Hosted by Attorney Louis Goodman
Feb. 23, 2022

Tom Ogas - Pepperdine

Tom Ogas - Pepperdine

Tom takes us through his life playing sports, sporting his acting skills in plays, and always fighting for justice at a criminal defense attorney.


lovethylawyer.com

Tom Ogas
tom@ogaslawfirm.com

Being involved with the criminal court system is scary and stressful.  I get that.  My job is to make this as easy for you as possible.  Sometimes you need me to fight, sometimes you just need me manage.   Whatever you need, over the past 16 years I've done it all.   I've defended clients in jury trials whose lives were on the line.  I've helped negotiate and settle cases involving massive fraud and loss, keeping clients out of jail.  I can attack illegal searches and arrests with motions to dismiss, or talk down an aggressive District Attorney who's looking to throw the book at you.

 

I'll meet with you and talk over your case for free.  You can decide for yourself if I'm able to help.  My firm is client-centered, so we'll do things the way you want them, return your phone calls, and get the results you demand.

 

 Louis Goodman
 www.louisgoodman.com
louisgoodman2010@gmail.com
510.582.9090
 
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Louis Goodman

Attorney at Law

www.lovethylawyer.com

louisgoodman2010@gmail.com

 

Transcript

Louis Goodman  

Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer,  where we talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers, and what their experience has been.   I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I'm a lawyer. Nobody's perfect. He runs a client centered law practice. He's tried criminal cases to jury verdict, defended cases at preliminary hearing, and negotiated settlements in massive fraud and loss cases. He's worked in the office of the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and served as a public defender. He teaches law at the college level, and I can attest is an accomplished if unpublished playwright, and screenwriter Tom Ogas, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

 

Tom Ogas  

It's good to be here. Glad to be here.

 

Louis Goodman  

I'm very happy to have you. I know you primarily through the Inns of Court where you have written several screenplays that we've used in our Inns of Court presentations.

 

Tom Ogas  

Yeah, I really feel like that was more like my passion projects. You know what I mean? Like, more like my things, I if I could do anything, I can't be writing. But instead, I want to make a living. And there's not much to do in the writing area. So I do both as much as I can.

 

Louis Goodman  

Where are you physically located, right now? Where are we talking from?

 

Tom Ogas  

I am currently in my office in San Leandro. I've got a nice quaint little office here. And in a Victorian that just other than the road noise is pretty peaceful, secluded.

 

Louis Goodman  

What type of practice do you have?

 

Tom Ogas  

So my practice is criminal defense, and it's almost entirely criminal defense. 

 

Louis Goodman  

And how long have you been in practice?

 

Tom Ogas  

I've been in practice, technically since the year 2000. So it's like 21 years. 

 

Louis Goodman  

Now that time goes fast, doesn't it? 

 

Tom Ogas  

Yeah. I don't feel that old pipe. I guess it's been more than two decades of doing this.

 

Louis Goodman  

Where are you from originally?

 

Tom Ogas  

So I'm from Central California. And there's it's a tiny little town. If he would miss it on the way to the Sierra Nevada has square Kings Canyon National Park. But I grew up in a tiny little town at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada's population like 8500. And then after, you know, growing up there, I immediately got out and went to Los Angeles for law school and college.

 

Louis Goodman  

Well, before we get you out of that small town, what was the name of it?

 

Tom Ogas  

Exeter, California.  It's in Tulare County.

 

Louis Goodman  

And where'd you go to high school?

 

Tom Ogas  

St. Bliss Exeter and in my town was like the high school where it was for multiple towns. It was a Unified High School. So there were about four different small communities that got together and had one high school in Exeter.

 

Louis Goodman  

What did you do in high school? Did you have any activities, sports, academic interests?

 

Tom Ogas  

I was one of those kids that I did everything.  I was doing two or three different sports, mostly water sports. I was doing fall in the spring play. I was in band for a couple years. I had a magical choir, which was like a touring choir. I was in Student Council, mock trial for four years, and a bunch of other little clubs and interests and whatever else I could fill my time with, frankly.

 

Louis Goodman  

Well, so when you graduated from Exeter, where'd you go to college?

 

Tom Ogas  

Pepperdine University, which is in Malibu, Southern California.

 

Louis Goodman  

Probably one of the best views of any college anywhere in the world.

 

Tom Ogas  

Absolutely.  I was pretty fortunate because  my high school actually took a bunch of us. Whenever you're juniors and seniors, the higher the gate kids are the college prep kids. My high school district paid for about 20 of us to go on these college tours. And we did two of them one for Southern California, one for Northern California. And Pepperdine was one of the stops along the way. And it just visiting the campus was remarkable and made a great impression on me.

