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Criminal Defense Attorney in SF Bay Area. Formerly worked as public defender in Philadelphia. During this time, I also coached high school debate for four academic years at LaSalle College High School, just outside of Philadelphia.
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Attorney at Law
Louis Goodman 0:04
Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer we will talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experiences of been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show. And yes, I'm a lawyer. Nobody's perfect. He has extensive experience as both a civil and criminal litigator. He served as a Public Defender handling numerous felony and misdemeanor matters. He has been part of civil litigation teams supporting mass tort and class action cases. He has coached High School debate teams. He currently is a senior associate litigating criminal matters throughout the Bay Area. Joe McPeak. Welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Joe McPeak 0:57
I love what you're doing. Thanks for having me.
Louis Goodman 0:59
Pleasure to have you. Where's your office right now?
Joe McPeak 1:03
Well, our main office, will often call our HQ is in downtown Hayward, right in the heart of downtown here. We're actually on a block of Main Street between A Street and B. It's a great location, central, which helps us because not only are we very active in Alameda, we're active all throughout the bay. So having that central location is really helpful. And it also helps that I personally happen to live just about five or 10 minutes away in Castro Valley, which makes my work life balance pretty. It's excellent, actually, for my purposes, and but we also have offices in Walnut Creek, Manteca, San Jose, and in Oakland as well.
Louis Goodman 1:40
How many people are in your firm?
Joe McPeak 1:44
Well, I'll be attorneys. There's myself, like I said earlier on the senior associate. I'm mostly focused on our felonies. And you know many of our misdemeanors we also have Daniel, of course, Dan Swanee. He's our lead attorney and the principal of the firm. And we also have Simone shameless, who's our newest associate, who joined us a couple months ago, she used to most recently she worked for a civil firm. But before that, she worked in the Santa Clara gas' office. And I like to say that we stole her because she used to work for the other side. Now she works for us. And every single one of us tries her best to be an asset to our clients.
Louis Goodman 2:19
So where are you from originally?
Joe McPeak 2:21
I'm originally from Philadelphia. I was born there. That's where I went to high school, college and law school. For undergrad I went to St. Joe's University, where I got my Bachelor's in History, and then took a year off. So I could maybe just think for sure what I wanted to go to law school, maybe get a better alphabet score, that kind of thing. I made a commitment. I ended up going to Drexel for Law School, and Chancel now because they were very new law school at the time. But for some of their affiliated University, they're affiliated with a very respectable and it turned out great. And so that's why I went to law school. And that's also why I started practicing law as well, immediately after graduation.
Louis Goodman 2:59
Well, let's start with high school. How was that experience for you?
Joe McPeak 3:03
I went to high school with Sol Sol College High School, which is a yes, fairly outside of Philadelphia. It was Catholic Prep School. That's where I started. That's where I started joining the debate team over there. And that's probably you know, sort of grandma's resume or like no bridge to eventually becoming a lawyer. I had a lot of fun doing that. Of course, as you mentioned earlier, I went back there to coach and you know, I'm still in touch with some of my students who I coached to the SEC.
Louis Goodman 3:31
So you debated for the school, and then later on when you were practicing attorney, you came back and coach that same debate team?
Joe McPeak 3:38
Correct. Yeah, I went back. I went back to the south, who wants to coach their debate team while I was working as a Public Defender in Philadelphia.
Louis Goodman 3:47
When you got out of high school, you went to St. Joseph's University? How was that experience? Anything interesting in terms of extracurriculars there?
Joe McPeak 3:55
Well, I did not continue to be in while I was at St. Joe's College. Forensics was not something that attracted me at that time, but I was pretty involved in other college radio station there and had a lot of fun putting together shows with a friend of mine who I'm now in touch with again, because he has to move out to California as well. I'll be in Southern California. So you know, I had, I was able to put a radio show together with a friend of mine, who was also named Joe actually. And we made that work into our show theme because we're able to come up with a great name. We call it the Joe and Joe Heavy Metal Show. And so we had a lot of fun with that.
Louis Goodman 4:32
Maybe I should start a
Joe McPeak 4:33
podcast we have thought about the idea before he is already actively podcasting himself as a as a freelance music critic and music writer and I'm quite jealous of some of the press credentials that he gets to some of the shows and be able to go to
Louis Goodman 4:47
Well, since you brought it up, what sort of music do you like?
