15. Candice Klein, Chang | Klein — Invest in Yourself: How to Excel in Work and Life

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A Super Lawyer since 2018, a graduate of the Trial Lawyers College, and a devoted mother – in the courtroom and at home – Candice Klein thrives in the chaos. With 20 years of experience, she has taken over 30 cases to verdict and recently founded Chang | Klein with partner Deborah Chang. Between the two, billions of dollars have been recovered on behalf of their clients. And in its first year, Chang | Klein LLP was honored to have been ranked “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers.

Today, we explore mentorship for women in law, founding a successful firm, and carving out time for yourself – even if it’s only 20 minutes a day.

What’s in This Episode

  • Who is Candice Klein?
  • How did Candice reach her level of success in the courtroom without mentorship?
  • How can continuing education improve performance in the courtroom?
  • What practical advice does Candice have for leaning into motherhood and career at the same time?
  • What key factors make good attorneys great?
  • What creative ways does Candice tell client stories in the courtroom?
  • With so much demand for her time, how does Candice carve time out for herself?

Transcript

Candice Klein

We want to lift up our own cases, lift up our clients, but also lift up other women and help them get into the courtroom.

Sonya Palmer

Creating space for women in and out of the courtroom takes personal resolve and community support.

Candice Klein

Life can be difficult. So I don’t want to say it’s difficult to be a mom and a lawyer. I think that you have to create kind of boundaries in your own life and To try to work within those boundaries

Sonya Palmer

According to a recent survey, only 19% of managing partners in US law firms are female. We would like to see that change. Hello and welcome to LawHer the show where we celebrate the trailblazing attorneys and entrepreneurs who are changing the game for women in the legal fields, be inspired by their stories, learn from their mistakes and look forward to the future they’re helping build for the next generation of women in law. I am Sonya Palmer, your host and VP of operations at Rankings.io. The SEO agency of choice for elite law firms. This is LawHer. A Super Lawyer in Southern California since 2018 and recognized among the Best Lawyers in America and the practice area of Personal Injury Litigation. Candice Klein knows what it takes to win. She recently founded Chang | Klein with partner Debra Chang, and was awarded Best Law Firms by US News and World Report and Best Lawyer in its first year. With over 20 years of experience, she believes that women should not have to choose between family and. She thrives in the chaos of juggling depositions and making school lunches. Today, we explore mentorship for women in law, continuing education that makes good trailers great and carving out time for yourself -even if it’s only 20 minutes a day, let’s dive in.

Candice Klein

I loved law school. I’m one of those weird people who really loved school. And I just remember watching the sunrise and just being so excited to get in top of the day and just get into the library and start studying. I loved it. Southwestern was great. first year was obviously hard, but I learned how to integrate and do my law school and study time, and then also balance with work and also balance with my fun.

Sonya Palmer

And I love mornings too. I love like beating the sun awake and just something about it starts the day.

Candice Klein

A hundred percent. My I think it’s hereditary, my sister and my dad. We all, no matter what, I could go to bed at two in the morning, but I’m up by five o’clock no problem.

Sonya Palmer

Did you always know, you wanted to be a lawyer?

Candice Klein

I have a 97 year old grandma who will tell you that when I was six years old, I knew I wanted to be. In fact, I just saw her and she, she

Sonya Palmer

Oh,

Candice Klein

She tells the story all the time. When I was growing up, my mom had gone through a couple of divorces and I remember being in in court with her. And there’s just a very specific memory that I have that I talk about all the time, but I remember being in the hallway with her. And a bunch of, men in gray suits down the hall, the whispering and talking. And my mom, just not knowing what was going on and being vulnerable. And me knowing at that young age, I want to know what those guys know. And so I knew all along, there was no lawyers in my family, but I knew just I wanted to be a lawyer. Cause I wanted to know what those guys knew.

Sonya Palmer

I read that once you pass the bar, you were immediately handed a file and sent to trial. Can you tell us that story?

