Holiday season a time for giving (and some local organizations you can support, too)

December 18, 2019 | 6:00 am


♫ “It’s the most charitable time of the year” ♫

The holidays are a time for giving. In fact, about 34 percent of all charitable giving is done in the last three months of the year, and of those donations, about 18 percent are given in December alone. Nonprofits that benefit the most from the holiday spirit are medical research organizations such as the American Cancer Society. Such organizations receive an average of 20 percent of their donations in December alone.

For Bakersfield-based injury and accident law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, the holiday season is not the only time of year for giving. In 2019, the law firm, and its attorneys and staff, supported dozens of worthy causes, nonprofits and charitable organizations throughout Kern County during the previous 11 months as well.

“Kern County is the home of our law firm, but it is also the home of our clients, friends, and families,” said managing partner David Cohn. “It’s important we all come together to help our neighbors.”

As we enter the holidays and New Year’s, Chain | Cohn | Stiles would like to recommend local causes and nonprofits you can consider to support, as well as provide some giving tips (below). For a full list of causes supported by the law firm, visit our “Community” page at chainlaw.com.

  • The Hub of Bakersfield: A new local nonprofit, The Hub of Bakersfield, is committed to redefining and revitalizing Bakersfield’s urban core through various programs, events, and projects. As part of the nonprofit, the new Bakersfield Innovation Lab is a 10-month program where a select group of participants, who are passionate about the place they call home, come together to develop an impactful project to make the greater downtown Bakersfield area a more desirable place to live, work and be for all. Why is this relevant for Chain | Cohn | Stiles? Well, associate attorney Tanya Alsheikh is part of the inaugural Innovation Lab class, and marketing director Jorge Barrientos is a program facilitator and a member of the board of directors for The Hub! Not to mention, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has called downtown Bakersfield home for 85 years, so this is an important program. Learn more about Hub of Bakersfield and the Innovation Lab at thehubofbakersfield.org.
  • BMoA: The Bakersfield Museum of Art strives to enhance the quality of life through art appreciation and educational opportunities in the visual arts for Bakersfield and Kern County residents and visitors.
  • Bike Bakersfield: This nonprofit is a local bicycle advocacy coalition providing family friendly bike rides, bicycle safety education, and bike repair. In particular, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has partnered with Bike Bakersfield as part of its mission to reduce the number of accidents in our community, giving away hundreds of free bicycle lights and safety helmets throughout Kern County through “Project Light Up The Night” and “Kidical Mass” events, the latter of which also features bike repairs, safety demonstrations, and a group bike ride.
  • Bakersfield Homeless Center: A recent Kern County Homeless Collaborative report that found a 50 percent increase in the local homeless population over last year’s count. Efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue are underway. To help, Chain | Cohn | Stiles earlier this year donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team. The program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.
  • MADD Kern County: Since 2009, our community has seen at least 4,000 DUI arrests made each year, with nearly 4,400 DUI arrests in 2018, according to the Kern County District Attorney’s Office. That’s 12 DUI arrests per day. For the rate of DUI-related fatal collisions per 100,000 people, Kern County ranks highest in the state and second highest in the nation. Each year in Kern County, dozens of innocent lives are lost – plus hundreds more injured and thousands of friends and families affected – from this 100 percent preventable crime. We can all play a part to help make sure our streets are safe. Chain | Cohn | Stiles for many years has partnered with MADD Kern County to combat DUI crashes. Attorney Matt Clark sits on the MADD Kern County Advisory Board, regularly speaks to DUI offenders during the MADD Victim Impact Panels, and is the recent recipient of the “Pursuit of Justice” Award by MADD Southern California. Law firm marketing director Jorge Barrientos is the planning committee chairman for the annual “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash“, in which the firm is presenting sponsor.
  • Valley Fever: Last year, California experienced 2,200 new cases of Valley Fever, and most were reported in the southern Central Valley regions of Kern, Tulare, Kings, Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. In fact, Kern County residents were affected the most with 890 cases. Chain | Cohn | Stiles along with California health officials warn people about Valley Fever year-round, and the firm recently joined the Valley Fever Institute at the annual Valley Fever Walk aimed at raising awareness of Valley Fever.

