Blake Wells is an attorney with The Small Business Law Firm. With a focus on employment law, he works with clients who have up to 50 employees. Yet law was not his first profession. ¿Qué era?
Every small business owner should get to know attorney Blake Wells. Working at The Small Business Law Firm, his focus is on employment law. And while he is a really nice guy, when a client has questions, he’s very good at explaining complex matters in simple and easy-to-understand terms. Perhaps it’s a by-product of his first career choice, high-school Spanish teacher. But law was in the back of his head, so he decided to spread his wings and go to law school.
Blake’s a huge NBA fan, and he played basketball throughout middle and high school. But he’s traded in the basketball for a golf ball. Easier on the knees. He’s also a devoted family man. But you can listen here and find out more.
Listen to Blake’s story here.
Click here to read the transcript
Intro Speaker 0:00
From Los Angeles, this is the Echelon Radio Network.
Jerri Hemsworth 0:16
This is Jerri Hemsworth with the Echelon radio podcast. And today I’m with Blake wells. How are you?
Blake Wells 0:23
I’m doing good. Jerry, nice to be here. How are you?
Jerri Hemsworth 0:25
I’m doing okay for Friday.
Blake Wells 0:28
Oh, yeah. It’s Friday,
Jerri Hemsworth 0:30
Remember? Oh, thank goodness. So you’re with The Small Business Law Firm in Thousand Oaks?
Blake Wells 0:36
Yes, we’re The Small Business Law Firm, full service law firm for all small business needs. I’m a business attorney, a lot of my focus has been in litigation. But at the firm, we do a lot of transactional work. So a lot of our work is keeping people out of litigation. So I can see what happens in the worst case scenario and through transactional work, I can hopefully figure out how to keep our clients outside of that realm of business disputes, but disputes arise naturally
Jerri Hemsworth 1:13
Blake Wells 1:13
and were there to handle both.
Jerri Hemsworth 1:15
And you do formations as well, right?
Blake Wells 1:17
Corporate formations, we kind of handle A to Z, the corporate formation, contract formation, we do a lot of employment law. That’s where my expertise happens. So many employment laws in California, and we do even estate planning. So you know, people can keep what they earn.
Jerri Hemsworth 1:33
So what a concept to be able to keep what you earn, in this state. That’s a challenge.
Blake Wells 1:40
Yeah, definitely, definitely. But there are a lot of mechanisms to do that and avoid probate. And, you know, we always encourage our clients to get that done early, you know, hope for the best plan for the worst. That’s kind of the motto.
Jerri Hemsworth 1:54
Yeah. And you, you mentioned, employment law, that that’s one of your specialties, that that’s where you focus a lot.
Blake Wells 2:03
Yeah, our function, we kind of function is inside outside counsel. So a lot of our clients, you know, will just come to us with questions. We kind of function as a HR department, you know, can I fire this person? What do I do in this situation? Can you draft us an employment policy handbook? And you look over our employment policy handbook, employment agreements, all the like, there’s so many, like, I just read an article that the labor code is something like 800 pages long.
Jerri Hemsworth 2:34
Are you kidding?
Blake Wells 2:35
No, no. And in there, a lot of ways that employees can wreak havoc on an employer through representative actions paga class actions, and there are ways to mitigate those risks. And there was actually just a case that came out Viking River that allowed that allowed arbitration agreements to be enforceable against PAGA actions and PAGA-
Jerri Hemsworth 3:09
Blake Wells 3:10
PAGA–Private Attorney General Act is a hot topic in California right now, because it essentially allows an employee who suffered one violation to sue on behalf of all the other employees that might have suffered all- all this slew of, of labor violations that could ever happen, no matter how innocent and these, it really can, can hurt a company.
Jerri Hemsworth 3:36
Especially a small one if if they’re under 50 employees, or it could really take somebody down very, if they don’t have if they’re not prepared.
