Q&A: Meet William Tanner, Class of 2015

Written by  //  May 3, 2016  //  No comments

Tanner_William-2015_Dir-107x146As a directing attorney and the head of many of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County’s innovative programs — ranging from form completion software for self-represented litigants to the first incubator program to partner with law schools and center on legal aid — Bill Tanner leads from the front.

Where others are timid to tread, Bill seizes upon novel opportunities better to serve low-income and self-represented litigants. A legal aid with an adjudicated newspaper? Bill is editor of The Notice. A legal aid with a lawyer referral service catering to modest means clients? Bill supervises that, too. And while spearheading these innovative programs, Bill also has mentored and trained hundreds of law students and young attorneys, while showing them that they are capable of more than they ever imagined.

Bill’s charisma and joy for the law are infectious. Bill has set out to change the world of legal education and the representation of people of modest means.

William Tanner
Directing Attorney
Legal Aid Society of Orange County
Santa Clara, CA

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Modesto, CA.  Growing up I split my time between a farm and ranch in the Central Valley of California and cities in Orange County. I was a very popular boy going to school in the surf cities of Orange County wearing my pearl button shirts, Wrangler jeans, and cowboy boots.

What’s your favorite thing to do away from work?

I enjoy playing soccer and currently play four times per week.

What achievement outside of work makes you most proud?

My 16-year-old daughter.

Did you choose your career or did it choose you?

When I was three, if I was bathed and ready for bed, my mom would let me stay up and watch Perry Mason from 10 to 11 p.m.

Who was your mentor and what made him or her so influential?

Barbara Youngblood and Bob Cohen. Barbara mentored me as a young attorney. She went to court, sat in on depositions, and reviewed my pleadings and papers. She taught me how to practice law.

Bob Cohen because he has a vision but is also open to unconventional ideas. He is a great example of a leader who is always moving and always looking for new, innovative, and better ways to serve people and accomplish our mission.

What is the most vivid moment or experience in  your career?

I had a hotly contested residential housing case. The judge adjourned the case and even went on a view. At the end of plaintiff’s case, I moved for a nonsuit which was granted. I was elated. We had just won the case and my client did not even have to testify. When my client and I got to the parking lot, I thought she would feel terrific and congratulate me. She didn’t. She was very upset. At the end of this case, I learned how important the process is for clients. More than winning, many litigants, including this one, want their day in court and have a person in authority hear their complaints.

Of the law-related projects or initiatives you’ve worked on in the past year or so, what has you the most excited or shows the most promise?

An incubator project. We now have over 50 current and former lawyers who are in all areas of practice and are successful.

Of the law-related projects or initiatives you’ve worked on in the past year or so, what has you the most excited or shows the most promise?

Training new lawyers how to operate their law practice serving modest income folks

Get to know the rest of the Fellows by visiting the Recent Inductees page and by browsing the Fellows Directory.

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