forget what it is.
Glyphosate or glyphosate, but I haven't even had to say.
But like the Roundup stuff and I'm thinking, is she somebody that would want to or need to know about environmental law?
At what point does our responsibility as a business owner end and the caveat emptor?
Let the buyer beware begin.
Or maybe that's a fine line there, isn't it?
Oh, that's a slippery slope because you're starting to move from environmental laws with respect to the resources used and the production process used and the transportation of those to.
Now you have consumer issues as far as the quality of the products that you're selling and the potential effects it may have on someone down the road.
And there is definitely a through line between the environmental issues to those consumer, you know, health issues, environmental law as I see it kind of stops partway through.
Yeah, but as a consumer, certainly you have the ability to believe that you're buying a product that isn't going to harm you, right?
And with respect to the consumerism of any product that is manufactured or made or transported, you should be able to believe that you're not hurting the environment in the process.
I said the world is, you know, in 2024, as we're recording to this, it's the world according to chemicals, you know, everything has been I put together and chemicals are certainly an everyday part of our life and whether they're good, bad or indifferent, I don't know.
I'm just a podcast producer, but for those of you that are in our audience, that might have been impacted at any point in all its start there, who are the people that really I I think about things like somebody that's in farming or somebody that owns land that just using the landing part of the business or someone that's in oil and gas mean.
So tell me what types of things these are affected by the type of law that you practice.
A lot of people that you may not even be thinking of, I mean, I'll give you an example.
We've been working with two churches and they own land in formerly industrial areas because that's where you can get a nice big piece of land and a big building and it doesn't cost you an arm and a leg the way it might if you lived on the coast, right?
Well, guess what, they mean industrial land means there's probably somebody who preceded you who handled various kinds of materials, high likelihood of spills or that your neighbor might have spilled something that's now affecting your property.
So this is a church they may never have thought that they would need environmental laws, and now they have to figure out what are their rights and what are their obligations.
And when you have an agency knocking on your door saying we'd like you to do some testing on your property to see if it's gonna harm your churchgoers, then suddenly now it's in your face and you have to deal with it.
Alright, that's just one example.
And and let me take that example.
Let me let me kind of play that out for just a second, because if I was a church owner, the person that ran the the church itself, and I have this question, I'm gonna call probably my attorney when somebody says, hey, there's there's a problem.
And with my attorney contact you, or are they going to refer me to you in in like, how does that even work?
How does the relationship?
Because I'm not thinking I'm sophisticated enough.
Even know enough to know that I need to hire an environmental attorney to to, you know, to help.
Help with the litigation for the law and many people don't know that we really exist.
I get that a lot too, so people would come to us and really one of three ways, I guess sometimes they've reached out to a consultant and the consultant comes in and takes a look at the problem and says, hey, by the way, you're gonna need someone who understands this process to help you out as well.
That's one way.
2nd way is when they reach out to their lawyer and and we just got referred to somebody by an in the state planning lawyer.
Sometimes it's a family lawyer.
Whatever lawyer you know hopefully knows enough to reach out and try to find somebody with the relevant expertise and brings us in.
And then sometimes it's a bigger business that already has an in House lawyer or law firm they used for that purpose.
And then we Co counsel with them.
We buddy up and we help fill in the gaps in their expertise and understanding and comfort level so that together we can serve the client and get the questions answered.
I like to say I play well with others, so I'm I'm not a one stop shop for anybody's clients.
I'm just here to ensure people know it's a tough world.
It's a complex world, so I'm here to just do my little piece right and then I'm out.
And then hopefully I don't see you ever again.
Well, it's kind of it's kind of like going to the General practitioner who discovers that you have a heart murmur and they want to bring in a cardiologist to to help fix the.
That's exactly Kramer, or to at least examine this hard number to make sure that there isn't anything, anything more more grand.
You know, we live in a we live in a world that is based upon, you know, environmentalism and sustainability and all of the different terms that are out there.
And where do you again begin and end your process?
