Simone Chambliss is a criminal defense attorney at Red Metric Law. Despite just being an attorney for a little under two years, she has found her passion in helping people and defending the criminally accused in court. She’s had experience with defense and prosecution, both as a criminal defense attorney as well as an intern for the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office. Simone discovered her love for the law early on as a kid when she and her father would watch Law & Order: SVU and compete to see who could solve the cases first. After getting a taste of civil practice, family law, real estate and property disputes, she decided criminal law was her calling. In this interview she talks about how young attorneys try to fit a mold of who they think other people want to see, but instead shouldn’t be afraid to be who they are and let themselves be known.
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Attorney at Law
Simone Chambliss - Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
Welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, where we explore the lives and careers of practicing attorneys. I'm Louis Goodman. Today I'm joined by Simone Chambliss of the Red Metric Law Firm. Simone has been part of prosecution teams in both Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. These days, she defends clients who face felony and misdemeanor charges. Most of us experience some level of fear when we walked into a courtroom, but not Simone, because she worked as an area supervisor for the Halloween Haunt at California's Great America. Simone Chambliss, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Simone Chambliss 00:49
Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that introduction.
Louis Goodman 00:53
Well, it's a pleasure to see you. I see you in court all the time and I'm so happy that you were on the podcast. Where are you talking to us from right now?
Simone Chambliss 01:05
I'm currently at our San Jose office, located just a few blocks down from the courthouse in San Jose.
Louis Goodman 01:13
And I see you have a very impressive array of law books behind you.
Simone Chambliss 01:17
Yes. Would you like me to tell you that I read them all? Because I cannot, because I prefer not to lie. But we definitely have a bunch of books here, and some of them are still helpful,
even though a little dated. Sometimes you just need to open up a book and find that one peculiar issue that you're dealing with.
Louis Goodman 01:35
I thought you were gonna tell me that you haven't read all the books, but you've read all the PDFs.
Simone Chambliss 01:40
What type of practice do you have? 01:41
Simone Chambliss 01:43
I do criminal defense at Red Metric Law, so I work as a team with myself, attorneys Daniel Vaswani and attorney Joseph McPeak, who has been on your podcast before.
Louis Goodman 01:54
That's correct. One day we'll have to get Daniel on too, and that way I can have all of my competition on the podcast.
Simone Chambliss 02:02
Louis Goodman 02:04
How long have you been doing this type of work?
Simone Chambliss 02:07
I've been in criminal defense for about a year and four months now. I passed the bar January of 2021, started with Red Metric Law in April of 2021, and here I am, August 30th, 2022, still loving my life.
Louis Goodman 02:25
Where are you from originally?
Simone Chambliss 02:27
I'm originally from San Jose, California, so born and raised, so I'm very comfortable in the San Jose setting. But when it came to the middle part of my life, middle school, high school, undergrad, I was in the valley.
Louis Goodman 02:42
I understand that you graduated from Pittman High School in Turlock?
Simone Chambliss 02:47
I did, I did, and I really did enjoy being out there. It was a great school. I was involved in many organizations. I did color guard, theater, music, but I always wanted to come back to the Bay.
Louis Goodman 03:00
When you graduated from high school, where'd you go to college?
Simone Chambliss 03:04
I went to Fresno State. Go Bulldogs! Loved it. I went there with the knowledge that I wasn't gonna stay there, but I also knew that my next step was law school, so I put myself on an accelerated pathway. Most times I took 20 plus units per semester as well as winter courses and summer courses. So, I graduated in three years instead of the four or the normal four that they used to call it.
Louis Goodman 03:31
Wow, that's impressive. Now, when you graduated from college, did you go directly to law school or did you take some time off?
Simone Chambliss 03:38
I did. I went directly to Santa Clara School of Law. Loved it. It was a good time. My first year was definitely an eye opener, but I didn't give up and I kept pushing forward and I graduated, What was that, 2019 or so?
Louis Goodman 03:53
Well, congratulations. When did you first start thinking about being a lawyer?
Simone Chambliss 03:59
So, honestly, I first started about being a lawyer as a child watching Law & Order: SVU. I know Law & Order has a lot of detective aspects, but there's always that that DA that's talking with them, handling the cases. And when it comes to watching it growing up, me and my dad would kind of play a game trying to figure out who find the murderer or the kidnapper first, who would figure out the certain issues of the case. And so, from there I was like, You know what? Criminal life in the good way is something that always has piqued me. And then going throughout my education, I did mock trial in high school and undergrad. My undergraduate degree is in criminology and philosophy. So just every step of the way I was like, I think I'm gonna be a lawyer.
