Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ attorney James Yoro highlights life of a paralegal in Kern County Bar Association’s magazine

December 13, 2017 | 9:45 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the December 2017 issue of the Res Ipsa Loquitur, a monthly news magazine from the Kern County Bar Association. It was written by Kern County Bar Association president James Yoro, who is also a partner and workers’ compensation attorney at the law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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‘With a little help from my friends’

Most lawyers would like to believe that the primary reason for the success they’ve achieved in their practice is due to their own hard work and effort. However, when asked for a realistic assessment of their situation, most lawyers will admit that a crucial part of their success depends on their support staff. Depending on the type of practice one has, a paralegal/legal assistant may play a vital role in that success. In my own practice, I depend on my legal assistant Lesleigh Johnston, to perform many essential functions that contribute to the successful outcome of my cases. In fact, I consider her to be an indispensable member of my firm, who is as valuable as the associate attorney who also works with me. Therefore, I would like to give special recognition to all of those hard-working paralegals and legal assistants that make our jobs easier by devoting my message this month to them.

There are many ways that one can become a paralegal. Depending on one’s background, training and education, a paralegal may be able to handle many aspects of the legal process or the workup of the file. For example, my legal assistant was previously employed for more than 10 years as an insurance adjuster with a major workers compensation insurance carrier before she came to work for me. Because of this experience, she was well-equipped to evaluate cases and understood the nuances of how a workers compensation file should be handled from beginning to end.

Since building an effective legal team is important in order to serve the best interests of the clients and achieve success in one’s practice, what should one look for when hiring a paralegal?  I asked this and several other questions to two of the paralegals in our firm, Barbara Hass and Donna Wilkins, and here were their answers:

 

What background, education, and/or training did you have in order to become a paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

Background: 37 years in the legal field.  I began my career as a legal secretary in 1980.  In 1985 I became a civil defense paralegal for Art Pearl and then Larry Peake.  In 1995, I began working for David Cohn as a personal injury paralegal and supervisor of his PI practice.  I also taught Personal Injury Law at CSUB – Attorney Assistant Program in the evenings for many years and wrote the text book for the class utilized by CSUB.

Education: Completion of the Attorney Assistant Program at California State University, Bakersfield.  Examination through the National Association of Legal Assistants for my certification as a California Advanced Specialist in Civil Litigation; Advanced Paralegal certifications in Trial Practices, Discovery, Wrongful Death, and Personal Injury.

Training: Under the supervision and training from the best attorneys.  Art Pearl and Larry Peake hammered in me civil procedure, while David Cohn and Matt Clark fine-tuned the art of personal injury and case management.

Comment: Education cannot replace experience.  Education is the stepping stone.  Experience is the mountain top.  All the education in the world cannot teach a paralegal how to navigate through the day-to-day encounters of an area of law.  Only experience gives you that.  That is why it is a combination of education and experience that makes for an outstanding paralegal.”

Donna Wilkins:

My background is not your typical educational background that you will find of most paralegals today.  There were no schools specializing in paralegal studies when I first started in the legal industry in 1979 when I was 19 years old; the only specialized education I could find to help assist me in advancement was a correspondence course, which I did take and complete.

My background is solely from experience. I started as a receptionist in 1979 for a small firm in San Francisco.  From the day I sat at the desk, I knew I had found my calling.  I did everything I could to learn as much as I could and kept asking questions and requesting more responsibility.  I absorbed everything I could and advanced to legal secretary in less than a year.  I moved firms about 3 times in 5 years in order to obtain knowledge in the areas of personal injury, construction defect, probate, family law and insurance defense.  Later in my career I worked in the areas of criminal law, corporate law, and civil and criminal appellate law.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and was very fortunate to find employment with attorneys and firms that encouraged my advancement and shared their knowledge with me – even allowing me to sit in on depositions, court hearings, oral argument in appellate court and civil trials.   Next year I will have 40 years in the legal field, over 25 of them as a paralegal and I have never looked back – only forward to the next challenge as a paralegal.”

 

What skills are necessary in order to be a quality paralegal?