Do you work with the business?
Do you work with a concern?
Ever call you or is it just based upon businesses like, you know, an individual having questions about sustainability or environmentalism?
Are they calling you for any given reason?
At sometimes they'll call us because they're they're angry about a situation they see going on and they they want to do something about it, and they're definitely lawyers for them. Right.
And we can steer them in the right direction.
What I've started doing and I really believe in what I'm doing, is trying to improve the world one business at a time.
So if I can help a business owner understand what happened in the past and how to move past it, what they're doing now, that may just need to be tweaked.
Uh, maybe they don't know any better.
Maybe someone is coming in and complaining about a situation, but it's not quite you don't fair.
It's not quite within the law, then trying to ensure that they don't get swept up into this notion of environmentalism, and we have to go after everybody.
The truth is that the definition of polluter is really broad and a lot of people who would never in a million years think that they are a polluter, legally qualified.
So what do you do to help those people and help them move past it?
Can you give me an example of that?
Cuz I'm really curious now that you said that somebody that wouldn't consider themselves being a polluter is somebody that is actually polluting the environment.
Give me an example of that.
The one that always tugs at my heartstrings is we represented a family where it was, you know, Dad and son doing transmission repair.
Just one engine at a time.
Not even a big operation.
And with the spent oil that came out of the engines, they'd call up somebody who pick it up.
Take it away to be recycled.
That's what you're supposed to do.
It just so happens that the place they were taking it to was not handling it appropriately and caused a major problem with all the spent oil.
Well, guess what?
Everybody in that chain and all of the hundreds of people who were sending their oil to this particular place, you're all swept up in the need to pay for the remediation.
You're all technically polluters.
As an another example, one of our clients was doing some redevelopment at their site.
They found an old buried underground storage tank that had contained gasoline product and being the good citizens that they are, they dug it up.
They dug up the contaminated soil they sent it to all the right places, right.
They made the ground useful and, well, they're polluter because they picked it up and they picked up the soil and they transported it so right.
So there were some obligations that they had to undertake that they didn't know existed because they were doing the right thing.
They didn't know there would be all these other rules.
I mean, that's just two examples.
I I love how you said, you know, you're the one that's brought in by the what I point is the General practitioner as the specialist.
You're the one that's brought in.
You do your work and then you kind of button it up and you go on your way.
Hopefully never to have it to speak to that person again.
If if you want repeat customers, yeah, I I get it.
So so how give me give me some reason why somebody is there any reason why somebody wouldn't call you?
I mean I I keep thinking, how do I know?
I don't know what I don't know.
I mean, your gift to the world is you understand that part of the of the law.
I wouldn't even know enough to know when to call you or that the environment is even involved is somebody.
Is somebody else the catalyst for that or am I?
Am I the one that's got to say, you know what I think the environment getting damaged by this or might be impacted by this, I better call somebody like Jennifer to help me out.
So accasionally we get a call from somebody who is looking forward and saying I wanna engage in a certain business or I wanna undertake a certain development project.
I wanna buy a piece of property and I want you, Jennifer, to get involved early on to protect me.
And so I make sure that I'm not missing something along the way, but the reason why those people come to me is because they've been burned in the past.
Most people aren't thinking about environmental issues.
It's not the forefront.
I mean, you said that right off the bat and this podcast, that of all the million of other things they have to worry about, we seem like just a luxury or we seem like an issue.
Of course, they've got to under control out of sight, out of mind.
They do their inspections, whatever, and it's not until a problem comes up that suddenly they realize they could have been doing something about this all the way through.
And to answer the question about the catalyst, very often it really is because either a government agency has discovered a nearby problem, or they're now looking at a whole industry and starting to ask that whole industry questions about past practices and conditions.
Or it can happen where your next door neighbor is trying to sell a property as part of their due diligence.
They're doing some environmental sampling and reporting, and they find something that shouldn't have existed.
Their site, they look around.
Guess where it might have come from, and that's where we get brought in as well and the the education that I attempt to do for the world is pretty great.
