Paraphrasing Paul Simon’s iconic song, “Still Crazy After All These Years,” seems hugely appropriate in Ben Echeverria’s case, as it’s hard to imagine cramming as much into life as he has in his 81 years.
After graduating, Echeverria ‘71 passed the Bar exam on his first attempt and began his career with the California Municipal and Superior Courts conducting legal research for judges. Echeverria always wanted to practice education law and ten years as trial counsel for the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) followed before he turned to private practice.
“I always enjoyed representing education clients,” says Echeverria. “My time at SDUSD as trial counsel included getting an injunction against the San Diego Teacher's Association for going on strike and an inverse condemnation suit against the Port District, operator of Lindberg Field, for flying over the schools and taking away instruction time.”
A six-year stint as Legal Counsel for Palomar Community College District at the end of his California practice was followed by a move to New Mexico where he was a member of the New Mexico State Mediation Board and worked as a mediator and arbitrator. Echeverria returned to private practice in Colorado in 2006 until finally retiring from the law in 2016.
But retiring from working was the furthest thing on his mind as he embarked on a second career as a freelance writer and consultant.
As a trial attorney for over 40 years, Echeverria recalls some stand-out moments including a three-month jury trial as an insurance defense attorney, in which he represented the San Diego Bus Driver’s Union defending a suit brought by the owner of a private bus company for alleged strike damages. The jury was out about three hours before bringing in a defense verdict.
Echeverria always had a passion for writing and wrote his first published piece as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada-Reno. “It was an article on jazz,” he recalls, “and it appeared in the student literary magazine, The Brushfire.”
As a student at California Western, he was Student Writing Editor for the first edition of the International Law Journal and wrote a comment on sham marriages and a doctrine called “family unity”. Later, as a Colorado attorney, he wrote his first book on education law, Law Practice in Modern Educational Administration (2013, Fathom Publishing Company) and then moved into historical fiction.
At 81, Echeverria is finishing up his third book, "The Rhymes and Rhythms of a Life" which he says contains short stories and poems he has written for the past sixteen years about a variety of subjects, including aging. “The central theme is about how life has a rhythm if you just stop and listen for it,” he says.
Not content with having just one writing project on the go, he has also started writing his second fiction and fourth book, which he hopes to get published by the end of the year.
Echeverria has some sage advice for aspiring California Western students today and that is to avoid short cuts, study hard, and learn to do in-depth and honest research on all issues they are confronted with.
“Ethics is one of the most important classes you will take,” says Echeverria. “So learn everything you can about being an honest attorney while you are in law school. As a licensed attorney, you are an 'officer of the court' and as such, have a duty and fiduciary obligation to be ethical, trustworthy, and honest at all times.”
Advice that Ben Echeverria is still putting into practice after all these years.
For Ben Echeverria’s complete bibliography go here.