Joe McPeak 4:51
I mean, most of what I listen to is Heavy Metal. I mean, I've seen Iron Maiden five times, including most recently at the Oracle. I don't know if it's still called the Oracle anymore, but we have an idea of what I'm talking about. I have tickets to see Exodus Testament and Death Angel around Thanksgiving. So yeah, that's pretty much mostly what I'm into. And you know, it's kind of cool living now in the day where so much of that scene, at least from American standpoint was developing, of course Metallica is from the Bay Area, you know, sweaters from this from LA, but still, you know, very intimately connected with California.
Louis Goodman 5:25
When you graduated from college, did you go directly to law school or do you take a little time off?
Joe McPeak 5:30
No, I took a little time off. I was able to take a step back to breathe. I took a full time job at the Federal Courthouse in the Clerk's Office, they're in Philadelphia. And like, think about like, do I really want to go to law schools is what I want to do. I wasn't sure what type of law I wanted to practice at that time. But I was pretty confident that I did want to go to law school and become a lawyer.
Louis Goodman 5:50
When did you first start thinking about becoming a lawyer? Go back to the debate in high school?
Joe McPeak 5:57
Yeah, I think that definitely, when you're a debater, it's this kind of that thing that's get into your head, like, oh, like lawyers, that's the thing. That's got to be part of your conversation. Because once I started going to law school, I started to really love the subject matter, especially once I started taking Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure. I was like, that's what I want to do. This is what I want to do. This is what I like to talk about, this is what I want to do. I want all my internships to be in this field. And hopefully my job will be in this field too.
Louis Goodman 6:22
And that was the Drexel University.
Joe McPeak 6:25
Louis Goodman 6:27
When you got out of Drexel, where did you go to work Initially?
Joe McPeak 6:33
I started volunteering for one of the Judges in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, which is you can say if the equivalent in the Superior Court here in California. But that only lasted for about a week, because fortunately, the Public Defender's Office gave me a call, they liked my application, and they decided to give me an interview. And from there, I was able to build off of what I just done on my three year. I got to do what's called a Criminal Litigation Field Clinic. And basically, you know, work at the Public Defender's Office, for course credit, and even handle cases in court as long as our supervisor was there. And I had a lot of fun with that. I was able to basically check off all my boxes. I did a full misdemeanor trial, got them not guilty. I was able to do a Motion To Suppress, got it granted, and also, you know, negotiated a case down for one of my clients. So it was a wonderful experience all around and it was a perfect springboard to eventually working in the Public Defender's Office in Philly.
Louis Goodman 7:28
How long were you in the Philadelphia Public Defender's Office?
Joe McPeak 7:32
Just under four years, and that's where I ended up getting most of my jury trial experience at that point.
Louis Goodman 7:39
So what led you to come to Alameda County and the practicing out of a law firm in Hayward?
Joe McPeak 7:48
Well, my wife, Lisa, she is very smart, very great, and was fortunate enough to get herself a very promising job opportunity as an electrical engineer at a major company here in the Bay Area. So when she said, Hey, like, we can do this, when we move to California, you know, I was like, well, you know, if it's like if I got like a clerkship at the Third Circuit or something she wouldn't have gotten in my way. So I said, you know what, you got the opportunity for Tesla, you know, we should we can't avoid that. So let's go. And now I'm out here.
Louis Goodman 8:22
So what do you think of practicing in California and living in California versus being on the East Coast?
Joe McPeak 8:30
Well, the weather's certainly better. I'll say that. Fires aside. A lot of people throughout the rest country, they don't realize that like those Mid Atlantic states, whether it be New York, Philly, or Baltimore, like, people always see the reports of like a really bad snow during the winter, and they just assume it's colder all the time. And it's like, man, you have no idea how bad those summers are. I definitely noticed that in general, things feel a lot slower and more deliberate when it comes. When it comes to cases that I have, which I don't mind, you know, it's nice to have some time to breathe every once in a while.
Louis Goodman 9:03
What do you really like about practicing law?
Joe McPeak 9:05
I think what I like is, to me, criminal cases are like the most important and most perfect expression of why we have courts, and why we have a justice system.
Louis Goodman 9:19
If someone were just coming out of college, would you recommend to a young person to go into law as a career?
