You never know what connection will lead to opportunity.
Opposing counsel might turn into a friend, and an adversarial start doesn’t mean that tension will always prevail. Just ask John Koeppel ‘76, UC Hastings Board of Trustees Fundraising Committee Chair and Of Counsel at Ropers Majeski Kohn Bentley. When Koeppel was defending an uphill property owner in a landslide trial, he squared off with Tony Leuin of Shartsis Friese, who represented the plaintiff whose property had been damaged.
“There are two ways to litigate,” said Koeppel. “There’s Sherman’s march to the sea, where you destroy everything in your path. And the easy way, where rather than bury each other with motions, we litigate the case by trying to anticipate what the judge will do.” Koeppel and Leuin chose the latter path to get an agreeable outcome, and later bonded over having daughters in the same grade. Years go by, and the two fall out of touch, but Leuin still stands out in Koeppel’s memory as an admirable attorney.
Enter 3L Miles Winder, who is also a fan of cordial litigation tactics. When he first arrived at UC Hastings, he met with Koeppel through a connection in the alumni office in order to start learning about the real life of a litigator. Both natives of New Jersey, Koeppel and Winder hit it off, and met for coffee every few months. Koeppel mentored Winder, and helped him figure out which firms he might want to apply to while in his 2L year.
During on-campus interviews, Winder became enamored with Shartsis Friese -- the small litigation firm in San Francisco. Koeppel remembered his opposing counsel from the landslide case and cold-called Leuin on Winder’s behalf. “He said he wasn’t part of the hiring committee, but he did pass along my highest recommendation of Winder,” said Koeppel.
Winder got the gig. He was hired as a summer associate and spent 10 weeks diving into a broad spectrum of litigation, transactional and real estate matters. “Shartsis is not big law, but they do all the high end intellectually challenging work that big law does,” said WInder. “I was blown away by how smart everyone was and loved that it was a place where they really teach you how to practice law.” At the end of the summer, Winder was offered a position to start after graduation next spring. “I’m sure it helped to have John Koeppel advocate for me,” said Winder.
To find out more about alumni mentoring success, please see: Alumni Host Networking Dinners to Inspire and Connect with Students.