News & Events: Tim Lane (JD 68): Honoring the “chance” that GGU gave him

Tim Lane

This spring, GGU Law was pleasantly surprised when an envelope arrived that included a sizeable check from alumnus Tim Lane (JD 68). While Lane had donated to the law school in the past, he was not on the radar as a major donor.

What motivated him to donate, and why now?

“GGU took a chance on me and I never forgot that,” says Lane.

That “chance” began in 1964, when Lane was applying to law school in large part to avoid the Vietnam War draft. One fateful day, after not receiving a response from UC Hastings about his application, he went to their campus and asked the receptionist about his status.

“We were separated by a glass window with one of those holes that you talk through,” he says. “The receptionist got out my file and without saying anything more she went to get somebody, who turned out to be the Dean. He said ‘We have a rating system and you are assigned points by LSAT and GPA scores and you must be a 9 to be considered for admission. You are a 3.’ I could feel a combination of humility and insult. It was obvious that I was not going to be going to Hastings so I asked where else I could go and he said ‘Why don’t you go up to Golden Gate?.’”

Not knowing where Golden Gate was, Lane asked for directions and proceeded to follow them to the old YMCA building. “And when I got there I remember walking up a narrow set of stairs and there was Dean [John] Gorfinkel, so I introduced myself. We talked about my lack of performance in college and he said ‘I’ll take a chance on you.’ And now, 50 years later, I really owe him a thank you.”

Lane attended GGU for the next four years as a part-time student. “Many of my professors were practicing attorneys so they brought that real-world experience to the classroom,” he says. “I have to say that at the time I am not sure I had a real appreciation for that but now I know that it certainly contributed to the quality of the instruction we got.”

Immediately upon graduating and passing the bar, he was thrown into the professional fire.

“The day after I was sworn in, I started my job in the District Attorney’s office in Contra Costa County,” recalls Lane. “By 11 am that day I had tried my first case. I think I set a world record!”

Soon after his hiring, the District Attorney was elected to the State Assembly. He was replaced by Bill O’Malley, a prominent East Bay attorney (and GGU Law alumnus). Lane worked for O’Malley for a few years and became close to him and his wife, who had a handful of young children. As it turns out, one of those children is fellow GGU alumnus, and the current Alameda County District Attorney, Nancy O’Malley (JD 83).

Lane’s next career move was to join the law firm of Ring, Turner & Ring in Walnut Creek where he did trial work for 30 years. His legal focus areas were business litigation, construction-related litigation, and personal injury.

Twenty years ago he went into private practice in Danville so he could spend more time on his family’s ranch in the Sierra Foothills. A native of the Bay Area, Lane divides his time between Danville and the ranch, which his grandparents homesteaded in 1919. Most of the time on the ranch he spends thinning the forest with the use of a chain saw and tractor. He has capable help, including occasional visits from his two grown children and four grandchildren.

Lane and his children recently placed a conservation easement on their ranch property with the Pacific Forest Trust.  The easement allows the family to continue their cattle ranching and forest stand activities but insures that the property remains in its undeveloped condition in perpetuity.

Lane has been doing the 150-mile trek to his ranch, and been working the 2500 acres, for 50 years. So, not surprisingly, he has little time to join alumni association committees, volunteer at events, or attend reunions.

Which doesn’t mean he hasn’t been thinking of his alma mater. Lane looks back fondly on his experience at GGU and is grateful for the education he received.

“It’s a topic that has been on my mind and certainly something I have not forgotten,” he says. “It’s a long overdue repayment.”