Joe McPeak 9:28
I would as long as they feel like they have a passion for the subject matter. And I think that's really the crucial thing. I mentioned earlier, I have worked in the civil field for a brief period of time. You know, I was very lucky to have the opportunity in that field. But you know, the reality is that I realized after a time that it just was not the type of thing that really motivated me, it was not the type of work that I really loved. And then when I came back to work for Red Metric when Daniel gave me that opportunity. I started noticing as I'm doing things like writing letters to clients, even or typing up subpoenas. I thought wow, this is like the most mundane part of my job and yet, I actually really love it. And I think that is, that was really the sign that yes, I found from a guy to stick with. Don't listen to the haters who are gonna say Oh, like there's way too many like, you know, lawyers out there were like, Oh, I wish I never came to this profession like, you know your son becoming a lawyer like, why didn't you warn him. Haha, and it's like, dude, like Shut the hell up. Like, it's, if they want to do it, you know, it's the masterpass of their happiness, and you should be. And for me, I decided that criminal law was, you know, something that I really liked to get up in the morning and work on. And you know, don't listen to the haters. If that's what you want to do, just go for it. Find yourself gigs in that field via unpaid internships, you might have to start there. Or maybe you can find a job as adjacent to that, and then work your way into actually practicing while there, just keep following it. Because if you like that subject matter, you will notice the rewards coming in
Louis Goodman 10:57
How is actually practicing law met are different from your expectations about it?
Joe McPeak 11:06
I guess that before I went to law school, I think I always expected to be in court, almost non stop. And now we're on classical defense. I am in fact in court non stop. So I just got accepted, challenged, I suppose that I definitely expected there to be a lot more contested evidentiary hearings on the regular like almost all the time, before I started practicing law. And then when I started practicing Philly that was matched, he was fairly close to reality. Now, in California, it seems like they're a little bit separated. But that doesn't mean that you can't make things work for your client just got to do it in a different way. So I would say that that is probably the thing that's most different in terms of expectations versus reality of practicing law.
Louis Goodman 11:48
What about the business of practicing law? How's that gone for you? How do you fit into the business of Red Metric? And how is that either met or different from your expectations about being a lawyer and being a business person? Because very frankly, if you're in the private practice of law, you're in business.
Joe McPeak 12:10
Yeah. So that was definitely something that requires that a lot of adjustment on my part, because being a public defender for a while, it's like you don't have to worry about that. And either my civil views I had no input on, you know, client intake or getting clients to sign up or anything like that. Daniel has done a really good job at noticing what all our strengths and weaknesses are and finding a way to, you know, make sure that the clients or potential clients want to interact or want to seek us out. And you also and we also benefit from our wonderful support staff as well. And we like to think that our clients and potential clients see that and they get the benefit of the whole team supporting them as well.
Louis Goodman 12:50
Is there anything that you know now, you really wish you knew before you started practicing law?
Joe McPeak 12:57
I wish somebody told me how complicated California sentencing was before I moved out here.
Louis Goodman 13:01
What do you think's the best advice that you've ever received?
Joe McPeak 13:04
I guess the best advice I have is from my mom and my dad, that you should follow your path that lines up with your interests, because otherwise you're just going to be unhappy.
Louis Goodman 13:13
Do you think the legal system is fair?
Joe McPeak 13:15
The answer is no. I think we'll often set up to at least potentially operate in a very unfair way. I think, for example, you know, getting back to California sentencing, there's a lot of ways where I think somebody could receive less a disproportionate sentence, even if they are guilty of the crime involved. And you know, sometimes other wrong laws are passed that result in disproportionate results.
Louis Goodman 13:37
I'm going to shift gears a little bit Joe, what's your family life like? And how is practicing law affected that?
Joe McPeak 13:44
Well, unfortunately, again, you know, my wife is understanding that, you know, I'm in a job that's very demanding, but you know, it's part of something I'm genuinely a student doing, because that's kind of the path that she's followed as well as in a different field. But I mean, again, living down the street from our main offices is definitely a huge bonus, plenty of free time to balance with my work. And when I am working, I like what I do. So family less well, we do frequently for certainly before the pandemic we visited Philadelphia quite frequently she will you know, visit family and catch up they're pretty good at that they're pretty good at our firm for you know, allowing us to take vacation time as long as it doesn't conflict with the major core commitments. And so that's definitely a big plus.
Louis Goodman 14:24
Do you have any recreational pursuits, things that you like to do to kind of clear your head when you're not practicing?
Joe McPeak 14:31
All definitely there's listed as a single music. I like putting on a good album in my car or you know, sometimes when I'm just like relaxing at home or you know, I like to buy typically don't like to coach for the legal fiction, not because I think it's inaccurate, but because I just, I don't want to consume more law unnecessarily when I like drunk during my free time because that's my work times for so I like to read a lot of fantasy novels. I read the first few books in the dune series recently. I enjoyed that'll probably pick that up again, later. I'm really excited for the movie that's coming out. And I also just read the Shadow and Bone trilogy, as well. And of course, I'm like, you know, Game of Thrones fan. So are we still on the fan of the books. So that's definitely something I like to do. And I'm looking forward to attending some of my first concerts in several, several, months coming coming down the road. So that would probably be what makes up most of my free time.
