Hon.Â Jared Huffman
After borrowing, scrimping, and working part-time to get through law school, I landed a big-firm job at San Francisco’s McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen. Suddenly, I had a nice apartment, enough money to pay down my student loans, and I was learning from great litigators. Life was good.
But I was restless. My passion for the public interest had drawn me to BC Law and motivated me to work on political campaigns in college and law school. Litigating huge corporate disputes was teaching me to be a good lawyer, but I wasn’t exactly changing the world. Plus, I didn’t want to wait years to take big depositions or argue big motions. I wanted my own cases, and I wanted to make a difference.
AÂ phone call from the women’s volleyball coach at Cal State Fullerton (i.e., my older brother) changed everything. The athletic department at CSUF was hemorrhaging money on a losing football program so they had decided to cut costs by dropping women’s volleyball. It didn’t take long to determine we had a great Title IX case, and the firm generously allowed me to take it pro bono. Within a few weeks, I had won a preliminary injunction reinstating women’s volleyball and making national headlines.
From all over the country, calls poured in from terminated women’s sports teams, fired coaches, and whistle-blowing university staff. In a leap of faith, I left the comforts of a large firm and started my own eclectic practice with two other lawyers. Over the next several years we had some great wins, including a high profile Title IX case that forced all 23 Cal State campuses to implement major gender equity reforms, and I won some substantial jury verdicts. Somehow I made a decent living doing really rewarding legal work.
Meanwhile, I relished living and recreating in beautiful Marin County, and I became fascinated with California’s vexing water and fisheries issues. Lessons from BC Law’s great green guru, Professor Zyg Plater, were fresh in my mind as I finished the seminal book, Cadillac Desert. Just then some friends urged me to put my values into action by running for a seat on the local water district board. I was politically unknown and a little terrified, but I ran an energetic door-to-door campaign. I found that I loved campaigning the same way I loved the high stakes advocacy of jury trials â€“ the same way I loved the competitive thrill of a good volleyball match when I was playing in college and later on the U.S. National Team.
Winning that 1994 water board race was an inflection point in my life. I became deeply committed to public service and consumed by water and environmental policy â€“ so much that I left my law practice and joined the staff of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) where I focused on state and federal water policy.
In 2006 the North Bay seat in the California Assembly opened up, and I took another leap of faith. Being an NRDC attorney would be a political liability in most places, but in eco-minded Marin and Sonoma Counties, it’s a good thing. I won a narrow, upset victory for State Assembly, served three productive terms, and then prevailed in a wild 12-person contest for a seat in Congress in 2012. Representing California’s North Coast in Congress is my dream job. It is constantly challenging, ever-changing, often frustrating (it’s Congress), and deeply rewarding â€“ the greatest honor of my life.
Looking back, the professional journey that began with driving my little Hyundai across country in 1987 to attend BC Law and culminated 25 years later when I was sworn-in on the floor of the House of Representatives, seems almost random. I benefited from impetuous leaps of faith and blind luck (no matter how good you are, nobody makes it to Congress without luck). But there are threads that tie it together: hard work, good advocacy, believing in myself, and following my passions â€“ things I wouldn’t have been able or willing to do but for the indelible experience of BC Law.