Pacifico talks with attorney and mediator Elizabeth Yang. We discuss her latest book Social Marriage, getting through divorce, her family law practice, overcoming adversity, the importance of mindset, and how to navigate relationships.
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00:07 Show Intro
01:00 Guest Intro – Elizabeth Yang
02:53 Interview Begins
03:20 The Journey To Law School
04:33 Why a JD/MBA?
06:05 The dual degree experience
07:23 Building a law practice
10:04 Managing work life balance as an employer
12:10 Divorce and enjoying the practice of law
14:50 Social Marriage
18:35 The Myth of Common Law Marriage in California
19:35 What Liz would change about the legal industry
22:20 Self-care techniques and practices
24:20 Advice for law students and new lawyers
25:21 Liz’s favorite failure
27:55 Liz’s most influential books
30:28 Personal Heroes
33:06 Liz’s favorite color
33:55 The magic of orchids
35:10 Liz’s favorite quote
36:20 The Asian Youth Center
37:50 The kindest thing anyone has done for Liz
Law, The Universe, And Everything is a production of the Soldati group. All opinions expressed by the host and podcast guests are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinions of the Soldati group. This podcast is for information and entertainment purposes only. These discussions do not constitute legal or investment advice.
Today's episode is brought to you by marketingforattorneys.com, which helps attorneys and law firms clarify and upgrade their marketing and messaging to help grow their firms while reducing reliance on pay-per-click advertising. Visit marketingforattorneys.com to book your free consultation today.
My guest today is Elizabeth Yang owner and founder of the law and mediation offices of Elizabeth Yang. She has over a decade of legal experience and is recognized by Thompson Reuters as a super lawyer. Her firm specializes in family law, business law, intellectual property, and estate planning, and has offices in Los Angeles, Irvine Monterey park, Beverly Hills and Taipei at the age of 19, Elizabeth earned her BS in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley in just two and a half years.
She then earned her JD MBA from the university of Laverne, as well as her mediation certification at the Los Angeles county bar association. Prior to practicing law. Elizabeth worked for Raytheon company as an electrical engineer, designing radar systems for the B2 bomber. She has also interned at the NASA jet propulsion lab, working as a team member on the main control unit of the Mars exploration Rover.rial lawyers association from: n soup for the soul series in:
This year, she recently published her latest book, social marriage, which we'll be discussing at some point today. So thank you so much for being here, Liz. It's a pleasure to have you.Elizabeth Yang: [: Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
Be very accomplished and just take action and get things done. So growing up, I took a lot of AP classes in high school and, I also took a lot of my humanities courses at the local community college. and those were all reasons that factored into how I was able to get through Berkeley faster.
And, and then another motivating factor was just to get home to my mom so that, when my brother went off to college too, she wouldn't be alone. You know, so all of those factors played into why I finished college quickly and then move back to LA to be with my mother.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
You or me or an attorney. we're going to find ourselves very likely in court for some random reason, whether it's a simple traffic ticket or, you know, someone owes us money and we need to get it back, you know, or divorce or whatever reason. it's better in my mind at the time to know about the legal system early on, rather than to learn about it.
When we. Ended up in court. So I went to law school to get education Laverne, offered a joint JD and MBA program, or a lot of the units could be combined. and so it'd be easier to get to two degrees instead of, the two of them separately. And so, that's what I did. I signed up for the two degrees and, was able to complete it in a shorter amount of time than if I were to do it separately.Pacifico Soldati: [:
But then all those people end up graduating while you're, you know, still pursuing the MBA or finishing up, law school itself. Was that experience like for you.Elizabeth Yang: [:
I was in their part-time evening program. So a lot of the classmates that I took courses with were also working full-time jobs, you know, or they were, parents, and had other stuff. obligation and the responsibilities. So every class there would be different people. And then, in the MBA classes, a lot of the students were either full-time MBA students, you know, or are not even part of the law school.
And so it was just like a lot of different people. I was getting the opportunity to meet and, and so doing both degrees was not, that different. It was just a shorter period of time.Pacifico Soldati: [:
And what was that experience like growing from, one office into multiple offices and traversing that journey.Elizabeth Yang: [:
And so I took him up on the opportunity. met with the partner and the ended up landing my first job at a law firm. And that's when I realized, you know, going from engineering into intellectual property law is actually a really smooth transition. in fact, in order to even sit. For the patent bar, which is a requirement to become a patent lawyer.
One has to have some kind of engineering background or have the required number of units, you know, got to take some kind of engineering or computer science or math class in order to sit for the patent. I had no idea before it, because a lot of people would always ask me, like, how did you go from an engineer to a lawyer?
