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Real Property Law

Interview With Attorney Rachael Callahan

By John S. Richards

image of Rachael Callahan

So I’m here with Rachael Callahan the principal of The Callahan Firm, APC and also San Diego Evictions which you will find at www.sandiegoevictions.com.

I think I first met you at a state bar function in Irvine, California where you were a sponsor for our Real Estate Seminar in 2018.  What makes a San Diego attorney want to sponsor events in Irvine?

I wanted to sponsor the Irvine event for a number of reasons. First, it is a large event with attendants from ALL OVER California including San Diego. Furthermore, agents in other parts of the state often having dealings, clients, property etc. in San Diego. As such, the exposure is beneficial to our company. Furthermore, I own a company called Orange County Evictions. Even though I have not yet launched the company, I wanted to gauge the market.

Do you in fact have two different law firms 1) San Diego Evictions and 2) The Callahan Law Firm? Yes and No. My corporation is Callahan Firm APC. San Diego Evictions is a dba established for the evictions. Also under Callahan Firm APC is my Family Law practice. For evictions we typically refer to “San Diego Evictions,” and for family law we typically refer to Callahan Firm APC.

San Diego Evictions logo

What are the different focuses of those firms?

The focus of San Diego Evictions is residential, commercial and post-foreclosure Unlawful Detainers (evictions).  We also handle the related Civil, Federal and Bankruptcy matters. For Callahan Firm (Family), we handle divorce, paternity, custody, visitation, support and property division.

Your website is really distinctive.  It makes me want to browse it for quite some time.  Did you spend a lot of time developing your website?  Tell me about how and why you did it.

I wanted my potential customers to have access to information, enough to realize just how complex the process can be. I do not believe in hiding the ball with the process or our prices. Giving full information manages client expectations as well as provides clients with something to refer back to each step of the process.

image of Rachel Callahan

Your system of set pricing appears to provide aggressive discounted rates.  Do you find that to be effective?  Tell me about how your fee structure developed?

We are able to provide discounted rates due to our volume and efficiency. We find this effective since most our clients are already struggling financially since someone is alienating their property without paying. Since evictions are “what we do” we are able to offer the competitive pricing due to our own familiarity with the rules and procedures. In other words, you do not have to pay us to learn how to navigate the UD system.

Is the work mostly paralegal driven?  Who does the work?  How many people are on your team?

My team consists of three trial attorneys, and nine assistants. The initial pleadings, defaults, notices, trial requests, judgment and lockout packets are prepared by my assistants. I review and approve all documents for filing. Discovery, motions, trial briefs, and of course appearances are handled by the attorneys.

image of Rachel Callahan

What is the typical retainer for a residential eviction and what is the typical cost for the landlord?

Normally we do not require an up-front retainer for evictions. Our fees range from about $1100 for a default matter, to $1700 for a standard contested matter. If the defendants “play games” with federal removals, bankruptcies, and other civil motions, the costs may be much higher billed hourly.

What are the trends you are seeing with evictions that are concerning?  With rent control laws, is it getting too hard for mom and pop landlords?

We are seeing a lot more in the way of delay tactics. The internet (for better or worse) provides defendants with such delay tactics at no cost. Also, tenants have access to legal aid (free legal representation) which drives up the costs for landlords since the landlords/owners have to pay for counsel. The current trends are costly, and if the mom and pop rely on the rental income, it is devastating to lose 60-90 days of rent during the eviction process.

I see you offer services in Spanish.  What percentage of your clientele are Spanish speaking?  How do you appeal to our Spanish speaking population?

I would have no way to quantify how many of our clients speak Spanish other than to say, “a lot.” Clients feel more comfortable communicating in their native language, and if that language is Spanish, we are happy to provide assistance in a manner most comfortable. Also, there is a rule that if the lease is in Spanish, all notices must also be in Spanish. Since we are able to prepare notices in Spanish, this is helpful to our clients to be in compliance with the law.

It appears you opened this firm right after you passed the bar.  Tell me about the challenges of opening your own law firm as a new attorney.

I became licensed right after the housing market and economy crashed. The jobs we were promised at the start of law school simply were not available. Hanging my shingle was the most viable option. The biggest challenge is not having the support of a firm (i.e. other attorneys to learn from). I got around this challenge by becoming involved in the legal community and finding mentors to fill that void.

image of a statue of justice

Now, you have performed over 1,000 trials.  What advice would you give a new attorney on how to get that much experience under their belt?

Be brave and be prepared. Be over prepared. And don’t get discouraged. Go to court and watch trials. Find attorneys willing to let you shadow them. Be willing to take work outside your comfort level.

You are real inspiration to a lot of attorneys.  What do you think has been the key to your success in developing your practice?

Fearlessness. Also, expanding slowly. I started working from home, and then from a small office, and I now have almost the entire floor. I would build up until we were bursting at the seams and then expand. I treat my staff well and in turn they stay with me, which makes growing more efficient.

Speaking of trials and cases, tell me about your most challenging case. 

Each case presents its own challenge. The most challenging case I currently recall was an RV park case.  We had nine witnesses on our side, and the defendant had four. We were moved around to various departments, and the trial lasted four days over the span of two months. Keeping all the witnesses together, and organized, and staying focused over the long duration of time was exceptionally challenging.

Out of all of them, tell me which case has been your favorite?

Every case where my client prevails is my favorite case at the time.

Who has been the most influential to you as a mentor or teacher, etc?  Why?

My very first mentor in Landlord Tenant law was Allen Gruber. He was my professor at USD for the Landlord/Tenant clinic, and he helped me tremendously in my early years. Wendy St John and Patty Coyne haven been influential to me as some of the few dominating women in our field.

Undergrad or Law School, which is better?

Comparing Undergrad and Law School is like comparing Coffee to 7-up. I will say Law School challenged me in ways I never imagined. The work load is intense as are the competing students. You bond with your classmates over your suffering, and over your accomplishments at the end.

B.A. in Political Science?  Why? 

I obtained my BA in Political Science, with a minor in Law and Society. My intention was always to go to law school, and PoliSci is a very common path since it does not matter what your undergrad is when you get there. Plus, I’ve always been a writer and PoliSci is ALL about writing/papers.

What was your favorite part of undergrad at UC San Diego? 

Graduating.

Other than what you do now, what’s the most interesting or unique job you’ve ever had?  Why?

Barista at a coffee cart in Ocean Beach. I met so many people, most of whom were incredibly happy to see me in the early morning.

What do you do to help balance your life with work?

I have four dogs to remind me of work life balance. I also play softball on Mondays and Kickball on Thursdays. Now that I am on my 8th year, I am able to set boundaries with my clients, and not work (for the most part) on weekends.

What is your favorite trip/vacation you have taken and why?

My favorite trip was to Australia right after taking the bar. Leaving immediately after taking the bar meant I did not dwell on what I should have put for answers. I also met a bunch of interesting people and snorkeled the barrier reef.

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