Sharon Wooden Richard is a retired attorney and a dedicated mentor to LEAP Fellows. In her own words below, Sharon describes the impact of thoughtful mentorship and steadfast encouragement in her own life. We’re grateful to have committed mentors like Sharon who understand the value of this work and further our mission by helping the next generation of attorneys.
My dad was waiting on bar results when I was born. No pressure. Fortunately, he passed and opened up his own firm with two friends. Private practice was generally the only option for attorneys of color in the late 1950’s. Stanley handled the civil side, Jimmy practiced entertainment law, and my dad, John Wooden, defended people charged with a crime. Eventually, they opened an office on Sunset Boulevard, across from the Cinerama Dome.
Growing up, I loved going to court with my dad and watching him grill witnesses and argue motions to the judge. When I decided to become a lawyer as well, he encouraged and supported me in every way. He helped me figure out law school applications and my personal statement, and he was so proud when I got into Boalt Hall. He helped me understand complicated legal theories, and reassured me that I did not need that tax class for a career in criminal law. He encouraged me to take a boring civil law summer job, just to make sure I didn’t want a more lucrative career in civil law. He provided free room and board so that I could study for the bar without a paycheck, and kept me focused when I had to take it a second time. He helped me get on attorney panels in juvenile and traffic court while I waited for my dream job. And when that dream job came my way, my interview with Attorney General Van de Kamp turned into a chat about my dad and the cases they tried against each other.
I started my dream job in the Criminal Division of the California Attorney General’s Office in July 1985. Six months later, I met Cindy Lopez when she joined the office. Over the years, Cindy has become my best travel buddy and godmother to my son. Now we’re both retired, and unlike me (travel and chilling are all I do) Cindy has continued to work as hard as she ever did and created an amazing organization that will prepare historically underrepresented students for a career in law.
I know how very lucky I was to have a father who convinced me I was a superstar, and who supported and encouraged me during my career path. I am profoundly thankful to LEAP for giving me the chance to do the same for Nani Nallira and the mentees who follow her.