He is not your father’s lawyer, says the Mobile Law Center’s Stephen Stern. And just one visit to the tricked- out 1978 Airstream Argosy confirms it. Carefully selected to convey a welcoming message of affordability and utility, the inside of the Argosy has been completely renovated, transforming it into an office where the real work of the law can be done, but without the stuffy, intimidating trappings of the conventional law office. Here, natural woods, clean white finishes, lots of light, and a soothing pistachio green contrast sharply with the often dark oak walls, ornately framed degrees, and fancy-suited attorneys of the conventional law office.
After practicing law the traditional way for more than 18 years, Stern launched the Mobile Law Center in May of 2017 so that those who couldn’t (or maybe wouldn’t) come to a law office for help could get it— if he brought the law to them. In an article for Airstream Life’s Winter 2017 issue, Stern put it this way:
“Many times, people do nothing about their legal issues and then find themselves later in a very precarious, difficult situation legally because they didn’t take the actions to defend themselves or to stand up for their rights,” he explained. “I wanted to serve that population … and that led to going to the people instead of expecting everybody to come to me.”
Born and raised until the age of 6 in New Jersey, Stern and his family moved to Woodland Hills, California, where he spent the rest of his childhood and teen years. His father was an entrepreneur of the old-world kind who supported his family (Stern has one older sister) selling everything from motorcycle parts to imported sunglasses. His mother worked at a well-known department store managing women’s shoes.
As a boy, Stern recalls he was always wanting to fight for the underdog. If he saw a classmate being bullied or unjustly wronged, he took it personally, making it his cause. It was the same when he got involved in journalism: “I was always interested in fairness and truth, and in sifting through the noise and the chatter to get to it,” he said.
Though he comes from a long line of lawyers (at least two uncles, an aunt, a sister, and several cousins are attorneys, including the found- ing New York Commissioner whose legal team prosecuted numerous unscrupulous judges), Stern was determined, at first, to avoid the law. So he got into journalism instead, becoming Editor-in-Chief for Northern Arizona University’s student newspaper, and later serving as Special Assistant to three NAU presidents. He earned his B.S. and M.A. Ed there before leaving to attend law school in Kansas in the ‘90s, obtaining his Juris Doctorate in Law in 1998. He opened his first practice in Flagstaff, Arizona that year, where he offered a wide array of legal services to Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. He later taught courses in business and First Amendment law for three colleges, including Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he is still an adjunct faculty member.
Today, a year into the launch of his new mobile law practice, Stern travels California’s central coast—Paso Robles to Ventura—setting up shop (parking the Argosy) in city centers or other agreed-upon locations to bring legal expertise to those who need it.
“As a lawyer, there is a much greater satisfaction as- sisting someone to get back on their feet and retake control over their lives than making a rich person richer,” he said.
Stern’s practice has always done well.
“This is just more of an outreach to those who are reluctant to go to an office,” he explained. “People
can meet with me for even 20 minutes and get enough advice to give them peace of mind because now at least they know what the worst or the best outcomes are.”
While the vast majority of responses to the Mobile Law Center (MLC) have been positive, there has
been some criticism. A few long-time lawyers have expressed the opinion that practicing law from a traveling Airstream is too informal, not worthy of the profession. But recently, Stern set up the MLC at a local business trade show and was overwhelmed with curious and enthusiastic visitors. Now he’s consulting with others who want to do the same thing. Stern hopes that there will eventually be a whole army of mobile law centers bringing affordable legal help to people all over the country.
A lofty goal? Perhaps. But this lawyer cum rocker has faith. Wait. Lawyer cum what?
Yes, Stephen Stern has another, shall we say more musical, side. He is a Co-Founder and Partner in the Rockers Collective (www.rockerscollective.com) and the University of Rock & Roll, both since 2011. The former, says its website, is comprised of all-star musicians from world-famous bands who perform for casinos, corporate, and other special events. Every summer, for example, a June concert is held in Cabo San Lucas as a fundraiser for one of Rockers Collective’s clients. As many as 750 people from Orange County fly down for five days of music, featuring Rockers Collective and special guest stars such as the lead singers for Foreigner and Starship, a winner of NBC’s The Voice, and Robin Thicke. This year’s event is titled “Rock the Decades” and proceeds will go to various children’s charities, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, and for medical equipment, surgeries and tuition for people in Cabo.
Stern’s partner in this, and in the University of Rock & Roll, is Mark Schulman, a boyhood pal who is today the drummer for P!NK. In addition to his success as a musician, Schulman is also a charismatic public speaker. Together, he and Stern provide a myriad of programs—including speakers, clinics, and workshops—for corporate, commercial, and private events.
The collected works and achievements of Stephen Stern are inspiring. The breadth and depth of his knowledge, experience, legal wisdom, (and great big heart, in this writer’s opinion) can be sampled by visiting www. stephensternlawfirm.com and www.mobilelawcenter.com where dozens of posts can be read on topics ranging from Batman to Bikram! Here, he offers legal wisdom on copyright and trademark law, student loans, small business advice, bankruptcy, non-profits, and IRS issues—to name just a few.
So keep the faith. Good people outnumber the bad. And quality legal help is on the way.