Stacey Myers Garrett’s practice is focused on banking, securities and privacy laws. She has seen several dozen cases to completion through trials and arbitrations, including a recent $493 million defense win for Citigroup Global Markets and a $22 million defense win for Heritage Oaks community bank. She is a graduate of California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, and joined Keesal, Young & Logan in 1991. She is now a shareholder in the Long Beach office.
Lawdragon: Your practice is an interesting mix of work. Can you describe your typical caseload for our readers?
Stacey Myers Garrett: I typically represent securities broker dealers and banks in trials and arbitrations. The cases usually are initiated by people who claim they have been treated unfairly when they bought or sold securities, took out a loan, or entered into some other transaction with the financial institution. I also have defended claims of embezzlement, forgery, money laundering, unauthorized trading, and identity theft. The cases really run the gamut, and they are all interesting.
I also practice privacy law. I am part of a team at KYL that advises clients on privacy and data security issues and represents those clients in cases where there is an alleged violation of privacy rights. This work often involves analyzing issues that arise under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and Regulation S-P, and various federal and state privacy laws. We currently are doing a lot of work relating to the California Consumer Privacy Act which goes into effect in January 2020, and helping clients adjust their practices to comply with the new law. Privacy is a challenging area for clients because of the overlapping (and sometimes differing) privacy laws that apply in different states, along with the fact that the laws are changing rapidly.
LD: What drew you to this type of practice?
SMG: I like financial services work because I am intrigued by people, and I also like current events and economics. So they all fit in this practice. At the same time, I became interested in practicing privacy law because more and more of our clients are facing issues relating to privacy and the protection of consumer personal information. Clients and regulators have been more and more attuned to these issues in recent years, and the law is changing quickly. I think it is helpful to be able to understand both the client’s practical business concerns as well as the requirements of the various laws, so that we can suggest solutions that are both legally-sound and business-practical.
LD: What keeps you excited about this type of work?
SMG: It is always changing, and there is always a new development to read about. The pace of change in today’s world is astonishing.
LD: What are some recent developments and how have they impacted your practice?
SMG: Technology has had a profound effect on our personal and commercial lives in the last 30 years, and it has evolved in such a way that it is possible to collect, use and transfer an enormous amount of data about people and their daily activities. I think that recent events involving data breaches and the surreptitious collection and use of personal data have caused people to become more aware of, and savvy about, the type of information that they share. This evolution has similarly touched the legal industry. My practice has evolved to include helping clients determine what privacy and data protection laws apply to them, what business practices need to be changed or updated, how to bring new products and services to market while complying with various privacy laws and regulations, and the reputational advantages of transparency and clarity. It is an exciting and developing area.
Technology also affects how we prepare for and try cases. Social media, for instance, has become a very rich source of potentially discoverable information. This information can be very valuable in civil litigation, but it can be difficult to figure out how to discover social media posts, videos, photographs, emojis and Tweets, particularly given the limitations of the Stored Communications Act. We have been helping clients get access to this information, and the results can be game-changing.
LD: Did any experience from your undergraduate work push you towards a career in the law?
SMG: As an undergraduate, I wanted to be a journalist. I liked investigating stories, interviewing witnesses, putting the pieces together, figuring out the motivations of the people involved, and writing about it. At my undergraduate university, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, all journalism majors were required to take a course called, “Journalism and the Law.” It taught us about the First Amendment, commercial speech, the right of publicity, defamation and slander, and other torts and defenses relating to journalism. I took the class and was hooked. From then on, I wanted to go to law school. I thought the skills we learned in journalism school—investigating facts, interviewing witnesses, figuring out the paper trail, and writing about it—would transfer to the practice of law, and especially trial work. We do a lot of writing in this job. It’s important to be prepared, to work hard, and to maintain your credibility under all the circumstances.
LD: Was there an early mentor who helped shape the course of your professional life?
SMG: I joined Keesal, Young & Logan in 1991 because Skip Keesal was the founding partner and his leadership set the tone for the firm. He taught me that sometimes this job seems complicated, but it all boils down to this: we lawyers must conduct our business in a way that is honest and forthright, and we must always do the right things for the right reasons. Keep those basic rules in mind, he said, and you’ll never have a problem. And he was right. I also had the good fortune of being able to try my first case just six months after being admitted to the bar. It was a small securities case, but I felt a huge sense of responsibility for the case and for my client. I was terrified and thrilled at the same time. I must have liked it because when it was over, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I still love it. I wish all new trial attorneys could have early trial experience. It is very formative.
LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer today?
SMG: I think I am prepared, thorough, and I try to know the facts and law of my cases inside and out. I also try to treat everyone with respect because everyday decorum and civility are critical to keeping the practice of law on the right plane. A trial judge in one of my cases had a favorite way of reminding all the lawyers in his courtroom that we are not only trial attorneys, we also are “counselors and doctors of the law,” and he expected us to act that way, even when things became contentious. I think a calm, controlled, prepared lawyer is much more effective than one who is yelling and throwing tantrums.
LD: You’ve been at Keesal, Young & Logan for almost 30 years. What would you say makes the firm stand out?
SMG: With more than 50 lawyers, KYL is large enough to handle nationwide, complex litigation, but also is nimble enough to handle specialized cases and matters, and to quickly respond to our clients’ needs. We take the long view. We pride ourselves on our high quality legal work, long-lasting client relationships, reputation for integrity and professionalism, and one of the most successful litigation records in the country. Taken all together, I think it works, because 75% of the attorneys who currently work at KYL started their careers at KYL. That means that people are happy working here and it is a good place to be long-term. It also means that we can provide our clients with continuity of service from lawyers who truly know them and their businesses.
LD: How has KYL’s firm or practice management changed since the start of your career?
SMG: Over time, legal budgeting and legal operations have evolved, and the clients’ need to reliably predict legal fees and vendor costs has become a crucial concern. To meet that need, we have done two things. First, we more frequently consider alternate fee arrangements so that we can provide clients with high-quality legal services and predictability. Second, we have incorporated technology into our practice so that we can help clients with legal operations and automated workflows to streamline legal processes, make them more efficient and lower costs. Both efforts often involve an intersection of law and technology, which is a sweet spot for KYL.
LD: What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
SMG: I like spending time with my family, long-distance road bicycling, and cooking.
LD: Are you involved in any pro bono or public interest activities?
SMG: I volunteer through the Los Angeles County Superior Court. I like helping people in a one-on-one situation, especially when it empowers them to get their lives back on track.