Giving Tips

  • Before you give to any charity, examine the charity’s finances. Make sure the group is a financially healthy organization, sustainable, accountable and transparent. Look for signs of effectiveness. The charity’s ability to bring about meaningful change is the key reason for their existence and for your donation. These websites will help you check on your charity:
  • Give to an organization that matches your beliefs and goals. There is a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it and confirm it offers the programs and services that match your charitable interests.
  • Take the time to research your charity so that you can trust them, and then give an unrestricted gift so the charity has the flexibility to respond to changing demands for its services and to spend the money where it is most needed to continue their day-to-day good work. Don’t put strings on your gift.
  • If you gave earlier in the year to an organization helping in a disaster, go back to that organization and give more. Much of the need from any disaster comes later, during the recovery period.
  • Giving before the year’s end can get you a tax break. Check with your tax planner to see if you’ll benefit.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles: ‘Standing for Justice’ in Kern County for 85 Years

June 26, 2019 | 6:00 am


The year is 1934. The great Dust Bowl storm is sweeping across the Great Plains of the United States. Donald Duck premieres on television. And the FBI kills Bonnie and Clyde in a shootout in a Louisiana.

It’s also the year Morris B. Chain first set up shop in the Haberfelde Building in downtown Bakersfield. The Russian immigrant who grew up in Bakersfield had recently earned his law degree from University of Southern California and struggled to find a law firm that would hire a fresh-faced attorney. It was, after all, during the Great Depression era when “help wanted” signs were nowhere to be found. So, he made his own opportunity. He opened his own law practice, and began laying the foundation for what would become one of Central Valley’s most prominent and longstanding law firms, one whose mission became to fight for the everyday working man and woman.

The firm’s name has changed through the years — using variations of the law firm partners, including “Chain-Younger” for many years — but several things have remained constant. The most obvious: the Chain namesake has remained, and the firm today is known Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

Another constant: For 85 years, the firm has been firmly cemented in downtown Bakersfield, and its office dedicated to helping our area’s residents in their time of greatest need.

For 2019, Chain | Cohn | Stiles is marking the 85-year anniversary in several ways:

  • The law firm is giving back to the community it has called home for 85 years. The law firm donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic, specifically the homeless center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team focusing on downtown Bakersfield.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles has released several videos focused on the history of the law firm. In the videos, law firm partners David Cohn, Jim Yoro, and Matt Clark share stories of the law firm’s origins, and its values that remain true today. Videos include:
  • The firm is serving as the presenting sponsor for the 2019 “Walk Like MADD & MADD Dash” — benefiting the Kern County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving — to help raise awareness of the DUI problem locally, help crash victims, and help fundraise for local educational programs.
  • Chain | Cohn | Stiles is giving away items branded with the firm’s anniversary logo, including bags, portable chargers, and gift cards!
  • The law firm was featured as one of three organizations inducted into the inaugural “Best of Kern County” Hall of Fame, awarded to organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community.
  • Stay tuned for surprises commemorating Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ 85-year anniversary.

As for the history of the law firm, The Bakersfield Californian in 2014 featured an article on what was then the law firm’s 80-year anniversary. You can read that article below, which has been updated to include news from the last five years, as well as several relevant links at the bottom of the page.

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BAKERSFIELD ROOTS

Though born in Russia in 1904, Morris Chain developed his Bakersfield roots early. His father ran a store on 19th Street, and Chain attended Kern County Union High School and Bakersfield Junior College.

At BC, Chain is credited for coming up with the nickname “Renegades” while on the football team. It was in school, too, where Chain developed his love for drama, participating in speech, debate and theater – skills he would use throughout his career in the courtroom.

