In April 1993, I left the world of LA civil law to fulfill a dream to relocate my family of five to a twenty-acre parcel of land near Ashland, Oregon. I got an Oregon Bar license in July 1993, and after discovering that if I worked for local lawyers, I could expect to make about one dollar for every five I’d been making in LA, I took a job as a Deputy DA in the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office in Medford, Oregon, prosecuting DUI’s, domestic violence and misdemeanor thefts.
It was about a one-hour commute each way over twisty mountain roads, and every day I had to read dozens of police reports and file around twenty criminal cases. But hard as the job was, it was a valuable experience that has paid dividends over and over again, because I learned three lessons I hadn’t learned in law school or in the hard-driving litigation world of LA. First, I learned the lessons of country civility, as I realized that the slash-and-burn style of dealing with opposing counsel and witnesses didn’t play in the small-town environment where everyone knew everyone, slights were rarely forgotten and often easily avenged. Second, I learned that juries need to hear a simple story to convict or acquit, and that a story that can be understood is thus more valuable than one that is absolutely precise. Third, I learned that while documentary evidence is seductive, in trial, nothing can replace crisp, efficient questioning of the witnesses.