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A Conversation with Dieter Dammeier on Setting Goals and Aiming High

Dieter Dammeier is a practicing attorney with nearly 25 years of experience at every administrative and judicial level, including arguing cases before the United States and California Supreme Court. He graduated from Western State University, College of Law, in 1996 where he graduated in the top 5% of his class, Magna Cum Laude with a […]

Dieter Dammeier
Dieter Dammeier

Dieter Dammeier is a practicing attorney with nearly 25 years of experience at every administrative and judicial level, including arguing cases before the United States and California Supreme Court. He graduated from Western State University, College of Law, in 1996 where he graduated in the top 5% of his class, Magna Cum Laude with a Juris Doctor degree in Law.

He has published numerous articles in statewide and national labor periodicals, including having a published article in the Harvard Law & Policy Review (Fading Rights of Public Employees) and being co-author of the Pocket Guide to the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.  He has also appeared on national and local television programs advocating for his clients.

Having presided over 300 cases as a judge pro tem in the Los Angeles Superior Courts, Dieter Dammeier has also worked as a “fee dispute” arbitrator for the California State Bar. Prior to his career as an attorney, he also has experience as a police officer and reserve deputy sheriff.

In the last few years, what lifestyle, habit or behavior change has had the biggest positive impact on your life?

I don’t worry about things outside of my control. This allows me to focus on things I can positively change. One example is the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, states are just talking about re-opening and it may be some time before we can truly get back to ‘normal.’ But this is all out of our control. All we can do is go with the flow and try to make the most of the time we’re at home. Not worrying about things that I can’t control alleviates a lot of stress.

When you feel unfocused, what do you do?

I usually set aside a period of time to work on a project and force myself to stay on topic for that period. The best way to go about this is to set a timer and ignore all other potential distractions. We live in the age of distractions so it’s important to block those out. Sometimes, if I need to, I will turn off all of my other electronics that I’m not currently using to help keep my focus. Cell phones have become a big distraction for a lot of people. Having the ability to just shut it off for an hour or two to focus can go a long way.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

Always aim high. Where you end up on your career ladder is many times based on where you start.  I often see smart young people get stuck because they took that first low level position they could find and by the time they figure it out, they have years invested and then when they want to go to another place, their resume does not give them any advantage either. So, apply for your dream jobs, regardless of your lack of experience. You never know. Even if you don’t get the job necessarily, you may make connections that will come in handy later on.

What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?

The development of electric vehicles is a trend that’s exciting. They have lower negative impacts on the environment and over time, they’ll be cheaper because you aren’t buying gas. Having the autonomous feature in vehicles is something that is interesting as well. It will be interesting to see what happens from a law perspective when more and more autonomous vehicles are out on the road.

With or without naming names (whatever you’d prefer), who has been the biggest influence in your life and why?

My mom has always been a large influence for me. She was a single parent for most of my youth and she always pressed me to go further.  Without that constant pressure, I would have never become a lawyer. It’s because of her that I am where I am today.

What’s one of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned (can be personal or business related)

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to only take on battles you have a chance of winning. The rest take up your time and resources and leave you in worse shape. With that being said, it’s always been important to me to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. Doing this will show those around you that you deserve respect, and this has the ability to provide a valuable source of growth in different aspects of your life.

What do you think it is that makes you/someone successful?

Focus, ambition, and ability are important qualities.  People have strengths and weaknesses.  It is important to determine what they are and use them to your advantage. If you are good in school, go become a doctor or lawyer. If you are a good salesperson, focus there. If you are weak in an area, don’t waste time trying to do good at something that you will always struggle with.

How do you stay motivated?

I always set a goal, short term and long term. It’s much easier to work on something with a positive result in sight. If you don’t have goals, you aren’t working towards anything and you’re just standing still. It’s fine if you want to do that, but you won’t see any results that way.

What legacy do you hope to leave behind?

As a lawyer, I have changed many aspects of the law through arguing cases and obtaining published decisions. I have also built a business that hopefully my kids can take over someday and their kids after them. Family is really the only true long-lasting legacy you can leave.  Make sure you balance your time with that in mind. 

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