Meet ACBA Member Byron Toma
ACBA member Byron Toma has worked at BART for the past nine years. At BART he advises a wide variety of governmental clients including the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Media Affairs, Marketing, Planning, Engineering and Operations, Real Estate, “Art at BART,” and Procurement. Byron enjoys working on issues related to CEQA/NEPA, the Political Reform Act, Govt. Code Section 1090, conflicts of interest, and incompatible offices/activities, and is intern/extern supervisor and the Brown Act specialist.
When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?
Probably when I was around ten years old. My family used to own a farm in Cupertino. My Dad was terrified of lawyers suing us and losing the farm. He only had an eighth grade education, and I wanted to be able to help him with his real estate issues and his business.
If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you be doing instead?
When I was in high school I wanted to be a social worker. When I worked one summer at the Cupertino City Hall, I met the City’s Urban Planner and I thought that kind of work seemed fun and interesting. One of my job duties at BART is working on CEQA and land use issues. I guess I haven’t strayed that far from my interests.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?
I think a lot of young practitioners are always very nervous and fearful about developing their skills and their careers. As long as we enjoy what we’re doing, the skills and the careers naturally follow. There is no need to worry about it.
What is the biggest challenge facing you as a lawyer today?
The practice of law has only gotten easier for me over the years. My biggest challenge these days is getting to work on time – on BART! But it is the PERFECT excuse for showing up in the office late!
What is your favorite part of being a lawyer?
At this point in my life, I enjoy mentoring young lawyers and serving as our Office’s intern supervisor. I also get to do that kind of work as an adjunct member of the clinical faculty at Santa Clara Law School.
What is your dream vacation?
Generally I find vacations stressful since I’m in places that are unfamiliar to me. I’m always willing to go to Disneyland. I guess that would be my perfect vacation – as long as I can rent a convertible.
What are you reading now?
The same thing I’ve been reading for the past nine years – BART contracts.
What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t like fish. Everyone assumes if you’re Japanese that you like fish. Not me.
What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?
Living, Robert Reich. Dead, my dad. Fictional, Atticus Finch.(Yes, I am aware he is supposed to have certain primitive racial views, but that would only make it all the more interesting!)
Why did you decide to be an ACBA member? What is the greatest benefit of membership?
I’ve always been a member of the local bar in the communities in which I’ve worked. I guess I like that connection to the local legal community that membership provides.