Candice Klein

True story. My first firm that I worked with, I was a lost lost clerk there. And then I passed the bar and my secretary was a notary and she swore me in and literally my boss at the time handed me a file and said, this case is going to trial. Go and I had never been in a trial before. I’d never seen what a child looked like, and back of the day, it wasn’t like you could go on online and watch what people are doing. It was a different time back then. trial by fire. I learned how to try cases just by doing it and not necessarily having a mentor and having someone, I didn’t second chair, a bunch of cases and learn as I went up, I was just go do it.

Sonya Palmer

What values or personality traits do you think helped you be able to do that?

Candice Klein

I’ve always self-motivated and just knew that if I needed to get something done, I had to do it myself and just figured out a way to do it. And it may not have been the best and it may not have been beautiful and it may not have been elegant or graceful, but it was going to get done and it was going to get done as best as I could do it.The first room that I worked at, I tried other people where it could barely even get in to do a status conference and I was trying cases on my own.

Sonya Palmer

Wow. Wow. So with so much trial experience under your belt, is there anything that you know now today that you wish you had known, then when you were starting out.?

Candice Klein

You grow as a person, you grow as a lawyer you learn how to be more confident and how to maybe handle situations differently. So I think, even now I learned in every trial, so I think there’s something to be learned. As in life, every day. So I am continually continuing to learn. My partner now is just a phenomenal trial lawyer and we had our first trial last year together. And I told her, learn so many tactics and things where my gut may be, may have been nervous about something. And then she would say no, just go with it. And then it would go a different direction. If things don’t go your way. It’s okay.

Sonya Palmer

Excellent. You have completed the UCLA Gross Anatomy Program for Litigators. Can you tell us a bit about the program and how you see continuing education courses like this benefiting attorney?

Candice Klein

I’ve heard a lot of lawyers say you don’t really learn how to be a lawyer in law school. You learn. The law and you learn how to analyze cases, but you don’t really learn how to be a lawyer until you actually put things into action. The class that I took, it was just a unique time that UCLA was allowing lawyers. there were cadavers there and we actually dissected them and did we get held organs. And we learned about different parts of the body. And it was, just a way, instead of just reading an MRI or reading a book about how, orthopedic injuries it was, okay, this is the knee and this is the patella. And this is, where a tear would be and how it looks. And and it’s easier to describe something. When you have personal knowledge of it, instead of just, like I said, reading a textbook or, reading an article about it, it was actually physically seeing it and understanding how anatomy works and how the body works and how, if there’s an injury, how that would affect, your client.

Sonya Palmer

Does that change your delivery in the courtroom, having that sort of in-depth knowledge?

Candice Klein

Oh, definitely. Definitely. I, when you’re talking about something, imagine just, even in daily life, you could talk about something that, something, a lot about, or you could talk about something that you just know a little bit about. And so if you know a lot about it, you’re more apt to be able to teach what you know, to someone else and, describe it in a way that’s not just on surface level, but really, help the jurors understand exactly what the injury is and how it affects your client and how, their day to day life is affected. And translating, your client’s injuries in a way that people who have no understanding as to what it’s like, you, you’re able to better describe it to 12 people who are, learning about it for the first time.

Sonya Palmer

The intensity, the damage that makes a lot of sense.

Candice Klein

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer

You are also a graduate of the Trial Lawyers College.

Candice Klein

I am.

Sonya Palmer

How did that education make you a better attorney?

Candice Klein

Going to the Trial Lawyers College is really a unique experience. Anyone who’s gone to the ranch will tell you that it is life-changing. So not only does it affect the way that you try a case or that, the lawyer that you are, it affects you, or at least effected me on a human level, just in my relationships in general, just it really was everything. It was a really interesting time in my life. And I was at crossroads in personal relationships and it really helped me to find my center, find out who I was and what I wanted, and to truly make some changes in my life to go for what I wanted. And so when you become more confident person, then you become a more confident lawyer. And for me, that’s how, it was. It transformed me, I think, into a more confident person.