Thought about being an officer, but I didn't like the physical aspects, meaning I don't like to run and I also didn't wanna carry a gun for the rest of my career, so I was like, Let me hide behind the books.
Louis Goodman 05:02
You did quite a bit of work in your very like early career or perhaps in law school with prosecution teams in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. Tell us a little bit about that.
Simone Chambliss 05:15
Sure, and let me just make one correction. With Santa Cruz, I didn't work with them. I almost decided to be a DA with them when I was in the application process. But with Santa Clara County, I did a 2L honors program during the summer and that was really my first dive into criminal practice and what it means to be an attorney in the criminal field.
Because prior to that I had done civil work and then after that summer I came back as a post-bar to where, again I was with the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office reviewing cases, setting up prelims suppression motions, all on the prosecution side. And during my internships there, I was able to do a DUI trial during my 2L summer and I,
this may be, I don't know the right word to say, but now that I'm doing defense, but at the time I had a DUI trial where I got guilty verdicts on a DUI.
Louis Goodman 06:22
When did you work at Great America and what was the Halloween House all about?
Simone Chambliss 06:28
So, I worked at Great America from, let's see, when did I graduate high school? 2013
all the way up to basically the pandemic. All through law school, after law school, I was heavily involved in Great America and I worked on in the entertainment department.
My first year I was working with characters. Then my second through, what's that, eight or ninth year, I was on the management team. Part of the management team that I was on was for a Halloween Haunt.
Now I'll tell. I love being scared, but I hate being scared at the same time, I swear they only put me on the haunt team just so I can give moral support to all the scare actors and the talent, because I was always sent through the mazes. They knew me by name, they knew exactly how to scare me, but it was a good time.
I also stage managed a few shows, both for the normal season, Halloween season as well as Winter Fest. So, I was pretty involved there and they were really respectful of my time and my dedication to being an attorney. So, it was just a great balance.
Louis Goodman 07:37
Is your first real legal job at Red Metric?
Simone Chambliss 07:41
My first legal job was actually doing civil work in Palo Alto, mainly out of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda County. I worked for an attorney, Dean Lloyd, who was visually impaired, and so after I took the bar, during the pandemic, I started there as just a law clerk, learning the ways, drafting motions, seeing what civil practice is about, focusing on bankruptcy, family law, and real estate, property disputes.
But then, while I was doing that, in the back of my mind I was like, I wanna go back to criminal law. I wanna go back to criminal law. I love talking to people, love helping people out with their problems, but the civil practice can get a bit heated between attorneys and I just, not my environment.
Louis Goodman 08:35
So how did you get to Red Metric?
Simone Chambliss 08:38
Well, I was at work one day and I was, this was post passing the bar and I was like, Okay, I'm an attorney now, a licensed attorney. I want to go back to criminal law. I literally went to ZIP Recruiter, saw what opportunities were out there, and I was surprised that there weren't much. Again, this was like 2021, so still coming off the height of the pandemic, but Red Metric Law was one of the firms that I saw. That following day I submitted an application and I think in about two hours or so, I got a call with an invitation to come meet with them and interview for the position.
Louis Goodman 09:16
Obviously you got it. What sort of work do you do in your practice now?
Simone Chambliss 09:23
So, now currently as an associate attorney with the firm, I basically handle any criminal matters that come into our office, but I do focus mainly on the misdemeanor, which includes DUIs, petty theft, domestic violence type cases.
I do have a few felony cases that I oversee. Those are mainly felony DUIs or felony DV cases, but for the most part, that includes being in court, writing motions, prepping arguments.
I have a few trials lined up. I did do my first trial as a criminal defense attorney. Was able to get a hung jury for a DUI, so that was a pretty good moment for me because I was very nervous, I will say that loud and proud. It was my first one. It was different being on the defense side compared to the prosecution side because I have to worry about my client and do everything I can for him to feel like he has adequate representation. And getting the hung jury, I was like, I think I did good.
Louis Goodman 10:25
What do you really like about practicing law?
