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What It Feels Like to be a Client in Trouble.

Why I Became a Lawyer.

Law is my second career; I was in the film and television industry in New York and Los Angeles for over 25 years.

In the 1980's and mid '90's, I was an Assistant Picture Editor, and "ADR" Sound Editor and Supervisor. I won a Primetime Emmy as a Dialog Editor on the X-Files, two Emmy Contribution Awards plus two Emmy Nominations & four Golden Reel Nominations for "Ally McBeal" & "The Flash".

 

In the '90's I became the Executive Producer and Partner at the Alliance Utopia Film Group, where I Produced, Directed and Edited television shows, commercials, music videos, industrials and movie trailers. I also Directed a feature-length film called "Lost in Hollywood", which won the Houston WordFest Bronze Award for Best Comedy.

Legal Quagmires that Started Me

on the Path to a Career in Law.

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Beginning in 2002, Alliance-Utopia became embroiled in four legal "day-mares":

(1)  We were victimized by what was at that time the largest telecommunications scam in history;  A company called Norvergence sold us an equipment lease and service agreement for a phone and a "T-1" Internet system.  Norvergence went bankrupt immediately after the equipment was installed. We  weren't getting the services we were promised, and wanted to return the system. We then discovered that right before they went bankrupt, Norvergence sold the lease to Preferred Capital, a finance company in Ohio. Preferred Capital wouldn't let us return the equipment. They claimed to be "a holder in due course", and entitled to monthly payments whether or not we received the services we were promised.  Although our business was in Los Angeles, a "forum clause" in the contract required us to litigate the matter in Ohio. It turned out we were one of thousands of small businesses caught in the same net, forced to litigate in a forum thousands of miles from where they were located.

 

(2) The owner of the office building we were in also went bankrupt. Since the new owner bought the building from the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Trustee,  he refused to honor our lease, forced us to relocate to another floor, claiming he wasn't obliged to compensate us for the thousands it  cost for our move.

 

(3) Our two largest clients fell behind on their payments, and eventually stopped paying us at all.

 

(4) We had serious problems with expensive video decks and digital editing systems. The equipment was financed through lines of credit with the seller, for which I co-signed  personal guaranties. The dispute eventually devolved into a lawsuit. Our attorney made some serious errors and we lost. I was jointly and severally liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars for the finance company's legal fees and interest, and they began pursuing me personally.

 

We were financially devastated by the sum-total of everything that happened,  so hiring another lawyer was out of the question.  I began taking paralegal classes at West Los Angeles College in the evening, hoping to understand what went wrong, and see if there was something I could do about it.  One of the first things I learned were the basics of legal research. 

 

Abraham Lincoln once said that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, and I hadn't even graduated from paralegal school. It was a terrifying experience going toe to toe against two experienced attorneys in federal court; I made a lot of mistakes. But in the end,  my arguments, supported by the legal research I did prevailed 100%.

When I moved to Hawaii in 2006, I decided to pursue a full-time career in law. I began the process of applying to law school while working as a paralegal for the Hawaii Attorney General; I spent two years in Employment Law, and eight years at the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in the Criminal Justice Division.

 

In 2012, I was finally accepted at the University of Hawaii's William Richardson School of Law. I attended the part-time evening program while continuing to work  for the Attorney General during the day. In 2016,  I graduated and passed the Hawaii Bar.  

As an Attorney, I Have an Opportunity to do Something Important.

I had some good times in the film industry; But other than providing entertainment, nothing I did fundamentally improved anyone's life.  Although I can't guaranty a positive outcome as a lawyer, at least I have an opportunity to help clients resolve devastating challenges.

I devote roughly 30% of my practice to public service, inlcuding pro-bono services for the Legal Aid of Hawaii Access to Justice Room program.*  I'm also able to offer a limited amount of low-income clients discounted rates. (Whether I can take your case at a reduced rate depends on many factors that are impossible to articulate here.)

 

I'm also a member of the Advocacy Committee at Partners in Care Honolulu, where I help develop and advocate for legislation to end homelessness in Hawai'i.

 


 

Public Service Awards

  • Hawaii Judiciary Certificate of Appreciation for Service at the Legal Aid Society's Access to Justice Room (2023 & 2022). 

  • Hawaii Governor's Special Recognition; Outstanding Pro Bono Attorney; Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (2021).

  • Hawaii State Legislature's Official Commendation for Public Service (Homeless Advocacy) (2019).

* If you are in need of pro-bono representation through the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i ("LASH"), I may be able to take your case if: (1) You are approved by LASH, (which among other things, only accepts clients who meet certain income and asset limits);  (2) As is my policy with paying clients, your case must have a legitimate legal basis, and have a reasonable chance of succeeding on the merits; and (3) I won't represent you if your legal predicament is too far afield from my area of expertise.

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