This podcast was recorded in December of 2017 with Martin Krieg from the national nonprofit National Bicycle Greenway and Shaana Rahman of Rahman Law PC.
It is part of the Mountain Movers Podcast Series. The series focuses on people who are taking giant steps for the betterment of cyclists and the planet itself. Mr. Krieg recorded from Indianapolis. Shaana Rahman of Rahman Law PC discusses her life riding bicycles, working as a bicycle accident attorney, advocating for bicyclist safety, riding in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Click below to visit the National Bicycle Greenway website with the original podcast, or listen here:
Martin: Welcome the national bicycle greenways mountain mover podcast series. Here you will get up close and personal with people who are taking giant steps for the betterment of cyclists and for the planet itself.
Martin: With gratitude to Shaana Rahman of Rahman law in San Francisco California for waiting for me to get set up here in Indianapolis. I was finally able to record our long-scheduled podcast. As such I can finally show you the rich genuine kind person I’ve had the chance to work with for these last couple of years. At long last I’m able to show you a woman who mixes professionalism with warmth in our important service to cyclists who have been compromised by motorists.
Martin: Hey how are you doing today Shaana?
Shaana: I’m doing great Martin, how are you?
Martin: I’m doing great thanks for asking and now we’re just going to jump right into because there’s so much about Shaana Rahman that I need for the guy that bicycles [01:08 inaudible] to be able to understand. So Shaana before we get into bikes in law, where’d you grow up at?
Shaana: I grew up in Long Island, New York.
Martin: Is there a city out there that you grew up in?
Shaana: Massapequa, Nassau County.
Martin: Massapequa, huh okay. Did you ride a bike there much?
Shaana: I did, I had my first about my first red Schwinn when I was a kid with some babysitting money I think. It wasn’t my first bike, the first bike I bought myself.
Martin: Really! Was it like a Schwinn varsity or something like that?
Shaana: It was a baby bike. So it wasn’t even a ten-speed. The Varsity was the second one. But it was like a thick Schwinn with no hand brakes.
Martin: So, it is a coaster brake? You step on the pedal.
Shaana: It was bright red.
Martin: Where’d you get the money for it? You say you bought it. Did you have a paper route?
Martin: Oh you did?
Shaana: Yeah, my brother and I did. I would help him, we’d split it. We were industrious kids because we grew up kinda poor. We’d do our jobs and make money.
Martin: Yeah wow it’s like I can’t tell you how many bikes and things I bought it with a paper on money. You know kids don’t have that luxury anymore. So, I guess probably I’m going to skip maybe a few years you were a kid in Long Island, there was a lot of riding around there? Do you ride much?
Shaana: Every day, yeah. It was a time when you’d just get on your bike, at like, you know 6/7/8, and our parents didn’t care, and we’d ride in a group. We’d go all through the neighborhood. You know, back then no helmets, no nothing – but big wide streets, and it was safe, and it was the thing that our parents would let us do.
Martin: Did you ever go on long rides in long island?
Shaana: Yeah, we used to do our long ride during summer. We used to ride out to jones beach.
Martin: Wow! Did ever make it up to port Jefferson?
Shaana: We couldn’t ride that far.
Martin: How long is long island anyway? Just curious about hundred miles.
Shaana: Probably at least a hundred miles.
Martin: Yeah that’d be right okay and so like you were riding your bike all the way through as a kid did you ride in high school too?
Shaana: Yeah. Yeah in high school. When I was in New York in high school, I used to ride my bike in, get to the bus take it to high school. That was my joined varsity.
Martin: That was in New York City then?
Shaana: No still in Long Island.
Martin: Okay in Long Island still okay. So, you used to ride your bike to school or ride your bike to school. Really? How cool is that? What was the name of your high school just for fun?
Shaana: Massapequa high school
Martin: Ah so okay. How about college? Where did you go to college at?
Shaana: I only moved out to California and I went to college at Santa Clara.
Martin: Yeah, your whole family moved out there?
Martin: And what did you lived in Santa Clara?
Shaana: We moved out to Santa Cruz and then [05:15 inaudible]
Martin: You are kidding me. So, you are in Santa Cruz in the early 90s possibly too?
Shaana: I moved out there [05:29 inaudible]
Martin: [05:28 inaudible] earth quake you were gone. So, you weren’t there that long?
Shaana: Yeah, I was there about 3 or 4 years. Then I [05:38 inaudible] first year college I lived in [05:45 inaudible] over the hill. Highway 17 was basically closed.
Martin: Yeah, I rode my bike on that one. It was very, very surreal experience. It was crazy crazy. Wow so you’re a Santa Cruz kid kind of sort. Wow! Wow! That’s amazing. You went to Santa Clara, went to school of the Jesuits.
Shaana: I did. They had the best bar. No one knows it. The Jesuits resident had the most elaborate, most impressive bar [06:23 inaudible]
Martin: You are kidding me, on campus?
Shaana: On campus. [06:27 inaudible]
Martin: So, what do you mean? It was like a bar that the drinking for alcohol?
Shaana: It was like a parlor room. Like a [06:46 inaudible] parlor room with [06:50 inaudible]
Martin: Anybody can use it huh?
Shaana: Not exactly. You have to be invited by the Jesuits.
Martin: So, it wasn’t just any student at Santa Clara could go to the Jesuits bar. You have to be invited by the priests, gotcha. Wow! And then you went from a catholic Santa Clara, catholic school to a catholic law school correct?
Shaana: I did. [07:25 inaudible]
Martin: Okay wow so you went from Santa Cruz to Santa Clara to San Francisco all the way up to peninsula and ended up stuck in San Francisco and we spoke the other day you were doing personal injury law. So, you start doing personal injury law for the longshoremen back pretty much when they ran San Francisco. You were saying that you came on board with them when they were starting to shut the ports down, is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Shaana: That’s right. Put myself [08:03 inaudible] longshoremen and when they got hurt at work. So, it’s more like workers comp former longshoremen and it was at a time [08:16 inaudible] of longshoremen. It was when they were starting to close the ports. So those jobs were getting a little bit scarcer. So, these were almost all men, but some women, these folks really really really wanted to work and so even when they were hurt, really bad things, bad things would happen at longshoremen. You know they would get in a hole and covered with product and they’d have pallets on them, they would have [08:47 inaudible] ripped off.
Martin: Tell us about the path you took before you started fighting for the rights of cyclists. When did you become a bike commuter, how did that all kind of evolved?
Shaana: It’s hard to say you know when I was, so I grew up riding a bike obviously and then when I lived in Santa Clara through college, it was great bike riding in Santa Clara you know to and from school and around. Because big flat wide streets and back then not a lot of traffic there and then you know after I had moved up to San Francisco, I didn’t ride for a while. Because it was kind of terrifying to me so and I didn’t have a lot of time. Because I was in law school and starting my first law job. So, I was working probably 60,70,80, 90 hours a week you know and then when I got my first plaintiffs job working for a firm representing injured people, I started doing a lot of bicycle and motorcycle cases. So, representing the rights of cyclists and motorcyclists and that’s when I started getting back into getting back on the bike in San Francisco.
Martin: Okay great and were you member of the SFBC back then?
Shaana: I became a member of the SFBC when I opened my firm about ten years ago.
Martin: Okay that would have been 2004 or so.
Shaana: 2007 yeah.
Martin: Okay great. Were you active with the SFBC?
Shaana: I have been active with them for the last ten years. I’ve had pleasure of sponsoring a number of their programs over the years and attending all their great events and the most recent thing I’ve been doing with them is sponsoring a fairly new program, it’s their Women who Ride program and it’s basically for the social and educational program for women riders. So, they do good rides and they also put on presentations about things that might be relevant to riders.
Martin: Wow! So how do you feel about riding in San Francisco now? Have you gotten over your fear?
