Cecilia Black Lannon


At some point in high school, attending college became a reality for me. Before that, college was something my parents did. Becoming aware that I had absolutely no ability to type and possessed no secretarial skills whatsoever made me realize (as a freshman) I would have to find something else.


I was tracked pretty quickly at Cap into a college prep course of studies, and then into Honors classes (that kind of tracking became illegal later- now our kids take AP classes in HS).  Because of working as a volunteer in Leo Ryan's political campaigns, I always thought that I would end up in politics, probably working for him. Also my semester in Italy going to school there as an AFS exchange student made me think of politics in connection with working for peace. As it turned out, neither of these paths was the one I chose.


I was very lucky in HS to have had some truly outstanding teachers who went out of their way to help/encourage/counsel me especially in selecting colleges, coursework. Some of them wrote recommendations to their own alma maters for me. Remember not only Leo Ryan, but also Janet Murtaugh, Mr. Friend and some of the math and science teachers? We were lucky - there is little time in HS now for that kind of interest and support to be given to students.


I really did not appreciate what good teachers we had until I was in college and discovered kids from East Coast prep schools had taken courses in subjects I did not know even existed. Although they seemed to know more than a girl from a public school in San Bruno (or Millbrae?), I had been taught to think and write in that public school.


I always thought I would go to Stanford. I was accepted there but the Univ. of Chicago gave me a much larger scholarship so off I went not knowing anything about U/Chicago except that they accomplished the first nuclear fission in a lab under the football stadium bleachers and that the students were pretty smart.


College was tough! I was shocked at how much I had to work. After my first quarter at U/Chicago I was convinced I would flunk out. My grades were dismal. I even spoke to my professors about my imminent failure and they laughed!  I thought they were sadistic.


At the end of the first year I received a generous scholarship because I had the highest GPA in the class. I figured I would stay in academia and get a PhD and teach college. Leo Ryan really began to push me to consider law school and to work with him after. I applied for graduate school at UC Berkley and Law School(s) and got into both. What made me decide to go to Law School was what I thought was bias against women in academia: I had been nominated for a Woodrow Wilson fellowship as a senior and really thought I would get it. When I was told that it would go to a man "just because" I was furious and went to law school instead. Little did I know that I got into law school on a quota and that most law firms had no women attorneys and the few that they had were not allowed into the Court room.  I absolutely hated law school and decided to quit. The Dean and some of my professors talked me into taking a leave of absence. I went to work in Sacramento as Leo Ryan's Admin. Assistant for about a year and went back to law school, still hating it but finally being grown-up enough to realize I had to have a career and Law gave me lots of options. I still thought I would go into politics after law school, working for Leo. I rec'd scholarships for law school which is surprising in retrospect because there were so few women -in my class of 300+ only 20-25 were women and it was the time of Viet Nam.


My Husband Rick and I have been married 44 + years - first marriage for each of us. We got married after my first year of law school and his second year of medical school. We lived on our respective scholarships. He is a psychiatrist in private practice in SF and I am an attorney in private practice in Marin. We met in college, about a month into the first year. I had been out picketing with some girlfriends and we decided to go to the movies (taking our picket signs with us) and when the show was over, asked some guys to walk us back to the dorms. (South Chicago was not a safe place in those days). Rick was one of the guys. I thought he was nice and wondered if I would ever see him again. I did. He was persistent. We did not get married for 6 years after we met, though.


We have two children, Nyles who is 37 and Caitlin who is 35. Nyles graduated from U of Pennsylvania with honors and is a composer, musician, performer, producer by profession. His music has won awards here and in Europe. He works 24/7 with his music and supports his wife (who is just starting her MFT practice) and their two year old son, Skye. The music in many of the TV commercials you watch has been written by him. That is an accomplishment. Our daughter is an artist and she too has won awards and has had her work displayed in galleries. We are so proud of them and cannot believe we produced and had the good sense to encourage them to follow creative, artistic paths. They are wonderful.  We see them all every weekend so we are blessed to have family around us almost all of the time and be included in their lives.


Rick and I like to travel, read, go to ACT, go birding and walk. He is a 49er and Red Sox fan so I am too by marriage. Separately, I like to target shoot, listen to music, and take solitary hikes. For many years, my hobby was raising birds, even some endangered species. I might return to this after our grandson is older. Now he is our recreation and one of our joys.


Civic organizations include Bar Association groups, environmental groups, political groups and some left and right wing groups.


