Mar 03, 2019
Mar 03, 2019
By Anna Pletcher
What is your practice area?
I am a juvenile dependency attorney. I have been practicing dependency in San Francisco since 2005. First, as a solo practitioner, then in partnership with Mark Wasacz and Lara Hilley. In 2010, we began contracting to represent dependent minors in Marin County as court appointed counsel. Before practicing dependency, I was in the Menlo Park office of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, practicing corporate and securities law during the dot-com boom. However, I dreamed of a career focusing on the public interest and am so grateful to have found this practice area and to be my own boss. Dependency is poverty law and can involve a number of legal practice areas, such as immigration and criminal law, as well as a working knowledge of substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health issues. Every case is very different and the varied issues keep it interesting.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I had been involved in politics since my youth, joining student council and volunteering on campaigns. Initially, I went to law school with the clear plan of running for public office. However, the more campaigns I worked on and the more involved in each campaign I got, the more I realized that lifestyle was not for me. Fundraising is such a huge piece of the election process and the notion of being beholden to one group or person in my decision-making does not interest me.
Why did you choose to live in Marin?
I was born in Burlingame and grew up in Millbrae. My husband, Rick, and I lived in Burlingame until 2007 when we realized his commute was too much for our young family. I was working in San Francisco at the time and he was working in Mill Valley. Rick works for the Mill Valley Soccer Club as Director of Coaching. He suggested we move to Mill Valley, a place I had spent very little time. We made the move and have been here since.
What do you love to do when you're not busy practicing law?
I work a lot. Because I represent children, I am on-call pretty much 24/7 and my family is quite accustomed to my leaving the room to take a call or stop what I am doing to send a text. While I should probably have stricter boundaries, my clients have incredibly difficult lives, and I encourage them to stay connected with me so that I can help them make the right decisions for their cases or reduce their anxiety. My practice is part lawyer/part life coach. When I am not working, I volunteer for a number of community organizations, which keeps me very busy. Outside of that, I like to take barre classes and walk my dog. I also love to travel, though I am limited now that we are about to have 3 kids in college.
Tell us about your family.
I have been married since 2001 and have 3 kids, one at Tam High and two at Mill Valley Middle School. I am lucky to have a huge extended family, all living on the Peninsula. My parents both immigrated from Iran in their late teens. Much of the rest of the family moved to the United States after the Iranian Revolution. We are close and enjoy big Thanksgivings and Christmases.
Why did you join MCBA?
Very soon after beginning practice in Marin County, I met Lois Prentice, founder of Marin County Women Lawyers. I soon joined their board of directors and enjoyed all the satisfaction of working with other women lawyers for the benefit of all women. A few years later, I decided to attend the MCBA holiday party and realized my work in dependency law (staffed mostly by women) and volunteerism in MCWL had skewed my perspective of the legal community in Marin. There were huge numbers of men whom I had completely ignored. I realized I needed to come back to reality and joined MCBA and, finally, joined the board this year. I appreciate the camaraderie and connection that MCBA creates for our legal community. I also enjoy the programming and attend as many lunch CLEs as I can. In addition, having at least one MCWL board member on the MCBA board at any given time creates continuity and partnership between the two organizations.
If you could pick a single highlight of your career, what would it be?
Dependency law is an incredibly satisfying practice, and I get the benefit of feeling the impact of my concern and hard work literally every day. The lows are very low, but the highs are amazing. With regard to a single highlight, I would point to one grandmother to whom I was appointed while working for a short time in Yolo County. Her former lawyer seemed not to have taken an interest in the case, and the local human services agency was close to removing her granddaughter for reasons that were legally and morally incorrect. The outcome would have been devastating to the family and cause permanent emotional damage to the child. I can say for certain my advocacy resulted in this family remaining intact and, although no outcome is guaranteed, the child at least was given the chance to grow into a successful adult.
You have done a lot for women, including serving as Chair of Marin County Women Lawyers. Tell us about some of your volunteer activities and what motivates your activism on behalf of women?
MCWL is, of course, a great love of mine. That board is like a family. I was also on the board of directors of California Women Lawyers and met some powerhouse women making huge impacts on women lawyers, and women generally. I love spending time with badass women. It is humbling and a great opportunity to grow. Probably the single greatest volunteer work I have experienced in my career has been my work on the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation through the State Bar. I had been interested in JNE since early in my career, and finally felt able to apply once my kids were older, as there is a lot of travel and it's time-consuming work. I was appointed in 2016, and technically end my service in April. The Commission consists of some of the most interesting, committed, and evolved individuals I have ever met, all working toward a common goal: a diverse bench filled with smart, fair and hard-working judges.
My commitment to the advancement of women and minorities in all places of government and business permeates everything I do. As an Iranian American, I have experienced my share of overt and more subtle prejudice (especially during the hostage crisis). Certainly as a woman, and especially earlier on in my career as a young female lawyer, I saw my share of sexual harassment and discrimination, something most women deal with at some point in their career. Unfortunately, it is not rare. But being around other women at MCWL and CWL, and discussing our shared experiences, is very validating. I am very cognizant of the sacrifices made by the women in the generation above me, which have made my being a lawyer easier. I hope to repay their efforts with continuing the work they began to benefit the legal community as a whole.