Just to keep preaching that it actually doesn't take much to look under the hood.
See if you have a problem.
Do that.
Tune up.
Maybe I forward it becomes a problem before the whole thing breaks down.
Alright, so your your specialty is in environmental law and litigation.
And the first thing I think about is this something that is going to is a problem that I am either creating or causing or for a part of.
Is this something that is going to go to to court?
Is this something that I deal with the government agency or am I dealing with another company and my battling against a consumer who or maybe the answer is all of the above?
Like it could be all of the above. Honestly.
And and if you if you had to pick your brothers, which would be the one that you wanna deal with the least?
Probably the government.
Ohh that is true and it depends on the government agency I think, but the the reality is.
When you're dealing with the government, unless you've let it drag on so far that now they're bringing legal proceedings against you.
Let's talk about the situations instead, where they just reach out and they say, hey, we think you may have caused a problem, then you're just spending the money to investigate.
Whether that's the case and that's not cheap to hire the consultants and do the testing and it it's not an overnight process, you have to do it over time, but conceivably you're gonna reach a point where you can make an informed decision.
Either you can decide this is not an US problem.
Go away or you can decide.
OK, it isn't US problem, but it's only gonna cost us this much money to address when you get sucked into litigation.
Now you're at the mercy of lawyers, paid consultants who are your experts and the courts and things can get out of hand.
Things get dragged on for years and years and years and years and years and years because nobody wants to be solely responsible for the problem.
They tend to look around to see who else may have contributed to this.
Do they have insurance?
What about the people who are on that property 50 years ago?
Maybe they caused part of the problem too, and now you have all this finger pointing and you have everyone trying to provide whatever legal defenses exist, and now your costs are three 410 times what they would have been to just deal with the problem.
So in that sense, I think you'd rather take your chances with the government quite honestly, and that's sad.
Sad thing to say, but it is true.
You know, kind of like title insurance.
When you buy a new home and you're buying title insurance as a part of it, the title insurance is bought to protect you in the chain of chain of ownership.
Is there any type of of thing like that when it comes to in, in the environment?
Is there Squire metal Toolings surance or you know, like I think about when we bought this property?
I live in a small town called Ohi California.
I think about the contract that we signed in all the paperwork at the settlement table.
One of them things we signed was over burial rights and mineral rights.
So I'm like, hold on.
You telling me that somebody could come literally that has mineral rights to dig in our backyard if they discover oil and gas or whatever it is?
Is there anything that's similar to that in the environmental world?
Yes, actually there is, Brian.
Tell me about it.
I'm really serious, so there is environmental insurance.
It depending on the situation you're currently in, it may or may not be something you can get to address a current problem, but I definitely have seen situations where people had environmental insurance policies and then later on down the road a new problem with a new chemicals discovered and suddenly somebody can tap into that insurance to help with the problem.
Similarly Umm 385 or so, most general liability policies for businesses would provide or could provide some coverage.
So if you have a a situation involving older companies, older insurance policies, you can still tender to them.
You may have a fight on your hands, but at least it's available to you to help address some of these problems.
And the last thing is, is certainly it's all something you can deal with in contracts where if you think that there may be a problem that could arise in the future or you know that it's already happened past certainly you can broker an agreement where there were financial assurances or somebody promises to pay for it if it ever becomes a problem down the road and those those have their challenges as well.
They're not 100%, they're not automatic sometimes, but it is better than nothing, and it's what allows us to even go forward with some of our business transactions.
It's a fascinating subject.
I mean, I really have never put a lot of time or energy into thinking about environmental law being in the podcast Production business, but there are many people I'm sure that are in our community that need to take it into account as a, as a business owner, I'm really curious just, you know, go come back to your story for a second.
I know we haven't shared a lot about what you did or how you did it to get to where you are, but when did you decide that this was your mission?
Because, you know, I would imagine, you know, it says in our bio in your bio on your about me page on your website, this is one of your dreams.