Sonya Palmer

That’s excellent. That’s excellent insight for young litigators who might be listening. What does an actual piece of advice? You’d give them.

Candice Klein

You got to go with your gut. I’m really a believer in doing what you’re passionate about and making, career choices that really are thoughtful and that you you really have to go deep into your soul and figure out what it is that you want, because. Being a lawyer is a huge, it, it’s a huge commitment. It’s not just a nine to five job. Anyone who tries cases will tell you that it is it’s life consuming, it’s all consuming. And so you really have to know that’s what you want to do. And you have to do it in a way that makes sense for you. Andand I say this to a lot of people. I don’t think that there’s a specific timeline that you have to follow. As a woman and as a mom I had my son later than the norm. I didn’t necessarily, have to balance family and career because I started with just full on career and then kind of midstream. I said, oh, wait a minute. If I don’t have a kid, like right now, I’m going to lose my mind. And so then I had already established my career and then became a mom. And now I learn how to, try to navigate and balance being a mom and being a lawyer. But what I tell people all the time is don’t think that you have to, there’s not a specific time that you have to follow. I don’t think that you have to have this done or have a kid, or, have X amount of trials by this period of time. I think you have to really just go and do what’s right for you at that time. ’cause for me, things changed. Like I said, I didn’t necessarily know that I wanted to be a mom. And then I woke up one morning and was like, I may die if I’m not a mom as soon as possible. So I think you got to go with your gut and go with what feels good.

Sonya Palmer

Those go hand in hand, knowing what you want and then seizing an opportunity. And I’ve heard that sort of common thread about. Just a time for things. And there’s a time for career, a time for career building and then a time for family and finding that balance and being able to weave in and out of those effectively. So I think that, and then yes, knowing what you want and being able to focus on it at the right time.

Candice Klein

Yeah. it’s ever evolving and it changes a lot for a lot of people. So if if you’ve thought, okay. I, I want to be, a partner by this year and I want to have my kid by this year. And if those things don’t work out it’s okay. Everything happens for a reason. I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. And you just gotta take life as it comes and deal with the, with the punches as they come.

Sonya Palmer

Yep. Great advice. What is the difference between a good trial lawyer and a great one?

Candice Klein

Wow. I think a great trial lawyer is someone who has a connection with their client and understand what their client’s story is and what their client’s case is really about and has the ability to have that information and have that knowledge and to then, be able to translate that to a jury. My firm, we really are believers in, our clients become part of our family. We really get to know them. We get to understand them. And in my partner, Debbie Chang is always saying, what’s her story? What’s the story. What’s the story. And. Really the essence of whatever case is about is what is that client story? How has what happened to them changed, who they were before and made them who they are now? And so I think a great trial lawyer understands that and understands what their client has gone through how they’ve been affected and can then, put on a case, whether it’s with witnesses experts and really put on the case for the jury to understand what that person has gone through.

Sonya Palmer

Let’s talk about your firm, Chiang Klein. When did you know it was time to take the leap and start your ownfirm?

Candice Klein

The pandemic. I worked, yeah, Debbie and I worked together at our last firm and we really had a connection together and. We loved working at the firm and then the, COVID happened and everyone was working from home and we started thinking about what we wanted for our future and, We’re still working remotely. And that was really important to us because it, the pandemic came at a time where I was, I have a son he’s nine years old. And I was struggling with, wanting to be home and wanting to be a stay-at-home mom, but loving my career and, and really wanting to try cases. And so COVID came at a crazy time for me that it was so nice to have the opportunity to be home with my. And then it just felt like the natural progression to start our own creative firm and to do all the things that we wanted to do, have the time to work with the clients and to, focus on cases that we could just give all our all to, and have clients that we could. understand, their story and learn about them and be creative with them. And it just was, timing.

