Alameda County
Bar Association

ACBA Member Spotlight: Megan Burns 
ACBA Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight with Megan Burns

Megan Burns
Megan Burns

Megan Burns is a partner with the law firm of Bonjour, Thorman, Burns & Dahm where she specializes in high stakes litigation in the areas of criminal defense and plaintiffs personal injury. Megan spent many years advocating for indigent defendants at the San Francisco County and Solano County Public Defender’s Offices prior to joining the firm. She is a member of the Earl Warren American Inn of Court and previously served on the board of directors for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ) and Women Defenders. Megan is a former member of the ACBA Board of Directors and currently serves on the Board of Legal Access Alameda.

When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

I actually cannot recall a time in my life where I dreamed of doing anything other than being a lawyer. I recall as early as second grade wanting to go to law school, which is strange because there are no other attorneys in my family.

If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you be doing instead?

See answer to question number one. I love being a lawyer. Whatever career path outside of the law would have to involve helping real people with real problems. My post-law plans involve being a travel writer, organic farmer, builder, to name a few.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were first admitted to practice?

I wish I understood then how pervasive implicit bias is in the profession and in the justice system. These are not new issues to be clear. However, I think I lacked an appreciation as a young lawyer as to how much remains to be done to overcome these biases for attorneys in their professional endeavors as well for clients in their cases.

What is the biggest challenge facing you as a lawyer today?

Balance. I am sure many other attorneys feel this way. Being the managing partner of a thriving law practice, a trial lawyer, a wife and a mom is no small feat. My job these days is to continue to do great work for my clients but also be there to mentor and support the other attorneys in our practice.

What is your favorite part of being a lawyer?

There is nothing I relish more than revealing my client’s humanity. Every single one of my clients has a story to tell. In criminal cases, clients can be defined by their worst moments on a list of charges. In personal injury cases, clients can be reduced to a medical bill and diagnosis. My job is to expose each and every client’s humanity because, by doing this, I help explain the underlying reasons for poor decisions or how an injury uniquely impacted someone. The best outcomes occur when your client becomes a real person to the other side.

What is your dream vacation?

An around the world ticket, six months of free time, and no cell phone access.

What are you reading now?

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents – I highly recommend it.

What’s one thing people might be surprised to learn about you?

I went to Boston College on a soccer scholarship. I was the starting center forward of a Division I soccer program all four years of college. Being an athlete was great training to become a trial lawyer.

What person, living or dead, real or fictional, would you like to have dinner with?

Dead – Maya Angelou. I have read everything that Maya Angelou ever wrote. Alive – Hillary Clinton. I have some questions for Hillary, you know, woman to woman.

Why do you choose to be a member of the ACBA? What is the greatest benefit you have enjoyed as a member?

When I left the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, I immediately joined ACBA. Being familiar with many members of the legal community in Alameda County really helps enrich my practice. I find it critical to know all different kinds of attorneys. I always know someone to call if I have a question or if I need to refer a case. I make sure that every member of my firm is an ACBA member.

Want to learn more about Megan? Check out Lou Goodman’s podcast Love Thy Lawyer.