Thinking was this a third grade dream that you wanted to be environmental lawyer or or like, when did this happen?
When did you know that this was your gift?
So being a second generation female attorney, I actually was born when my mother was in law school.
And so all her friends, all the friends I had growing up were these adults women lawyers.
And I thought that's what women did.
So I've wanted to be a lawyer my whole life and really came into it believing that it was a way to solve people's problems.
It was a way to help people and I didn't throughout my career didn't intend to go into environmental law.
But after I had my daughter and she was just a baby, I had the opportunity to work for the California Department of Justice in one of their environmental branches.
And in that capacity, I represented many of the California State agencies that come up with our environmental regulations and policies and they were being sued from the environmentalists.
They were being sued from cities.
They are being sued by businesses because they have to navigate this world of being in charge and trying to protect the environment.
And yet, being of a world where you have to actually let people live lives, and having seen all the different things that have to get balanced than when I opened my own firm, it made it very easy for me to see that you can't.
You can't be all like environmental things are bad.
You can't be all burn everything down and go back to nature.
So we're in the middle, do we reside?
And that's where most people reside.
And most people, I want clean air walk, clean water, but they recognize there has to be a balancing between how we get there and making sure everyone does their part.
So this is while it may seem as you're listening to this, this is a very California thing because we are in the state of sustainability and environmental loveliness.
This is something happening every state in the Union, everywhere, who typically would become a a client of yours.
And what does that initial, umm, consultation or call look like for you?
So we make ourselves available once a month for an hour for free.
You can go to our website and sign up for office hours and we give you a confidential block of time where you can just jump on and ask questions.
Even people who are outside of California, I can't maybe give you specific advice for your state, but I can tell you how the system works and I can hear your story and hear whether or not this is really an environmental issue at all, or whether it's something else.
In addition, our website also has a calendly link.
So we have 15 minute free blocks of time where someone can just call up and explore the same issues and ideas or even ask questions to see that I know what I'm talking about or that we can handle the kinds of matters that they have.
I've I've had a chance to listen to to Jennifer on several other podcast episodes that she has recorded, and I will tell you each message that she provides.
It's not a template.
She doesn't rubber stamp these these interviews.
She does a really good job and she definitely knows what she's talking about.
These are not the same questions, and I know that a couple of other shows that you had been on, I was listening to the answers to the questions, I'm like, OK, well, she's answered those questions.
OK, let me ask a whole bunch of new questions and you know I'm, I'm glad to see it.
It's not like a sound bite of of information, so thank you.
Thank you for sharing your your genuine concern for the environment and the law at the at the same at the same time.
Yeah, I I wanted to.
I want if it's OK with you, unless you have anything else that you want to share about your business or about your your law.
I wanna take a right turn for a second.
Because you are a proprietor of a of a practice and I wanna ask you some questions.
Just as the owner of your of your business, because there are a lot of people that own their own businesses, maybe some attorneys that are in our in our business too, you've been doing what you've been doing for about how long I was 11 years then, OK, 11 years.
And is it a solo practitioner practice or are there multi attorneys that have different specialties within your firm?
How does how does your firm work?
So we have three lawyers right now, including me.
We all do environmental law and even though it sounds like a very specialized practice, there's a lot that falls within it.
So we can all handle water quality issues, permitting compliance, government negotiations, the contaminated properties.
You know, we we all are somewhat of a Swiss army knife in this area.
I got it and and looking at looking at the the business, it looks like you are the founder of the business, is that correct?
I am OK.
So as the founder of the business and again I ask this just as a business owner to business owner, there's always stuff that keeps you up at night.
For me, it's like, hey, it's my is my team, am I keeping my team busy enough?
And I keeping them too busy or my clients happy.
All the things like what are the things as a business owner that you are that that you I guess maybe not the stuff that keeps you up at night, but the stuff that keeps you up at night, what's the stuff that you still you know you're still working on with your own business too?
So one of the biggest challenges for me over time had been to move away from trying to do everything or manage everything myself and being able to trust other people delegate to other people.
And So what would keep me up at night, and what consumes a lot of my time is ensuring that my folks, my team has the support they need, has the resources they need.
I might go a little overboard in investing in the people at both in terms of my time and the resources I can provide to them, but knowing that in the long run it makes us all a lot stronger.
And then it also makes it easier if someone leaves and somebody else comes in.
If we have the systems and the policies and procedures and the teamwork in place to keep moving forward, keep your love it exceeding expectations in the in the in the eyes of of your staff, that's usually a great spot spot for a for a boss to be in.
So that's that's definitely good.
And and to your own horn for a second.
What's the stuff that you think that you excel at?
Some of the things that you just like, hey, I I know I got this on lock and I'm really good at it.
What is the?
What is the fill in the blank here?
What is the thing you guys are really good at really targeting to hear the problem, to really keep somebody's goal in mind and to be realistic about the options they have.
I I don't try to over lawyer things.
I don't I I don't try to pursue things just because I think it's cool or it would make me look good.
The end of the day, what is my client really want?
And that's what I'm gonna go get for them.
And I'm I'm brutally honest sometimes.
And so if you are looking for a yes man, I may not be your man.
But I think our talent isn't really having a heart for our clients and compassion and doing whatever we can to get them where they need to be. Excellent.
And you mentioned two things.
I wanna make sure that we get these in the hands of our community, those that might be interested in in moving a little bit closer to you and finding out what you do.
The other one you have a calendly link.
What's the best way for them to get to your calendly link on our website, you can hit the contact US information and that'll come up for you.
OK, just say your website again.
So everybody, I don't think we did that already.
So I've got a
Alright, we'll put a link in the show notes so that you have access to that.
That's the 15 minute free console that you're gonna get.
And you also mentioned that you have a free once a month, hour long, correct free becoming collect information and how do they get to that?
It'll pop up on the same website.
You can link to it from there and it is the first Wednesday of every month that needing the civic.
So you got 60 minutes of a freebie time that you can ask your questions.
It's a bit of a good low risk.
What's it called?
Low risk, high reward.
If you want to get more information about the environment, maybe hear what other people are dealing with.
Also, that would be a a good spot for you to to go to anything that I should be asking that I'm not asking you to environmental law.
This has been fascinating for me since the subject that I have to say in 1500 episodes of doing that show, I don't think we've ever had an environmental attorney there, one that has been as nice as you also.
So thank you.
I try again.
I I would say one place where I see entrepreneurs and business owners get into trouble is by assuming they know everything they need to know and not really taking the time to ask questions.
You can't just pick up one permit or one one case and understand all the things that are changing, and this truly even even across the country, not just California.
Things are changing on a daily basis, and often one rule refers to another rule, and if that second rule gets changed but you don't have a copy of it now you're in violation and this is a world of strict liability.
So it doesn't matter that you didn't mean to, it was mistake or you didn't pay attention.
It's the end result that matters, and if there's a violation, if there's a spill, if there's a failure to get a permit, unfortunately, there's not a lot lawyers can do for you under those circumstances except mitigate damages.
So the best thing you can do is talk to somebody first to make sure you don't end up there in the 1st place.
Don't assume you know everything.
Number one on the list would be Jennifer Novak and all of the attorneys at her office.
Make sure you take advantage of that.
Click the link in the show notes.
It's right there in they show you how to get there.
You just click the link on Apple and it's right there.
See it?
It's a bunch of things, including access to your YouTube page and your social media as well.
Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing your expertise, you everyday really appreciate it.
Nice guy community never ended.
Estimate the power of Nice again.
Special thanks to Jennifer Novak, all of our information right there in the show.
You will, Brian.
Go ahead and take us out of here.
Are you sure the legal department cleared this?
OK, then.
Well, the nice guys on business, I'm Steve O'Brien.
Take these bozos.
Wanna get sued?
That's their business.
Leave me out of it.
Wait, we have a legal department.