Sonya Palmer

I think the pandemic had forced firms, legal industry, lots of other industries to adapt or adapt and thrive or struggle. And especially I think within the legal industry and with lawyers to be able to do zoom meetings and do virtual and just meet clients where they’re at, versus forcing clients to come to them has to be an advantage, even moving forward past the pandemic. So your team of founders are all women. Was that an intentional choice?

Candice Klein

I don’t know that it was intentional. It was, again, it was timing. It felt right. It felt like we were at a point in our careers where we had the same the same goals the same, Ideas as to how we wanted the next phase of our life to go. And so it made sense. We wanted to see more women in the courtroom, and that was definitely part of it. I still think as much progress as women are making. I really would like to see more women in the courtroom. And that’s something that we really are passionate about and we want to help that happen. And so we, we love trying cases and we get referred a lot of cases, but we also like to work with other lawyers and want to work with other women and help them get into the courtroom and help them try cases. So we want to lift up our own cases, lift up our clients, but also lift up other women and help them get into the courtroom.

Sonya Palmer

Yes, listening to you speak. You can tell how much you love to try cases.

Candice Klein

I do it and I didn’t always think that’s where I was going to go. I was a really shy kid and I didn’t I was the one who sat back and was analytical and watch the room. I wasn’t the, I wasn’t the talker. And so when I said that I was going to be a child lawyer, my family, laughed and went, you ? But there’s something to be said about being in a courtroom and, being passionate about your client and being passionate about their case and talking to other people about it trying to just be there for the client and help them get to a place where they can, try to recover from whatever they’ve gone through. It feels, feel so good to help people and to, try to create a better world for someone after they’ve suffered or they’ve suffered a loss.

Sonya Palmer

Tell us about your partner, how you guys work together, how the idea started and what made you go together and do this.

Candice Klein

Sure. Debbie and I worked together at our last firm and we didn’t necessarily work on cases together, but we had gone to a couple seminars together and just really got to know each other. And. She’s an incredible lawyer and an incredible storyteller. And I was just always so mesmerized by her. And yeah, and then, being on during the pandemic, just being on zoom meetings and talking, and then we started talking on the phone and we just realized that we were both ready for, a different phase in our life. Timing was perfect and it felt good to, to have a strong woman to partner up with and, and start a firm. It wasn’t something that I set out to do. But it was something that I was lucky enough to that it, that had happened.

Sonya Palmer

Storytelling is essential to winning cases and getting the most for your class. Can you walk us through how you like to construct a client narrative?

Candice Klein

There’s no specific formula. I think again it’s really spending a lot of time with your clients and getting to know all the people that are around them. And trying to understand what makes them tick, what they, again, who they were prior to whatever has happened or whatever brought them to us. We like to understand what happened before that, who they were before that. And so we really we do a lot, take a lot of effort to spend time with, siblings, children, parents, friends, coworkers. I mean everyone, we really try to do our best to get the entire story as to who the person was. And so we go through photographs and videos and social media, and we really try to spend time understanding stories and get other witnesses to talk about, their experience with our clients and what makes them tick. And so that’s really, how we get to understand their story and how to then figure out how to put that all together and tell a jury what the complete story is.

Sonya Palmer

Can you be creative and the courtroom, are there creative ways or new methods of storytelling that you can use?

Candice Klein

Oh, for sure. One of, one of Debbie’s favorite things to do is to put together a closing video. And that takes a lot of creative effort. So that’s, going through and scouring through photographs and videos and stories and clips. And then we, Debbie’s really good at even going through B roll and, putting together different scenes and making it like a movie. So at the very end of the case, when, during closing argument it’s basically a movie of this person’s life. And so it’s not so much just talking about what happened, but that then the jury gets to see it and walk through it. And one of the things that Debbie has, which is so amazing because my husband is in music and music I know is so important, to, to people and to connecting and to being, emotional. And so we often talk to our clients about what was your favorite song? What was the song that you and your husband danced you at your wedding? and we get a lot of music together. And that becomes also part of the story. So we put, when we have that closing video, it’s also with music. And so there’s that connection. I had a case, we had a case last year where. Our client had a really significant brain injury and he had he was by himself. He was at a CVS and the music was kinda came on. And as a Wilson Phillips song and in the CVS, he literally broke down because the words were so impactful for him and he had this breakdown in the middle of a CVS and. We told that story at trial and we played the song and we listened, and the jurors heard the words and heard why those words affected him and why he was brought to his knees and hysterical crying. And so that was such an important part of telling his story was, which was music. And that’s, something that I had never done before in trial. And it was so impactful. It was such an important part of the trial.

