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Battling Robert Blake...Again: Plaintiff's Attorney Eric Dubin

published April 16, 2007

Mary Waldron
( 71 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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After a trip to the local courthouse sparked his interest in law during middle school, Dubin began to think that practicing law might be something he could be good at. "I like the correlation to participating in sports—you have a winner and a loser, and you train very hard to win. It could be a pretty exciting way to go," he explained.
 
Battling Robert Blake...Again: Plaintiff's Attorney Eric Dubin

"I always kind of had the personality that liked to be in the spotlight, and you kind of have to have that to be a trial lawyer...only [about] 10% of lawyers go to trial, but if you want to be in front of a jury, you've got to be born with that kind of personality," Dubin said.


Dubin attended California Western School of Law in San Diego, where he worked on the law review and then clerked for the Fourth District California Court of Appeal in San Diego. Dubin anticipated that his clerkship during his last year of law school would give him a head start in the San Diego law community. But unfortunately, because the market was so bad after he graduated, Dubin had no luck finding a good position in San Diego.

This prompted Dubin to venture north to Los Angeles in hopes of brighter opportunities. Many people have the perception that Los Angeles attorneys are all well paid and powerful from day one. Not true. Dubin had to learn that bitter truth the hard way when he was offered a salary of $42,000 for his first position in downtown Los Angeles at Stockdale, Peckham & Werner. "When I asked the guy for more money, he pulled out a stack of resumes and said, 'Do you want it or not?'" he recalled.

After putting in his time at Stockdale, Peckham & Werner, Dubin moved to Orange County to take a position at Murtaugh, Miller, Meyer & Nelson. Strengthening his game in the courtroom, Dubin stayed at the firm for a couple of years, until he got the urge to open his own firm. He has been a sole practitioner in Irvine, CA, for approximately 10 years.

Dubin has also ventured outside the courtroom to teach law school. "I loved it and hope to go back and do it again someday. It was way more time-consuming than I thought," he said. He taught ethics and remedies at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, CA, for about a year.

"It was just fun. I had, like, 80 students. I remember I brought in CBS's 48 Hours and got them all on TV, so they loved me from the start," he said. "I was really raw. I told them real-world stories—I wasn't playing hide-the-ball. It was definitely a lot less stressful and different than the fighting and litigation."

Dubin has also made his mark in the media, appearing on various television networks and news programs, including Dateline NBC, FOX News Live, Larry King Live, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS's Early Show, At Large with Geraldo Rivera, The O'Reilly Factor, A&E's American Justice, CBS's 48 Hours, and Paula Zahn Now, among others.

In 2002, Dubin was asked to host a radio show for CBS called Legally Speaking with Eric Dubin, a fun legal program that aired on Saturdays during Howard Stern's weekly time slot on 97.1 FREE FM in Los Angeles.

"I loved it. It was just another example of wanting to do something different and having some fun," he said. "I took calls for an hour and gave legal advice. Sometimes I would have friends on to talk about different issues."

Although he no longer hosts the show, Dubin still makes monthly appearances on the Conway and Whitman Show, which airs weeknights from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. on 97.1 FREE FM.

Dubin represented and won the wrongful death civil suit filed by Bonny Lee Bakley's four children against actor Robert Blake in November of 2005. Blake was accused of murdering his wife, Bakley, after she was found shot in his car outside of Vitello's Restaurant in Studio City in 2001.

Blake told the police he had gone back to the restaurant to get a gun he left at the table and was inside when the shooting occurred. Although Blake was found "not guilty" in the criminal case in May 2005, he was found liable by Dubin in the civil case, which won the family $30 million that Blake was ordered to pay later that year.

"Intense and amazing," Dubin said of the case that has marked his career in law. "It turned out to probably be the biggest victory of my career. It's like a Super Bowl win when you win something like that."

<<Like O.J. Simpson, who was ordered by a civil-suit ruling to pay the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, Blake later filed for bankruptcy and has yet to pay the Bakley family. After announcing that he would appeal the civil decision shortly after the verdict was handed down, Gerald Schwartzbach, Blake's attorney in the criminal trial, filed an appeal in late February 2007.

"It's basically the same issues they brought for the motion of a new trial and lost, so I'm not too concerned about it," Dubin said of the appeal. "With this appeal on my desk, I'm right back in it."

Continuing to build his reputation as a prime plaintiff's attorney in Southern California, Dubin also represented two brothers, A. Jay and Jeremy Popoff of the rock band Lit, in a legal controversy that erupted after a drunk driver who killed their father and left their mother with one leg was only sentenced to two years in prison.

Intensifying the uproar, the judge, James Warren, later announced that he had made a mistake and that the women should not have received any jail time, saying on court record, "I believe I made a mistake. I believe she is a responsible candidate for probation."

"The rationale was that this was her first offense, and she had never had any problems before. We were really concerned that the message being sent to college kids, and everybody, was that you get one freebie—like, 'You can kill one person; just don't do it again,'" Dubin said.

When Dubin was a young lawyer, he was able to work with Gerry Spence, a powerful attorney who ended up shaping his skills and perception of the practice of law.

"He's maybe the best trial lawyer that America's ever seen. He drastically validated the way that I try cases. He confirmed that what I was doing made sense, which was not acting like a lawyer but telling a really powerful story," he said. "People don't go to the theater to see if the actors memorized their lines. They go to be moved by the story."

Dubin understands the need to relate to the jury and others in the courtroom when carrying out a case, and he works to achieve that by taking an approach that is very organic.


 
Q. What do you do for fun?
A. I have a three- and a five-year-old, so it's all about the kids right now, but I like going out to dinner with friends, great wine, movies, and music. I like to travel when I can.
Q. What CD is in your CD player right now?
A. Corinne Bailey Rae.
Q. What's the last magazine you read?
A. It was probably Us Weekly.
Q. What is your favorite TV show?
A. I'm digging the Discovery Channel shows like Man vs. Wild and I Shouldn't Be Alive. My wife and my daughter watch American Idol, so I'm usually right next to them for that.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. My grandfather. He was an amazing family man, and that seems to be the most important thing.

"I try to be very real—roll with the punches and try to connect with the jury. I don't waste a sentence. There's no fluff. I take their time very seriously. It's an art form, and it changes with every case," he said.

Throughout his years in the courtroom and as a law professor, Dubin has recognized some dos and don'ts that all new lawyers should remember.

"Try to make your first job [in law] something that you're interested in doing as a career because there are dangers of being pigeonholed in different areas if that's what you start out doing," he said. "It will make the job and your life way more enjoyable if you find an area of law that you can have some fun with."

"If you want to be a trial lawyer, get in court, whether it's second-chairing or watching a partner try a case. I learn something during every trial."

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