Like it's so different, but it's actually a really smooth transition. And it was a prerequisite to. Taking the patent bar. So I started working at the big law firm and, you know, the billable hours were just tremendous. These, these large law firms, they pay well, you know, can't, can't deny that, but they definitely work.able hours per year were over:
And then by the time I got home at night after work, my daughter would be asleep. And so I was like, you know, If I allow this to continue, my children are going to grow up with a nanny as a mother. And that was something I did not want to see happen. You know, I wanted to play more of a role in my children's lives.
Have the work-life balance and not just make my life. All about work despite the good pay. So that's why I decided to start my own practice for the work-life balance and in order to have more time with my children and spend time with my family. And I'm so glad I made that decision because that work-life balance and the flexibility is priceless.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
They do have children, and they. Prefer having the work-life balance, similar to how I was when I was an associate. And so they choose a lower billable requirement and a lower salary. And so I have like this whole formula and they, they basically get to choose their own lifestyle by working at our firm.
And that's something that I have not seen at any other firm. Usually the. From, you know, the give an offer letter. This is how much we pay you. This is how much you have, how many hours you got to bill and that's it, you know? No, no, a negotiation for me, every employee gets to choose their own salary and hours.Pacifico Soldati: [:
But actually setting that in stone, writ large, I mean, it gets so much more out of each employee. I'd imagine if you can actually, you know, give them what they're. Ideally looking for a, to live better lives. So it's fantastic that you're pioneering that and I'm sure it'll, you'll continue to find success there.
So it sounds like you've really created, you know, a great work environment and you know, something that you enjoy. And so tell me, what is it that you most enjoy about practicing law theseElizabeth Yang: [:
And, you know, 10 years ago I went through my own personal divorce case with the father of my children, or marriage only lasted a year and a half, but, or divorced took four years. Plus to complete. And during that four year or deal, it was a nightmare to go through at the time. but it, it really taught me everything I needed to know about family law.
And, we, we ended up. Is that only are a case after four years of battling in the courts, after spending between the two of us, half a million dollars on our attorney fees and going into like significant debt just to like be right over the other person, we ended up settling or a case or mediation and, becoming friends.
So even till today, seven years after a divorce has already been completed, we're still friends and able to amicably, lovingly. co-parent or, or two children together. so I'm, I'm able to use my learnings and my personal experience from this to help other, parties, other parents, other divorces go through this most challenging time of their life and try to teach them not to make the same mistakes that I made when I was going through the process and share with them the lessons I've learned in hopes that they would.
Make better choices. And so it's very rewarding when I have clients actually learn from my mistakes, listen to me. And, and I'm able to help them settle their cases quickly and smoothly because I know how big of an impact it makes, not just on them and their families, but also their children and their children.
When they end up seeing their parents go from fighting. To mediating as that only their cases and getting along, it's going to impact the children's, the children for the rest of their lives.Pacifico Soldati: [:
So, you know, our ours took a bit longer than intended as well. I'm guessing that that experience really inspired you to make your latest book, social marriage. Could you tell us a little bit, about that process and what the book's all about?Elizabeth Yang: [:
The divorce rate in Los Angeles is now over 65%. That's for first time marriages it's. , you know, even higher for second and third time marriages over 75%. So that just means that for every person entering into a marriage, now your chances of having a successful marriage growing old with this person that you're, you know, signing a legal document to commit to is, it's, you have a higher chance of breaking that commitment than not just based off statistics alone and.
Nowadays, there are so many more cons to the legal marriage concept versus the benefits that it brings to the table that, it's really more of a burden to get legally married. there's, there's all these components to legal marriage that people don't realize when they're marrying somebody. you know, most people who are getting married.
Don't do their research and don't understand, for example, the concepts of community property, you know, what community debt means. They don't understand that by mare being married to their spouse. Now all of their spouse's creditors can go after them for any debt that their spouse owns. You know, they don't understand how spousal support is calculated using.
The government created calculator called the DissoMaster and most people have never even heard of the term DissoMaster. So there's all these terms that are entered into when two people sign a marriage license and they don't visit these terms until it's time for a breakup until it's time for a divorce.
And by that time, you know, to reach an agreement is like one of the hardest things to do. So I equate. Signing a legal license to, you know, without the proper research, to signing a contract, a legal contract, legally binding contract, without reading the terms, which a lot of people do, you know, people sign waivers, they signed contracts, they sign a lot of things.
