Meet Your New Board Members for 2016
My plane landed at 4 a.m. in June 1986, at the San Francisco International Airport. I had $1,000, two suitcases and that was it. I had known that I wanted to be a lawyer since the age of 12, and this was the beginning of my adventure in the practice of law.
I worked my way through law school at Golden Gate University doing whatever work I could find including messenger, manager of a copy shop, private investigator and eventually law clerk for the Law Offices of Sanford M. Cipinko.
After I passed the bar in 1990, I went to work for that same lawyer as an associate handling all types of civil and criminal cases. I met my wife in a San Francisco bar in June 1991, and I married her the following year on the third anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. We moved to Walnut Creek in 1993, where I worked for a well-respected attorney, Paul Engler, as an associate, until I opened my own firm, The Derby Law Firm, in 2002.
My wife, Debbie, and I have worked together for 14 years in that firm, me as the lawyer and she as the most over-qualified business manager in Contra Costa County. Along the way, we have been honored to represent many exceptional people who remind me of how easy our life has been compared to theirs. Debbie has also blessed us with three beautiful children: Kevin, age 19, Alison, age 17 and Nicholas, age 14.
Currently, I practice disability rights law on a part-time basis and I spend the rest of my professional time acting as judge pro tem in Contra Costa, Alameda and San Francisco counties to help to bridge the gap between the needs of our counties for access to justice and the courts’ ability to provide it with the drastic budget cuts they have been forced to endure over the last few years. I also serve the cause of access to justice by volunteering my time through a number of organizations including Contra Costa Senior Legal Services and the Pro Bono Committee of the Contra Costa County Bar Association.
I have been privileged to serve in leadership roles for a number of organizations including Boy Scouts, the Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers’ Association and the Cerebral Palsy Center for the Bay Area (now called Ability Now Bay Area). I am honored to be selected by the Board of Directors to serve our community on the 2016 board and I look forward to devoting my time and energy to earning the trust that has been placed in me by this appointment.
I am a partner at Bray & Greenwood, LLP (I’m the Greenwood), located in Martinez. I graduated from Golden Gate University School of Law in 2004. I attended University of California, Berkeley, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. I also received an Associate of Arts degree from Diablo Valley College. I live in Concord with my wife, Ann, and our three kids.
My practice centers around estate planning and probate related matters such as conservatorships, guardianships, probate of estates and both trust and probate litigation. I am frequently court-appointed counsel in guardianships, where I represent minors, and in conservatorships, where I represent proposed conservatees.
I especially enjoy the role of court-appointed counsel, as it gives me the opportunity to advocate for those who have no voice or have potentially lost their voice due to incapacity. Perhaps you have heard of me, Oliver Greenwood, voice for the voiceless, dun-dun-dunnn.
I was influenced into becoming an attorney by three important people: my wife, Ann, and my friends, Robert Kosloff and Christian Lucia. While my wife was willing to support me in any endeavor I chose (I was a professional magician at the time), she liked the idea of me working in law, and both Bob and Lucia suggested that a career as a historian might not be lucrative and that pursuing a degree in law would serve me better in the long run. Now, here I am, in the long run. I agree with all of them.
I enjoy my career, but the most difficult part of the practice of law is striking the balance between work and family. Retired Commissioner Don Green frequently stated from the bench that lawyers just don’t take enough time off, and he suggested that perhaps time off needed to be forced on lawyers. He lost me with “time off.”
But, a couple of years ago, I was watching an interview with Chief Justice John Roberts, and he was posed the question of how he balances family life with the practice of law. He replied with a statement that his predecessor, Justice William Rehnquist, provided to him: “If you want to spend time with your young children, you have to do it while they are young.” That rings true to me.
However, striking a balance takes effort. So I force the time and I spend a lot of it participating in my children’s sports activities as a coach or a referee—it gets me out of the office and gives me quality time with my kids and the local community.
I see joining the CCCBA board as another opportunity to enrich the quality of my life as a lawyer in this county and to contribute to the local legal community.
I am an Easy Bay native, born and raised in Berkeley. I began my education at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, and then transferred to UC Berkeley, where I double majored in political science and mass communications. Go Bears! Through UC Berkeley, I was able to serve as a press and policy intern in Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office in Washington, D.C.
I then traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Vanderbilt Law School, where I participated in the moot court and mock trial programs. I had the opportunity to intern in the chambers of U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Hoyt in Houston, Texas, and I also worked as a law clerk for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Defender’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. Upon graduation, I become a prosecutor in the CCC District Attorney’s Office, where I tried about 35 cases to a jury and worked in several units.
One of the highlights of my career so far was a brief stint at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as part of the Employment Advocacy and Prosecution Team, where I investigated and litigated employee misconduct matters in front of the State Personnel Board. After that, I went into private practice for about two years, focusing mostly on criminal defense work, and recently, I joined the Gagen, McCoy, McMahon, Koss, Markowitz & Raines law firm as an associate attorney, where I practice criminal defense and handle employment discipline issues involving misconduct or licensing.
I am active in many different parts our Contra Costa County Bar Association. Currently, I am a committee member and a panelist on our Criminal Conflict Program, a volunteer fee artibrator for both the CCCBA and the State Bar, and a CCCBA delegate to the California Conference of Bar Associations. I participate in the Robert G. McGrath American Inn of Court and I also served as a board member of the Barristers Section, where I assisted in the drafting of the current bylaws.
Outside of the CCCBA, I am a member of the Leadership Council for the nonprofit Center for Youth Development through Law, a pipeline program focused on exposing under-privileged youth to the legal system, and encouraging them to attend college and pursue careers as attorneys.
I am honored to serve you this year.
I practice primarily in the areas of estate planning, probate, criminal law and family law, focusing on working with blended families. During my first few years of practice, I have enjoyed working in these different areas of law, as I never shy away from a new challenge.
While appreciating the variety of my client base, my deep passion is protecting and advocating for the rights of diverse classes and I have been deeply involved in my community while continuing to build my solo practice.
Over the course of my life, I have worked zealously defending the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in numerous campaigns; in fact, from 2013 to 2015, I acted as community liaison for the Rainbow Community Center, a nonprofit organization in Concord, which provides programs and resources for LGBT youth and adults.
I continue to promote tolerance and diversity in both the legal profession and the community, impacting the lives of others through community engagement and outreach campaigns designed to build relationships, educate the community and create a broader social impact.
I have been a proud and active member of the Contra Costa County Bar Association since being admitted to practice. My prior CCCBA leadership positions include MCLE and special events coordinator for the Barristers Section (2015-2016), vice president of the Barristers Section (2014-2015), board member at large of the Women’s Section (2014 to present), board member of the Diversity Committee (2013 to present) and California Women Lawyers co-affiliate governor representing the CCCBA Women’s Section (2015 to present).
I was born and raised in Contra Costa County and graduated undergrad from UCLA with honors majoring in history. I attended law school at Western State University where I received my doctorate. While at Western State, I received multiple awards for excellence in academics. Prior to my final year in law school, I took a year off to attend Pepperdine University where I received a master’s degree in education graduating summa cum laude.
In 2013, I moved from Los Angeles back to Contra Costa County with my spouse, Andrea. We enjoy traveling and spending time with our amazing rescue dog named Griffith.