Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Penny Stauffer

I have had the pleasure of serving on the SVALA Board of Directors with Penny Stauffer many times. We have been to a variety of SVALA events and luncheons together but the most memorable moments with Penny are when we find ourselves sitting next to each other at a SVALA dinner and can talk one-on-one about family. Of course we discuss work as well but when Penny talks about her daughter, Kourtney or the love of her life, Charlie, she lights up!

Penny is a smart, well-educated and busy legal administrator who successfully manages the four California offices of her firm. How do I know she is a successful legal administrator? Because, as you will see from the interview, when Penny puts her mind to do something she does it with gusto and tenacity!

If I had to guess, though, her heart is with her family (which also now includes a gorgeous yellow lab!) and that love shines through in this interview.

Penny and Kourtney enjoying a Giants game
Penny and Kourtney enjoying a Giants game

Join me in learning a little bit more about Penny.

Penny Stauffer, MBA
Office Administrator
Stoel Rives LLP
SVALA Board Position: Past President

Tell us about your professional life. I am the Office Administrator for Stoel Rives LLP in Sacramento and manage all four California offices (Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and a small office in Truckee). In order to tell you how I came to be at Stoel, allow me to take you on a quick ride through the past.

In early 1985, I became a medical assistant and began working in private practice for two doctors in Nevada City, CA. A year later, to supplement my income, I started working part-time in the evening with a disabled man, Charlie, who required 24 hour care. After a few months, I was asked by the family to come on full-time to care for Charlie. Since Charlie and I were quite smitten with each other, I said yes immediately and quit my other job. Charlie and I began a wonderful life together and I never looked back.

Penny with Charlie and Kourtney
Penny with Charlie and Kourtney

After several years I went back to school and earned my AA in early childhood education which set me up for my next adventure…Charlie and I having a baby and opening a preschool in our home! Oh boy, are we having fun yet?! The preschool was wonderful and served a good purpose for a while, but ultimately became very draining. Well, back to school for Penny.

In 2002, I earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies and began working for The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Associate in Sacramento. That was a terrible commute from Nevada City, so we moved to Elk Grove. Once I began living in the Sacramento area, I went back to school at night and earned my BA in Business Management. In November of 2005, I was given the opportunity to bring my paralegal experience to Stoel Rives. Of course, once a paralegal lands at a great firm like Stoel, what could possible come next…yep, I went back to school again and earned my MBA.

In March of 2008 I was promoted to Administrator for Stoel California. I have enjoyed all of my jobs over the years, but the position I hold right now is so very rewarding. It is tough sometimes, but I have been provided so many enriching experiences that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Penny and Kourtney
Penny and Kourtney

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I will say it straight…I was strong-armed on to the board by Shauna Manner. 🙂 We attended a conference together when I was a baby administrator and she knew how to strike when the kettle was hot (when the newbie doesn’t really know what she is getting into). LOL! While I was a little intimidated by serving on the board at first, it has become a rewarding experience and I value the time that I work in this arena. I have served as membership chair, president, past president and will be the next community connection chair for 2017-18.

Tell us something about your personal life/passion. As for my passions in life I would have to say my daughter, Kourtney, is my biggest passion. She is a delightful and intelligent young lady that I truly enjoy being around. She is 19 going on 30, but that doesn’t even bother me because she just such a great person. Sadly, Charlie passed away in May 2009 leaving Kourtney and I to take care of each other. While Charlie is sorely missed, Kourtney carries so much of him in her (including the inherent Stauffer Sarcasm), that I often feel like he is still with us in a special way. We love the SF Giants; enjoy road trips to anywhere and of course thoroughly enjoy our beloved yellow lab Bailee Mae. I also enjoy hiking, scrapbooking and memorializing all of our memories for the next generation.

Bailee Mae
Bailee Mae

Kourtney is in college now and I can’t wait to see where her education takes her. Mine certainly took me down many avenues, but each one brought me to where I am today.

Many thanks to Penny for sharing her story and for choosing to serve on the SVALA Board of Directors. The Board has benefited from Penny’s involvement so we are happy she succumbed to the strong-arming by Shauna! 🙂

 Also, in case you missed it, please check out the most recent Business Partner Article from Gallaway Commercial, Inc.! Russel Gallaway shares important tips on renewing a lease or relocating.


