Each year, the Santa Clara County Bar Association recognizes our local bench for its dedication and contributions to the administration of justice at its annual Judges’ Night Dinner. The most recent edition of this affair was held on December 11, 2018 at the San Jose Marriott, and I was honored to receive the Professional Lawyer of the Year Award at this event. I was asked to make some remarks on this occasion, and I thought you might find them to be of interest:
A debt of gratitude for everything I have received
Thank you all so much for that gracious welcome. A couple of months behind schedule, but that’s okay, I needed the extra time to polish this speech.
But seriously, reading the list of past recipients of this Professional Lawyer of the Year Award, and with all the other well-deserving attorneys in our county, many of whom are in attendance tonight, I feel humbled, honored, fortunate, and most of all, thankful.
First, I’m grateful beyond words to Chris Burdick, Kevin Hammon, and everyone else at the Santa Clara County Bar Association involved in putting on this event. To share this spotlight with Constance Carpenter and Jenn Protas, as well as Judge Fogel, Judge Arand, and the rest of our outstanding judicial officers, is sobering.
Next, thank you to Steve Haley, for his kind words, helpful advice and wonderful example—following his lead, I will keep my remarks short. Thanks also to my law firm, Ferrari Ottoboni Caputo & Wunderling, for your unflagging support and collegiality. I could not ask for a finer group of attorneys with whom to practice law. I’d also like to acknowledge my brother Sam and his wife Jerle, who surprised me back in October by coming out from Virginia for this event, but who were unfortunately not able to attend tonight.
To my parents, who are no longer with us, I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude. Mom and Dad each grew up as children of poor Mexican immigrants in a bad neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, next to the railroad switching yards. While neither of them had the chance to finish high school, and had to raise my brothers and me in that same neighborhood, they were still able to give us many invaluable intangible gifts. While there are too many to list, I’ll mention just two: From Dad, a definitive sense of right and wrong, and from Mom, everything she did to fan the spark she saw in me to be able to take advantage of the opportunities not available to her.
Finally, I’d also like to show my appreciation to my better half, Lisa Grayson, without whose many years of love and encouragement I would not be standing here before you tonight.
Our duty to maintain and promote standards of professionalism for future lawyers
I’d like to spend a moment talking about what it means to me to be an attorney practicing law as a member of this very special bar association. Put simply, I love what I do! Trying not to sound like a cliché, I wake up every morning looking forward to having this precious opportunity to be able to make a meaningful difference as an attorney in our county. One of my most firmly held convictions is that all of us, as members of our bar or our bench, are supremely blessed to be able to do what we do for a living, and we have an obligation not only to honor that boon by maintaining a high standard of professionalism, but also to make certain that future generations of lawyers continue to share in that bounty by setting an example of what it means to be a good attorney and providing an environment where this standard can be achieved.
Our bar association has helped make me a better attorney
And key to maintaining and furthering the collective wisdom of the bench and the bar for those who will follow in our footsteps is a vibrant and active local bar association such as ours. I personally want to acknowledge how much I’ve gained over the years, learning what it means to be a lawyer, from the attorneys and judicial officers in our legal community with whom I’ve worked—mentors, colleagues, opposing counsel, members of the bench—too many to name individually, but all playing a critical role in helping me become a better attorney. As we gather here tonight to celebrate our bench, we must also recognize the role that our bar association plays in helping foster the relationships that contribute to the past, present and future of practicing law in Santa Clara County.
Silicon Valley lawyers give back to our profession and community
Now then, it’s all very well and good to pat ourselves on the back tonight for our accomplishments, but tomorrow morning, after all the celebrating is done, we can’t just rest on our laurels. Even in this most fortunate of places, our lovely valley, there is still plenty of work that remains to be done. While there is much to laud, there is also much that could be improved, and we must all continue to do our best to contribute to the betterment of the commonweal. For those of us who have been fortunate enough to receive much, we have a concomitant duty to give back.
I want to beg your indulgence for one last thing, in keeping with this idea of giving back. I’ve mentioned the debt that I owe to those who have helped further my professional growth over the years. To repay that obligation, I am personally committed to doing everything I can to help in the development of younger attorneys. One of the ways that I try to fulfill this duty is to assist Latino law students complete their studies by helping fund the scholarships awarded annually by La Raza Lawyers Charitable Foundation, on whose board of directors I serve. For those of you who don’t know what we do, I’d be happy to tell you about it sometime. For those who are familiar with our work, I urge you to join me in supporting this worthy cause, if you haven’t already done so.
Once again, thank you for this great honor.