January 2016 - Six Degrees of Todd Friedland

by Tiffanny Brosnan, John Stephens, Mei Tsang, and Dean Zipser

No matter what kind of law you practice and what organizations you belong to, you probably know Todd Friedland, or have heard of him. Whether it is the OCBA, Constitutional Rights Foundation of Orange County (CRF), Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL), Orange County Jewish Bar Association, various committee meetings, section meetings, or charitable events, Todd is everywhere. Todd does much more than merely join a number of groups and attend a bunch of events. He gets involved, heavily. Todd is an Über-Connector. As well as being a great litigator and a leader in the community, he is also a family man, with a wonderful wife and three amazing kids.

As he steps into the role of President of the OCBA, our members rightly want to know, “Who is the real Todd Friedland, and just how does he manage to do it all?” In a giant leap of faith, and what could be considered a lapse in judgment, he tasked the four of us to help answer that question: Tiffanny Brosnan (TB), who has been on the CRF board with Todd and is a member of Todd’s ProVisors networking group; John Stephens (JS), Todd’s partner at their firm; Mei Tsang (MT), who shares office space with Todd’s firm and has been co-counsel with Todd on various cases; and Dean Zipser (DZ), who has served with Todd on the CRF and ABTL boards, and whom Todd has described (at least until this publication comes out) as a mentor to him.

What we all have in common is that we consider Todd a good friend, and are pleased to be connected to him by just one degree in the “Six Degrees of Todd Friedland.”

How did you meet Todd?
JS: The first time I met Todd was at court at an ex parte around the turn of the century. I had a case against Pillsbury Winthrop, where Todd worked. Todd struck me as a nice guy and a very good lawyer, even though his client was pure evil.

TB: I met Todd during our early days together on the CRF board. Todd became President of CRF and later convinced me to follow in his footsteps and take on the president role. What I didn’t know then was that Todd has a knack for that—encouraging the people around him to step up.

DZ: I’m guessing it was when I joined the CRF board and wondered who the guy was who occasionally showed up to our Board meetings looking like he just left the waves and was on his way to play golf. The more we got to know each other, the more we realized we shared many of the same interests and ideas.

MT: When I met Todd, I may have been the only lawyer in Orange County who didn’t know of him before meeting him. My partner, Bob Fish, recommended Todd to be co-counsel with Fish & Tsang on a case, even though he and Todd were on opposite sides on another case. Having an opposing counsel recommend you says a lot about your work. It was wonderful to get to know Todd while working closely with him in heavy litigation, which involved a lot of strategizing and hard work. I learned a lot from Todd, not only in terms of litigation strategy and writing, but also in how to handle clients and opposing counsel. He was not afraid to put himself on the line for his clients. He also was able to be brutally honest with his clients while maintaining their trust and respect. That is what makes him a great litigator.

What do you appreciate about Todd?
JS: Lots of stuff. Todd is a fun friend and partner. We have a good time in and out of the office. Todd can be trusted completely. I also appreciate that anyone can do so many things at the same time as Todd, and do them so well. He’s a marvel.

MT: He always handles himself with integrity and professionalism. He reminds all of us to be civil even in very heated battles. Civility and ethics greatly matter to Todd, and it’s the cornerstone of his message and presidency with the OCBA.

DZ: Besides getting me into Playground 2.0? (See foodie comments below.) As a “Bar junkie” myself, it’s nice to have a soul mate. I’m continually impressed by Todd’s boundless energy. He never shies away from any task, or helping out someone or some organization in need. He’s a good listener, creative, and willing to think outside the box—all important qualities for an OCBA president.

TB: I consider Todd to be the concierge to the OC legal community. Need a lawyer who handles pet custody disputes? Todd probably knows someone. Want to find a good place to teach your kid to surf on Oahu? Todd has a recommendation. Looking for a restaurant for a fun night out in LA? Todd knows the spot.

What should people know about Todd outside his profession?
JS: Todd is athletic. He is unbeatable at ping-pong, and is an ace at extreme water sports. Although he is a horrible golfer, every now and then—out of nowhere—he will uncork a 300-yard drive or drain a 30-foot putt.

MT: Todd is a foodie. He knows all the great and new restaurants. He is a hipster at heart, just without the mustache. Todd also has a great creative side to him. We collaborated a lot in building our shared office space. It was fun working with him to create a unique space that represents both firms in separate ways. There is more to Todd than just being a lawyer.

DZ: How are we defining his “profession”? Being a lawyer, or being Mr. Professional Organization groupie? Either way, I guess I’m a “ditto” on this one. I’ve played golf with Todd and can echo John’s comments, and I’ve benefited from his vast knowledge of great restaurants.

TB: Todd’s wife, D’Ann, has stuck by his side for nearly thirty years. She’s the one to do things like drive across the county to pick up the margarita machine for the open house at Todd’s new office (true story).

What does Todd not want you to know?
JS: Todd owns a frozen margarita machine, and he brings it out several times a year for various occasions. He considered changing the name of the OCBA offices to “Margaritaville” just for 2016.