You know, they just click, I accept, you know, all the apple terms and conditions without reading it. And that's essentially what they're doing by entering illegal marriage without. Proper consultation, which is a terrible idea, which comes back and bite them in the bud when push comes to shove. So social marriage.
Is having the same love and commitment for a spouse, without requiring a government document to proven evidence it, you know, love and commitment to start off with comes from internal. Internally, not externally. It comes from within each and every one of us. It's a choice we make on a daily basis on a moment by moment basis.
So regardless of what the government says, you know, if there's a paper or no paper, people are still choosing to stay with a person or not stay with the person. So why let. The government, control all of these terms and issue all of these terms that, a married couple has to follow. Why not just follow the internal love and commitment and know that that's all you need to make a relationship work.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
It's a rumor. It's not true. There is no common law marriage in California. No matter how long two people are cohabitating or a K socially marriaged, married, they will not be legally married until they sign a legal license.Pacifico Soldati: [:
So what about. The legal industry. If you could change one thing, whether it's in your own practice area or just the legal industry writ large, if you could snap your fingers, what would you change about it?Elizabeth Yang: [:
So I took one of these courses for them. First time during my divorce when I was in my thirties and I've already gone through my JD MBA school and my college and all my years of education at this point and never was, I taught anything that, you know, these. Outside workshops taught me. And that's actually how I was able to finalize my divorce and go from a relationship where there was restraining orders against my ex-husband and he filed them against me too.
Going from that kind of. Ugly ugly relationship to a loving one that we have today. so my project right now is to get these transformation courses into the public school system so that everyone has access to it. Not just people with money, you know, not just like, you know, people who, have connections, so who can have access to it.
It should be as accessible to everybody. Every single one of her. members and, citizens of society. And then also, additionally, I'm working on getting it into the court system, so that currently when, two parties are fighting and going through a nasty divorce, the judges will often issue co-parenting courses, you know, or some kind of other courses that many of these have.
Been any effective and I haven't really heard of good results coming out of it. So rather than doing that, I'm gonna ask, judges to, , ordered the parties, go through these emotional intelligence transformation courses instead, because if, they, if the results which are proven to be effective through, through me and through a lot of other clients and other attorneys that have gone through these courses, then there's going to be a lot more results and, happier divorcing couples going forward.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
And immediately it will reduce stress levels by, three or four points, you know, out of like a level of 10, sometimes even more. So like all these different techniques, I'm always educating myself on, to reduce anxiety, reduce stress on a daily basis because it's very easy for stress levels to go up without proper self-care.Pacifico Soldati: [:
That's great.Elizabeth Yang: [: Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
Another advice is, I like to tell my interns, it's about who, you know, not always what, you know, you know, all of the job opportunities I got out of college as an engineer and out of law school as an attorney, we're all. Referrals. There was all because of relationships that I had, properly maintained, rather than just about my GPA and my grades and my exam scores.
So who, you know, and who you're connected to, is super important in terms of your next opportunity.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
So it really depends on how each person interprets. some something that may be very well interpreted as a challenge. but if they interpret it as an opportunity, then it turns into an opportunity. You know, my personal challenge, you know, one of the most difficult things I went through in my life was my divorce, which I mentioned earlier.
You know, during those four years, my bedroom floor was covered with my own legal paperwork rather than my client's paperwork. You know, I was like engulfed in my divorce case 24 hours couldn't sleep at night, you know, it was like devastating. But now looking back, it was a huge opportunity community. And you know, the universe only throws opportunity and he's at you because they know that you're capable of overcoming it and becoming stronger without going through my divorce.
I will not be able to practice family law right now and have it occupy 70% of my practice and be able to share my experiences and my knowledge with so many other. Parties that are going through divorces. So I see it as a huge opportunity and I always invite people who are going through a significant challenges in their lives right now to just take a step back and be able to interpret it as an opportunity that the universe is throwing your way, because it's got a bigger plan for you.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
So I highly recommend everyone read the big secret, mainly authored by, Jan, Jack Canfield, and then myself and other authors. another great book I highly recommend is the power of now by car. Totally. that book talks about how. stresses in life are cost. Like if there's any stress or anxiety in our life, it's caused by us, because we think about the future or the past.
If we focus ourselves in the present moment, then oh, that stress is gone. And that's why meditation is so important because meditation brings us. To the present moment, you know, whether it's like, doing a chant or focusing on our breath, you know, or different methods methodologies. But when we bring ourselves to the present moment, all the stresses are gone because the present moment is beautiful and the possibilities within you know, is tremendous.