Simone Chambliss 10:27
What I like about doing criminal defense is that I'm working with people. I've always loved working with people and helping people out. And in my position, not only am I giving people a voice in the court system, making sure that they're advocated for and adequately represented, but I also have that duty, at least I believe I also have that duty to let them know that there is a better path to be on compared to the path that they are on, or that this one DUI or this one criminal case doesn't mean that your life is over. There's ways to get over it and move on.
So, being a criminal defense attorney does have a little bit of therapy type vibe to it, depending on how the attorney works. That's what I would say that I like about practicing law, is that I'm out there, I'm in court, but I'm also doing it for someone else other than myself.
Louis Goodman 11:23
If a young person was just starting out a career after college, would you recommend going to law school?
Simone Chambliss 11:30
Oh, definitely. I a hundred percent, I still have friends from Fresno State that reach out to me saying, Hey, I'm thinking about going to law school. And I just tell them a hundred percent just to do it. If you're ready to put in the work, not afraid to talk to people, not afraid to present yourself and your arguments, then law school is for you.
And then I tell people, even if they don't always wanna be in the court, there's other types of lawyers and type and law that can be practiced where you don't have to ever set foot in the courthouse. Entertainment law is a big one. Or if you wanted to do in-house, in-house counsel, things like that. So I feel like if people really have a dedication to putting themselves out there and really have a passion for the law, go ahead and do it.
Louis Goodman 12:15
How is practicing law actually met or differed from your expectations about it?
Simone Chambliss 12:20
So, going back to Law & Order: SVU, I'm actually rewatching the series and seeing how they operate. Now, of course, they're based out of New York, but seeing how they operate in a courtroom compared to what I'm seeing in the daily pretrial conferences or arraignments.
One thing that I learned early on is just, it's not all arguing and it's not all trials. There's a lot of behind the scene works that needs to be done before you get in front of a judge or in front of a jury, which was eye opening, but not negative. It actually made me appreciate it even more because of everything that's happening behind the scenes and everything that attorneys are putting in to a case and not just showing up, saying, I have this to say, and then moving on with their lives.
Louis Goodman 13:09
Yeah, I mean, I'm sure you've had this experience where you go to court and you've put a lot of work into something. You've gotten things really organized. You've gotten the, you know, your client's proof of whatever it is, and you get up there and turn in whatever paperwork it is and you make about a 30 second presentation and things go really well, and people say, Oh, well that looks easy. And yeah, it looks easy because you've spent hours and hours and hours getting your ducks in a row so that you can make it look easy and...
Simone Chambliss 13:44
Exactly, exactly. There was one situation where I was putting together an argument, and not my client, but another person in the audience had stopped me in the hallway and she was like, You know, you're just well spoken, you have great presence in the courtroom. Mind you, she didn't know that I was just sitting in my car doing breathing exercise, going over my argument, making sure that I didn't pass out. But it, it is, like you say, there's so much happening in the background to where we as attorneys can make it look easy to anyone in the audience, but other attorneys may be like, She prepped, she did what she needed to do.
Louis Goodman 14:20
How about the business of practicing law? How's that gone for you in your work with Red Metric and are you involved with the business or is that just kind of taken care of for you?
Simone Chambliss 14:32
In terms of the business aspect, we do have a team, our office manager, and then two legal assistants that do like the subpoenas or handling the payments. But on our end, myself, Daniel, Joe, we all reach out to our clients and schedule meetings when necessary, collect payments when necessary. So, I guess there's a business component, but it's not major, at least for me, me being the newest attorney and the youngest, or yeah, youngest attorney within the office.
Louis Goodman 15:04
What do you think is the best advice you've ever received? And then the second part of that question is, what advice would you give to an attorney two years behind you just starting out?
Simone Chambliss 15:19
I think the best advice that I've received was someone telling me not to be afraid to be who I am. In that a lot of young attorneys try to fit a mold that they think that people would want to see as an attorney. But I myself, I'm very out there, I'm very happy, I'm very theatrical and I know how to adjust depending on the judge that I'm in front of. But in terms of me, I want to make sure that Simone, the person is showing through Simone the lawyer and not vice versa, that I'm not just known as this very, "She shows up in court, she says what she gotta say, and then she leaves." I love to say hi to everybody. I love to be personable and I think that's the best advice that I can give a young attorney, is to let yourself be known in a good way, of course.
There are some attorneys out there who will let them be known in a very, very bad way or a very not appropriate way for a court setting. But if you know who you are and you're ready to put yourself out there, make your arguments and make a name for yourself, then do it.
Louis Goodman 16:29
What would you change about the way the legal system works if you had an opportunity to do that?
Simone Chambliss 16:36
Of course, there are flaws everywhere. Both sides of the spectrum. We have DAs who overcharge. We have defense attorneys who put unethical acts out there. But in terms of the legal system as a whole: one, I do think it is very slow. Some cases can drag on forever and with the pandemic, that hasn't helped anything at all. But also I think that we need to be more mindful, and I do say we, for both sides of the spectrum, that we need to be more mindful that even though there are cookie cutter deals or offers, there are not cookie cutter people. Everyone, especially speaking from a defense standpoint, every defendant has a little something different to their case that can have an effect on these cookie cutter offers if they're being made to them, and a DA is not wanting to go outside of that offer at all. So, I think that there just needs to be more fluidity when it comes to the criminal justice system and sentencing and all that jazz.
Louis Goodman 17:47
Do you think the system's fair?
Simone Chambliss 17:48
It can be. I'll say this, the system is fair depending on where you are. I do not think across the board that we have a fair and just legal system. It's very hard to hear that in a place such as Alameda County, a person maybe with immigration concerns can have a .13 blood alcohol count, no prior criminal history. They have the collateral consequences. They'll be able to get away. But then in a different county, say San Joaquin or Stanislaus County, a person can have a .11 blood alcohol count, no concerns, there's no bad driving. Already pulled over, but they're giving a DUI conviction, no opportunity for a wet reckless, and maybe even more days than County say in Santa Clara County, where it's just all over the board. So that's why, I mean, like it's not there in that aspect.
Louis Goodman 18:49
I'm gonna shift gears here a little bit. What's your family life like and how has going to law school and practicing law affected that?
Simone Chambliss 18:59
My family is pretty dynamic. I have my mom, my dad are divorced, they're separated. My mom's in education. My dad's in IT. I have two younger brothers. One is a tow truck driver. The other is in the military, currently out in Texas. On my dad's side, it's like all educators. On my mom's side, it's all powerful females. Currently my granny, my grandmother, she's a notary, still pushing life and making money at 70 plus years old where... I saw your face.
Yep. She is still working and doing everything that she can.
In terms of family dynamic, we're just all supportive of each other. So me going to law school, I always had that support. I always had that motivation to make my family proud. You know the saying, it takes a village to raise a child. That's like our family motto. We're always there for each other.
So now that I'm an actual attorney practicing law of course, I get the questions like, I got a legal question for you, or what happens at this? Can I sue that person? And sometimes I'm like, Yeah, let me help you out. And other times I'm just like, Do you really need me to answer that or do you just wanna have a conversation?
But mainly everything's been good. There's definitely been no negativity since I've become an attorney. I will say though, one discussion that me and my mom always have is what it means to be a defense attorney. She's like, So you're, you're fighting to get the bad people off? And I was like, No, mom, I'm representing people who are accused of crimes. Like, okay, so you're helping criminals? No Mom, I'm advocating on a client's behalf, but it's all in good fun. And my mom, she wanted to go to law school for like educational law. She's again an educator and I tell her all the time, I said, Just go back into it. We'll open our own firm, criminal defense and child advocacy. It's gonna be great!
Louis Goodman 21:03
What about recreational pursuits? What sorts of things do you enjoy doing to get your mind off of practicing law when you're done with court? When you're done with the office?
Simone Chambliss 21:14
My friends listening to this podcast will probably pre-answer it before I get to say it, but I am a huge Disney nerd. I love all things Disney. I am an annual passholder for Disneyland. And it just takes, you know, six hour drive or a two hour flight to get there. So that's really my big stress relief is when I know that I need to just get away, I'm gonna get away to Disneyland for the weekend, ride some rides, watch some shows, eat some yummy food, and enjoy life.
But outside of that, at the end of the day when I get in the car, show tunes are typically the first thing that's playing. Love theater, love musicals. You can see me driving and I'm probably jamming out to some type of show or gospel music. Go to church on Sundays, just doing everything I can to remind myself that I'm still human and that I am Simone. I am not just a lawyer.
Louis Goodman 22:10
Is there someone living or dead who you'd like to meet, and if so, what would you ask that person?
Simone Chambliss 22:15
I would like to meet Michelle Obama. I really would. She was just an influential person to so many African American women and the world in general, and the fact that she went to law school and her husband went to law school, I think it would just be a cool conversation to pick her brain and see what advice she would give to a rising African American attorney who maybe wants to get into a politics, maybe don't. But I think that'll just be a fun conversation.
Louis Goodman 22:44
What mistakes do you think lawyers make?
Simone Chambliss 22:47
I think lawyers can sometimes make the mistake of trying to do too much or trying to take on too much, I think is a better way of phrasing that. It's very common where we as attorneys know that there's huge caseloads out there and we know that we need to get things done, but we forget to take a break and we'll forget until we get to that breaking point.
So, I think that's something common that we, as attorneys and especially defense attorneys, where we just have all these cases and all these clients who always want updates or wanna schedule meetings, we have to remember that, again, we're human too, and we need our own time to reflect, to hang out with our families and to reset before the next work week or the next major hearing.
Louis Goodman 23:34
How do you define success?
Simone Chambliss 23:36
A person is successful in their life when they're happy with what they're doing. They feel like they're doing the best that they can do without comparing themselves to the standards of others. If you feel good in a situation and you know that you put your best foot forward, then you are successful.
Now, there are some people who may say, Well, success is getting a lot of money, or success is winning a lot of cases. If you have that mentality, then you're probably gonna get burnt out really, really quickly.
Louis Goodman 24:06
Let's say you came into some real money, three or four billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Simone Chambliss 24:15
Well, if I came across that amount of money, my family would be set, that's for sure. I would buy a house for me, my brothers, mom, dad, they didn't have one already, or they can have another one and then also put some away for the future, my family. In terms of doing things different, I would definitely still be working. No offense, Daniel or Joe, don't know if I'll be working with them or starting my own firm or just taking on, you know, minimal cases, but I would still wanna be engaged in the practice and probably start some type of nonprofit organization, working with the youth, working with the underprivileged, and not in the legal realm, but actually within the entertainment industry. Because I know growing up I loved performing, but it was sometimes hard finding the funds or the finances to keep up with everything. So, I think that's what I would do.
Louis Goodman 25:16
Let's say you had a magic wand, there was one thing in the world that you could change in the legal world or otherwise, what would that be?
Simone Chambliss 25:23
I just wish people had a better sense of happiness and mental state, I guess call that cheesy, but I think that would be something that could be the better for all in the country and all in the world.
Louis Goodman 25:35
Let's say you had a Super Bowl ad, someone gave you 60 seconds on the Super Bowl,
you could say anything you wanted, put out any message to that huge audience, what would you wanna say?
Simone Chambliss 25:51
All right. I'll say, Hey everyone. It's Simone Ernia Chambliss here. Just wanted to reach out and let you know that you are enough. Keep pushing forward, keep doing what you wanna do, make sure your loved ones are cared for. Don't let the little or the minor inconveniences stop you from being who you wanna be. There's always another day. Live every day like it's your last and just be happy, be positive, and keep moving forward. Had to add that little Disney line in there. Keep moving forward.
Louis Goodman 26:28
Now, this podcast gets a few less listeners than the Super Bowl, but for people who are listening and they wanna get in touch with you, how do they do that?
Simone Chambliss 26:43
Well, they can definitely give me a call at our office, (510) 999-5879. Just call Red Metric and say, Hey, I wanna talk to Simone Chambliss. They'll direct you to me and we can definitely discuss more about your case, not a case. If you just wanna hang out, get more information about what it takes to be a criminal defense attorney I'm all ears.
Louis Goodman 27:09
is there a website?
Simone Chambliss 27:10
If they want to reach out to us that way or find more information about our office, they can reach us at redmetriclaw.com as well as another number that you can call is 1(833) 8 NO-JAIL.
Louis Goodman 27:26
Is there anything you wanna talk about that we haven't touched on, we haven't discussed? Anything you wanna bring up?
Simone Chambliss 27:32
No, I think we covered everything. And I'm just really appreciative for you to take the time and allow me to be on this podcast and say what I wanted to say.
Louis Goodman 27:44
Simone Chambliss, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.
Simone Chambliss 27:51
Thank you. It's been a pleasure talking to you as well.
Louis Goodman 27:53
That's it for today's episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.
Thanks to my guests and to Joel Katz from music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I'm Louis Goodman.
Simone Chambliss 28:30
Oh man, I saw this question on your list and I had to really think about it.