02. Lauren Wood, Omega Law Group Injury & Accident Attorneys — Passion and Innovation: Building Community Through Travel

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Successful trial lawyers understand empathy, effectively communicating the humanity of their client to the jury. For over a decade Lauren WoodSenior Lawyer at Omega Law Group Injury & Accident Attorneys, has advocated for personal injury victims in California, obtaining hundreds of six and seven-figure verdicts and settlements – in no small part thanks to her commitment to travel. Lauren believes that travel is an ideal way to gain human lessons on understanding, compassion, and empathy.

Named a Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Star four years in a row, Lauren’s career is a perfect example of passion inspiring innovation. Curiosity led her from civil defense to personal injury law where she thrived in trial and earned a position as a partner for over 10 years. I sat down with Lauren to discuss her career and how she is creating supportive and educational spaces through travel for women in law and The Women in Trial Travel Summit.

What’s In This Episode

  • Who is Lauren Wood?
  • How having an undefined path leaves room for discovery
  • What was Lauren’s path to becoming a partner at a law firm
  • Which cases had the most impact on Lauren’s career
  • How Lauren blends her two passions: law and travel
  • How Lauren is building a continuing education conference for women in law
  • Which women young lawyers should be following

Transcript

Lauren Wood

I think that people need to see the world. Every time I go to a new place in the world, my life is enriched in a number of different ways. oftentimes they will open their eyes and sometimes it can make people less close-minded.

Sonya Palmer

At the core of every effective personal injury attorney, are strong values of empathy and justice.

Lauren Wood

I think that if we all had a better understanding of the rest of the world, maybe we would be a little bit more tolerant and kind to each other.

Sonya Palmer

According to a recent survey, only 19% of managing partners and 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 field. Be inspired by their story. 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 where we help elite personal injury attorneys dominate first page rankings with SEO. This is LawHER. Lauren Wood is a personal injury powerhouse named a Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Star four years in a row. Lauren has obtained hundreds of six and seven figure verdicts and settlements for her clients. A former partner at Schurmer and Wood and current senior attorney at Omega Law Group Injury and Accident Attorneys, she is a board member of the Ventura County Bar Association, Western Trial Lawyers Association, and Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Charities. When Lauren is not advocating for her clients, she is traveling the globe, gaining human lessons on understanding, compassion and empathy. I spoke with Lauren about discovering passion, through experience, creating supportive spaces for female lawyers and recharging to stay at the top of her game. Lets dive in.

Lauren Wood

I wish I had one of these really inspirational stories about how someone changed my life. I, ya know, I gotta be real with you. I don’t really have one of those stories. A fter going through college, undergrad, and not really knowing where to go, it seemed to make the most sense. So I went to law school and then it wasn’t really, until after I became a lawyer that I knew it was really where I was supposed to be, it just clicked and what, oh, okay. So I did take the right path.

Sonya Palmer

And you went to golden gate university in San Francisco?

Lauren Wood

I did. Yes, I was in Santa Barbara, UC Santa Barbara, undergrad, and then went back up to Northern California for law school at golden gate, and then moved back down to Santa Barbara. And my first job out of law school was in that area.

Sonya Palmer

What was law school like for you?

Lauren Wood

Actually not great. I was not one of the people who love the process which is funny to how I ended up especially ended up as a trial lawyer because I certainly never thought that’s what I wanted to do. I was not on a mock trial team or anything like that. It wasn’t my path. So to speak until I ended up in personal injury law and actually became a trial lawyer. that was when it clicked and I went, oh my gosh, this is amazing. And I love doing this.

Sonya Palmer

So would you have done anything different, like while you were at school, were there any lessons you learned? Something a mentor said that kind of stuck.

Lauren Wood

the path was really dictated by some of the firms I clerked with. I don’t want to disparage any types of law. But I started off at a big defense firm thinking that was kind of the course for me. And, I thought that’s, that was where I wanted to be. It seems the most glamorous. And then it wasn’t. And then I also quoted a personal injury for a minute. It wasn’t until later in my career, when I developed a better understanding of what that entails that I really went, oh, I don’t want to be a civil defense lawyer. I don’t want to bill hours who wants to do that? You mean I can make more money doing personal injury and be in trial and change client’s lives and not have to bill? But that’s where I want to be. I think I just lucked into it to be honest. I didn’t, I wasn’t well informed as a law student.  I didn’t have, I don’t have any family that are lawyers. I don’t even think I had any friends that I knew really in the field. And so I was just going in blind and it wasn’t until after I started practicing that I started to gain a better understanding of the different positions.

Sonya Palmer

As a personal injury lawyer, you deal with wrongful death cases quite a bit too, right?

Lauren Wood

Yes.

Sonya Palmer

Are there any that stand out to you that you saw, as big successes?