Blake Wells 3:46
Absolutely, absolutely. So for better or worse, these laws exist. Yeah, it gives us a lot of business. But, you know, we want to make sure that we’re mitigating that risk for our clients and in the unfortunate circumstance, that they find themselves in litigation, you know, we’re there to to work your way through it and get the best, you know, most cost beneficial result.
Jerri Hemsworth 4:11
And in you just wrote an article for it. It’s a really good article for Echelon Professional, our magazine. And- about when you terminate employees what you can and can’t do or things you should do. And even I learned a number of things from that article, but obviously, you know, the paycheck upon termination, and within the certain amount of hours if somebody quits it was the the not it was the things that you are best practices. But it’s not required by law that I thought was very, very interesting. How often are you consulting with your clients? About— Did you do this? You have to do this or do they? Do they? Are they have you? Do they call you before? They’re, they need to get rid of an employee?
Blake Wells 5:16
Yes, usually this day and age, you know, can I terminate this employee is, you know, the number one question a client will ask their lawyer before before going for it.
Jerri Hemsworth 5:25
Even if they’re at will, it does, you know,
Blake Wells 5:27
Jerri Hemsworth 5:28
They’ll still have these concerns,
Blake Wells 5:29
And they are at will by presumption in California. And most employers have this at will status. In the article I talked about, you know, because of this act, well, presumption an employer, with or without notice, with or without cause can terminate an employee for any reason, okay, as long as that reason is not unlawful. And that’s where, you know, that list gets long, what’s not unlawful, okay? race, gender, implied and contract. Implied contracts that imply a term or imply a term that the employee will only be terminated for good cause. You know, where’s the line and employment disputes are tough, because it’s often so factual. And it’s, it’s so often he said, she said, and it’s so often emotional, a disgruntled employee, disgruntled employer, you know, an employee cannot be the best employee. That doesn’t mean you can fire them. And it’s usually a result of mixed motives. And there’s a lot of case law regarding this is why did you fire this person? And, you know, there might be a lot of different reasons, but the employee is obviously going to argue, well, it was for this unlawful reason I complained about this. And as a result, I was fired. And that was retaliation. Yeah. Well, how do you how do you know? Well, you also the employer says, Well, you also didn’t show up to work that day. She also didn’t show up to work a year ago, and then where it is, you know, and that’s where it gets contentious. And, and the issue for employers is that, you know, if the if the employees claim is worth $1, in the sense that, you know, all they do is win, and they win $1 Well, in a lot of the employment claims for, you know, discrimination, unpaid wages, wage and hour claims. A prevailing employee gets attorneys fees. So if you take a case from, you know, complaint to trial, that’s a lot of attorneys fees. And so a very small claim can get expensive, fast. And an employer oftentimes needs to understand those objective factors away from the emotional factors that obviously are part and parcel of, of these employment disputes. So that’s, that’s our job, I do a lot of that litigation. And, you know, I feel like I’m good at presenting the objective factors to to the client and getting them out of the subjective emotional space that we all find ourselves in, especially when it is litigation and depending on the employment relationship. So it’s, it’s definitely interesting work, sometimes contentious. But, you know, it’s there for a reason, not every employer is perfect, just like not every employee is perfect. What I like about my job now is in the transactional aspect, I feel like I can let employers know how they can comply with law did not get themselves in trouble in this trouble in the first place. And therefore everyone benefits the employees benefiting from the law because it’s being complied with and the employer is benefiting from not getting hit with some crazy lawsuit for oftentimes innocent mistakes and so many times my, my clients are just like, What didn’t I didn’t know this happened? No, the the employee was asking to take their break 30 minutes later, so they can take it with their friends and and well, that’s not the law.
Jerri Hemsworth 9:05
Blake Wells 9:05
So yeah. Anyway,
Jerri Hemsworth 9:07
Now, the law was not your first profession out of school, was it?
Blake Wells 9:12
No, no, I actually I graduated from UCLA and I kind of fell into teaching. I taught at my old high school I went to Loyola High School in Los Angeles. Go Cubs. Brian knew the Triple L I was impressed. Yeah. I want to I won’t do that here.