Sonya Palmer

Candice and her partner, Deborah Chang, aren’t the only advocates for getting more women in the courtroom. Athea is a group of female lawyers, all with their own respective firms who have partnered to help other women lawyers.

Candice Klein

They started basically taking on really larger cases and collaboratively working on those cases together. And they’ll be tried throughout the country. And debbie, my partner is one sixth of Athea. And so she has her own firm, which is our firm, Shane Klein. And then each of the other partners have a Thea have their own respective firms in their own respective states.

Sonya Palmer

What other ways do you see like benefits of networking and support systems and things like that, where you have your own firm, but then collectively working together?

Candice Klein

We learned from everyone that we work with. And so there’s something to be said about, brainstorming ideas with other people within your firm, outside of your firm. And then, uplifting everyone and helping everyone to get the best results for their clients. So we love working with other lawyers. Yeah, collaborating and even, when attorneys refer us cases, we’ll say, if you want to be involved, you can be as involved as you want. If you want to, sit and depositions and help with the process a hundred percent, if you want to just refer to the case and watch us do it. That’s okay too. Yeah. we like to learn as much as possible and I think everyone has creative ideas. Whether it’s you’ve tried 50 cases or you’ve never tried a case, everyone has good ideas. And so it’s always nice to work together.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. I love that to pull from lots of different types of experience.

Candice Klein

Yeah, definitely. When we brainstorm some of our cases, we’ll all be on zoom and we’ll have, legal assistance and law clerks and our paralegal. Everyone is part of the process because like I said, everyone, has good idea.

Sonya Palmer

On your website, you mentioned that you never want to choose between being a lawyer and a mother you successfully do both.. For those considering motherhood or those who are already moms is the work-life balance a myth?

Candice Klein

I will quote my mother, who always says you can have balance. You just may not have balance I’ll at all times. It is definitely I don’t want to use the word difficult because life can be difficult. So I don’t want to say it’s difficult to be a mom and a lawyer. I think that you have to create kind of boundaries in your own life and then try to. To try to work within those boundaries. So if there are certain things that are extremely important that I know that I want to be a part of with my sons, life, I will make sure that I am part of those things. For instance, making lunches or making breakfast. I don’t care where I’m at. If I’m in trial, if I’m not, I enjoy making my son’s lunch for school. And so I will wake up early or, do whatever it is ’cause I like that creative part of making lunches and the color and the way that I organize it and putting a note, that’s just something that’s important to me. So I could wake up, at three in the morning, prepare for trial and then make sure that I always get his lunch done because that’s something that is important to me. But I think it is hard, it’s hard, especially being a trial lawyer. Because it consumes so much time. It’s not only being in trial during trial hours, but then it’s also preparing for trial. And so obviously that takes away from family time. But I’m lucky that I have a, a supportive husband who, when I’m not there. He’s there for my son. And so we’ve never had a nanny. People think we’re crazy, I hear all the time, like, why don’t you have a nanny or why don’t you do this? And we just make it work because that’s what was important to us. We had my son older, we were, and so it was very important to me to be a hands-on mom. So we just make it work.

Sonya Palmer

As the child of a mom who loved making lunches and was very detailed about lunches, it does not go on appreciated. I hope that, in five years from now, I’ll say what’s the one thing that you remembered going to school and he’ll say your lunches.

Candice Klein

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

My friends were always very jealous and the lunch room.

Candice Klein

My son actually told me the other day that that his friends were teasing him also because he always has good lunches. And always has he has he loves, he’s obsessed with mango. So he always has a freshly cut mango a day.

