Angela S. Haskins '96, Litigation Partner at Baker, Keener & Nahra, LLP and Former President of the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles
Q: Why did you move from Ohio to Los Angeles after graduating from The Ohio State University? What did you choose Southwestern Law School?
A: I announced to my parents at age 4 that I was going to be a lawyer in Los Angeles. After that time, everything else was simply preparation and hoop jumping to get here. I actually attended The Ohio State University because they were so kind and generous with scholarships that I could not afford to say no. It was a wonderful four years, and I would not change it for anything. However, the minute I was officially the holder of my BSBA, I loaded up the 1990 Chevy Cavalier and headed west. I had originally intended to go to another law school, but circumstances presented themselves which changed my fate. I landed a job at the American Arbitration Association (AAA), and through the fascinating people that I met there, I learned of Southwestern. I learned that more judges were graduates of Southwestern than any other law school, and I was sold. The fact that it was also located across the street from my office at the AAA and offered a night program made it a lock.
Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Los Angeles?
A: The answer to this question has changed dramatically over the years. When I first moved here, I was 21 and the excitement of the glitz and glamour, and possibility of running into a movie star in the super market was so cool. While at the AAA, I handled matters that involved many celebrities, and it was tremendously exciting. The nightlife, the weather, the amazingly attractive people and the ability to get to the beach with just a short drive made every day an adventure. Now, I think I truly appreciate the opportunities. While you can be a lawyer anywhere, LA offers up a variety of disputes that simply don't happen elsewhere. In addition, there are so many things to do for entertainment. If you are bored in LA - it's your fault!
Q: What was your favorite aspect of the evening program? What were some of your most memorable classes at Southwestern?
A: I'm not sure I liked the evening program so much as I needed it. I did not have the luxury of being able to attend school and also eat without a job, so I worked full time. I did very much appreciate the fact that several of the evening professors were real, live lawyers with actual practices and not just straight academicians. I enjoyed White Collar Crime and Criminal Law like everyone else because the cases were sexy. I also really enjoyed Trial Advocacy and Interviewing, Counseling and Negotiation. Bill Seki, Isabelle Gunning and Susan Martin all stick out in my mind even though it was a hundred years ago.
Q: Who were some of your mentors?
A: My mentors were the folks that I met through my job at the AAA. I was exposed on a daily basis to the most talented legal minds in California. Justice David Eagleson, Justice Campbell Lucas, Hon. George Dell, Hon. Richard Byrne and many others would let me sit in on their arbitrations, and then they would take me to lunch with them to answer my 4,000 questions about the case, the decision making process, what evidence was considered worthwhile, and which attorneys performed the best and why. That was truly invaluable information.
Q: What were some of the most important things you learned about the legal profession working for the LA City Attorney's Office while you were in school?
A: The opportunity that I was provided by the City Attorney's Office was amazing. I secured that externship myself through Marcia Haber Kamine who I had met at the AAA. She created the externship for me and convinced the appropriate Dean to sign off on it. I was working at City Hall when the O.J. Simpson case broke and was in the eye of the hurricane for that period. I also was given the chance to draft a complaint that I later used as a sample work product and am still proud of to this day. I even got to meet with the mayor at the time to discuss the complaint and my research regarding certain rather creative causes of action. I think that real-life experience like that is what sets up future opportunities and allows students to really understand what they are getting into.
Q: As a partner at Baker, Keener & Nahra, what have been some of your most interesting cases?
A: I am thrilled to say that I don't really have any boring cases. Specializing in medical malpractice means that in all of my cases, someone believes that they have suffered an injury as a result of care and treatment. Given that medicine is far from an exact science, there is not only the investigative aspect of the case, but the medical research, and working with your client and experts in the field to determine whether the plaintiff's outcome was acceptable (i.e. a known risk or complication) or simply an anomaly in spite of the fact that the healthcare practitioner acted within the standard of care. I often get to observe surgical procedures, autopsies and medical device demonstrations. I am privy to the deep, dark secrets that are recorded in people's medical records, and I get to make presentations to internal review panels comprised of some of the most accomplished medical professionals in the world. I am truly honored to be of service to these individuals who have chosen to dedicate their lives to saving the lives of others, and that makes everything that I do worthwhile and rewarding.
Q: Why did you initially join the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles (WLALA) while you were a law student? What inspired you to remain active in the organization for so many years?
A: I joined WLALA as a student at Southwestern because it seemed like a great way to get to know people. While I was awaiting bar results, I was asked by the incoming President to serve on her Board of Governors. I advised her that I was not yet a lawyer, and she assured me that I would be soon. I thought that anyone who expressed that sort of confidence in me deserved my service, and I joined the Board that year and never looked back. WLALA has provided me with some of my best friends, amazing contacts and the ability to participate in so many things that I would not have otherwise known existed.
Q: How has your involvement in a professional organization impacted your career?
A: I am an active member in WLALA, LA County Bar Association, the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel (ASCDC) and Southern California Association for Healthcare Risk Management (SCAHRM). I find that each of these organizations offers a unique set of benefits. All of them offer networking and the ability to introduce myself to people who may determine that I am worthy of a business referral. I also believe strongly in the fact that the profession needs leaders to voice concerns and suggestions to government and the judiciary. You cannot properly participate in this profession without contributing to the community, and being aware of what is going on that impacts you and your clients. Membership in appropriate organizations provides you with resources to access information and garner knowledge.
Q: What are some of the goals you hope to accomplish as the president of WLALA?
A: My theme for WLALA this year is Empowerment. If I could do anything for young lawyers, it would be to give them the confidence and the tools to succeed. Often we have the ability but not the awareness of that fact. Through WLALA's various mentoring programs, we provide women access to other women. We talk about things and together we figure out ways to make the practice of law more friendly and rewarding. Together there is really nothing we can't do.
Q: Have you found that Southwestern students and alumni have a significant presence in WLALA and other professional organizations?
A: Since WLALA has begun offering free student memberships, we have seen a dramatic rise in student membership. I personally attended last year's Bar Fair at Southwestern and signed up 35 students. Unfortunately, only a few have followed through with actual participation by joining committees or sections and seeking mentors. I know that there is an overwhelming sensation associated with every aspect of being a student, but if you reach out and secure a mentor or several, you will find that things get a lot easier. A true mentoring relationship is better when it is organic. I find that the women who simply took me under their wing when I was younger have stayed in the periphery of my life, and while I may not see them or speak to them often, they are always there. Judge Morrow performing my installation for WLALA was a great example of someone who just let me hang around when I was younger, and has always accepted my phone calls, and introduced me to whomever she was speaking to when we were at the same event. That means more than most appreciate. When you walk into a crowded room at an event and Judge Morrow hugs you and introduces you around, people wonder who you are, and then the opportunity to shine is presented.
Q: What are some of your hobbies outside of the legal profession?
A: I don't have hobbies - I simply do not have time. However, I pride myself on the fact that I spend every possible free moment with the people that I like and care about, and I make that time count. I put away the blackberry and concentrate on a good bottle of wine or a perfectly crafted martini and the conversation at hand. I also make it a point to spend time with my parents. I am here today because of them and the confidence that they installed in that little girl who was cogent enough at age 4 to state what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. I took my Mom to Washington, D.C. in October because she had never been to our nation's capital, and I find that unacceptable. My best friend from The Ohio State University joined us for the weekend as I learned that she had not been there either. My birthday is on October 20, my friend's is on November 1 and my Mom's on the 3rd. So it was a trifecta of a celebration in D.C., and I had very much looked forward to stepping away from my caseload for a week and soaking in the fall beauty - that is the one thing that I miss most about living east of the Mississippi.