Jerri Hemsworth 9:31
But you what did you teach?
Blake Wells 9:33
I taught Spanish and interesting so my my junior year at UCLA, I study abroad in Madrid and I studied the whole year…
Jerri Hemsworth 9:42
The whole year?
Blake Wells 9:43
The whole year, because I wanted to learn Spanish I had a lot of book knowledge but didn’t have the speaking knowledge in the ear and I was there. I was there you know, nine months, the academic year and I met a lot of people and had a lot of fun and learn a lot of Spanish.
Jerri Hemsworth 9:58
Gonna say how much did your Spanish improve?
Blake Wells 10:01
It improved a lot. Actually, I was I get like I said, I was like book, knowledgeable, like I can read the, I knew a lot of words. But you can know a lot of words and then hearing someone speak it and you know, really quickly, you you don’t know. And it’s just something about being exposed. So something I made sure I did was live in an apartment with all Spanish speakers. And it was it was kind of a crazy situation. There were like nine other international students. Some of them were Spanish, some of them were Italian, German, Mexican. So, you know, the Mexican students would keep our Spanish on point. And then the rest of us were kind of learning as we as we went along. And you know, in Spain, you’re having dinner at 10. So you’re having dinner at 10. You know, going out at midnight
Jerri Hemsworth 10:44
Oh thats a complete lifestyle change.
Blake Wells 10:45
Yeah, no, it was it was fun. And I’d never been out of the United States. So it was a huge learning experience for me,
Jerri Hemsworth 10:52
How long did it take you to adjust?
Blake Wells 10:53
I don’t know, I’m pretty flexible. So I was, you know, and I’m, uh, I consider myself a friendly person. So I was able to, to adjust quickly. Yeah, but there are just, you know, it’s, it’s tough. You always have your parents to kind of rely on or send you things and you know, I have to go to the store and get food and do get some-
Do your own laundry?
In Spanish! I had to get school supplies. And it’s like you asked for- Culture is so interesting. So you know, I needed a three ring binder. I go to the store, I need a three ring binder. And I say it in Spanish. Un quaderno de tres anillos. Because that’s what it sounds like, to me. She looks at me like I’m crazy.
Jerri Hemsworth 11:37
Uh-oh! What did you really ask?
Blake Wells 11:41
I have those stories, but I won’t share them here. But you know, she looks at me like I’m crazy. Un quaderno tres anillos para poner papel. And she’s like, doesn’t understand what I’m saying. And she’s like, eventually, oh, I only have this four ring binder. Because they have like a different, you know, style of it. And so it was just, I don’t know, that was just a interesting, like, Introduction to cultures that you can, like, be on the same page, but not be on the same page
Jerri Hemsworth 12:10
Its not just about language.
Blake Wells 12:11
Exactly, exactly. And there’s, you know, tons of those stories. And yes, some of them might be for Echelon after dark. But
Jerri Hemsworth 12:19
That’s a different podcast. So you were you were a high school teacher back at your old alma- alma mater, what made you switch to law.
Blake Wells 12:35
So, my, my dad’s a lawyer, and so it was always something in the back of my head, I wasn’t sure about it, you know, it’s a, it’s a risk. And if you’re not, you know, gung-ho about it, you know, and I wasn’t going home at that point. So I kind of fell into teaching and a few years into teaching, I love teaching really fun. Really nice to work with kids. And I was coaching at certain points that I kind of came to a crossroads was like, okay, you know, I’m good at this, I like it, but I feel like I’m teaching my students to do things that maybe I can be doing. And, and I have the skill set that I feel like I can be using to do the things I’m telling my my students to do. And so eventually, I said, you know, it’s time for me to spread my wings get out of where I went to high school and, and kind of challenge myself to, to use my skill set to, and I know, it’s a cliche, but to help people and ultimately, as a, as a lawyer, you really are a problem solver in someone’s kind of first line of defense, into, you know, what needs to what they need to do. And so I said, Okay, I’ll take the LSAT and, and get to work and I had an eye towards criminal defense, because that’s what my, my dad did. But once I started, you know, actually studying, I really liked the kind of variety and I guess, what’s the word? The I liked the civil litigation, because there was so much to know and learn and in different aspects of society that come into play, you know, you’re dealing with government laws and economic policies and all these different incentive systems for why you have these these rules. torts I loved and, and yeah, so I kind of went into that realm and that realm is civil litigation, and, and I did some personal injury. And you know, that that’s basically I don’t do personal injury now, but I do any sort of dispute, you know, between two private parties, and all the rules and laws and case law that that goes into it. Very cool.
