Kern County’s ‘Immigration Justice Collaborative’ aims to educate community on legal rights

January 24, 2018 | 10:06 am


The following “President’s Message” was published in the April 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. The article focuses on immigration policy in the United States, which continues to be a topic of debate today, and highlights a group of local lawyers — including Chain | Cohn | Stiles attorneys — aiming to educate our community on their rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, separation of powers, and the status of changes in immigration policy. 

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Immigration Justice Collaborative

By James A. Yoro

At my installation dinner in January, I announced that “service” would be the theme for my year as president of the Kern County Bar Association. In my speech, I asked every attorney in our organization to make a commitment to provide voluntary service to our profession and our community.

In February, I attended an event initiated by Judge Robert Tafoya (with the help of the KCBA’s Multicultural Bar Alliance) that brought together members of the Bench and Bar with representatives of multiple local educational programs that promoted responsible citizenship in order to support, develop and encourage a partnership that would benefit our local youth and our profession. I was surprised to see how well attended this event was by both Bench and Bar especially since it was the first time such an event was organized. I felt encouraged that my theme for the year was being taken seriously by so many members of our organization.

Last month in my president’s message for the Res Ipsa Loquitir, I commented about the uplifting example of lawyers around the country volunteering their services to individuals who were harshly affected by the Trump Executive Order on immigration. Little did I know at the time that there was a movement being initiated by a group of local attorneys who are also doing the same thing here in Kern County. They called themselves the Immigration Justice Collaborative. When I found out about their efforts, I contacted Beto Sala who was one of the organizers of this assemblage of lawyers. He immediately welcomed me and my associate’s participation and invited me to attend an upcoming town hall meeting that was being staged at the CSU Bakersfield campus. When I arrived at the event, I was astonished to see a standing room only crowd of more than 300 people packed into the auditorium listening intently to the presentations being given by more than 15 attorneys with diverse law practices all volunteering their time in order to educate a sometimes frightened and confused public. Numerous attorneys stayed well after the event was over in order to respond to the individual questions that many in the audience did not want to ask publicly.

Afterwards, I asked Beto to tell me more about the Immigration Justice Collaborative and here is the information he provided:

“The IJC was created in mid-November 2016 in response to widespread uncertainty regarding the status of non-citizens in the United States. After the election, there were many instances of children being mocked and bullied at school. Children were being told that they and their parents would be deported and that a great wall would be built to keep them out. Many people were told there would be mass raids and deportations. This created an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and racist treatment towards immigrants. In response, a group of lawyers convened to establish the IJC, which is comprised of local attorneys who practice in diverse fields of law, including immigration, civil rights, employment law, criminal defense and family law. All the lawyers are volunteers. The goal of the IJC is to reach out to communities affected by the President’s executive orders to inform them of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the significance of the rule of law, separation of powers, and the status of changes in immigration policy. Each presentation consists of 12 or more lawyers. Thus far, the IJC has been to east Bakersfield, Lamont, Delano and CSUB. The IJC has reached over 1,000 members of the community and is expected to reach thousands more in the near future. The response by the community has been overwhelmingly favorable. There are numerous pending requests from other communities in Kern County to conduct attorney presentations. Recently, the IJC sent a letter to each principal of every school in Kern County, which was signed by 19 lawyers. The letter places the schools on notice of the legal requirements of protecting students against bullying by other students who resort to racially derogatory remarks and attacks. The California Endowment has funded a film documentary of the efforts of the IJC. We have been informed by the producers of the film that the IJC is unprecedented, and consequently they intend to distribute the film nationwide.”

It is my understanding that the IJC will soon have a website and Facebook page that the public can access.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and commend the attorneys involved for their selfless commitment to the public and to the profession.

The following lawyers are members of the Immigration Justice Collaborative (IJC):

  • H.A. Sala
  • David Torres
  • Daniel Rodriguez
  • RL Hutchison
  • Vanessa Sanchez
  • Beatriz Trejo
  • Edgar Aguilasocho
  • Edyta Christina Grzybowska-Grant
  • Emilio Huerta
  • Emily Milnes
  • Gabriel Godinez
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Win Eaton
  • Xochitl Garcia
  • Joel Andreesen
  • Mai Shawwa
  • Sarah Rich
  • Marcos Vargas
  • Monica Bermudez
  • Richard Rivera
  • Claudia Lopez
  • David Leon
  • Jose Guerrero

Keep up the good work. You are all an exceptional example of why I am so proud to be a lawyer in this community.

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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 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.

‘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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