The Marin Lawyer sat down with Brian Washington, the Marin County Counsel, to learn more about him and the County Counsel’s office. The Board of Supervisors appointed him to a four-year term in January 2017 to head the office of twenty-four full-time employees. Before coming to Marin, he was Alameda County’s Chief Assistant County Counsel.

What is your practice area?

Public law. In the Office of the County Counsel, our primary role is to provide responsive and timely legal advice to the Board of Supervisors, County departments, assorted boards and commissions, special districts and other local government agencies. We file and litigate civil cases, prepare contracts and ordinances, render legal opinions for County departments, and prosecute civil child abuse and neglect cases. It is a great, varied practice area and makes work interesting every day.

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

Growing up, I was always very interested in government. Like many, I suppose, I decided to go to law school when I realized that I needed an answer to the question, “What are you going to do when you graduate?” While I enjoyed some aspects of working as a lawyer in the private sector, I immediately knew that I had found the right career in 1994 when I became a Deputy County Counsel in the Alameda County Counsel’s Office. I think it comes down to the feeling that I get working on behalf of the public for the public good. It makes me excited to come to work every day.

Why do you live in the Bay Area?

I grew up in the Central Valley, and my wife loves California but could not take the heat in Davis! The Bay Area was a natural fit. We lived by Lake Merritt in Oakland for about 20 years and now live in the Berkeley hills.

Is there something that Alameda County is doing well, that Marin could learn from?

I will flip that question around as I have spent the last two years learning all the things that Marin County does so well. On the innovation front, Marin County established MCE, Marin’s community choice energy aggregator in 2007, while Alameda County is just getting its community choice aggregation program off the ground. I have also been impressed by Marin County’s strategic planning work and its efforts to use that as a catalyst to drive change and improvement throughout the organization. Finally, I have also been impressed with Marin’s knowledgeable, passionate and engaged citizenry.

What do you love to do when you’re not busy practicing law?

I am at that point in life where I am realizing that after having spent the last eighteen years of my life raising kids, I need to develop some outside interests! In my spare time, I am a middling Master’s swimmer, avid history reader, and I like to spend time in the Sierras (up the Highway 4 corridor) with my family.

If you could pursue any other career besides law, what would it be and why?

Starting center fielder for the Cincinnati Reds would have been my first choice. History professor would probably be my second, as being paid to do something I love (read history) sounds very appealing. If I were in academia though, I think I would really miss working on problems with immediate, real-world impacts.

Why did you join MCBA?

As a new member of the bar in Marin, it seemed like a great way to get to know the attorneys here, and I have been very impressed with the quality of MCBA’s programs – another thing Alameda County can learn from Marin!

If you had to pick a single highlight of your career, what would it be?

I am proud of the County of Marin’s leadership, along with San Mateo County, in filing suit against 37 oil, gas and coal companies regarding the impacts of sea level rise. The companies knowingly persisted with fossil fuel production, despite scientific research and recommendations from their own experts about its harmful effects and failed to warn the public or take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution. It has been, and will continue to be, a very challenging case, but I appreciate MCBA members Damon Connolly and Kate Sears, along with the rest of the Board of Supervisors, taking a leadership role in seeking to hold these companies accountable for their conduct.