Lauren Wood

Yeah. it actually, wasn’t one that I personally worked on with just before joining the firm that I used to be a partner at Shurman and Wood back when it was Drummer and Drain, and I joined as an associate, they had just settled this case involving the family of a young girl who had drowned out at a lake and, I heard horror story after horror story out about the case, obviously because it was against the lake county, the liability theories were very difficult, but ultimately it was a very good result. And what sticks out is this family ended up moving back to Mexico and they purchased a plot of land and a beautiful home and basically a ranch. And then, years later my, my partner and I went to visit them in Mexico and see what they were able to do with their lives as a result of the resolution that the firm was able to get them in. So even though I wasn’t personally involved in litigation, it was before my time I have to experience I’m going to Mexico and we stayed with the family at their home. I shared a bed with women, a little girls, because it was a very small home. But it was one of the most incredible experiences I ever had in my career or my life.

Sonya Palmer

Definitely neat. We work with personal injury lawyers and get to hear about cases and stuff like that all the time, but that you were able to actually like witness after the result, and get to see exactly the impact that something like that has. So that’s really, that’s really neat. I liked that. And you recently joined Omega Walker? After 10 years at your last firm. So what inspired that transition?

Lauren Wood

I loved my private firms still love my old partner, Earl, we are still very dear friends thankfully we will remain good friends. most of my professional connections are actually in Southern California, mostly LA a lot of the bigger firms are in LA and just professionally, I think I hit a little bit of a ceiling up here in Ventura county and wanted some better opportunities. Based on the connections I have.

Sonya Palmer

Lauren is blending her passions and creating something entirely new across two male dominated industries: travel and law. Founder of the first ever Women in Trial Travel Summit, Lauren is designing, supportive and intimate experiences that combine continuing legal education with travel destinations. The summit is an extension of her initial passion project Travel is the Cure, a blog where she shares her insights and guides. I wanted to know more about the inspiration behind that name.

Lauren Wood

The name of the blog stemmed from a tattoo that I have on my arm. And I, it obviously travel was the cure as a shortened version of what’s on my arm. And that is a much shorter version of the well-known quote by Mark Twain.

Sonya Palmer

Traveling is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts, broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth, all of one’s lifetime.

Lauren Wood

But it’s true and something that I believe in very much, I think that people need to see the world. Every time I go to a  new place in the world, my life is enriched in a number of different ways. Oftentimes they will open their eyes and sometimes it can make people less close minded. I think that if we all had a better understanding of the rest of the world, maybe we would be a little bit more tolerant and kind to each other.

Sonya Palmer

I completely agree with you. I was lucky enough to grow up in a family that likes to travel. But growing up in like a small town, you go and that, different people are living differently and it really does open your eyes.

Lauren Wood

I grew up in a smalll town as well,

Sonya Palmer

Super important. What are some of your favorite places that you’ve been?

Lauren Wood

The Maldives stuff there. It’s indescribable, there’s something also about the fact that it’s so far away and you feel like you’re literally on the other side of the planet because you are and out in the middle of nowhere because you are, but it’s just so appealing to me. I love Bali. I do. There’s just a feeling when I’m there, the combination of the incense and the sounds and like my blood pressure lowers, I’m more calm and relaxed. I love it. Hong Kong has always been a favorite city of mine. In fact, one that I find that I miss the most post pandemic because they have been absolutely closed. But definitely Hong Kong is up there and I love Italy. It’s a place that I have been to many times and continue to want to go back, even though there, my, my philosophy on travel is to go to new places. It’s those four are really the places ones that I constantly finding myself, wanting to go back to over and over again. Oh, Curacao . I love Curacao , totally random, tiny little island in the Dutch ABCs . It’s what I would imagine what the Caribbean was like many years ago before a lot of these other places blew up.

Sonya Palmer

I love that. We took my mom to Italy for her 60th birthday a while ago and did Amalfi coast and all of that. And it was just nothing quite like it. All of the the people and the coffee.

Lauren Wood

That Coffee!

Sonya Palmer

I look back, I remember the cappuccinos, that’s what I remember. Do you see your career as a lawyer and then this travel blog as separate? Or do you feel like they intersect?

Lauren Wood

I used to feel like they were very separate and it wasn’t until. I combined the two platforms my travel blog and my love for travel and my professional connections as a women lawyer.  In deciding to host this conference that I felt for the first time, I felt like maybe they overlap a little bit, but before then I definitely always felt like there were two sides of my life. That, I always, almost felt two people. If you look at my blog and then I think a lot of people who know me professionally are like, oh my gosh, you have a blog. And that’s they do seem very different or they did.

Sonya Palmer

So this April you’re hosting the first Women in Trial Travel Summit in Punta meta, Mexico. What drew you to create this space for women and law to come together?