Barbara Hass:

“At a minimum, all paralegals are required to be in compliance with Business and Professions Code Section 6450 – 6456.  In addition, it is very important for paralegals to possess excellent writing and research skills, understand the rules, procedures and mechanics that apply to their area of practice; stay up-to-date on the changing rules and procedures; possess exceptional technical skills; and possess excellent analytical and case management skills.  However, having all of these “skills” doesn’t make a great paralegal.  To be a great paralegal you must also possess the qualities of a great employee:  loyalty, work ethic, detail oriented, dedication to your craft, tenacity, and a thick skin.”

Donna Wilkins:

“In addition to skill, I believe it is absolutely imperative to have an affinity and love for what you do.  Knowledge and skills are one thing, but if you do not love what you do, you won’t be as successful as you could be.  The most important skill I believe is the ability to prioritize.  With all the work that lands on my desk, I must be able to determine what must be done now and what can wait.  A system of following up on projects is also imperative.  Organization is crucial, as you can’t get things done if you do not have a system in place to make sure that nothing is missed.  You must be able to communicate, both verbally and in writing, with the attorneys and staff, but also with clients and the courts.   Maintaining knowledge of current case law and statutes which pertain to your area of practice is also necessary.”

 

What do you do to assist the attorney you work for?

Barbara Hass:

“Development and case management from the date of intake to completion; legal research; discovery; trial preparation; Federal case management; fact gathering and retrieving information; drafting and analyzing legal documents; collecting, compiling, and utilizing technical information to make an independent analysis to the supervising attorney.”

Donna Wilkins:

“You cannot list in detail in a few short paragraphs all of the responsibilities of a paralegal.  However, I can provide the following brief description:  I manage the case files to make sure all necessary information is obtained from the clients, that the medical records and bills are obtained so that a case can move forward either to settlement or litigation.  I draft demand letters and follow-up on settlement demands and offers.

Once a case is ready to be filed with the Court, I prepare the complaint for the attorney’s review and filing with the court.  I maintain the docketing calendar so that all dates pertaining to litigation are calendared and reminders are up to date.  I prepare initial discovery and meet with clients to obtain information on discovery propounded to them, and then prepare the draft responses for the attorney’s review.  I perform the initial review of defendant’s responses to discovery and prepare a summary for the attorneys and suggest additional discovery to be propounded and which depositions should be set.  I prepare Case Management Statements for the attorney’s review and filing with the Court.  I contact expert witnesses and make sure they have the documents they need to provide their opinions.

Once a trial date is set, I manage all related dates and make sure that all pre-trial discovery is completed, depositions taken, etc.  I prepare a draft of the pre-trial documents, including expert designations, trial witness and exhibit lists, etc. I subpoena witnesses and arrange for expert testimony.  I then prepare the exhibits themselves for submission to the Court and opposing counsel to be used at trial.”

Paralegals do more than help lawyers to prepare their cases, conduct relevant research and draft legal documents for litigation; they help to manage the clients throughout a long and sometimes frustrating process and as such are an essential element of an attorney’s legal team. To all of you out there who currently employ paralegals/legal assistants, take a moment to applaud and recognize their efforts as your success depends on it.

 

If you would like to comment or respond to my message, please e-mail me at jyoro@chainlaw.com.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident, please contact the experienced legal team at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles’ David Cohn, James Yoro selected to ‘The Best Lawyers in America’ publication

August 16, 2017 | 12:21 pm


Two veteran attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have been recognized in the Best Lawyers in America program, which is the oldest and among the most respected attorney ranking services in the world.

David K. Cohn, managing partner at the law firm, was selected into the personal injury litigation category, while James A. Yoro, senior partner at the firm, was selected into the workers’ compensation law listings.

Attorneys named to “The Best Lawyers in America” are recognized by their peers in the legal industry
for their professional excellence in specific practice areas. For the 2018 edition of The Best
Lawyers in America, more than 7 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in nearly 55,000 leading
lawyers being included in the new edition.

“Best Lawyers believes that the best lawyers know who the best lawyers are,” according to the program’s methodology. “Thus, our recognitions are based purely on the feedback we receive from lawyers already highlighted in our publication.”

David Cohn is one of the most respected lawyers in the Central Valley, having been voted into the “Best Lawyer” category of The Bakersfield Californian’s Readers Choice Poll for the last five years straight. He is a Martindale-Hubbell AV preeminent-rated trial attorney, has been named to the Southern California Super Lawyers list, and was selected to join the International Society of Barristers. Over the course of his career, which spans more than 40 years, Cohn has obtained numerous multi-million dollar results on behalf of his clients, and his cases have led to workplace, roadway and vehicle safety measures.

James Yoro is a Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional in California, and is one of the most veteran and most respected workers’ compensation lawyers in the San Joaquin Valley. He is the president of the Kern County Bar Association. He has argued cases in front of the California Supreme Court, and for nearly 40 years has fought day in and day out for the rights of injured workers.

For more than 30 years, Best Lawyers has assisted those in need of legal services to identify the attorneys best qualified to represent them in distant jurisdictions or unfamiliar specialties. Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Its methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

Attorneys are nominated for consideration. They are divided by geographic region and practice areas, and are evaluated by their peers on the basis of professional expertise. Those who receive high peer reviews undergo an authentication process to make sure they are currently practicing and in good standing. Only then can top attorneys be included in Best Lawyers.

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If you or someone you know is injured on the job, or involved in an accident at the fault of someone else, please contact the Best Lawyers honorees at Chain | Cohn | Stiles by calling (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles celebrates 43rd Philippine Weekend in Delano

July 26, 2017 | 9:30 am


For 42 years, thousands of people from all around Kern County and the world have come together in the northern Kern County city of Delano to celebrate the vibrant Filipino history and culture during Philippine Weekend. And the 43rd year looks to continue to add to the rich memories and traditions that come with the annual event.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles is proud to be a sponsor of the Philippine Weekend once again this year, and are looking forward to celebrate the various contests, fiestas and tournaments that are in store. Here are a few details for just a few of the festivities you can join:

Activities for the Whole Family  

  • Adobo Cook-Off: A competition highlighting the powerful flavors of the very popular Filipino dish will take place at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, July 28, at Cecil Avenue Park. Workers’ compensation* lawyer James Yoro will be a judge once again this year. Yoro, who has been a lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles for 35 years, this year became the first president of Filipino descent of the Kern County Bar Association.
  • Grand Parade: A parade full of floats, bands, marching groups, and car and bike clubs will celebrate the rich Filipino history throughout downtown Delano at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 29.
  • Barrio Fiesta: The Barrio Fiesta brings together some of the values that Filipino people hold dear: pageantry, laughter, relationships and drama. It will feature food vendors and entertainment from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 29 and 30, at Cecil Avenue Park.
  • Basketball Tournament: This is the event that started the Philippine Weekend celebration in 1974. The tournament will not only feature teams from around the city and Central Valley, but also teams from around California. The tournament will run from July 29 through July 31 at Delano and Cesar Chavez High School.
  • More Activities: For a full schedule, click here or go to philippineweekend.org.

The Man Behind the Weekend

Many, if not all, of the events that take place during the Philippine Weekend carry the spirit and character of Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal is the Filipino national hero, who had dreams and beliefs so strong that he was able to bring forth the dreams and beliefs of Filipinos around the nation. When he died, his drive and determination became infectious to all the Filipino people.

This weekend blends the elder traditions that were born in the Philippines with the traditions that are being created in America.

The different contests that have come about during these weekends provide respect, sportsmanship, and growth throughout the Filipino community. The realization of the different contests and celebrations would not be possible if it wasn’t for the hardworking people whose dreams and beliefs were as strong as Dr. Jose Rizal.

A Cause for Good 

Philippine Weekend started in 1974 as a humble basketball tournament designed to pass on the rich traditions of Filipino culture. Fast forward to today, and Philippine Weekenden compasses a dozen events that span over the course of three days and draws massive crowds.

Community volunteering and local business sponsorships like the ones from Chain | Cohn | Stiles are the backbone for the Philippine Weekend, itself a nonprofit organization. These sponsorships allow the different events from the weekend to expand and improve with each year. They also provide graduating high school students with scholarships towards their college education.

Make sure to look for Chain | Cohn | Stiles in Philippine Weekend program books, website, souvenir book, and media coverage throughout the week.

— By Michael Earnest for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know if hurt in an accident or injured at work, call the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, or visit the website chainlaw.com.

*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Steps to take to identify and prevent heat-related illness at work

June 7, 2017 | 8:53 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo appeared in the Kern Business Journal

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Summer is here, and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Kern County, employers and employees must take precautions against the summer heat.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death, with local agricultural and construction industries are particularly affected when temperatures rise.

Under California’s Heat Illness Prevention Act, growers and contractors are required to provide water, shade and rest breaks to workers. In addition, supervisors are required to receive training on the signs of heat illness, and fines for not adhering to these rules could reach $25,000.

In addition, employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. To successfully tailor procedures to your work activities, evaluate and consider the special conditions at your work site. An employer should consider the size of the crew, the length of the work-shift, the ambient temperature, and the presence of personal protective equipment or additional sources of heat.

If you as a worker begin to suffer any of the signs or symptoms associated with heatstroke, you should immediately notify supervisors so that remedial steps can be taken. Do not delay in reporting your situation, as heat-related medical conditions can be life-threatening if left unattended. If first aid is not sufficient to treat symptoms or complaints, and medical attention is required, the filing of a workers’ compensation claim may be necessary.

Here are some other notes to keep in mind regarding heat-related illnesses:

 

Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water and salt; in other words, the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, and rapid heartbeat. If not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, the most serious of heat-related illnesses.

During a heatstroke, a person’s core body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, which directly affects the nervous system. Symptoms of heatstroke include fainting, throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, lack of sweating, hot or dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, confusion, disorientation, staggering, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 

Prevention

There are several ways to avoid a heat-related emergency. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid loss. Drink plenty of water when you know you will be in a hot environment. Make sure to wear loose, light, and lightweight clothing when exposed to heat to encourage heat release. Avoid hot, heavy meals during the work day. A heavy meal will divert blood flow to aid with digestion. Make sure to take frequent breaks to rest under shade, and hydrate.

In the event of a heat-related emergency, call 9-1-1. Move the victim to a cool shaded area, and loosen and remove any heavy clothing. If the person is still conscious, have them drink cool water, and try cooling the person down by fanning them. If ice is available, place ice packs are on the person’s head, armpits and groin. Heat-related illnesses are 100 percent preventable.

 

James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney focusing on work injuries at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles wins ‘Kern Green Award’ for making positive environmental impact in Kern County

May 24, 2017 | 10:04 am


Chain | Cohn | Stiles law firm has been awarded a 2017 Kern Green Award, which recognizes business, organizations and individuals going above and beyond to make a positive environmental impact in Kern County.

The Bakersfield-based personal injury and workers’ compensation law firm won the award in the “Green Building Material and Design” category for the array of “green” features in its new office in downtown Bakersfield.

The Kern Green Awards Gala took place May 10 at Aera Energy LLC. Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney and partner Jim Yoro and marketing director Jorge Barrientos accepted the award from representatives of Granite Construction, which sponsored the award.

“We here at the law firm are committed not only to the revitalization of the downtown Bakersfield area, but we want to do so in an environmentally conscious way,” said Yoro, veteran workers’ compensation lawyer with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, accepting the award. “We took the initiative when we were building our new office to keep that in mind, and go ‘green’ as much as we could.”

 

‘GREEN’ BUILDING 

After spending 30 years in the Bank of America building on Chester and Truxtun avenues, the 83-year-old local law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles moved into a new building, and in doing so contributed tremendously to the revitalization of downtown Bakersfield.

The six-month renovation of the 30,000 square-foot building on the southwest corner of Chester Avenue and 18th Street changed the landscape of one of downtown Bakersfield’s most historic intersections. With the help of architect Paul Skarphol and contractor Dave Whitezell, Chain | Cohn | Stiles took a shell of a building that once housed Goodwill Industries and sat vacant for nearly three years, and turned it into a modern workplace for the 30-employee firm, while instilling “green” measures that took into account our environment.

Some of the green elements instilled by Chain | Cohn | Stiles include:

  • LED, energy efficient lighting throughout the building, which use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Motion sensor lighting and outlets to guarantee computers and other equipment aren’t wasting energy.
  • Cutting-edge, high-tech, energy-efficient climate control system to cut down on unnecessary heating and air conditioning; more than 20 thermostat stations. The Daikin air conditioning and heating unit uses an inverter that can save 30 percent more in energy than traditional non-inverter units. Considering HVAC systems occupy about 40 percent of a building’s entire energy consumption, the savings are immense.
  • Water-based paint.
  • Recycled carpet.

In addition, the front lobby – with hanging LED ring lights, a glass LED lit logo sign – is a welcoming sight for clients and visitors. New windows were also cut into 17-inch reinforced concrete walls on the north side of the building, creating more natural light into work spaces. The law firm has worked with Boss Pizza and Bakersfield Downtown Business Association to install energy-saving lights to make the alleyway and nearby area safer.

A challenge for law firms who care about the environment involves the huge amounts of paper produced. To tackle this challenge, Chain | Cohn | Stiles scans and stores all documents electronically. The firm also employs email and fax capabilities, which do not require the printing of documents to send.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles held its official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 7, 2015, and celebrated its one-year anniversary in the building in late 2016. For its work, Chain | Cohn | Stiles was nominated for a Beautiful Bakersfield Award, also received the Downtown Beautification Project award from the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association.

 

KERN GREEN

Kern Green, a local non-profit committed to protecting the environment through education and awareness, partners with local organizations to promote a more sustainable future in Kern County. Kern Green works with residents, schools, businesses, other local non-profits and the community to demonstrate the social, economic and environmental benefits of integrating green practices in daily work and professional life. Kern Green intends to focus on the positive sustainability efforts in Kern County and celebrate them with the public.

Kern County has one of the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases in California, and Bakersfield ranks as having one of the worst air pollution ratings in the country. The level of air pollution in the region of Kern County poses both environmental and public health risks. From increased respiratory diseases to damage to the area’s ecosystems, there is a serious need to address the air pollution problem in this region. While geographical and topographical issues play a role in the problem, the level of industrial activities, the presence of major transportation corridors, and the car-dominant design of the population centers also contribute heavily to the region’s problems. The Kern Green program provides education and resources for businesses and residents to reduce their environmental impact and improve quality-of-life in the region.

The Kern Green Awards banquet acknowledges and provides positive reinforcement to students, educators, businesses and individuals for their efforts to perform green and sustainable practices.

To see photos from the 2017 Kern Green Awards Banquet, please click here.

‘Law Day at the Mall’ provides free legal advice to people of Kern County

May 10, 2017 | 10:15 am


Once a year, lawyers throughout Kern County come together for one day to offer free legal advice to anyone who may have a legal question.

It’s called “Law Day at the Mall,” and it took place on May 4 at Valley Plaza Mall in Bakersfield.

“What we try to do is give the public the opportunity to come out for a few hours talk to lawyer in a variety of fields and ask whatever questions they may have, and get some free information,” said James Yoro, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer on KGET-17’s Sunrise Show. Yoro also serves as the president of the Kern County Bar Association.

Yoro continued: “What we try to do is give people the opportunity to have a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting with lawyers that they normally may not go to, but here’s their opportunity to ask whatever legal questions they may have and hopefully get some answers to help them in whatever their situation might be … All of their attorneys are volunteering their time on a pro-bono basis, so that members of the public will get this opportunity.”

“Law Day” is presented by the Kern County Bar Association in collaboration with the Kern County Law Library, which is a self-help center that provides legal resources to assist those representing themselves in court. First celebrated in 1958, Law Day is a day to honor the rule of law, and an opportunity to educate the public. It’s officially celebrated on May 1 each year in the United States.

“Law Day” is celebrated in other places throughout Kern County as well. At Bakersfield College each year, the campus hosts a conference focused on law, including panels and information sessions for prospective law school students.

It’s also a chance for individuals to discuss these issues with the confidential nature of an attorney-client relationship without actually forming such a relationship. Dozens of attorneys are available during “Law Day at the Mall,” and have expertise on family law, criminal defense, real estate, personal injury, workers’ compensation, immigration, and much more.

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If you or someone you know is injured at work or at the fault of someone else, please call the personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. Chain | Cohn | Stiles always provide free consultations on your potential injury case.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyer James Yoro named president of Kern County Bar Association

January 25, 2017 | 1:27 pm


James A. Yoro, veteran workers’ compensation* attorney and senior partner with Chain | Cohn | Stiles, has been named the 2017 president of the Kern County Bar Association.

Yoro was installed as president during the annual Kern County Bar Association Installation Dinner on Thursday, Jan. 19, at Bakersfield Country Club. He joins a long list of prominent local attorneys who have had the honor of leading the historic Kern County Bar Association as president. To see a full list, click here.

Additionally, Chain | Cohn | Stiles associate Felicia Schoepfer-Altmiller was inducted as the vice chairwoman of the Multi-Cultural Bar Alliance. Other officers inducted into KCBA are Chris Hagan, vice president; Doug Gosling, treasurer; Joseph Hughes, secretary; and Isaac St. Lawrence, immediate past president.

Yoro, who is in his 35th year of serving Kern County as a workers’ compensation attorney, was introduced as president during the ceremony by longtime colleague David V. Stiles, of Chain | Cohn | Stiles. The biography below was featured in the event program, and was written by his two adult daughters, Carli Yoro and Kelsey Yoro-Bacay. Yoro was also featured in the February 2017 issue of the Kern County Bar Association monthly magazine, Res Ipsa Loquitur.

 

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Jim Yoro has led a life that many would define as The American Dream. Jim was born in Manila, Philippines to Juliana and Cesario Yoro, a Filipino World War II veteran who served in the United States Army. Jim spent the first 4 years of his life living in the boarding house his parents ran for medical students attending the University of Santo Tomas, one of the oldest colleges in Asia. At 4, he immigrated to the United States as a U.S. Citizen with his mother after his father had established himself in the small, rural community of Bakersfield, California.

Jim had a traditional Catholic upbringing attending St. Francis elementary and middle school and Garces Memorial High School. He served as an altar boy at St. Francis church from the ages of 10 to 15. While attending Garces, a teacher suggested Jim take part in the school’s moot court exercises and Jim became enamored with the process. After graduating from Garces, he attended Bakersfield College for one year and then transferred to the University of California, Berkeley. In 1975, he graduated Cum Laude with a degree in political science and economics. Having fallen in love with the Bay Area and still interested in law, he obtained his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, then known as Boalt Hall.

Upon graduation, Jim fulfilled a promise to his mother to return to Bakersfield and serve his community as a lawyer at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance, a non-profit legal aid. His first trial as a young attorney was a class action civil rights case in which Jim represented African American teenagers who had been kicked out of a local dance unfairly. After 3 years of practicing at GBLA, Jim joined a thriving, local firm then known as Chain, Younger, Jameson, Lemucchi, Noriega, Cohn and Stiles. After handling a family law, criminal defense and personal injury caseload, he found his stride as a worker’s compensation attorney and is now a Bar Certified specialist in Workers Compensation Law.

Jim continues to serve the greater Bakersfield community in several different capacities. Jim is currently a senior partner with the same firm, Chain, Cohn, and Stiles, where he has practiced law for over 30 years. Still devoted to his non-profit roots, Jim has served as the Chairman of the Board of GBLA and is currently on its Board of Directors. He is also on the board of the California Applicant’s Attorneys Association, a statewide organization of Workers’ Compensation Attorneys dedicated to advancing the interests of injured workers throughout the state.  Jim has also been a past Board member for Kern Regional Center.  For the last 6 years, Jim has had the privilege of serving the KCBA in a number of positions where he has been on various ad hoc committees and represented KCBA as a delegate at the 2012 CCBA Conference of Delegates. Throughout Jim’s legal career, he has tried and won cases at the Superior, Appellate and Supreme Court levels in California. Jim is honored to continue his service to KCBA and the greater Bakersfield legal community in the office of President.

As President, Jim hopes to promote the same value of service to the community that originally inspired him to pursue law. Jim would like to encourage all members of the bar association to do their part to contribute to the community whether that’s through pro bono work, volunteering for local mock trial competitions, or participating in local non-profit activities. Throughout Jim’s legal career, he has constantly been reminded that a life without cause is a life without effect and hopes to spread this message during his presidency.

Jim has been married to his lovely wife Reverie for 37 years and they have two wonderful daughters. Their eldest daughter Kelsey is an immigration attorney in Sacramento and recently married a young Central Valley doctor. Their youngest daughter Carli just graduated from her dad’s alma mater UC Berkeley and is working as an energy efficiency consultant for an Oakland based environmental company.

When Jim has free time, he enjoys attending sporting events, swimming, running with his dog, taking trips to the central coast with his wife, visiting Northern California to spend time with his daughters, and kicking his new son-in-law’s butt in fantasy football.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorney, Kern County Bar Association VP discusses proposed State Bar rule changes

December 7, 2016 | 8:47 am


As it stands today, the State Bar’s rules allow for lawyers in California to engage in sexual relationships with clients, provided that the relationship isn’t a form of payment for representation, obtained by “coercion, intimidation or undue influence,” or one that causes the attorney to “perform legal services incompetently.”

Now, State Bar of California — the state legal profession’s self-regulatory body — is considering a ban on sexual relations between attorneys and their clients as one of nearly 70 code revisions. It’s been almost 30 years since the California Bar Association last revised its ethics rules.

Recently, Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation lawyer James Yoro provided insight to Kern County residents regarding proposed changes to the State Bar rules. Yoro is the current vice president of the Kern County Bar Association, and will be president next year.

“This kind of conduct is pretty much commonsensical, but I understand maybe it needs to be expressed very clearly, very explicitly so that there is no misunderstanding,” Yoro said recently in a news interview with Bakersfield’s KBFX-58 Eyewitness News.

The State Bar’s ethics commission in charge of the changes says that the goal of the rule change is to “promote trust and confidence in the legal profession and the administration of justice.”

Opponents of the rule changes say they are patronizing to clients unreasonably prohibitive where the client is sophisticated and not vulnerable, as well as an overly intrusive and over-broad regulation of private affairs between consenting adults.

Yoro said while there are some privacy concerns, he believes attorneys should be held to higher standards.

“One of the tenets of legal ethics is that we should not only try to avoid impropriety, but even the appearance of impropriety,” Yoro said.

The American Bar Association already prohibits attorneys from having sex with clients, unless the sexual relationship preceded the legal one. The proposed change in California would exempt spouses, allowing one member of a married couple to represent the other without disciplinary rebuke.

Lawyers who violate regulations are subject to discipline, including loss of their legal license. California’s Supreme Court and is expected to approve the rules in March.

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If you or someone you know has been sexually harassed at work, or worked with an attorney who has committed legal malpractice, please contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles for a free consultation. Call (661) 323-4000 or visit the law firm’s website at chainlaw.com.

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MEDIA COVERAGE

Community Voices: Bad workers’ compensation laws in California are costing taxpayers

October 26, 2016 | 9:02 am


Editor’s Note: The following article appeared as a Community Voices article in the Oct. 14, 2016, Opinion section of The Bakersfield  Californian. To read the article in print format, click here. To see the article online, click here

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Taxpayers: Bad workers’ comp laws in California are costing you

By James A. Yoro

As a business owner, I have a personal investment in the health and welfare of my employees. Not only do I want a safe working environment but if, God forbid, they get injured, I want them to be taken care of so that they can return to work as soon as they recover.  That is what I expect for the insurance premium dollars I have spent.

A workers’ compensation system that provides adequate support to injured workers is a key component to the social safety net that we as a society have all agreed is necessary. It provides a fair and balanced approach to the costs of doing business and the unfortunate inevitability of on-the-job injuries.

Continuing erosion of these safety net benefits result in harmful and widespread economic consequences to the injured worker. What often goes unnoticed and unmentioned is the fact that we all will ultimately bear the brunt of this denial of benefits as a result of the cost shifting that occurs.

In fact, it’s costing you, my fellow taxpayers, right now.

California’s private workers’ compensation insurance carriers so effectively lobbied California’s legislators that they have eroded the system to the extent that the costs for the long-term care and disability for injured workers in the state often falls on taxpayers through the Medicare, Medi-Cal and Social Security system. This is an undue burden to the taxpayers and a shirking of the insurance company’s responsibilities. California’s workers’ compensation insurers continue to collect premiums from California’s employers all to increase their profits while California’s injured workers ultimately have to rely on taxpayer-funded systems.

A recent U.S. Department of Labor report (“Does the workers’ compensation system fulfill its obligations to injured workers?” – Oct. 5, 2016) outlines the troubling condition faced by injured workers because state-sponsored workers’ compensation programs throughout the nation are failing to provide even rudimentary benefits.

“Other social benefit systems … have expanded our social safety net, while the workers’ compensation safety net has been shrinking. There is growing evidence that costs of workplace-related disability are being transferred to other benefit programs, placing additional strains on these programs at a time when they are already under considerable stress.”

For example, here in California, benefits paid to injured workers to replace lost wages during the time off needed to recover from an injury have been capped at 104 weeks. The consequence of this is that those most seriously injured who do not recover in that amount of time face severe financial pressures. With no other similar benefit available, the burden to survive falls on the disabled worker, and ultimately the taxpayers.

The labor department report calls for an increase in the federal role of oversight including the appointment of a new national commission and establishment of minimum standards.

Business owners and employers should all be contacting their legislative representatives and demanding an end to this continuing degradation of rights and benefits to our hard-working labor force.

I am not a proponent of federal intervention into our states workers’ compensation system; however, this report should serve as a wake-up call to all of us. If we do not take care of our injured workers, then the threat of big government casting its shadow across our Golden State looms large in our foreseeable future.

James A. Yoro is a certified workers’ compensation attorney, a senior partner at the Bakersfield-based injury and workers’ compensation law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, and has nearly 40 years of experience in the practice.

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If you or someone you know is hurt on the job, contact our workers’ compensation attorneys by calling (661) 323-4000 or chainlaw.com.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Safety Tips: ‘Cumulative trauma’ injuries from work, and how to avoid them

August 31, 2016 | 6:00 am


NOTE: The article below, written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles workers’ compensation attorneys James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo, appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of the Kern Business Journal. The Journal is a bi-monthly publication by The Bakersfield Californian that showcases business and industry developments across Kern County.

This article focuses on important tips to prevent cumulative trauma injuries in the workplace. This occurs when there is repetitive strain in the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons. To view the article in the publication, click here. To see the entire publication online, click here

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In today’s technology-driven work life, it is easy to imagine an 8-hour day sitting behind a computer screen. Alternatively, we are exposed to long hours of standing or repetitive movements, which may lead to what is called a cumulative trauma injury, which occurs over time, as opposed to one caused by a particular event leading to a specific injury.

California law recognizes both of these injuries equally. The following are some tips for avoiding repetitive trauma injuries in the workplace:

Take breaks and use them wisely

No matter what activity you perform most in your daily work life – sitting, typing, lifting or bending, for example – your body is not likely meant to tolerate it for long periods of time. Make sure to take breaks from these activities by avoiding them. Avoid leaving your desk to simply sit in the break room. Avoid straining your eyes at your computer to check text messages on your phone. Instead do what would seem like the opposite – like walking or stretching.

Make sure to tell your doctor

The most common question in a cumulative trauma injury is, “When did the symptoms start?” It is quite rare for a person to actually remember the first time they experienced any type of symptoms. For the most part, a person will ignore symptoms and simply attribute them to being tired or sore in hopes that they will go away. However, this is rarely the case. A cumulative trauma injury is one with a prolonged period of injurious exposure. This means that whatever activity you are performing at work is causing your pain and discomfort and will continue to accumulate unless you change something.

Stay hydrated

With temperatures above 100 degrees, it’s easy to fall behind on liquid intake. Dehydration and heat exhaustion poses a threat particularly for people engaged in outdoor activities. The long Kern County summers makes this threat an ongoing issue that must be addressed daily.

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Stress can impair your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness and injury. Often we are confined to the daily routine without proper rest which leads to stress if an appropriate break or vacation is not enjoyed. Vacations are an important part of maintaining a healthy and long work life. Remember, rest and rejuvenation is vital components to avoiding injury from repetitive work activities.

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RELATED MEDIA

— Compiled by Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.