MT: He listens to 80s music and also hip-hop. The old school kind, too. That would be a great auction item for the bar to raise money: watch Todd rap (okay, maybe not). On a more serious note, he is a self-made man. He came from humble beginnings, climbed corporate ladders, and even worked in Hollywood (dread to think what he did there!). No, really, he fetched coffee and ran errands. He didn’t follow a traditional path, but through pure passion and drive, he built an amazing career in law, and has created a beautiful family with his wife, D’Ann, and three great kids (Ashlyn, Aubrey, and Aidan) in tow.

TB: That he either has the ability to stop time or a gene that allows him to function on half of the amount of sleep a normal person needs. I honestly don’t know how Todd can pack so many things into one day.

DZ: That he actually asked the four of us to write this article. He’s way too trusting. But that’s Todd. He sees only the good in people.

Has anyone actually seen him practice law or does he just zoom around town?
DZ: Rumor has it Todd does practice law on the side, and others report having seen him in court and depositions. But I haven’t.

JS: That’s a legitimate question. But seriously, Todd has a very busy caseload and is one of the finest litigators in the county.

MT: It does seem like he is everywhere. What sets Todd apart is that he is there with his clients through thick and thin. Clients can count on him, as can his family, friends, colleagues, and all of the bar associations and organizations he is involved with.

TB: Todd is a great lawyer. I am always comfortable referring work to Todd because of the rave reviews that I’ve heard from clients.

Name a leader Todd will emulate:
JS: Bill Clinton without the creepy stuff.

MT: Abe Lincoln and Dean Zipser.

DZ: For Todd’s sake, let’s hope it’s Abe.

TB: Mike Brady, from The Brady Bunch. Todd brings people together. He knows how to spot the best in them and draw that out. Mike Brady brought his boys and Alice the housekeeper into the mix with Carol and her girls, and out came the family band, the Silver Platters.

JS: Hmm, Mike Brady ... That’s a good one. Okay, I’m changing my answer from Bill Clinton to Shirley Partridge. She was able to keep Danny in line for the most part, and she never fell for Reuben Kincaid’s manipulation. Shirley Partridge. That’s my final answer. Todd will be just like Shirley Partridge.

What do you think Todd’s presidency will bring to the OCBA?
DZ: Catered dinners and hip-hop music at all OCBA events? Seriously, based on our many discussions, I know that Todd has been thinking ahead and already has some great ideas for our Bar Association—and that’s not counting those he may get from his “Hey Todd” campaign. Todd is singularly focused on making the OCBA better and I have no doubt he will do so.

JS: A lot of brain freezes from the frozen margaritas. Kidding aside, I think Todd’s presidency will be marked by his accessibility. I expect the OCBA membership will fill his “Hey Todd” email inbox, and Todd will be open to all reasonable ideas from the membership, and even some unreasonable ones. Todd appreciates and admires the OCBA presidents who have preceded him, and he will continue their great legacy. And his speeches will be short, or so he promises.

MT: Todd’s going to build an even more inclusive bar. He has the intelligence, determination, charisma, and diplomacy to bring the various groups, such as past presidents, Masters Division, community leaders, and Young Lawyers Division together to carry out the goals of the OCBA. It is a tough period for our profession: lots of lawyers still can’t find work and lots of people still need good representation. He will make an impact in finding ways to bridge those gaps. More importantly, he will make sure there is a level of levity and fun to it, which always helps.

TB: Infectious energy. As the group leader to our ProVisors networking group, Todd has kicked off 7:30 a.m. meetings by jumping on the conference room table and by blaring Barry White music. I am looking forward to Todd bringing that to the OCBA.

JS: That’s pretty impressive, but if he sang a Barry White song at 7:30 a.m., then I’d be really impressed. Maybe we can get him to do that at Judges’ Night.

For the “Hey Todd” Campaign: What is the first thing you want to ask?
TB: Believe it or not, but I’ve actually got a serious question here: Hey Todd, I know you always make time to volunteer with programs such as the high-school mock-trial competition and Peer Court; can you do anything to help OCBA attorneys get MCLE credit for some of the hours they spend doing things like coaching a mock trial team or mentoring law students?

JS: Since you are going to be so busy this year, can I use your Lakers tickets?

DZ: Given Mei’s “leader” comment and obvious good judgment, is it too late to just make her the president instead?

MT: Where are you going to find the time to answer all the questions?

Tiffanny Brosnan is an employment partner at Snell & Wilmer and can be reached at tbrosnan@swlaw.com. John Stephens is Todd’s partner at their business litigation firm, Stephens Friedland LLP, and can be contacted at john@sf-lawyers.com. Mei Tsang is managing partner of Fish & Tsang LLP, and you can email her at mtsang@fishiplaw.com. Dean Zipser is a past OCBA President and a founding partner of Umberg Zipser LLP who can be reached at dzipser@umbergzipser.com. All were honored to introduce your new, fearless OCBA President.