Coffee Talk: Share a Memory

Share a Memory: What was practicing law like when you started as an attorney in Contra Costa County? 

Coffee Talk is a regular feature of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine. We ask a short question related to an upcoming theme and responses are then published in the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine.


I started practicing law in Walnut Creek around 27 years ago. It was a quiet little town. I told my friends I liked it because it reminded me of the small town I grew up in; Montgomery Alabama. They told me I was crazy to take a job in a “cow town.”

It ended up being the best move I ever made, and it is certainly not a “cow town” any longer, assuming it ever was.

Carol Langford

When I started out as a lawyer in Contra Costa County, I represented an uncle in a small claims appeal in Napa County.  It was a neighbor dispute where the plaintiff sued my uncle for overhanging tree limbs that encroached on the neighbor’s property.  The original small claims judge issued an injunction against my uncle (never mind the jurisdictional issue), and I appealed with the requisite trial de novo.

The neighbor was an idiot and, in closing argument, I said, “Plaintiff comes into court with unclean hands.”  At which point, the in pro per neighbor-plaintiff rises from his seat and says: “Your Honor, Your Honor, I washed my hands this morning.” I had to bite my cheek to prevent laughing.  The judge had a big smile across his face, too.

I won the appeal and the tree and the associated limbs stayed.

True story.

Harry C. Gilbert
Attorney at Law

Planting a Seed

When I gave my first QDRO seminar in 1987 in a conference room at the Hilltop Mall in Richmond, Judge Jim Libbey was there.  After hearing about QDRO law, he asked the question – <‘>Isn’t there an order that will suffice for every plan?”  It was a somewhat exasperated utterance but a brilliant and concrete question.  It took 20 years to develop but in 2007, a QDRO team working to update Family Code section 2337 came up with FL-348 – a one size fits all provisional QDRO meant to be used when you are severing marital status and the QDRO is not done.  FL-348 when sent to the Plan will trigger a QDRO review by the Plan – keeping your client’s claim on hold and first in line while giving you time to outsource the permanent QDRO.   California is the only state that has implemented this brilliant idea.  Thanks, Judge Libbey for your common sense and for not being afraid to ask what someone else might have been afraid was a “stupid question.”

Ann Fallon, Esq.

No emails from the CCCBA. All section newsletters were faxed out and no one knew what it meant to be paperless. I was a unicorn at the time.

David S. Pearson
Law Offices of David S. Pearson

When I started practicing in Contra Costa County, I was a member and former President of the young lawyers association, the Barristers. Fellow members included my sister Catherine Walsh, Larry Cook, Bob Famulener, Tom McKenna, Mary Ann McNett Mason, Bill Waterman, Scott Reep and Karen Crosby. It was a great social and networking outlet. We met at each others homes for a home cooked meal and sponsored an Annual Christmas Party at Heather Farms which was catered and featured carved ice sculptures! Most of us still practice in the County and some of us have recently attended the roundtable meetings to establish a “Senior” section. We have now come “full circle”.

Lorraine Walsh
Law Office of Lorraine M. Walsh