Known as a showman, Chain was also hard-working and aggressive. Making little money after opening his shop in 1934, he worked long 18-hour days, investigating his own cases with camera and subpoenas in hand. Car-less, he hitched rides with prosecuting attorneys on cases he was defending.

“If young lawyers today had to go through what I went through, I don’t think they would even enter the profession,” he told The Bakersfield Californian in 1976.

The hard work led to success. Chain moved into the Sill Building in 1938, on 18th Street and Chester Avenue, where he would become known for taking on some of the highest-profile criminal cases in the area, while also helping the everyday person.

In Chain’s obituary in 1977, Californian columnist Eddie Griffith wrote that “this stemmed from his continued life-long interest in the ‘little guy’ and the problem of the downtrodden, generally.”

“The greatest compliment you can get is from the little guy you do a lot of work for and who comes up and says thanks, you did a hell of a job,” Chain told The Bakersfield California.

With success, Chain’s team grew.

 

LOCAL LEADING LAWYERS 

The firm’s attorneys would also become servants to the local community, becoming leaders in local and statewide Democratic politics, labor and the arts, following Chain’s lead to serve the hometown. Most of the lawyers through the firm’s 80 years, including today, were either born or raised locally.

In 1936, Chain ran for Kern County District Attorney, but lost. Chain received the coveted Kern County Bench and Bar Award in 1976, recognizing outstanding service to the administration of justice and the legal profession.

In the 1970s, the firm moved over to the building on Truxtun Avenue and M Street. The year Chain died, 1977, he was praised for being “one of the most remarkable men in the history of the community and certainly in the history of the legal community of Kern County,” according to a Californian article on his death.

Through the 1980s, the firm was ahead of the curve in race relations in Bakersfield, including forming relationships with the local Sikh community, and hiring Latino, black and Asian attorneys and staff.  Whites numbered 80 percent of the Kern County population, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, but the minority population was ever increasing (today Latinos make up more than 50 percent).

“The firm promoted diversity long before it was even discussed in the mainstream,” said Robert Tafoya, Kern County Superior Court judge and attorney at Chain, Younger, Cohn and Stiles in the 1990s. “They were visionaries in having a diverse workforce.”

Tafoya joined the firm even after opening his own firm, calling the Chain firm “a major player in the community.”

“I was a fly on the wall, watching and asking questions,” Tafoya said. “I learned a lot at the firm about serving the community.”

The firm’s stellar reputation also attracted Gary Ingle – a retired Kern County Superior Court judge and attorney at the firm from the late 1970s to early 1980s.

“In my mind, the firm had the best reputation in town,” Ingle said. “They had flashy cases, but they were smart lawyers who made some good law.”

He continued: “The attorneys at the firm have always advertised themselves as being the working man’s attorney. I think that’s truly the case.”

In the courtroom, the law firm’s staff focused on making the world safer, said David Cohn, current managing attorney.

Since the Chain era, case results at the firm have led to significant changes: oilfield equipment and machinery have been made safer to reduce injuries, child car seats now require crash testing to make them more reliable, and turkey fryers have been revamped to prevent burns and injuries, for example.

Still today, the attorneys at firm remain at the forefront of civil law. The firm continues to take on high-profile wrongful death, work accident, and other personal injury cases.

Among its current lawyers, James Yoro is one of the most veteran workers’ compensation lawyers in the state, having appeared in front of the Supreme Court; Cohn continues to be lead counsel on some of the highest profile civil cases in Kern County; and Matt Clark, 42, has regularly been recognized in legal circles as a top up-and-coming attorney.

 

85 YEARS

At its largest stage, the Chain law firm had 18 attorneys and offered a multitude of legal services including family law and criminal defense. Today, the firm focuses only on accidents, injuries and workers’ compensation cases.

In 1990, the firm moved into the Bank of America building on Truxtun and Chester avenues, where it remained for 25 years. The law firm’s name changed to its current title to Chain | Cohn | Stiles in 2009, and today includes seven attorneys. Continuing a legacy of diversity, the firm includes Yoro, a Filipino; Beatriz Trejo, a rising leader in Kern County’s Latino community; and Tanya Alsheikh, who is fluent in Arabic.

As for advocacy and community commitment, the firm continues to take on cases aimed “to make our world better,” Cohn said, while also donating time and effort to local worthy causes. The firm is a presenting sponsor and organizer of a walk and run hosted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Kern County, gives away hundreds of bicycle lights and safety helmets each year with Bike Bakersfield, and this year donated to a Bakersfield Homeless Center program to combat our area’s homeless epidemic.

Through the years, it was important to keep the Chain name on the firm’s masthead as a symbol to local civic and community effort, Cohn said.

“The name takes us back to our roots,” Cohn said. “Morris Chain’s mission to stand up for the little guy is what founded this firm, and influences everything we do 85 years later – even those of us coming after him. It’s the guiding principal of everything we do.”

In 2015, the firm moved into a 30,000-square-foot historical building at 18th Street and Chester Avenue – occupied previously by the Goodwill Industries of South Central California.

“This move came at a special time, as we celebrated our 80th anniversary,” Cohn told media during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building. “We hope this new office will better serve our clients, and will help in the ongoing revitalization of downtown Bakersfield. And we look forward to serving Kern County for another 80 years.”

In recent year, Chain | Cohn | Stiles has been inducted into the inaugural “Best of Kern County Hall of Fame,” awarded to men, women, businesses, and organizations with a long history of excellence in their respective fields, and who also give back to our community. The law firm has also been selected for inclusion in the 2019 “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report.

Still, the new home of the firm is stark contrast to the way Chain first started his career, said local historian Gilbert Gia. But the law firm’s new home will have a view of Chain’s previous homes, including his first office in the Haberfelde building.

“When we look at the law firm today, we see a monolithic edifice, but the law firm started out in humble beginnings,” Gia said. “The firm today, inside of the walls, seems to be sticking to its roots.”

 

THE CHAIN GANG

Here are a few local attorneys, judges and legal professionals who have worked at the law firm founded by Morris Chain:

JUDGES

  • Gary Ingle: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Stephen Schuett: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced at Chain in the 1980s.
  • Louis P. Etcheverry: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced in the 1980s.
  • Robert Tafoya: Kern County Superior Court judge, practiced from 1995 to 2002.

CHAIN | COHN | STILES TODAY

  • David Cohn: Current managing partner, having served under the Chain name for nearly 45 years.
  • James Yoro: Partner, managing the workers’ compensation division, who has worked at Chain for 34 years.
  • Matt Clark: Partner, joining the firm in 2006.
  • Associates: Tanya Alsheikh, Chad Boyles, Doug Fitz-Simmons, and Beatriz Trejo.
  • With the exception of Fitz-Simmons, all attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles were raised in Bakersfield.

NO LONGER PRACTICING

  • Paul Busacca: Partner in the 1970s and 1980s, now deceased.
  • Paul Welchans: Practiced at the Chain firm for 30 years, retired in 2012.
  • John Tello: Served at the Chain firm from the early 1980s until 2004.

IN HISTORY

  • Morris B. Chain: Namesake and founder of the Chain law firm; died in 1977.
  • Milton Younger: Joined Chain full time in 1956, and remained at the firm for 53 years; he died in 2018.
  • Timothy Lemucchi: Joined Chain in 1965, and remained at the firm for 30 years; now practices at Law Office of Timothy Lemucchi.
  • Leonard Winters: Investigator working directly with Chain at the firm for more than three decades. He joined Chain after first helping him in 1946 in his unsuccessful campaign for Kern County District Attorney – reportedly one of the only investigators working for an attorney at the time; now deceased.
  • Noriegas: Al Noriega, now deceased, began as a law clerk working directly with Chain. His son, James Edward Noriega, would also go on to work at the firm. He now practices at Law Office of James E. Noriega.
  • Daniel Rodriguez: Worked at the Chain law firm through the 1980s; now practices at Rodriguez & Associates.
  • Others: Rod Williams, Dustin Jameson, Todd Berry, Frank Butkiewicz, Scott Fontes, Stephen Klink, Indra Lahiri.