 

Louis Goodman  

What were you involved with the college?

 

Tom Ogas  

So in college, I did communications but I worked for the local theater. I took classes and acting playwriting, directing. I actually put on and directed my own one act play in my junior year when I was working, mostly doing stage work, backstage work for the theater. And I did a little bit of other things around the university but because I was a college student, so I was hanging out with friends and exploring and enjoying my freedom for the first time in my young adult life.

 

Louis Goodman  

Now at some point, you decided that you wanted to go to law school.

 

Tom Ogas  

Yeah, when I was in high school, one of my many hobbies, was doing mock trial competitions. And our middle school is actually pretty good. We went to the state competition one year in Sacramento and I did it for four years. And that's like acting, you know. And so it was acting, but it's also debate. It's also improvisational. There's a lot of aspects I enjoyed. So I was trying to think what to do with my life, like we always do at some point. And I could have just, you know, tried to stick with screenwriting. But I, the practical side of me said, you enjoy this law stuff. This is fun. You had a great time doing it, why not apply? So I applied to one law school, which was Pepperdine, where I was already at.

 

Louis Goodman  

What was it that drew you to the law?

 

Tom Ogas  

It's a lot of different mix things I was more interested in the doing. And when I was younger, I enjoyed the stakes. The idea of the importance of it, the idea of this mattered. But these are people's lives, people's liberty. These were people's rights. So there's a lot the drama of it all law and order and TV shows and things we've grown up with, was appealing. When I was younger, as I got older and started to live that it's changed a bit.

 

Louis Goodman  

You went directly from undergrad at Pepperdine into law school at Pepperdine, you didn't take any time off. 

 

Tom Ogas

That's right. 

 

Louis Goodman

When you got out of law school, what was your first legal job?

 

Tom Ogas  

Well, when I was in law school, I was working at the DA’s office for two years as an intern. So that in a sense, that was a legal job. I was doing, you know, 40 hours a week at Deloitte and Touche helping them do tax accounting software, and creating forms and do as you know, this sort of paperwork generation, frankly, until I finally got the job interview with a public defender accepted that job. And two weeks later, I was working again.

 

Louis Goodman  

So you had done some clerking at the District Attorney's Office while you were in law school. 

 

Tom Ogas

That's right. 

 

Louis Goodman

And then you ended up getting your first real legal job was as a public defender. Was there some reason that you made that switch? Or was it just sort of the people who offered you a job?

 

Tom Ogas  

It's really was more of the second. Frankly, at the time, as a brand new attorney  law school, I felt like I could do the job, I just I felt I didn't have a strong calling at the time when I was doing mock trial. In high school, I always did defense, and I kind of liked the flavor of that better from a purely dramatic standpoint, I felt it was suited me better. But I didn't really feel like I had a calling but I was younger. And when I was in the DA’S office, the LA DA guys that I work with were very casual, very friendly, very family oriented, very easy to work with. And there was nothing about the job from what I saw as a student, that would have turned me off to it. So when as a young person straight out of law school, I was open to whatever. Thanks, my eyes might be changed dramatically when I started working in the field. So I don't know if I could do it. Now. I don't know if I could be a DA now. But back then, when I'm 26 years old, I thought, Oh, I could do either job. You know, either one seemed appealing to me.

 

Louis Goodman  

Why would you not want to be maybe just because of ypur age?

 

Tom Ogas  

Or maybe I'm just used to this? I don't know. But it does feel like from the outside that they, that most DA’S don't have as much individual control over outcomes. I know that their office, their office has tremendous control over outcomes. They have tremendous power, they have tremendous ability to do their, I would love to be a DA for that purpose, just to be able to do the right thing, like it presented the correct evidence, do the right things do justice, but it feels like most DAs don't have that ability. They have to ask permission from somebody else.

 

Louis Goodman  

I assume there was some of that when you were public defender. 

 

Tom Ogas  

I mean, yeah, when I was a public defender, that things changed when I was a public defender, and then of course, for all of us in defense, the client, the client decides or we don't, the client decides they have ultimate authority. But when I was an attorney in their office, I had nobody above me telling me how to resolve my cases. I had no supervisors that had told me, you know, when to plea when not to plead or whatever. If the client liked the offer, we made the deal and nobody looked over my shoulder. 

 

Louis Goodman  

How long did you spend as a public defender?