Louis Goodman 15:26
What sort of things keep you up at night?
Joe McPeak 15:33
If I have a really complicated case, and I feel like I'm not doing enough to, like, you know, really put the best foot forward, that's something that like really gets at me. And, you know, because I take great pride in my work, I want to I like knowing that I'm doing everything I can, for our client. I take the role of zealous advocacy very seriously. We all do. Everybody should. And, you know, when somebody comes to us to hire us through representative, I always feel for them. And so if I have a particularly complicated case, where like, there's some relevant issue that's unresolved, you know, I think that's something that definitely you find that adds to my stress and, you know, keeps me up at night.
Louis Goodman 16:13
Let's say you and your wife came into some real money, a few billion dollars, what, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Joe McPeak 16:24
Well probably buy a couple of properties overseas, let's say, you know, we talked about everyone. So I was like, you know, a pipe dream. You know, we've talked about like, maybe, maybe getting a property in Spain, or maybe in England or Japan, these are all complete pipe dreams. But you know, they're places we've gone to before. So like, hey, would it be cool if we had a place back there? And it's like, Yeah, that'd be fun. You know, so I'd like to do that definitely travel a lot more. I have not my wife has been to all seven continents. I'm missing one. I have not yet been to Australia. So I need to check that off my list. So amplication? Of course, yes. That means I have been to Antarctica.
Louis Goodman 17:04
Oh, well, tell me a little bit about your travel experience, and specifically Antarctica.
Joe McPeak 17:10
Well, that was actually around our trip to nautical where at least my wife got doctor, I got the message from Tesla. So it's been a long, like life goal of an associate, or at least is to plan a trip to Antarctica. So I was like, Yeah, let's do it. So we flew to Argentina, and then got on a boat, it was like a research vessel repurposed for our trip. And that was about a week ish long trip up and down the Antarctic Peninsula. With several landfalls, it was still great. It's like another planet down there.
Louis Goodman 17:39
Let's say you had a magic wand, you could wave it and change one thing in the world legal or otherwise, what would that be?
Joe McPeak 17:48
I think that is, and this is very nonspecific, but if there was some way to waive that one, and just resolve all the time management problems that plague on the practice of law, I think it will probably before that, because I feel like that really, you know, add to so much of the stress and have to go see other cases to go to, but you're in one place. And that department has so many other cases on his calendar that it has to go through. And it's like, it's inevitable that practitioners feel like they're spread too thin. And that can really add to stress and poor quality of life. And of course, under some circumstances, just a poor representation. So if I have, if my magic wand could somehow cure that, I would probably ask it to do that.
Louis Goodman 18:31
Yeah, that aspect of the practice really is stressful. I think every single one of us goes through that when we have to be in two or three courts at the same time. You know, there's just nothing you can do about it. And as understanding as the courts are, there's that self pressure that I found never goes away.
Joe McPeak 18:53
Yeah it's tough, right? I mean, like, they're, you know, like I was saying, or like, sometimes it seems like, you know, even when everybody in the system is doing the right thing. You know, the reality of it is sometimes law does not, that does not account for, like other structural things going on. But you know, when you're good at what you do, and you know, your subject matter, you just battled back against it.
Louis Goodman 19:14
Is there anything else that you want to talk about that we haven't covered?
Joe McPeak 19:17
You know, all I can say is like, you know, it was really scary, you know, moving like moving across the country to try my hand and they're told in a totally new jurisdiction and new locality. But you know, I'm glad that I landed with the right people here who have been perpetually supportive about of me and my goals to excel in this in this field. And I think, and I just think it's great. It's, I think ever since I joined this firm, things have just consistently gotten progressively better, you know, our office space, our staff is expanded, gotten better trained. You know, we added Simone as another associate. It's just consistently gotten better and it's going, we're already doing great and we're going to, and we're going to get better and better and better as we grow because I gotta tell you, these are some of the hardest working. It's not the hardest working people in the legal field, but I would hope to run into, and I would stand shoulder to shoulder with any of them on any given case that we have out here.
Louis Goodman 20:19
Joe McPeak, thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
Joe McPeak 20:25
Likewise, thanks, I was glad I was able to take time.
Louis Goodman 20:29
That's it for today's episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend. And subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. I promise I'll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs, and information. Thanks as always, to my guests who share their wisdom. And to Joel Katz for music. Ryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I'm Louis Goodman.
Joe McPeak 21:09
I'm in Philadelphia, my heart and soul is there. I love but one thing that I noticed was a huge improvement moving out here was just so much better music scene like I've been going to shows what before the pandemic at least, so much more often as a bay area resident than I was back in Philadelphia.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai