The Stern Law Firm has brought a whole new spin to practicing law. Lawyer Stephen Stern purchased a 24 ft. 1978 Airstream Argosy and travels throughout San Luis Obispo County and Santa Maria bringing the law to where people need it.
Called Sabrina (after the movie) by her previous owner, Stern refers to his office on wheels as the Mobile Law Center (MLC). Stern spent over a decade in his office located close to San Luis Obispo city hall. He said that he had always been keenly aware of the disruption that having to see a lawyer can cause, not to mention how inherently daunting the experience can be.
“I’ve wanted to help people and I’ve always respected the inconvenience of others trying to fit into a schedule,” said Stern, “especially if they have to come to a city and they were in Paso or they’re in Santa Maria.”
Once the idea was decided on, Stern had to find the right vehicle for the job. After weighing the pros and cons of different forms of transportation, he finally decided that the Airstream had the right feel and ambiance he sought. Stern found only three Airstreams for sale in California; one of those three was in Los Osos.
Stern worked with Innovative Spaces in Santa Barbara to bring his vision for the interior of the shiny recreational vehicle to fruition. The lawyer took pains to create an environment that puts his clients at ease. He does not keep framed certificates on the walls that lawyers all seem to love to display, and instead of a wall of foreboding law books, he as a scant few almost hidden by his desk. Even the interior color scheme of green, brown and white was borrowed from a yoga studio.
“I realized that many people are intimidated by lawyers, the process, even the vernacular, the terminology, the court process.” said Stern, “They sometimes get paralysis by analysis.” That is to say, a person under litigation can be so overwhelmed with the cost and processes that they do nothing, which often leads to severe consequences.
Flat fees were also designed to make the whole process more accessible to people like students who do not have much of a disposable income. “I wanted to create a way to help all these people that weren’t being helped,” said Stern. He offers 20-minute consulting sessions for $45 and has set price points for putting people on the right track. Once he discovers the legal necessities required, Stern will give a flat fee or he will lay out all the options and let the client handle their own paperwork and procedures.
Though initially a business lawyer, Stern said due to the demand from the local area he broadened his scope of the law to include consumer based areas including; consumer rights, debt, trusts, and bankruptcy. He also partners with businesses like Family Care Network and speaks to their employees and advises them on things such as the Public Service Student Loan program. Stern says he plans to take his show on the road to Live Oak and the Lightening in a Bottle Music Festival at Lake Nacimiento.
To find out where Stephen and Sabrina will be next, visit http://mobilelawcenter.com/
By Mark A. Diaz and Photos by Shannon McMillen