 

Tom Ogas  

Five years

 

Louis Goodman  

And then what brought you out of the public defender's office and into private practice in Alameda County?

 

Tom Ogas  

My wife, who at the time was not my wife, but we were together for a while, she decided that she was going to do a postdoc at UC Berkeley and let me know she applied and was accepted. She's starting in the fall when it was one of those crossroad moments. I mean, if I wanted to go with her, I wish I had wanted to do I really had to give up and start over. I had to you know, I so I decided to do that so I gave my notice. Pick the date I kind of cashed out my five years of retirement, which wasn't a lot of retirement and moved to the Bay Area with just that money in my pocket with the idea, I'll just open my own practice. It'll take me a while I spend some money on advertisement, but it'll work. I'll make it work. And it worked out. It wasn't always easy. It hasn't been easy. It's money goes up, money goes down, having no benefits, you know, no paid vacation. It's tough. That's one of those things about being in solo practice. But I'm still here. I'm making it work.

 

Louis Goodman  

What do you really like about practicing law? 

 

 

 

Tom Ogas  

It's not boring. It's what I guess was one of those things. That's, it's busy.   It matters  It can be stressful as hell though. Because work stays with you, work stays with me. It stays in my head. Even after I've left the office, these things, these problems, don't go away. So I do like when things work out, they don't always work out. But when they do, if that feels good, it feels good to make a difference in somebody's life. Even a little bit. So that that aspect of it is what kind of keeps me going.

 

Louis Goodman  

If a young person were just coming out of college and thinking about law as a career, would you recommend it?

 

Tom Ogas  

It's not for everybody. It depends on if I knew that person, I really have to know them. But I do say this, the youth, you got to be young to start in this career. You need that youthful energy that yet that boundless youthful energy to because there's a lot to learn, and there's a lot to go through. There's a lot to suffer through. There's not there's we're gonna fail, we're gonna make mistakes, there's gonna be grief and guilt and resentment and regrets. And that's part of the journey. So this is not a simple or stress free career. But it's something that can we all of us that do this, I think most of us feel like, there's good days and bad. And I guess the good days hopefully, make the bad days worth it.

 

Louis Goodman  

How is practicing law actually met or different from your expectations about it?

 

Tom Ogas  

I'll put it this way,  when you're young and what you know about the law comes from television, comes from movies, comes from entertainment media, none of us actually go to the courtroom, sit down and watch it. So it's very, very different in reality, as opposed to on television. But the one thing that took me there, really took me by surprise and takes all of us by surprise is how much is in the eye of the beholder, the interpreter, how much the law isn't necessarily about what really happened. And that's tough for people to understand stuff. I certainly I didn't understand when I first started it. What's written down on paper, what people say in court, what's these things aren't necessarily usually aren't entirely the truth.

 

Louis Goodman  

I've always said there's nowhere you can go to kind of get the capital T truth. You know, the truth is what a judge or a jury thinks the truth is, and we ultimately take whatever happened, happened.

 

Tom Ogas  

It's like we talked about hearsay and how much we hate hearsay. But we're at multiple levels of it in court, where what the jury sees has been filtered through so many different people in parties and lenses and filters, and then even what's admissible and not admissible and what each side decides to show and not show. And there's so many things to get in the way of what actually happened. That I don't know why we have a jury that doesn't know anybody that didn't see anything that happened. They're so far removed from the actual events, and that we ask those people. Yes, those people that decide when the rest of us probably have a better idea about what really happened. 

 

Louis Goodman  

How about the business of practicing law, you kind of touched on this about going into private practice and being responsible for yourself, not having days off or paid vacation, that sort of thing. But what about the business of practicing law? How's that gone for you?

 

Tom Ogas  

It's up and down. Part that's hardest for me is I just, I'm actually not bad with sales, because sales in our business is just being yourself. It's about making a relationship with somebody in it, the client likes you and their family likes you. Then they'll come back to you again. They'll, their brother will come back to you, their cousin will come back to you the neighbor whatever. So that part's easy. The hard part for me is collections. I'll get to, I'll get a payment up front like we all, we all have to do that these started because people will promise to pay you but they don't pay. I hate when somebody doesn't pay or they are split or spread payments out sometimes and then they have to remind people.   Reminding people and that part of the job I'm terrible at.   Trying to get people to pay.   I was a public defender for five years and that really sank in to me that really there's a mentality as a PD where you don't do this for money. And when you're PD, you have a salary, you'll think about the other salary, benefits, etc. So I'm being paid. So these people that I work with, I'm just here to help them. And in private practice, I don't have a salary on the benefits, I don't have anything. So I need these people to help me do this job. And that part is always been the struggle had you've had to manage that and be someone they can trust, at the same time asking him for money. And that relationship has always been something I still work with.

 

Louis Goodman  

Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you had known before you started practicing?

 

Tom Ogas  

A lot? A lot. I'm trying to think of one example of something that I don't know. But I'll put it this way, the most beneficial things that I learned, and practice is about frankly, relations. And it's not just with I mean, with other attorneys, obviously, but also with the with DA, with court staff, with Judges, with all the people that work in this, with the bailiffs then how important it is that we all kind of work together get along to help the clients. The clients don't necessarily understand that or see that.

 

Louis Goodman  

Yeah, you know, my dad practice law for over 50 years in New York City. And I may have said this before on this podcast, but I think it bears repeating. When I first started practicing, he said, you know, you're going to be nice to the Judge, and you're going to be nice to the other attorneys  but always remember, there's a clerk, there's a bailiff, there's a court reporter, and those people deserve your friendliness, they deserve your respect. And, frankly, they can make or break your life too. So yeah, so I think that's really important.   Having those relationships with, you know, the attorneys and the judges, but also with the court staff, because those are people who we interact with every day. And I think some people, perhaps don't quite get that as much as you do.

 

Tom Ogas  

I think we all learn it. I hope we all learned those lessons that you really quickly, you pick up on, at least for me.

 

Louis Goodman  

What advice would you give to somebody just starting out as a young criminal defense attorney?

 

Tom Ogas  

You need other lawyers that can help you out? I was really fortunate. The PD’S office I was in Tulare County, there was, it  felt like a family. It felt like a team, you need people, especially early on, that you can lean on, that you can learn from, that you can watch, that you can talk to about what they did. So you gotta have that as a new attorney. Otherwise, you're just gonna, I don't know, you probably drown and the things you don't know. So having a support network is vital. And people that you can count on.

 

Louis Goodman  

Do you think the legal system is fair?

 

Tom Ogas  

And yet, I don't know. I don't think I can say that. I really don't. I mean, we have rules that apply equally to everyone. Right? And that's , the best we can do. That's really the best we can do as human beings as a society, as long as long as the rules are equally applied, which most of the time, I guess, , as long as you know, everyone can call upon the same body of law, but individuals who have money have a huge advantage.

 

Louis Goodman  

Now I know that you, as I mentioned, have written some plays and some screenplays Can you just tell us a little bit about your writing, whether it's published or unpublished? And what brings you to that and what sort of things you write? 

 

Tom Ogas  

First off the Earl Warren, American Inns of Court, which is here in Alameda County, which is a group I had been a member of, what we do in that group, is that the teams get together. And every year there's different teams that are formed. And the team is responsible for teaching something in, which is law related. But that's boring. Nobody wants to go to, you know, MCLE presentation, we've seen a million of those. So instead of just doing a blah, blah, in a legal presentation, we all compete to make the most entertaining, most interesting, most fun presentation, which typically leans a lot heavier into entertainment, with some sort of underlying legal message being taught. But when I gather with the team, we kind of do two things. One is figure out what do we want to teach? Like, what's our message? And number two is what do we want to use as our entertainment medium? And we say,  we will make like a movie or a television show or a book with a legal principle. I mean, so I've over the years written a story about Sherlock Holmes and Watson. I've done Romeo and Juliet from Shakespeare, I've taken the Walking Dead and turn that into like an actual award winning presentation about jury selection, the Law an Order one year, the Westwing,  Back to the Future.   I just we take different fun mediums And we kind of make an interesting legal underlying story.

 

Louis Goodman  

What is your family life like and how has practicing law fit into that?

 

Tom Ogas  

It's hasn't been easy.  There was times where law got in the way. And then there was a backlash where that wasn't so good for the family. So I've kind of  pushed back a lot. And I've done my best lately to try to make more time and make kind of hard limits between work kind of forced myself to have work life separation, where a certain time of the day for me, it's like five o'clock, I just go to voicemail. I don't have to open work emails, unless I was in, I'm in trial or something like that, you know. But for the most part, I did my very best to intentionally split time, and intentionally take days off, and intentionally not work on weekends, as much as I could physically help it and try also not to take too much work. That's always difficult, but give it a try. I got one kid, and just one kid is enough. One kid is enough work for me.

 

Louis Goodman  

How about any recreational pursuits, any sports or anything that you'd like to participate in order to clear your head a little bit from practicing law?

 

Tom Ogas  

Basketball is a great diversion. I'm excited about it. I follow it. I love it. As far as activities go, I'm a hiker. I like to get outside. So that's most of what I do. It's hiking and walking, hiking, camping, things like that.

 

Louis Goodman  

How do you define success for yourself?

 

Tom Ogas  

For myself, it's really about being happy. I guess that's the best word I've got. Because  I don't define success as a particular monetary value, I don't think there's a way to put a number on it. And also, that feels like to get to a number also requires a certain equal level of stress and pressure, and responsibility. So somewhere, there's a balance. And wherever that balance is between, you know, not enough and too much is the happy place.

 

Louis Goodman  

What sort of things keep you up at night?

 

Tom Ogas  

It's the cases. I hate that  I've been working on meditation, and I'm still working on meditation. But for some reason, maybe it's just me, maybe other people this practice have the same problem where I will not think about something all day and all night. And then when I go to bed, I'll remember what I have to do tomorrow, what I did earlier today, what I have to do next week, I'll work out conversations, I work out options, I work out arguments or work out, ponder, did I explore this issue that I read this documents, all those things that I didn't think about earlier? I'll jump in when I'm trying to go to sleep. So when they kind of just tackled me. So I'm working on that.

 

Louis Goodman  

Yeah, I think one of the things that's really difficult about this profession, is there is no one right way to do it, or any one right way to handle any particular case. And I think all of us and to some extent, kind of second guessing ourselves.

 

Tom Ogas  

Yeah. And it's stressful. It just doesn't it spins, it's like my mind spins. And even if I did the right thing, my mind still questioning or what about this other thing you could have done? What about this other thing you didn't talk about? He didn't consider this one option here. And I just eventually have to wear myself down or find ways to clear my head and finally get some sleep.

 

Louis Goodman  

Let's say you came into some real money, $3 or $4 billion. What would you do differently in your life, if anything?

 

Tom Ogas  

A lot, a whole lot. I'm wondering if at that level, I'm sports ownership material. That would be, that's the dream, just buy or invest in a sports franchise, those things just make money constantly. So you have to worry, you're covered. But anyhow, I mean, mostly what I would do if I had real money is buy the necessary things and then do very little work. I just try to spend time with people that I like being with, I might do a little bit of volunteer work here and there. But I don't feel like I would be practicing law. I might teach still. I do enjoy teaching. I think I was still enjoy that.

 

Louis Goodman  

Yeah. Tell me a little bit about your teaching. 

 

 

Tom Ogas  

Yeah. So it's been 12 years now.  I got lucky. I knew somebody who taught at Cal State East Bay, and they their guy who was doing criminal law wasn't going to do it. And so they needed somebody. And so I said, Well, I do that. And I also taught mock trial when I was a public defender it five years of coaching for mock trial. So I was pretty good at teaching, or at least I thought so. That's nice explaining these things. I enjoy talking about it and kind of answering questions and having conversations and addressing kind of areas where people have misconceptions.

 

Louis Goodman  

Tom, how do we get hold of you if someone's listening to this podcast really wants to get in touch with you? What's the best way to do that?

 

Tom Ogas  

Well, so my name is Thomas Ogas, I'm a criminal attorney here in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alameda County. I've got email address, which I'm sure Louis if he wants to he can put in the show notes for this. So you can email me, you can look me up on Google, which works pretty well.

 

Louis Goodman  

So please repeat your email address one more time for us, and I will get it in the show notes.

 

Tom Ogas  

All right, great. So my email is TomOgaslawfirm.com.

 

Louis Goodman  

Great.. Thank you, Tom. Before we leave, is there anything else that you would like to talk about that we have not discussed?

 

Tom Ogas  

I think nothing is coming to mind. I think we kind of hit on the good stuff.

 

Louis Goodman  

Tom Ogas, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

 

Tom Ogas  

Thank you, Louis. I'm really happy to have this conversation with you. I guess it's a technical note, everyone calls me Tom, and which is like oh, by casually. But when I'm on the record, and for government purposes. Well, Thomas, so But Tom, everybody calls me Tom. And that's if you if you know me.

 

Louis Goodman  

Well, goodbye, Tom.

 

Tom Ogas  

Goodbye, Louis. Thanks for having me.

 

Louis Goodman  

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 and 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 Joel Katz reviews, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey. I’m Louis Goodman.

 

Tom Ogas  

That's complicated. That's really complicated. The law itself isn't a draw. You know, I mean,  that's just it's, it is volumes and volumes and volumes of codes, decrees rules and analysis. That wasn't the draw for me. That's, another that's another complicated question.