Jerri Hemsworth 14:58
Very cool. We’re switching gears a little bit. You- are- you love basketball? Baseball and sports?
Blake Wells 15:10
Oh yeah. I’m a huge. I’m a huge NBA fan. I played basketball in high school. I wish I had a basketball buddy. I didn’t. I was saying earlier, when I went to high school, there’s 1200 boys. And I was, you know, pretty good basketball player and middle school, but then you get to high school and you’re like, oh, there are bigger and faster.
Jerri Hemsworth 15:37
Something’s different here.
Blake Wells 15:40
I need to hit the books.
Jerri Hemsworth 15:43
But you’re in you. You’ve transitioned to golf. You said,
Blake Wells 15:47
Oh, yeah. So I mean, I’ve always played sports like basketball, soccer. And at one point, I kind of hurt my knee, or had tendinitis or something. And so I hit the golf course. And I got the bug. And all you need is one shot. Yeah. And you’re there. And it’s a it’s a great sport. I- you can play your whole life. And there’s always something to improve on. Every putt is different. And it’s a very like meditative experience while you’re on the course even though sometimes you feel like you’re having a stroke. But
Jerri Hemsworth 16:18
Sometimes you look like you’re having a stroke.
Blake Wells 16:20
Oh, yeah. Robin Williams had a joke. Maybe that’s why they call it a stroke.
Jerri Hemsworth 16:26
Yeah. And you have a little girl, she’s a year and a half.
Blake Wells 16:32
Jerri Hemsworth 16:32
Do you think you’ll take her out when she’s five or six and teach her about golf?
Blake Wells 16:37
Earlier than five, five and six. I’m gonna I’m gonna take her out. I would love for her to play golf.
Jerri Hemsworth 16:42
Start with mini golf.
Blake Wells 16:44
Yeah, no, you have to make it fun. And it’s so interesting. Sometimes you’ll see younger kids swings. And you’re like, oh my gosh, that’s beautiful swing. Yeah, just their bodies are meant for it. And I think the best golfers it’s often a matter of flexibility. And so when you’re young, and you can get it and when you see kind of older people or people who don’t have a good swing, and they can be the most athletic person, but their body is just not used to. So yeah, I think Tiger was playing golf at two so Lucy’s, we’ll get her going. She got a few months months.
Jerri Hemsworth 17:17
C’mon, Lucy, Papa needs a new house. But actually, you guys just got a new house. Right?
Blake Wells 17:26
Yeah, yeah, we just moved. Unfortunately, our my father in law passed. And so we’ve inherited that house or, and kind of taking care of it and figuring out what you know, but we are homeowners, you know, we actually I watched a YouTube video and unclog the garbage disposal. Oh, no, I am not a handyman, but I was very proud of myself to do that. But those are the kinds of things that that I’m signing up for.
Jerri Hemsworth 17:58
It never ends trust me when I know, it just never ends. And then lastly, you do art, right? Art business of some sort.