Lauren Wood

I think it was. combining my two passions, I love being a trial lawyer. But I also just, I love travel and I love the blog aspect of it too. And so it was really the thought process was to combine those two things. I actually did a small group trip to Bali in March of 2020. And because of just my professional connections and, my friend base, a lot of them are women lawyers and nearly all of the people who signed up for this small group trip, there were 10 plus me. So 11 total were all women lawyers. And it’s just from there, it spiraled out of control. We, then we decided to get certified for MCLE credit. And it actually wasn’t until after the event that I got the word from the state bar that they had approved it. And so then I thought if I can get MCLE approval for an 11 person group in Bali, I’m sure I could put together an actual conference and get it certified for MCLE hopefully, knock on wood. And then it, like everything else, it just built on itself. And so that was the impetus is a much larger endeavor, obviously. But the thought of getting a group of women lawyers in a beautiful place like Mexico where we can learn from one another and also just enjoy some time away from the office,  that to me is such a wonderful thing.

Sonya Palmer

As I’ve been talking to other women lawyers, one of the themes that has come up has been creating a support system. And so I think this is a this is a perfect opportunity and place to do just that, so that you have a place where you can create that system to help support you to go back out into the world. So I think it’s really a special thing.

Lauren Wood

Thank you. And we don’t have anything like this, I think that I started talking about the idea right around last summer. And spoke to a few of my colleagues and everyone is like it’s oh my gosh, it’s such a great idea. We don’t have anything like that.  Yes I’m in. And then I sent out speaker invites by email and all of the slots filled up in a week and I went, oh my gosh, this is amazing. And so I think that the overwhelmingly positive responses is mostly because we, we don’t have anything like this for us. There are plenty of events that feel very much like the boys clubs still just because the legal field is a little bit of a boys club.And so I wanted to create an environment that was for women. And like you said I think that it, having that like safe spaces is really important.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah, I think it’s definitely time to shine a light and spotlight. Is there any like particular part of it that you’re really excited about or something you’re really looking forward to?

Lauren Wood

Anxious about it, to be honest.

Sonya Palmer

Yeah because you’re getting close!

Lauren Wood

And it’s a lot of stress and I just want to make sure that everything runs smoothly. I know that it won’t. So that’s, currently I’m focused on making sure it doesn’t fail. But of course the exciting thing to look forward to is just getting everyone together. I look forward to seeing some of the faces I know, and some that I don’t and getting to know new people. There are a lot of people who are registered, who I don’t know, which is lovely and really exciting. So I look forward to meeting all of them as well. Yeah, I think that’s probably what I’m looking forward to that.

Sonya Palmer

I love that Lauren is bravely creating a safe, joyful and educational space for female attorneys. I asked Lauren which female trailblazers, young lawyers should be following.

Lauren Wood

Oh my gosh. Yes. Not to brag, but a lot of them are speaking at my conference.

Sonya Palmer

They are and yeah, youve got a good line up

Lauren Wood

I, there have been women in my career that I have looked up to. And I don’t want to run the risk of leaving anyone out because there are so many, but people like Genie Harrison and Ibiere Seck. Debbie Chang, Candace Klien, Amy Curry, Lordis Krista Rainey. There are just too many to list. They have all been so supportive of me and my career from the beginning. And I think there are several of them are the reason I even know that people. And the area that I do. And so I owe tremendous gratitude to all of them. And I just, I’m so excited to see them speak at the event and, to see some of the women lawyers really get to another lovely part of the event is it’s intentionally small. We are capping the attendance and it’s not going to be one of these events where you can’t keep up and you meet a thousand people in a day. There are multiple events over multiple days, and it’s small enough to where you should be able to meet everyone and speak to everyone face-to-face and get to know the speakers better which is a huge benefit to young lawyers in particular.

Sonya Palmer

And in order to serve the community and support one another, we must care for ourselves first. I wanted to know what Lauren does to rest and to recharge.

Lauren Wood

For an extended period of time, it’s obviously getting away somewhere and being someplace far away. But on a more regular basis that is I mean, it’s going to sound really boring, but my routine in the evenings is as soon as I get home from work, I take off my suit cause I have two dogs and a cat and a baby. So that’s the first thing I do. I get into sweats, take my makeup off. And then my husband usually cooks dinner and we watched jeopardy together every night at it’s seven. And that’s how I decompress. I try not to look at my phone. I try not to respond to any emails and just lying down after the day.

Sonya Palmer

Nice. And you think your baby will catch the travel bug early?

Lauren Wood

Oh yes. He’s coming to the conference. He already has a passport. Yes, he’ll be there so that will be his first international trip and yeah, hope so. He won’t have much of a choice, at least for the beginning part of his life.

Sonya Palmer

I got one more. Is there anything in the legal industry that you would change?

Lauren Wood

I think that women lawyers need to be paid more they need to be paid for what they’re worth. I don’t care how many firms tell you that there isn’t a pay gap there is. And that’s one of the things that needs to change.

Sonya Palmer

I love that Lauren saw an opportunity to blend her passions and create a thriving community in the process. Her experience is a reminder that women law don’t just need a seat at the table. Sometimes we have to create our own one that caters to our unique needs and offer support for other women in the field. One more huge. Thanks to Lauren Wood for joining me on the show today, 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 Lauren Wood 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’ll 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 their field.

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