Lawyer Limelight: Robert Zadek

As San Francisco attorney Robert Zadek tells it, his interest in politics was sparked by every young man’s desire to impress a girl. “I was a 19-year-old intern and I wanted to date some of the women interns, so an older colleague advised me to either read the ‘Kama Sutra’ or ‘The Fountainhead,’” Zadek, of counsel at Buchalter Nemer, explained. “I chose Ayn Rand’s novel because I realized my body wasn’t flexible enough to do any of the Kama Sutra positions.”

The book converted him from a politically apathetic teenager to a libertarian. But even as one of California’s highly regarded banking and finance lawyers, his libertarian views (small government, less taxes and personal freedom) and avid passion for history (he keeps updating and re-arranging his top ten list of historical figures he most admires) did not find much of an outlet until he decided to start his own radio show.

“One day I was listening to someone talk on the radio about politics and I thought I could do that,” he said.  And he did. The Bob Zadek Show, which is broadcast live every Sunday at noon (Pacific time) on NewsTalk 910 AM, has been on the air since 2009.

Lawdragon: Tell us a little bit about your law practice and how you started in the finance area.

Robert A. Zadek: I was an accounting major in college and not a very good student. Too many distractions for a kid from Queens, NY, who never dated in high school. I took the LSAT only because a guy who I played cards with took them and did very well.  I needed to show that I was smarter than him; I had already proven that I was better at hearts, our card game of choice. I scored very well, and was urged to apply to law school, lest I waste the good scores. 

I was accepted at NYU in the evening program (I wanted to work during the day) and took a creditor’s rights class from Professor Homer Kripke, one of the authors of the UCC. I got hooked almost immediately, and Professor Kripke helped me get a job with a large factoring company.  I loved the class, loved Professor Kripke, loved the job, and never stopped doing it. I love it as much today as my first day at work.

LD: It appears that financial institutions are undergoing far more regulatory scrutiny than usual in recent years. What are some of the significant changes in this area of practice that are worth noting?

RAZ:  The institutionalizing of what used to be an entire industry of entrepreneurs. Also, the loss of the art of granting credit. It is, at the banking level, all process driven. The art has been lost.

LD: You’ve been practicing for more than 45 years or so. Have you slowed down a bit?

RAZ:  Quite the contrary. I am still on a sharp upward learning curve, and, if anything I am expanding the activities which fill my day. I read the law every night, and still get excited by it.  As I like to say, I don’t let the fact that I get paid to do it ruin it for me.

LD: How did your career as a talk-radio broadcaster start?   

RAZ:  I had a brief fling in 1994, but it was short-lived. About three years ago, having listened to various radio talk show hosts, I thought they were boring and not well informed. Since I am no stranger to attention, and since I would much rather try something new and fail at it rather than die wondering if I could have done it, I thought I would try radio. It has become my “golf game.”  I thought it was a wonderful way to spend part of a weekend and intellectually stimulating as well. Also I meet very cool guests.

LD: What kind of topics do you enjoy discussing the most?

RAZ: Topics with an American history component. Also, being a deeply committed Libertarian, economic liberty, small government and federalism are my sweet spots.

LD: Are there any similarities at all in being a broadcaster and being a lawyer?

RAZ: Talking, thinking and being in total control.

LD: What’s your favorite part of being a lawyer?

RAZ: That is too hard. I love it all. But I guess the best is the interaction with my clients, all of whom are entrepreneurs, pitting their skill and brains against the world, with their own money at risk. Seems heroic, but it’s true. They represent what America was, and needs to be to survive.

LD: What’s your least favorite?

RAZ: Dealing with bad attorneys, bad judges, and attorneys who don’t love what they do. Negativity makes me nuts. 

LD: What do you do for fun? 

RAZ: My radio show is at the top.  I live on a boat (no surprise, but its name is the Laissez Faire), and we own two other boats.  We spend lots of time in SF Bay, as well as hiking.  I read recreationally only on vacations in Mexico and Europe, but I love it — non-fiction American Revolutionary War Period. I rate and re-rate the Founders, forming my top 10 favorites list, which constantly changes. Right now, George Mason is on the ascent, Jefferson is dropping. John Adams is solidly #1.

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