Blake Wells 18:11
So this was kind of a side project passion project of mine, and I don’t do art, but it’s, it’s a project that, you know, I thought of when I was in law school. And basically, while I was reading these cases, and if you ever seen like a law school movie, you know, it is kind of very similar that, you know, a to you read these cases. And these are often like very old cases, and very famous cases, you know, a lot of people in law school will know about these cases, but the, the teacher will call on you and ask you for the facts. And, you know, these cases, you know, really well and they kind of set the basis of what the law has evolved into, and why we have these rules, and they give you the lingo and stuff that you need to eventually be a lawyer and apply it outside of school. But anyway, you read these cases with these, you know, crazy factual situations, a lot of them are, like big accidents, or interesting scenarios and interactions between people and physical forces and, and, you know, kind of the teacher in me, I was like, Why aren’t there pictures of these cases? Or, you know, images, you know, for a visual learner, this would be insane because of law professors gonna ask you, you know, what’s that?
Jerri Hemsworth 19:27
The would be Awesome.
Blake Wells 19:28
Exactly. And then, for property cases, it’s like, you know, you need to know where this is situated in regards to that. Also, during law school and working at law firms, I saw art everywhere. And I think lawyers, maybe, maybe to kind of rebut the stereotype that they’re, you know, Philistines and uncultured.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:51
There’s no art side here.
Blake Wells 19:53
Exactly. Well, there’s art everywhere. Nice.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:55
Blake Wells 19:56
These could be you know, beautiful pieces of art as well.
Jerri Hemsworth 19:59
You can be creative
Blake Wells 19:59
So you Exactly. So I thought of some of the more like most famous cases, or things that lend themselves most to kind of imagery. And I, you know, I’m not an artist, so I, you know, I was like, you know, I’m going to commission artists to, to paint some of these scenes make beautiful works of art. And, and, you know, hopefully lawyers might be interested in want to put these in their offices, you know, these are rules of law that every lawyer has read about knows. And if I talk to an attorney, I say, Oh, the fox case, Post V. Pierson, they’ll know what I mean. Oh, Paul’s graph, you know, they’ll know what I mean. So those are some of the first cases. So Term of Art Collective was was born. That’s what it’s called a term of art, a term of art is like a specialized term that that all my law professors use, they say, all this, this word malice is a term of art. And I didn’t know, I didn’t know what it was what they meant at the time. But yeah, now I do. And it’s the name of the company Term of Art. And so we sell prints online from some of these artists all over the globe. And it’s, it’s been very interesting experience, you know, kind of running your business at the same time of that I’m, you know, being an attorney and a dad. And you know.
Jerri Hemsworth 20:00
So you’re, you’re a business owner.
Blake Wells 21:19
Jerri Hemsworth 21:20
At the Same time consulting and counseling business owners, that’s got to be a very, very full circle for you.
Blake Wells 21:29
Absolutely. In in any business owner is always learning. Any attorney is lying to you, if they’re say, they’re not always learning.
Jerri Hemsworth 21:33
Blake Wells 21:34
And so, it is a good way to apply what I’m learning in real time. So yeah, it’s been a, it’s been a great experience. And, and some of the art is really good. You know, a lot of these cases we’ll have a lot of these cases are so determined by the facts. And that was kind of the the spark is like, okay, I can put these little facts these Easter eggs inside the and so I’ve been kind of working as creative director with the artists. You know, you can do what you want, but please put it this in
Jerri Hemsworth 22:08
We need A, B, C, and D. Yup.
Blake Wells 22:10
And it needs to be true to the case. And sometimes you can get, you know, a little more- you can get a little more philosophical or metaphorical about maybe what the rule of law is. And some of the artists you know, really take to it are like, Oh, this is very cool. No, and they’ll come up with some, some very cool imagery.
Jerri Hemsworth 22:29
Blake Wells 22:30
So yeah, it’s fun. It’s cool. I like it. I’m continuing we’re making more art as it as it comes out. And yeah, Term of Art Collective termofartco.com you can check it out.
Jerri Hemsworth 22:42
Definitely going to check that out because I love creative and when you can mix professional and creative worlds, like you’re doing I’m it’s fascinating, and I think it feeds a lot for you. Thank you so much for being with me today.
Blake Wells 22:58
Of course, this was really nice. It was like a real podcast, I got to plug my stuff at the end
Jerri Hemsworth 23:04
Intro Speaker 23:12
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai