This article is part of an ongoing series designed to give our members an opportunity to learn more about their colleagues. Members are chosen at random and asked to respond to a set of ten questions. Gabriela Odell is a former employment law attorney who now works on workplace investigations and pro bono legal aid for seniors.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
I knew I wanted to become a lawyer while I was still in the Ph.d program in the German Literature Department at UC Berkeley. I had a legal battle with a hoarding landlady who decided to move back into the house I was renting from her and wouldn’t leave. I discovered it was more fun working on legal problems than writing essays about disconstructionist theory in modern literature. I became a paralegal for a couple of years before going to law school and had a great time working on a securities fraud class action on behalf of the plaintiffs.
2. If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you be doing instead?
I would be an investigative journalist.
3. What do you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?
The dysfunction of our legal system. It basically is set to serve large, wealthy corporate interests who can pay millions in legal fees, but simple, cheap and swift justice for ordinary citizens is disappearing.
4. What is the biggest challenge you face as a lawyer today?
How mind-numbing and wasteful the discovery process is.
5. What is your favorite part of being a lawyer?
I have retired from in-house labor and employment practice and have entered a second career doing workplace investigations and working for a non-profit that does pro bono legal work for seniors. I am also starting a career as a private professional fiduciary. The senior legal work is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I get to help people solve urgent problems when they have nowhere else to turn because they can’t afford legal help. They are people who have worked hard all their lives and now face incredible obstacles with elder abuse. They are so polite and thankful. It makes me feel like this is what being a lawyer is meant to be.
6. What is your dream vacation?
I am fulfilling a dream by going to Africa next year.
7. What are you reading now?
“When the Music Stopped” by economist Alan Blinder on the financial meltdown.
8. What is one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?
That I am an introvert.
9. What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?
10. Why do you choose to be a member of the ACBA? What is the greatest benefit you have enjoyed as a member?
I worked most of my employment law career in the Alameda Courts. I like to meet other senior attorneys who have similar interests in working for the public good in the latter part of their legal careers.