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Even With 720,000 Reasons to Stay, Lucas Exits for Bench

January 02, 2003

Renee Deger
The Recorder

Litigator Patricia Lucas is facing a major cut in pay – and she's happy about it.

The Fenwick & West partner is bench-bound after Gov. Gray Davis appointed her to a seat on the Santa Clara County Superior Court.

She'll be earning an annual salary of $139,476, which is a big step down from what she likely took home as a Fenwick partner. The firm's profits-per-partner were $720,000 in 2001.

"Money isn't everything," Lucas said. "I'm going to be able to keep a roof over my head and keep my sons in college, and otherwise, I'm going to get by."

The trade-off, she said, is the chance to help people: "It's a fabulous job," she said. "I'm going to solve problems and get out there and make a difference."

Lucas expects to spend the next six weeks or so wrapping up or transferring her current client matters. She will start work as a judge shortly after that. She hasn't yet chosen a start date, and Lucas doesn't know yet what kind of court assignment she'll draw.

Lucas said she was first approached to put her name in the running two and a half years ago, but she demurred. At the time, she was head of Fenwick's litigation group, and she felt like she was firing on all cylinders at the firm, she said.

Then in January 2000, she began to serve on the Santa Clara County Bar Association's judiciary committee and helped evaluate judge candidates. The more candidates she thought about, the more she started seeing herself in the role.

"It really got me thinking about who decides who should be a judge and what makes for a good judge," Lucas said.

In May, she quit the committee and a month later submitted her application for the bench. In September, she went before the same committee for evaluation. "Common sense and practicality go a long way toward making somebody a good judge, and that's part of what I hope to bring," Lucas said. Lucas joined Fenwick as a partner in 1993 after five years with Brown & Bain. She got started in law at Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, where she went to work in 1979 after graduating from Boalt Hall School of Law earlier that year.

"It's bittersweet," Lucas said about her appointment to the bench because it means leaving Fenwick. "I really enjoy my partners."