*Author’s Note: Before you (the reader) start, I feel compelled to address one housekeeping item. All apologies, for this minor grumble. I’m not complaining because I was asked to write this article. That was a delight and has been an honor. I am complaining because I was only given 750 or so words to profile Becky. Wholly inadequate. It’s like trying to research what the word “Liberty” means in the U.S. Constitution for some important case you may be working on, but you only get to read BuzzFeed listicles. Please forgive me. I am happy to share (Read: leak) the 13,000(+/-) word first draft, if you dare to tread through all those footnotes.
How does anybody get anywhere? We all “know” Becky Diel. If you have been in the San Joaquin legal community since 2014, you are aware that Becky is an outstanding lawyer. She now owns a glass award that says as much. As she should. Those humans who witnessed Becky receive the 2022 Outstanding New Lawyer and actually paid attention to her speech you laughed, maybe cried (me), and learned something. If you know, you know.
That speech was another snapshot. We all take snapshots of the people in our respective professional and social communities. Overtime, we form these snapshots into a collage that evidences, but cannot ever fully capture that person. This article, yet another snapshot, won’t give you full clarity either, sorry. What this article may do, or at least what I intend, is for it help you “know” this outstanding lawyer a little better. How she got here, and more importantly where she is going…
The first photo in my Becky Diel collage-o-life was taken in Classroom C, the terraced six-level horseshoe-shaped lecture hall, during the fall of our first year of law school. Professor Thomas Main called on her to spout off some rule about joinder, or whatever, and she not only gave the correct answer but made a cutting joke, to his joy and to my wonder!?! “Who IS this person?? And wait, we can crack wise in school and not get in trouble? Kindred spirits perhaps…,” I thought to myself. After eleven years of snapshots and one Outstanding New Lawyer Award, I feel lucky to be able to add to the collage.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer, but no one knows where it came from,” Becky replied when I pressed her for the “why” of her legal origin story. Then she paused, “I’m a rule follower . . . I like puzzles.” Another pause, “I like being in a forum where the wrong can be vindicated.” Now we were getting somewhere. These values ultimately led her to the practice of law and haven’t changed since she pressed send on her McGeorge application, but they sure did take her on a circuitous route.
Becky calls herself a “true millennial,” which provides an illuminating temporal context. She started 8th grade in 2001. The awkward stress and anxiety of being a teenager, trying to figure out herself and the world, let alone middle and high school. The new and continuing fear of gun violence, which she experienced at school the same year. All of this on top of a world thrown into chaos just as the school year kicked off. Then onto UC Santa Barbara where Becky began to experience a world changing at the speed of Twitter. By the time undergrad ended, the recession hit and “what seemed to be an inevitably stable future was not.”
So, Becky followed the rules all the way to the books where the rules are located and began to work. She didn’t know what she wanted to do after law school, but hell I didn’t either. Criminal defense work was the initial plan, but with all the turmoil in the world, something felt off. “I sought something that felt safer,” referring to her internship at Union Pacific doing railroad law and her initial law practice, which mostly consisted of civil litigation.
Family law was never the plan, until it was. After being hired by McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, Becky told me that she may be doing “some” family law in addition to civil litigation. That sentiment morphed into “man, I’m doing a lot of family law,” which has overtime translated into purpose. “Family law gives me the opportunity to feel like I can really help those in need.” If you know Becky, you know why this makes sense.
Civil litigation can, at times, feel like an unescapable vacuum of money, power, and copy machines sounds, featuring intermittent crisis1 management. Family law, on the other hand, requires a special partnership between empathy and analysis to translate the difficult and intertwined emotions, inherent in a family law practice, into resolution. Becky does it all with no-BS toughness and honesty, drenched in genuine kindness and humanity.
But wait, there’s more! So, it sounds like Becky has found her path professionally (yay!), but she like all of us contains multitudes. What really stands out (if you will) to me about Becky is leadership style. From the first time I heard her speak in that Civ Pro class, and through countless examples since, Becky has inspired me to act authentically to myself even when making the perceived “right choice” provokes fear. Who tests comedy bits in a first-year law school class? Talk about standing in your power! But I’m sucker for leading by example.
It is no coincidence that her impact on the legal community in San Joaquin County has increased in scope since she, “figured out the family law thing.” It is public knowledge that Becky initially became involved with the Young Lawyer Committee of the Bar Association, then the Women’s Lawyers Section, and is now serving on the Bar Association’s Board of Governors in several capacities. What is a lesser known fact is that Becky was the person who initiated the discussion at the Board of Governors level leading to the creation of the Bar Association’s wonderful Diversity Bar Section. She simply and calmly said, “we are not doing enough,” then took action.
Another snapshot. Another piece of the collage. Another reason she is outstanding. Another example of why I am proud to call her my friend. And that’s why I am enthusiastic to collect more snapshots, as more and more people in our community and beyond, see and benefit from the fruits of her work and leadership. Let’s just book the Law Day 2030-something Law Day award for Judge Diel, or frankly, whatever title she decides to carry at that time, ok? Too soon?
If you know, you know.
1 Real, imagined, hypothetical, or otherwise.