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Ed Tomchin: Paralegal and Photographer, Golden Valley, AZ

published April 16, 2007

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( 14 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
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<<Since Tomchin admits he cannot live solely on Social Security, he also currently manufactures and sells solar ovens, doing his small part to help keep the world green. On top of that, he is a skilled photographer (his photo resume can be viewed at and dabbles in eBay sales.

"I'm making and selling solar ovens in keeping with the current trend regarding energy savings," said Tomchin. "I also offer construction-progress photography to people building custom homes, and I keep my hand in eBay selling items there from time to time, but I'm about to phase eBay out, as they are becoming the Bush administration of the online-auction world."

Tomchin's road to his career as a paralegal was an interesting one. "The year was 1980 or thereabouts. I had a small painting and contracting business in Oakland, California, doing turnaround apartments and houses for property managers," he recalled.

"One fine evening, I met a woman at a Unitarian social in San Francisco, and we struck up a relationship. Jane was in the midst of a career change at the time. She'd been a journalist in Fresno for a number of years and gave that up to move back to the Bay area to look for a new field of endeavor. While we were dating, she found what was at the time a brand-new field—that of being a paralegal. I recall shuddering at the term since it sounded more like a disease than a profession. I still dislike the term and, over the years, have coined numerous others to describe my work: trial assistant, litigation analyst, researcher, legal writer, etc."

"As Jane's studies progressed, I began helping her with her homework and became interested in the law myself, especially legal research," Tomchin continued. "I'd always been an avid researcher, and it appealed to me, especially with the basis of law being stare decisis. For some odd reason—odd because I was very liberal in my political philosophy—the concept appealed to me. In fact, the more I helped Jane, the more I fell in love with law."

Tomchin enrolled in the paralegal studies program at Merritt College in Oakland. He attributes his decision to do so to a natural—perhaps even genetic—ability to understand the concepts and principles of law. "There are more attorneys in my paternal family than I care to count. But in any case, legal concepts made perfect sense to me, and I was hooked," said Tomchin.

According to Tomchin, one of the shining moments in his career occurred during his legal education. It was a standard moot court exercise wherein he was to prosecute a dozen miners who had become trapped below the earth with no hope of rescue and who had, by drawing straws, chosen to kill and eat one of their own so that the rest might live in hopes of a seemingly impossible rescue. They were eventually rescued and prosecuted.

"I prepared well and, with the class of 31 sitting as jurors, achieved a unanimous verdict of 'guilty,'" said Tomchin. "The instructor then turned the tables and had me and defense switch sides. Right then and there, I had to defend the same miners I had just unanimously convicted of murder."

"I had prepared for the prosecution in the prescribed manner, learning and knowing the defense's case as good as my own so as to not be surprised. I never expected to win but felt I could at least put on a good show. To my utter amazement, I received a unanimous verdict of acquittal for the miners. I had completely changed the minds of every 31 of my classmates—turned them 180 degrees around, which sort of twisted my head around, too."

His first reaction was one of anger that his earlier argument had been overturned so easily and that his classmates' minds could be changed so easily. It took some time for Tomchin to realize the full impact of what had occurred, but when he finally did, he said, it empowered him with a level of confidence that served him well when dealing with attorneys, judges, police, and clients for the rest of his career.

Q. What do you do for fun?
A. Take pictures, write essays, read books, explore the vast amount of information available on the Internet, watch TV, hike, have good times with my dog, Zoe, explore things...there are probably hundreds more I could list, but these come to mind most readily.
Q. What CD was most recently in your CD player?
A. Probably a blank one I was recording for someone. All the music I'd ever want to listen to is already on 100 gigabytes worth of CDs and DVDs in MP3 format in a fireproof safe in my closet.
Q. What's the last magazine you read?
A. National Geographic and the Smithsonian—only two I read. Subscribe to both.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
Q. Who is your role model?
A. Myself.

Tomchin said the most enjoyable aspect of his career was researching and applying the law to issues that arose in the course of human conduct. He was never more excited than when researching and writing briefs, memoranda, and opinions.

"It was all interesting, but nothing beat getting my hands on an argument to build or one to destroy. Without due modesty, I've crafted some very good winning arguments and two Nevada Supreme Court briefs, and my win ratio is better than 70%," said Tomchin.

"Were I to have taken the much-proffered advice to become an attorney, I'd definitely have become exclusively appeals counsel. In the latter part of my career, a large part of my work was acting as a buffer between the attorney and the client—not the most enviable position in the world."

These days, the retired Tomchin expresses his ardent creativity through writing and photography.

"I've maintained a passionate interest in photography ever since a Brownie box camera was put in my hands as a young boy, and I've wanted to write ever since I learned to read. I just regret someone didn't put a musical instrument in my hands back then—the violin, perhaps," said Tomchin.

"My work is and has generally been my hobby and interest. Family I have little of and prefer a solitary life. In the words of William Carlos Williams, 'I am best alone.' My work history speaks that same sentiment, I think."

published April 16, 2007

( 14 votes, average: 4.3 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.