For exercise, I like to walk, swim in Lake Tahoe or Hawaii and until recently, to dance. I also like target shooting. We have had so many pets while the kids were little, I thought we lived in a zoo. Now we have a kitten and are trying to figure out how to keep it away from Rick who is allergic to it.


Favorite movies of all time include Gone With the Wind, Cleopatra and anything with Liz Taylor in it.  Also, High Noon, To Kill a Mockingbird and Richard Burton's flicks


Education includes: BA cum laude 1964 from University of Chicago, Chicago Illinois. Had academic scholarship all 4 years and was awarded L. G.Seltz scholarship for highest GPA in class at end of first year; JD 1968 from University of California, Hastings, San Francisco, Ca. Had academic scholarship all 3 years. Had article published in Hastings Law Review but can't remember the title of it, unfortunately. I am licensed to practice law in California and in all of the State and Federal Courts on all levels; I am also admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court.


I would not have expected that I would have ended up an attorney but here I am still after 41 years. I thought I would be working in politics but fate, fortune, misfortune, people and events have their ways with all of us. While I was in law school, I worked part-time for the Legal Services for the Poor program which was a part of the federal government's War on Poverty program of the '60's and 70's. It was a wonderful program that actually opened up the legal system to everyone without regard to their income. It was civil work only, but as a result of the cases brought by legal services programs all over the country, the relationship of government and business to people was forced to change. The legal work was very tough work but I gained exceptional experience. After law school and passing the bar, I chose to stay in this area and did a lot of litigation -class action suits against the government and against some vile businesses. I had my first case in the US Supreme Court after only 2-3 yrs in practice. It was exhilarating but exhausting work that could only be done by young, enthusiastic lawyers for a short time without burn-out. The Republicans hated this program and it was quickly emasculated when Washington underwent "regime change".


I went into private practice after the birth of our first child and became a partner in a San Rafael law firm. We were a creative, ambitious, and competitive group that came apart (after filing suits against each other).


I became a solo practitioner after the birth of our second child and have remained "solo". For many years I employed several attorneys, secretaries, law clerks etc etc - what felt like a Cecil B. deMille production. Now when my caseload requires, I just hire another attorney to work half-time or work on particular cases. I like this arrangement.


For approx. 12 years I taught at UC Davis School of Law one day/wk. I did this while I had my full-time law practice, small children, husband, pets and was room mother and "hot dog" mother at the kids' school. I was crazy but we all survived. It was sometime in these years that I was first included in "Best Lawyers in America". I was so proud that I brought the book home and showed it to our son, saying "Look, Mommy is in this book!" He looked at me like I had just grown three heads and asked "What are we having for dinner?" The family always kept me grounded and my priorities straight. One time when I was "hot dog" Mom, I just ran to school from my office with my suit, heels, silk shirt - my lady lawyer clothes on- and gave out the hot dogs to the middle schoolers. I was delighted with myself for managing all. When our son came home that night, I asked him what he thought about me being at his school at lunch doing the hot dogs. Of course, I expected him to think it was wonderful. He said that it was fine "But why can't you just wear jeans and a sweatshirt like the other moms?" So next time I pulled the sweats on over the silk shirt and the jeans over the panty hose and he was happy. I can't seem to separate the two careers- family and law because I chose to do them both simultaneously. I am happy that I did but it was not easy.


In 1975 I was selected for membership in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, an invitation-only group of 1100 attorneys in the US. I was active in the organization being president of the Northern Calif. Chapter in 1984-85. Selection for this group brings me referrals which help to pay the rent. In the 2000's I began to be selected as one of No. Calif's "Super Lawyers". This honor has been fun. Some clients are impressed; others remain so focused with their legal matters that they would not notice if I were stark naked during our conferences. Recognizing this reality and the fact that unless a case settles, there is much that is beyond anyone's control gets me out of the office on time each evening and keeps me from working weekends.  Actually the practice of law can be humbling despite the necessity to pull rabbits out of the hat during trials (for which I charge extra).


The birth of our grandson has changed my/our plans regarding retirement. Have you seen the cost of pre-school lately? I can't imagine what college or art or music school will cost in 15 years but I hope to be able to help out. I will work until I win the lottery or don't have clients at the door. True to form, I am combining grand parenting with all else. We have Skye with us overnight every weekend and sometimes mid-week. My computer is often run over by a Tonka truck or kitten paws regularly.