Shaana: I have gotten over my fear. It took some time, but I would force myself to you know eight, nine, years ago ride up and down Market Street and that’s the way back then to get over your fear. Now it is actually almost pleasurable, not totally but there’s been some great improvement. But it took a lot. But SFBC was really helpful there. Because it gives gave me a community of people who could share stories and know tell you what the best route is, or you know gives you that kind of help I think. So, city riding was very different from what I’ve been used to. It’s not big wide-open streets with very few cars. It’s the very opposite of that. So, it was really learning how to navigate urban riding.
Martin: As well as the railroad tracks.
Shaana: Right, 90 degrees.
Martin: I’ve seen so many people go down on those things you know. Its hysterical and funny and even sometimes I’ve seen seasoned cyclists go down. Because they’ve let their guard down, they’ve kind of you got to hit perfectly 90 degrees what you say. Okay now in terms of your service Shaana, it’s free. But of course, that’s if you choose to take on someone’s case. How does one get that ball rolling? You do a couple of interviews. One on the phone, one face-to-face. Tell us about those.
Shaana: Sure, I’ll clarify a little bit. My service is not actually free. There is no upfront cost. I’m a contingency fee lawyer. Like all personal injury lawyers, we take a percentage of recovery. So how people get to me, people come to me. Most of my cases are referred through former clients, friends and also, I get a lot of cases referred to me from defense attorneys. The folks I argue against in cases. So that’s how I get my cases and people come to me and they call, or they send an email through our website and then some people are we then call people back who have seemed like they might have a viable case and there’s a phone process where we take a little bit of information. If they come in through the website, the website has a number of standard questions that help us better evaluate. So that’s an easier process and then if either through the website intake process over the phone intake process, it looks like it might be a case that I can take on. I have folks come in and we meet in person.
Martin: Okay so what kinds of factors come into play in you are determining whether a case is worth representing?
Shaana: There are a lot of different factors. Probably the biggest one is I want to make sure if the case meets all the criteria. You know there was a collision or there was an injury and there are certain parameters met. I want to make sure that my involvement is going to add value to that client right and so for the bike community, I get a lot of calls from cyclists who were in some sort of collision. But thankfully either were not injured or just had property damage damaged their bikes and they call really because they don’t know what their rights are or what should happen and so for those folks I will just take them through the process and if it’s a very minor injury, I’ll take them through the process of how to do it themselves. Because that’s not the case where I would add value for that. Yeah so, it’s something, not every case you don’t need a lawyer for every case. Because there’s insurance on the other side, you can sometimes work it out with the insurance company although the insurance companies do not play fair. If you at least are armed with sort of the basic information about how these things work, it can help you just resolve your issue on your own.
Martin: Okay you were saying also that you kind of look at the client then see if they are able to, express themselves appropriately and if it’s something to do with like if they’re just trying to do this out of an ego type spite thing, talk about that just a little bit.
Shaana: So, you always want, because the personal injury in the civil lawsuit system is it’s pretty narrow and what I can do. So essentially what we could do is get monetary recoveries for people who are injured right and that’s money and so if someone comes to me and they want something other than that, you know they want to be vindicated or they want to be right or that motivation is difficult. Because it’s not the thing that the system allows me to do for them. So, I look at that, I also I always meet with clients. Because I think it’s real important I spent a lot of time with my clients and I want to make sure we gel right that I like them, and they like me and because it’s an important relationship like any other relationship, you’re in a position where you both are sharing sensitive and important information you need to trust each other. So, I think that the client meeting is really important to that process to sort of assess how someone is going to be whether or not they can withstand the kind of rigors of litigation if that’s necessary. Because having a lawsuit and having a claim, no it’s not a fun process for people. You know myself and my staff we try to make it as painless as possible. But there’s still an element of having to participate and reliving the horrible thing that happened to you right and so there are some people who I feel at going through that process is actually going to be worse for them.
Martin: Okay I got it. Okay so once you choose to take on a case, pretty big mechanism gets set into place. It becomes far more than Shaana Rahman. Tell us about your staff.
Shaana: Sure, I have three wonderful women who work with me. I have Christina Guido, she’s my director of client services and she is sort of she’s me when I can’t be available. In terms of being able to be responsive to the clients, she gets information from them, gives them information about what’s going to happen next or give some documents to review and kind of also handles the initial process between potential clients and what’s become new clients and Christina is a fabulous woman. She is, I’ll give you a little bit of her background – well I’ll tell you one personal thing about her. She’s a phenomenal gospel and choir singer in her personal life. So, she is a very interesting woman. Then I have Jaylen, who is my case manager and so Jaylen runs, she runs also the office functionality and make sure we have the things we need to do our jobs. But also keeps track of the status of cases, make sure they’re moving along and coordinates scheduling with the opposing parties and so basically it keeps us on track and then I also have Anja who’s a paralegal. But also, a lawyer by training. Who graduated from Boalt and she works with me on the nitty-gritty legal issues sometimes and gets documents together and we work on preparing discovery, the litigation aspects of the case once cases filed.
Martin: Wow! Impressive-o. So, you are going beyond that you told me a kind of young-ish clientele. The people come before you tend to be younger folks, millennials as it were possible and they’re more comfortable with a paperless legal trail. Can you provide paper documents to those who need them?
Shaana: Of course. You know my clientele has just changed over the years. So, there’s a mix. But yeah so, we try to, we’ve adopted some technology in the last couple of years to be more efficient internally and also make the process easier for clients and that is largely a paperless system. But I always adapt my processes to my clients. So, if I have clients who don’t use emails. So, we don’t use email, just call and that’s fine and I have clients who only be contacted by text messages. It is easy that too and then I have clients you want old-fashioned you know they want documents in the mail and I’m happy this and you know happy to send them whatever it is. Because at the end of the day you want them to feel comfortable. So, whatever that’s going to make them comfortable, whatever is going to make them engaged in their process in their case I want to do.
Martin: Okay you got a web portal you were talking about, your clients that are comfortable with tech, they could stay in real time by… It’s a kind of niche web portal. You had a lot of a success. Tell us about the web portal.
Shaana: Sure, that was [22:13 inaudible] technology or software I guess that has been kind of important I think changing a lot of efficiency and client communication. The portal is essentially clients get a login and a password and it’s also the cloud-based program and also a phone app if you want that and you log in to basically to your case file and so there we could message each other and have [22:44 inaudible] messages, but I can upload documents for them to see or hearings that are going to be set and they can upload documents they want me to see and we can communicate that way. First of all, tremendously more secure than email and because a lot of the information we’re sharing, medical records you know paycheck stubs, things that are personally identifiable information. So sensitive, the portal gives us that extra security measure and also for ease of use, you know we’re just in one place and so we can have basically a conversation that is that we can both refer back to versus email, email becomes very difficult. Because there’s a tremendous back-and-forth and it sits there. In the portals the messages don’t sit there, you’re alerted. So, you know it’s a client who’s important like for me my inbox is not just was not just client, it was you know a thousand other people who are not on it and so it became hard you know so the clients are the most important. So, to call them from all these people sending the email was difficult. Missed me, this gives me my priority folks my clients in one place and clients whether to, I guess they don’t have to scan it, they don’t have to email a bunch of things one at a time, they can just upload documents and its pretty sequence.
Martin: Wow are other law firms using this portal?
Shaana: Yeah, they must be, product [24:20 inaudible] lawyer. So otherwise they’d be out of business.
Martin: But is our popular I’ve never heard of this before. Is it a popular system?
Shaana: I don’t know and none of my colleagues are using it, so I don’t know. I think folks are a little bit reluctant from the lawyers stand point you use it because it’s different. People are very comfortable with email.
Martin: Right so it is kind of cutting edge pretty much. Would that be correct to say?
Shaana: But it’s been around for a long time. You know a lot of lawyers are stuck in thinking about how we owe and done things. Which have been very paper driven, paper intensive and so you have to kind of reassess and kind of evaluate your processes.
Martin: Okay now you also have an office in Paso Robles. Why?
Shaana: A few years ago, I decided because I lived in San Francisco for 25 years, I decided that I was going to buy a farm, small farm down in Paso Robles and have another office down there. Because it’s a nice respite from the city and also great biking community down here and it was just something that I wanted to do. I wanted to have, I guess an alternative to urban life.
Martin: So, are you living on a farm?
Shaana: And I split my time between the two places and yeah I have a small place and a piece of land.
Martin: Wow how cool that. So, we are talking to a farming lawyer huh. How far is that from San Francisco?
Shaana: About 200 miles.
Martin: 200 miles.
Martin: Okay so its little bit more treble in terms of time. So, do you find that that while your team does this work in the busyness of San Francisco, then you get a better big-picture view of what your clients need back in the city by going for a drive to your office down south?
Shaana: Well the way that we work now is so different. Because you can work from anywhere and because my practice has always required a certain amount of travel. You know I’ve done cases all throughout California right so northern and southern California up north. So it allows me to have the office in that midway point it, gives me more flexibility in the kind of places in the location of cases I can take and having good people who work with me, manage, the day-to-day and keep things running of course it allows me to do you know do the legal work and do the thing that I’m good at.
Martin: Oh, so you expand your reach?
Shaana: Well I didn’t really expand my reach except that I now have a midway point to do that from. So, it’s been encouraging me more to take cases you know from the end of the peninsula down to LA down to Santa Barbara that I might not otherwise have taken because of the distance.
Martin: So, are you doing anything in SoCal at all?
Shaana: Yes, yeah, I got a couple cases down there going now and mostly San Francisco, Paso Robles, and San Luis Obispo County.
Martin: Jiminy Christmas. So, you’ve also, you told me the other day that most of your work is in San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin county. Is that not correct?
Shaana: That has been historically what it’s been until I moved- I opened… well my younger years it was a wider swath. So, the last few times I focused on those areas because those are the cases that I was, those are the circles of cases I was getting and then expanding down to San Luis Obispo, that’s opened up the scope of areas, like cases of what I do.
Martin: So, are you doing anything in San Luis? A college town.
Shaana: Yes, my office here is fully functional.
Martin: When I said San Luis I meant San Luis Obispo County. Paso Robles is a city in San Luis, SLO County, isn’t it?
Martin: Okay and then there’s the actual city of San Luis Obispo and what college is that? Do you do work there as well?
Martin: Oh you do, great, awesome. With regard to San Francisco, Oakland, and Marin County, tell us about the bike organizations you support there besides the SFBC.
Shaana: I’ve supported Bike East Bay for a number of years and I’ve also the Marin County Bike Coalition who I’ve had a pretty special long-standing relationship with. Marin County especially I’ve done a lot of different sponsorships with them over the years. Obviously Bike to Work Day we get to be on the Bridge, on the Golden Gate Bridge on Bike to Work Day with the great folks from MCBC at 5:30 in the morning when it starts it’s freakin’ cold on the Bridge that’s the highlight of the year. Totally fun. Which was awesome on my birthday for that last year.
Shaana: MCBS does a lot of great educational things, too. And so I was fortunate. They do a bicycle citation sort-of forgiveness training. If you will. If you’re on a bicycle in Marin County and get cited for an infraction you can go to this education class like an hour or two hours and get it written off. SO I was able to sponsor their program for a number of years.
Martin: Great! How awesome is that. You were saying there were a number of different programs you were active with right now with the Marin County folks. There is the citation one. There is something else you were talking about. Something to do with women? No?
Shaana: That was the SFBC that we talked about, yeah.
Martin: Awesome, wow. That’s so cool. We’ve covered a lot of ground now. Is there anything I’ve missed?
Shaana: No, thank you Martin for taking this time.
Martin: I’m happy to show the important service for those of us on bikes should we have a need for it, God forbid, that you’re out there. I’m very fired up to show the listenership out that there that Shaana Rahman is who she is and why I’ve always liked working with her and why I think she is an amazing peep. And so that’s it. See ya later Shaana, thank you for your time.
Shaana: Thank you, Martin!