Sonya Palmer

Nice. Very good.

Candice Klein

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer

So you carve out time for your family, you carve out time to make lunches for your son. Do you carve out time for you? What does that look like? How do you decompress?

Candice Klein

I meditate. I started meditating. I’d say probably about five years ago. I had heard about it and was interested in it. And I came home from work one day and I was like beyond stressed out and we have in our house, we had the small closet that’s underneath the stairs. So it’s like this angled. Weird closet. We used to keep luggage in it and I said, I need a space and I did my own space. And so I cleared that space out and I put in like a rug and this cool pillow, a meditation pillow, and a cool table and candles. And then I put in all these little details and a red light. Little lights and my son and I do a lot of art. And so I covered the walls with our art and I made this my little meditation room. And so that is where I go for me time. I try to meditate if I can at least, 20 minutes in the morning. And then at night, and that is my most important me time is just trying to get, get into my mindful, peaceful, alone time in my meditation.

Sonya Palmer

I love that. I think like part of the beauty of meditation is that you can do at any. But I think there’s something to be said for creating a designated space.

Candice Klein

Yeah.

Sonya Palmer

Where you can just go and that’s what you do while you’re there.

Candice Klein

Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Because you can meditate. I You can, I could be sitting here at my desk and I could close my eyes and I could meditate. But I think for me, it’s also the experience in stepping away from the outside world and going into that private space where it’s just, I just I opened up the door and I sit there and I just, I only get good feelings. So I, yeah, I think that’s important and that’s, it may not 20 minutes a day. Doesn’t really seem like a lot, but it’s all I got.

Sonya Palmer

That adds up over a week, over a month or a year, I think just that small amount. I think five minutes is beneficial.

Candice Klein

And hiking with my dog. That’s the other thing. That’s my special time. Cause I like to be out in nature and just bonding with her and, smelling the roses outside is huge for me.

Sonya Palmer

I get a puppy on Saturday, I’m excited to have a dog again.

Candice Klein

What kind of dog?

Sonya Palmer

oh, Sheba doodle.

Candice Klein

Nice the, I have a Bernedoodle she poodles my son, actually, our next dog gets it. That was on his list of what he wanted.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah. I had a golden doodle. And so staying in the oodle family tell me about the improv for lawyers. I’m very curious.

Candice Klein

I was on a panel recently with Brian Brighter who’s an attorney who does, who’s one of, who started the improv for trial I’m in improv for lawyers. And I just, I saw his presentation. I thought he was amazing. And he, we talked about it afterwards. And so he has I think there’s only about eight of us and it’s on zoom and it’s once a week. Eight week course, and it’s just really fun. We speak so much as lawyers and we’re on our feet and you have to be quick-witted and just be on your a game. And it was, this just seemed so fun for me as another way to I guess also gain confidence, having to be quick on your feet and react andanother tool in my tool chest on different ways

Sonya Palmer

Innovating.

Candice Klein

Yeah. Yeah. And I’m not, I don’t, I’m certainly not an actress and I certainly don’t want to be an actress, but I think it’s just another way to get outside of yourself and learn how to be in the moment and learn how to listen to someone and react to someone. communicate with people. So

Sonya Palmer

Good trial lawyers become great by getting to know their clients personally and telling the richest stories. They use creative methods, like videos, to convey the story to the jury. They also maintain a life outside of the courtroom to find balance set boundaries and work within them. Find moments in time each day that are just for you. A big thank you to Candice for sharing her story and unbelievable insights with us. You have been listening to LawHer with me, Sonya Palmer. If you found this content insightful, inspiring, or just made you smile, please share this episode with the trailblazer in your life for more about Candice check out our show notes, and while you’re there, please leave us a review or a five star rating. It really goes a long way for others to discover the show. And I will see you next week on LawHer, where we’ll shed light on how another of the brightest and boldest women in the legal industry climbed to the top of her field.

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