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Chain | Cohn | Stiles donates $10,000 for Bakersfield Homeless Center jobs program

April 3, 2019 | 11:41 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has donated $10,000 to the Bakersfield Homeless Center in an effort to combat our community’s homeless epidemic.

The donation will go toward the homeless center’s job skills training program and street cleaning team focusing on downtown Bakersfield. In short, the program helps homeless center residents move forward with their lives while making a difference in our community. The program is designed to be a transitional program, where participants gain real-world skills, build confidence, and develop experience to find long-term employment.

The donation comes on the heels of a Kern County Homeless Collaborative report that found a 50 percent increase in the local homeless population over last year’s count, with over 1,330 people locally experiencing homelessness. Large efforts by City of Bakersfield and Kern County to tackle the issue are underway.

“Sadly, we see the effects of homelessness every day on the streets in downtown Bakersfield and outside our own office,” said David Cohn, managing partner of the law firm. “If there is something we can all do to help homeless center residents out of homelessness, while at the same time making sure our city is presented as the jewel that it is, then we should all help. All downtown businesses are impacted by homelessness, and I would encourage others to step forward, and help support a solution.”

Added Louis Gill, executive director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center: “The dedication of Chain | Cohn | Stiles to invest in our community and the lives of everyone who lives in it is on full display as they lead the way with support for our Downtown Street Ambassador program.  We are grateful for their partnership in this program which provides employment opportunities for people seeking to improve their lives, beautifies areas around downtown businesses, and reaches out to homeless individuals through compassion and resources.”

Currently, there are more than 80 people participating in the homeless center’s jobs program. The Downtown Street Ambassadors program was first implemented by the Downtown Bakersfield Development Corporation in partnership with Bakersfield Homeless Center, Garden Pathways, The Mission at Kern County and Keep Bakersfield Beautiful.

The donation also falls on the 85-year anniversary for Chain | Cohn | Stiles, which has been housed consistently in downtown Bakersfield during its history – from the Haberfelde Building, to the Sill Building, Bank of America, and its current home today.

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If you or someone you know is injured in an accident, please call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or chat with us online at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Chain | Cohn | Stiles partners with city, homeless center in freeway litter cleanup project

April 16, 2014 | 10:00 am


It was Bakersfield’s Buck Owens who made the “Streets of Bakersfield” famous in the 1970s, through his iconic country music song. In recent years, however, those streets have become infamous for the litter that scatters the pavement. 

At Chain | Cohn | Stiles, we’re proud of our community, our city and our streets, and we wish to keep our city as clean and healthy as possible. 

This year, on our 80-year anniversary and as a gift to the city we’ve served during that time, we’ve sponsored the City of Bakersfield’s “Freeway Litter Cleanup Project.” Here’s how it works:

Our sponsorship dollars go to pay residents from the Bakersfield Homeless Center to clean up our portion of the newest Bakersfield freeway — the Westside Parkway. Our sponsored highway section is at Coffee Road, eastbound on the Parkway. (see the picture of our sign HERE).

The program is a win for everyone involved: it keeps our freeway clean, increases community pride, gives jobs to the homeless, and sponsorships keep costs down for  the city and homeless center.

The program — partnering the homeless center with the city, and local business — has been hailed nationwide by other county and city governments. 

Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles received a letter from Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall thanking us for our participation.

“Working together we will best this blight, that for too long has marred the landscape in our city,” Hall wrote in the letter.

To learn more about the program, click on the following links: