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Applied Economics: Business, Personal and Complex Litigation

When Steven Sanchez was a senior at Stanford University he had two forward paths from which to choose. He could use his degree in Economics to attain an MBA followed by entry into any number of business ventures. He also had the opportunity to further his education in another direction—earn a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of Berkeley. The opportunity to study law at Berkeley was one of those “too good to pass up” opportunities that rarely come along, so Sanchez entered law school.
The decision has proven to be a wise one, not only for his 30-year career as a civil litigator, but also for the many high-profile clients who seek his advice and legal counsel.
“Economics really helps out in the area of damages and the monetary aspects of business litigation. It comes up in every case: damage theories, theories of loss, opportunity costs, how businesses work and so on. Most of the business litigation cases focus on how the business at issue works in addition to loss, opportunity cost and damages. It’s really helpful and as a result of my education in economics I am usually at least on even footing or even ahead when I examine opposing damages experts,” Sanchez says.
His firm has represented such notable companies as Jack in the Box Inc., the San Diego Unified Port District, the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System, the San Diego Padres, and Wells Fargo Bank in both plaintiff and defense matters. He was also co-trial counsel on the highly publicized cases, PLC v. Wells Fargo Bank, and Alpert v. Cuesta Title.

BUILDING A DREAM-COME-TRUE PRACTICE
Sanchez’s work ethic is an inherited trait. His father was the son of Mexican immigrants who came to the United States as laborers. His father was the first in his family to learn English and the first to attend college, where he studied medicine. A benefactor paid for a large share of his father’s education based on a handshake agreement that his father would practice medicine in a primarily Hispanic community.
The family moved to Bonita, where The Law Office of Steven W. Sanchez is now based. “I grew up in Bonita. Today my office is right across the street from my old junior high school bus stop. I love bringing my business back home,” he says.
The work ethic Sanchez emulated was expressed throughout his life, particularly in law school where his awards and honors course of study included moot court (oral argument), appellate advocacy, real property law, and professional responsibility.
The trait is evident today in the manner in which Sanchez approaches each case. He is a very hands-on attorney.
He reads everything relevant to the case and generally conducts his own research, takes all the depositions, and does all the trial work. When contract attorneys are tasked with research he reads the cases they cite and makes sure that they’ve read them correctly. Sanchez faults the approach some attorneys take in not knowing their case before taking depositions. He believes that the attorney should study the case first and take the deposition with a clear purpose and not just as a fact-finding mission.
Sanchez says there is no excuse for not being prepared. “One of the biggest mistakes lawyers make in writing legal briefs or in oral argument is that they rely on a general recollection of the law or evidence, rather than read or re-read the relevant cases, documents, or depositions in detail. An attorney can’t rely on a general memory of the law or evidence.”
More than clients have expressed enthusiastic support for Sanchez and his approach. In the mid-1990s, he was asked to be co-trial counsel with Dave Noonan on a very substantial, highly publicized case. The damages had been established on a motion for partial summary judgment at more than $125 million, which the client (a national organization) could pay. The sole issue for trial was the client’s good faith with respect to the transactions that led to the $125+ million in damages. A large, national law firm represented the plaintiff. Sanchez’s trial work was so effective that at one point the opposing accountant expert witness broke down and cried during his cross-examination. At the end of about a four-week trial, when the Court was dismissing the jury—they obtained a judgment in the client’s favor that was favorably settled on appeal—the Court asked the jurors if they wanted to say anything to the lawyers. Before a full house, including the media, one juror stood up, pointed at Sanchez, and said, “If I ever need a lawyer, I’m hiring Mr. Sanchez.”
Sanchez says, “I learned early on that if you want to win your case, you need to know your case. I am immersed in every case.” He was an attorney at Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge LLP (formerly Post, Kirby, Noonan, & Sweat) for 28 years. One of his responsibilities as a partner was teaching young, incoming lawyers litigation skills. His constant advice was to know their case better than they knew their favorite book or movie. The Law Office of Steven W. Sanchez was launched July 1, 2016 and now employs Sanchez, Christina Ramirez (legal secretary, paralegal, office manager) and Andrea Russell (contract attorney). “Today all that hard work has paid off. My clients are great. My practice is challenging, which I love, and I’m now living and working in the beautiful environment where I grew up. This is a dream come true,” he says.

CREATING A NEW BUSINESS MODEL FOR ATTORNEYS
When Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge began planning an amical dissolution, Sanchez decided that it was time to create his own firm. He first evaluated what attracts and retains good clients. He boiled it down to two items: exemplary service and fair price. He had the education and practical experience to provide the service. The fair price aspect was addressed by abandoning the concept of a high-profile office in the expensive downtown environment and that is when he returned to Bonita. His firm doesn’t have an office with a huge brick and mortar overhead, but he says his clients don’t really care where the phone call, e-mail, documents or advice and counsel come from. Most of his people in the law office are allowed and even encouraged to work remotely. The logistics for handling cases has changed over the past ten years. Most courts now accept electronic filings. Most hearings can be handled telephonically. Most court reporting firms have convenient locations for depositions. From the client’s perspective, the location of an attorney’s office is becoming more and more irrelevant.
Sanchez says, “We live in an era of specialization. There are attorneys who specialize in electronic discovery. There are attorneys who only handle appeals. Very few attorneys have experience in, and excel at, all substantive aspects of handling a case. Our firm has experience in, and excels at, all substantive aspects of handling a case, from written discovery, legal research, legal writing, document review and taking depositions to trial and appeal.”
He has represented a prominent company for 30 years on every sort of case from slip and fall defense to large class actions. When he changed from having an expensive downtown office to an office in Bonita, his overhead was reduced by 85–95 percent. When he met with the top executives of the company to inform them of the move they asked about rates. They asked if he could work for a certain rate, which was less than what they were paying attorneys in more expensive downtown office environments, he immediately agreed. “I said ‘absolutely’ and right there on the spot they sent me an enormous amount of business.”
“My clients say my way of reducing overhead is the way of the future, that we’re going to change the way lawyers do business,” he says.

COMBINING THE LEGAL WITH THE COMMON SENSE APPROACH
Sanchez loves the intellectual challenge of the law and the equally challenging role of putting those principles to work in litigation. “Beyond the law itself, what I love most about the law is winning and cross examination. Winning is challenging. You dig in, work hard and get results. You get to cross examine people and search for the truth. You expose the truth. I still have a passion for being prepared for examining witnesses. I enjoy going to trial,” Sanchez says.
He says knowing the law is not enough to win a case, that there are two aspects to every victory at trial. One is understanding of the law as it applies to each case and, two, being able to state the client’s position in a way that is reasonable. “You can be right on the law, but if your position doesn’t sound reasonable or fair to the jury or the judge you’re not going to win. You need the legal argument plus the common sense aspects of the case,” he says.
He cites a particularly challenging case to make the point.
Another firm had a client with a case that was pending in a U.S. Territory, a case that was very important to her business. About six months before trial the attorney handling the case tragically and unexpectedly died. Sanchez was not involved, but he volunteered to go try the case. The opposing party was from that territory and a member of a very well-connected political family in the territory. The witnesses were from the territory and the legal team was told many times that a California party with a California attorney could never win against those odds. To ram home the point, they noted that one of the side streets leading to the courthouse is named after the opposing party. The trial included many examples of provincial conduct from the trial (such as the audience marching out en masse during his opening statement or the head of the political family being allowed to testify for four days). Despite the odds, Sanchez succeeded. The jury awarded the opposing party nothing on their disputed damages claims and awarded his client substantial damages on her counterclaim.
He has been hired to go back to that same U.S. Territory in January 2019 to try a different case.
Sanchez says, “I have experience in, and personally handle, every substantive aspect of the case, including written discovery, legal research, legal writing, document review, taking depositions, trial, and appeal. I have experience in, and have won, very high dollar damage cases, high profile cases, and high publicity cases. I have won cases at the pleading stage, on summary judgment, at trial, and on appeal. An important part of my practice is working with lawyers on their cases so that my successes are their—and their client’s—successes.” “Above all, I still have the passion to seek the truth,” he adds.

» EDUCATION

  • University of California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986
  • Stanford University, B.A., 1983

» PROFESSIONAL MEMBERSHIPS AND ACTIVITIES

  • State Bar of California
  • San Diego County Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Association of Trial Lawyers of America
  • American Inns of Court – Louis M. Welsh Chapter
  • Published, Los Angeles Daily Journal
  • AV Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell
  • "Top Lawyers" San Diego Magazine

» ADMITTED TO PRACTICE

  • California State Courts
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Contact
Steven Sanchez
The Law Office of Steven W. Sanchez
4045 Bonita Road, Suite 112
Bonita, California 91902
619-434-1160
www.stevensanchezlaw.com

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