A Heart of Gold: Volunteer Spotlight on Doug Davidson

WP_20140927_004Our Volunteer Spotlight allows us to share stories about our amazing volunteers, the backbone of our organization. Since 2015, Doug Davidson has served as a volunteer attorney and mentor within our Lawyer Entrepreneur Assistance Program (LEAP). With over 40 years of legal experience, ranging from business law to real estate law, Doug brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our program’s attorneys.

Though he was born in Cleveland, Ohio, Southern California is where Doug’s journey began. He was part of the inaugural class at UC Irvine (UCI) back when tuition was only $89 a quarter. While working at UCI as a breakfast manager, he met his future wife, Barbara. They married in 1969 when both were 22 years old.

After graduating from UCI with a B.S. in Economics, Doug considered becoming an attorney. “I felt it was a prestigious career that would make a good living,” recalls Doug. “Who knows, maybe even along the way I’d be able to do the right thing.” So in the fall of 1970, Doug and Barbara packed up their bags and moved to San Francisco so Doug could attend law school at UC Hastings.

“For the first six months, law school scared the hell out of me!” he admitted. “The level of work shocked me.” Despite the initial hurdles, Doug did well on his first year of exams and was selected to be in law review.

Doug’s unwavering ambition and strong work ethic paved the way for a long and successful career in law and entrepreneurship. He worked for a number of small and large law offices in Southern California, opened multiple private law firms throughout Orange County, served as the VP of Real Estate for the Rusty Pelican Restaurant, and co-founded a hotel management company. Even after retiring in 2013, Doug co-founded a mediation firm and continues to work as a temporary judge for the Orange County Superior Court.

So, how did Doug become a part of LEAP? “I saw an article about the LEAP program in the Daily Journal and it sparked my interest,” remembers Doug. After meeting Directing Attorney Bill Tanner and Staff Attorney Scott Barnes, Doug instantly liked them. “I was inspired by Bill’s energy and Scott’s public spiritedness,” he affirmed. Every week, Doug meets with new attorneys to discuss best practices to solve their cases which range from debt collection, to landlord/tenant, to employment cases. Doug also serves as a guest speaker at LEAP’s Bootcamp for the incoming class.

“As soon as I started interacting with the interns, I realized how fortunate I was to have received my formal training and how that is missing today,” reflects Doug. “I started thinking about how people get training and how they figure out how to be better lawyers. I wanted to help move the needle forward.” Doug’s diverse law background and entrepreneurship experience makes him an excellent resource and mentor to the program’s attorneys.

When asked what is most rewarding about his volunteer work with LEAP, Doug chuckled, “I can only play so much golf! No really though, I can’t improve everyone’s life; I can’t solve everyone’s problem, but if I can improve one person’s life or solve one person’s problem, that would be great on my gravestone.”

Though Doug has assisted on numerous cases, one case in particular stands out to him. “I helped Scott and a volunteer attorney develop a strategy on a case in which a woman was terminated from her place of employment for allegedly stealing a bottle of water,” remembers Doug. With Legal Aid’s assistance, the woman was able to obtain unemployment benefits which helped her immensely. “People out there have tremendous legal problems, from collection cases, to student loans, to car payments, and they have no idea how to deal with them,” asserts Doug. “They can’t go to a place where they charge $250-$500 an hour; they don’t have that kind of money. So I really think about what we can do to help them.”

Doug’s empathy and compassion for our clients is what makes him such a valuable and appreciated part of our team. “Along the way, I’ve discovered how many people are exploited by some parts of the economic system that we have,” Doug confessed. “These people don’t have money and they don’t really have access to lawyers like my clients had during my career.”

“When we first asked Doug to lead the civil clinic he was a little leery but agreed to do it so long as it ‘did not interfere with his golf or vacation schedule,’” says Bill. “I have noticed that he has changed his golf schedule to make sure he is here to act as a resource and mentor for the new lawyers. I believe he has found a place where he truly feels good about what he is doing and sees how he is changing lives.”

We are grateful for volunteers like Doug whose passion, commitment, and time makes a real difference in the lives of those who need it the most.

When Doug is not volunteering or working, he loves to cook delicious meals with his wife, play golf, and travel. Last year, Doug and Barbara visited North Carolina, Hawaii, Yosemite, and Japan. “In August we’ll be going to Tanzania and Kenya for a safari,” he beamed.

If you are interested in volunteering with LASOC, contact us at give@legal-aid.com