Bruce Winkelman is the managing partner at Craig & Winkelman LLP and has almost 30 years experience in trials, appeals and complex civil litigation matters. He represents and counsels clients on a wide range of business, civil and insurance related issues, including complex coverage disputes and “bad faith” matters. An ACBA member for nearly 30 years, Bruce is also a trained mediator and gives back to the legal community through lecturing on ADR matters, and authoring numerous publications on a variety of legal and negotiation issues.
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
My family is a multi-generational group of attorneys. My father, grandfather, great-grandfather, assorted great-uncles and cousins practiced law in Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. So, being around the law was a natural part of my childhood. My father actively practiced law in Southern California for over sixty years and but for the last six months of his life, was at his office daily. Perhaps it shows a lack of imagination on my part, but law as a profession was an unspoken assumption growing up.
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you be doing instead?
There are probably a number of alternate universes. One could have been teaching as I considered pursuing a PhD in American History during college.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?
I wish I had known how to be a better listener and the value of asking questions. Law school taught me how to come up with a solution and advocate. Pausing, listening, reflecting, and perhaps saying “I don’t know” were not highly valued skills as a young lawyer. After about five years as an attorney, I began mediator trainings and was exposed to interest based negotiation theory and active listening. As an attorney and a mediator, listening before talking is a skill set that doesn’t come naturally, but has proven invaluable.
What is the biggest challenge facing you as a lawyer today?
Work-life balance. We live in a 24/7 world where emails can hunt you down anywhere on the planet. Working to unplug and truly separate from the constant email stream is a great challenge. Over the years, I’d like to think I’m getting better at unplugging, but it takes real discipline to completely shut down.
What is your favorite part of being a lawyer?
I love the problem solving; having a client come to you with a problem and finding a solution that adds value for the client is deeply satisfying. Of course, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have had the chance to work with very loyal and long-standing clients who understand levels of difficulty and appreciate successful outcomes. Helping achieve successful outcomes and problem solving is also a favorite part of my mediation practice.
What is your dream vacation?
Without being location specific, anywhere that takes me just a bit outside my comfort zone. It could be due to language or the location. I recently had a chance to travel through Morocco, which was both challenging on many levels, and fabulous. In terms of a specific location, my family and I try to get to Point Reyes at least once a year. It’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet and an hour or so away.
What are you reading now?
On my bedside: I’ve just started Mohammed Achaari’s The Arch and the Butterfly, a gift from my Mother-in-Law after my return from Morocco. I’m also re-reading Daniel Jurafsky’s The Language of Food, a wonderful romp through language, food and culture. Full disclosure, Dan is an old college friend, but if you like language or food, it’s worth a read. On my iPad/Kindle: Just finished $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer. It is a very powerful reflection on poverty in the United States and how we might better address it. I am also reading Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History.
What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?
I am a serious fine art photographer. I have a website (www.brucewinkelman.com) and use travel to inspire many of my images. My home studio includes a professional large image printer that is six feet long and over 300 pounds. Many of my images are in excess of 40” x 60”.
What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?
There are so many people who would make fascinating dinner companions. I immediately thought of Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. But, since this is a law related interview, how about James Madison? Who better to answer questions about the 2nd Amendment and original intent?
Why did you decide to be an ACBA member? What is the greatest benefit of membership?
I’ve been a proud ACBA member since passing the bar in 1986. It has provided me with many opportunities to “give back”. I participated in the “Lawyers in the Library” program and the old “Bridging the Gap” program, and both provided fulfillment. Over the years, lawyers have confronted misperceptions, negative stereotypes, and bad publicity. In my experience, the attorneys I have met are overwhelmingly honest, honorable, and maintain a high degree of professional pride. The ACBA helps to foster and maintain that sense of professionalism and provides many resources to our local bar.
Interested in the Alameda County Bar Association?
Check us out at https://www.acbanet.org/.