So the power of now is definitely another book I highly recommend.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
And it's gonna have, w we're gonna. Have words on there. That's going to associate with family law. Like if you're going through a divorce, call us today and then, some kind of image on there that shows the possibilities that we offer through mediation and settling a case.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
And then all of a sudden she was thrown in this situation where her breadwinner is, is gone. And she has two toddlers to fend for, and to support all by herself. So rather than go out and. Find another man to depend on. She decided that she was going to become independent, and, make money herself, rely on herself.
And she did a successfully, she, ended up going into education and spending the time to. teach us after she picked us up from school. but at the same time also bring home some of our classmates and other students whose parents were working and didn't have time for them. And so she was able to make money by teaching other kids and creating a learning environment at our house.
So that she could take care of my brother and I while taking care of other kids. and that's how, you know, my brother and I were able to have of really good academic scores, and get into good colleges. and she was able to make money at the same time. And she did not remarry, until after.
Both of us went to college. so she literally put both her children as the center of her life as the focus of her life. And then didn't focus on her own, life and their own love until, we were grown and had gone to college. So she's definitely a hero in my eyes because I would not be the person I am today without her love and her resilience.Pacifico Soldati: [:
So what is your favorite color and what are your favorite things that help you enjoy that color?Elizabeth Yang: [:
And I'm so glad I have a daughter because I'm able to pass all my hello kitty stuff onto her. but I'm never embarrassed by it. You know, I'm like almost 40 now and I still have a huge hollow QB collection and it's like a Doris my car. So yeah, my, my friends want to do, I'm a huge pink and hello, kitty fan.Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
Maybe if I had to pick a favorite, it would be an orchid. They're beautiful. And they're very easy to keep alive. but there's of all kinds.Pacifico Soldati: [:
Yeah.Elizabeth Yang: [: Pacifico Soldati: [: Elizabeth Yang: [:
So I keep a daily planner and I write down everything the old school way. I do have like a electronic Google calendar too, that I used to share my schedule with my employees and my colleagues. but I do the old school way. Pen, pencil to paper, actually. So it's even like erasable and modifiable, but I write down everything.
And if someone looks at my planner, it's like always fall. There's like something going on every single hour because of my model live life to the fullest. Don't waste the single millisecond.Pacifico Soldati: [:
So in that regard, tell me about some of your work with the Asian youth center.Elizabeth Yang: [:
A lot of, you know, meets a lot of the needs of low income families and children in or local community. so I currently sit on the board. I am the vice-president of the Asian youth center. And, like during the pandemic we raised a lot of money. we were able to get mass and supplies, Food, whatever was needed to these low-income families, during the pandemic, and even after the pandemic, you know, we continue to offer whatever we can.
Usually there's a whole afterschool program with volunteers and teachers where, students, after they get our school can go and get afterschool tutoring and they can get help with their homework and they can get education and various subjects at a very low cost.Pacifico Soldati: [:
It's been, it's been an absolute pleasure for my, for my last question. I'm going to steal it from, a friend, an amazing podcast or Patrick O'Shaughnessy. And that is what's the kindest thing that anyone has ever done for you?Elizabeth Yang: [:
There's a movie, pay it for it. And there's also a short five minute video pay it forward. but it's, it's basically the concept, you know, karma, what goes around, comes around. So like anytime I'm going through a drive-thru, for example, I'll usually pay for the person behind me, even though I have no idea who it is, never seen them, but I'll just tell the cashier, like charge my card from my order.
And then. And the person behind me and just tell them, pay it forward. And sometimes they will, sometimes they won't, but if they do like the chain continues going and they'll keep paying for the next person behind them. And it's amazing for someone to roll up to the window and the person says, Hey, you're meal is paid for. I surprised. And they're like, what? You know, they're having a terrible day. Maybe it just like made their day better. but I would say like, I'm like karma has definitely, come back for me because I met my husband. we just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and I met him shortly after I filed for divorce.
And during that time I was thinking like, who is gonna want a single mother with. Two babies, you know, who's just going through a divorce and I really felt, wanted and unlovable. And my husband came into the picture and, he's been there for all three of us every step of the way. Since then he calls it the buy one, get two free deals.
He got the two kids for free, you know, so he really sees a lot of great opportunities and challenges and has always like supported me in everything I want to do in my life. and I credit a lot of the success I have today because of his unconditional love and support.Pacifico Soldati: [:
Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Liz, it's been a pleasure to get to speak with you.Elizabeth Yang: [: Pacifico Soldati: [:
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