Business Partners

Gallaway Commercial, Inc.: Tips for Renewing Your Lease or Relocating

Gallaway Commercial, Inc. is one of the SVALA’s Platinum Business Partners and many of our firms have used them during lease negotiations or relocation. Russel Gallaway, President of Gallaway Commercial, and Brian Kuklish, Vice-President of Project Management, not only sponsor SVALA but attend our luncheons and other special events as well.

Brian Kuklish and Russel Gallaway (l-r)
Brian Kuklish and Russel Gallaway (l-r)

I had the pleasure of sitting with Russel at the recent Workplace Update breakfast and our table had a fun discussion about kids, sports and how parents manage to be in three places at once! It is no surprise to me that Russel can pull that off yet still manage to run a successful business and keep his customers happy.

And, boy, are his customers happy! Just read these reviews!

Kellie B. Narayan, Executive Director of Wilke Fleury says, “Russel has helped negotiate and renegotiate Wilke Fleury’s leases for years and is an excellent resource and professional. The project management assistance Brian Kuklish provides is excellent and invaluable. Brian is patient, has a great sense of humor, is results oriented and committed to the highest quality result for any project on which he works. I have worked on Bay Area office relocations, a shell-to-finish build-out at the Ferry Building, and remodels of large commercial spaces, etc., and Russel and Brian are the Best!!”

Another Administrator, Joan Gabrielson of Cook Brown, just recently moved her firm and says, “Russel and Brian did a fabulous job listening to what our partners wanted then finding and moving us into our new space. They worked with us through the leasing process as well as worked with TI contractors, furniture and equipment vendors and the landlord – all the while communicating and working with the partners and myself. Their “nuts and bolts” approach of assisting with the entire move process was invaluable.”

Relocating or renewing a lease can be one of the most stressful projects of a legal administrator’s career. To help all of us at SVALA, Russel Gallaway took time out of his busy schedule to share a few tips.

Thank you, Russel, for this terrific information and for your sponsorship! (Be sure to also read their Business Partner Spotlight here.)


2016 Holiday Party Cindy Pilon, Russel Gallaway, Craig Price
2016 Holiday Party
Cindy Pilon, Russel Gallaway, Craig Price

The second largest expense for law firms is the cost of their office space. Having a team of experts to represent you to minimize these costs is critical to protecting your bottom line. Here are 10 of the biggest issues to consider the next time you are dealing with your lease.

  1. Personal Guarantee. Is the landlord requiring a personal guarantee? Is it joint and several? There are multiple ways to decrease or eliminate personal liability.
  1. Expansion. Is the need to expand important? Do you have a hard option, first right of refusal, or first right of offer on contiguous space? Are the terms clearly delineated in the lease? This language can be very complicated and lengthy but is critical to be done right for a growing firm.
  1. Tenant Improvements. Is your deal turnkey or are you working on an allowance? How is the general contractor selected? Is the landlord charging a supervision fee? Who is paying for ADA/Title 24 upgrades that are triggered by the T.I.? It’s possible to quantify these potential costs and typically have the landlord shoulder these costs.
  1. Square Footage. How is your space measured? Is it gross square footage, useable square footage or rentable square footage? Firms often focus on $/SF, but you could be paying for a patio and don’t even know it. Verifying what you are paying for prior to signing a long term lease is just good business.
  1. Relocation. Does your landlord have the right to relocate you at their option? If so, what are the terms they can do this on? Ideally, this provision is struck from a lease. If the landlord will not agree to strike it, it can be scaled back drastically to make sure you get great space if the landlord exercises their right and you are compensated for the burden of relocation.
  1. Operating Expenses. Most law firm leases come with very expensive Tenant Improvements so the lease term is 7 to 10 years. Making sure your base year is grossed up properly, having reasonable operating expense exclusions, and having reasonable audit rights will ensure a landlord does not gouge you over the term of your lease.
  1. Exclusive Use. You probably don’t want your biggest competitor to put their name on your building or have a more prominent entrance to their space. You can typically prevent this from happening if you negotiate it into a lease.
  1. Relocation Costs. The costs to relocate your office are significant and should be quantified to make a sound financial comparison. A solid project manager should make sure that you are working through COB on Friday and you are up on Monday. Even if you only have ten attorneys, a day of lost productivity at $450/hour is $36,000.00.
  1. Delivery Delays. If you choose to relocate, what happens when your new landlord delivers your space late or doesn’t deliver your space? Making sure this is quantified and the burden is put on your new landlord protects your bottom line. In the event your new landlord continues to make excuses and doesn’t deliver your premises substantially complete, having the ability to terminate your lease is important.
  1. Property Taxes. Most law firm leases are full service gross which means operating expenses are included in the “base year” or the first year of the lease. However, landlords are still getting drastic reductions in their property taxes through Proposition 8 appeals. If you don’t have rights protecting you against this, you can potentially have significant property tax bills passed through to you for the term of the lease.

The above is by no means everything you need to consider when negotiating your next lease but these are good talking points to protect your firm and make it more profitable.

About Gallaway Commercial, Inc.

gallaway-logoGallaway Commercial, Inc., GCI, is an industry-leading commercial real estate company that exclusively represents business owners and specializes in representing law firms. GCI represents 30% of the Top 40 firms in Sacramento that lease space which is more than double their biggest competitor. The company only represents tenants and buyers – never landlords – which eliminates potential conflicts of interest that other real estate firms have. In addition to tenant and buyer representation, the firm also offers in-house construction management and project management services. Gallaway Commercial, Inc. is based in Sacramento, but represents clients’ needs across the United States.

Russel Gallaway is the President and owner of Gallaway Commercial, Inc. and can be reached at 916.801.8878 or


Business Partners

Business Partner Spotlight: Caltronics Business Systems

Caltronics Business Systems has been a huge supporter of the SVALA and its members for a very long time. They have great partnerships with many law firms in the area so it was no surprise when they were ready and willing to participate in the SVALA Business Partner Program!

caltronicsIn fact, Caltronics was even advertising back when we were doing newsletters (you know, the paper version of a blog). 🙂

Greg Elko answered a few questions for us (between football seasons, of course) and we are happy he did! I have worked with Greg for several years and he is as enthusiastic about his company and products now as he was when I first met him.

Greg is energetic and works hard to get his customers the best deal possible and then stays in touch to resolve any issues and to make sure we are still happy with the equipment. I also know that, above all else, he is devoted to his family and that is exactly the kind of person with whom you want to do business!

Thank you for being a Gold Level Business Partner of the Sacramento Valley Legal Administrators Association. Please tell us why you chose to support our organization.

We chose to join the SVALA for the friendship and the networking in the legal field.

Please tell us about Caltronics and the services you provide.

Waterfall Hiking
Waterfall Hiking

We are the #1 Bizhub resellers in the country. We have sold over 70 million MFP copiers. We are also #4 in California for HP services and sales. Lastly, our software division has grown 300% in the past couple years by offering document storage, retrieval and index software.

Give us a little background about yourself. How long have you been in the business? How long have you been with Caltronics?

I have been in copier sales for 26 years and have worked with Caltronics for 23 years. We are family owned and operated. I love the people I work with and feel very blessed.

How is it different working with law firms than other non-legal businesses?

Legal-based firms are much more sophisticated and have much higher expectations, as they live in a world of documents and have deadlines which must be met.

Tell us how you would describe your working style. What makes you successful at what you do?

Follow up and follow through … I genuinely care about my clients and helping them. The experience I have in this field helps as well. 🙂

Tell us something fun you enjoy doing outside of work. 

Wilbur likes the pool!
Wilbur likes the pool!

I love waterfall hikes, coaching high school football at Jesuit High School and, most importantly, spending time with family.

During a follow-up conversation, Greg shared that he has a pet pig! Oh my goodness! Of course, the pig’s name is Wilbur . . .

What do you want the SVALA members to know about you and Caltronics?

I want the members of the SVALA to know that your friendship and our history are valued. Being a part of the SVALA meetings are fun because of these great friendships.

Many thanks to Greg for taking the time to answer our questions and for being a Business Partner of the SVALA.




Business Partners

Pacific Records Management: Destroying Hard Drives and Back up Tapes

One of the benefits given to our Platinum and Gold Business Partners is the opportunity to be “Spotlighted” on our blog! In the case of Platinum partners, they get an additional opportunity to share an article designed to educate our members related to their area of expertise. They benefit by letting our members get to know them a little bit better and we benefit from the information they share!

I love it when everyone wins!

bp-pacific-storage-logoPacific Records Management is one of our Platinum Business Partners and you can read their original spotlight feature here. In their second feature, Richard Steed, Vice President of Pacific Records Management shares great information about destroying old hard drives and back up tapes.

Thank you, Richard, for your sponsorship and for sharing this great info!

 5 Good Reasons to Destroy Old Hard Drives and Backup Tapes

bp-back-up-tapes-prmYou may have several reasons for keeping a stockpile of old hard drives and backup tapes. Maybe procrastination has gotten the better of you. Perhaps you think you may need to access that expired data someday or you’re concerned about outsourcing the destruction of your media. Whatever your concerns, fear is no replacement for the facts, so here are five good reasons you should destroy your old backup media.  Often this critical information is stored on other devices like copiers, computers, flash type drives and cell phones.

  1. Data Security

Old backup tapes and hard drives are a security liability. A single device can store hundreds of thousands of confidential data files, and electronic data can be compromised even when it’s out-of-date or the device it’s stored on is inoperable.

Deleting digital files from a device doesn’t completely obliterate the data. With the right tools and software, identity thieves and criminals bent on business fraud can still extract information from a tape or hard drive. Physical destruction of your devices is the best way to lower your company’s data breach exposure.

  1. Legal Compliance

Data breach consequences include fines and even criminal prosecution for failing to protect consumer information. Each of the following laws require organizations to safeguard personal, health and financial records from unauthorized access:

  • GLB

Destroying your hard drives and tapes helps keep your business compliant with these privacy regulations.

  1. Cost Savings

In addition to fines and other costs associated with a data breach, don’t overlook the cost of storing old backup media. Every square inch counts when you’re paying a premium for office space. Hoarding outdated computers and storage media means there’s less room for revenue-generating activities. Incorporate regular hard drive and tape destruction into your data security plan to and maximize profitability.

  1. Client Trust

You work hard to gain the trust of your customers and wouldn’t want to throw it away by compromising their data. Having your old hard drives and backup tapes professionally and securely destroyed helps ensure total information privacy for your customers and your business.

  1. Brand and Reputation Protection

Besides creating a whirlwind of legal and financial problems for your business, stolen data can permanently damage your corporate brand and reputation. Some businesses never fully recover from a corporate data breach because of the punishing costs and destruction of the brand.

Media destruction keeps your information safe so consumers continue buy products and services from a company they know and respect.

Don’t let excuses get in the way of protecting your information. Destroying your old hard drives and backup tapes as well as other storage devices makes too much sense!

When deciding to destroy your hard drives, make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure the data is destroyed properly.  I heard from a recent prospect the other day that instead of having them shredded, he was going to have his kids in the garage take a hammer to them. While this may or not be effective, a more secure method like shredding beyond recognition will ensure the data is properly destroyed.


Business Partners, SVALA Activities

Workplace Update Breakfast

Are you confused by the ever-changing labor laws? Finding it hard to keep up with overtime regulations? What do employers do to handle the now legal (in California anyway) recreational marijuana use?

The group enjoying breakfast
The group enjoying breakfast

One of the most anticipated events of the year for our members is the Annual Workplace Update Breakfast which answers these and many other questions!

If only there were mimosas to go along with the headache all these changes are causing!

There may not have been mimosas but we did have two knowledgeable attorneys from the Labor and Employment team of Wilke Fleury. Bianca Watts and Samson Elsbernd walked us through unisex restroom signage requirements, amendments to the Fair Pay Act, the status of the Federal Overtime Rule and even what Proposition 64 (Recreational Marijuana Use) means for employers.

Bianca Watts and Samson Elsbernd
Bianca Watts and Samson Elsbernd

Samson spoke to our group in August on the topic of “Simply Sex . . . Sex, Gender, Gender Identity.” He was dynamic and knowledgeable then so it was wonderful to see him back speaking at the breakfast. Bianca and Samson took turns with the various topics and walked us through the 2017 updates. There was also quite a bit of audience participation since these new laws and regulations always generate a lot of questions.

As we learned, the minimum wage is increasing over the next few years which will impact the California minimum wage for exempt employees.

Kellie Narayan and Samson Elsbernd
Kellie Narayan and Samson Elsbernd

They also spoke on a topic that is near and dear to my heart: all-gender restrooms! Yes, I realize that might seem like an odd thing to be passionate about but it is not only an important topic for transgender people but also for caregivers caring for a member of the opposite sex. (I will spare you my embarrassing stories of sneaking into the men’s restroom while caring for my disabled brother!)

Samson told us that by March 1, 2017 all single-user restrooms must be labeled for all-gender. Woohoo! No more red-faced moments for me or uncomfortable situations for transgender persons.

Bianca and Samson covered too many topics to recap here but know that the breakfast was worth the anticipation and is something you will not want to miss next year.

Julie Denker and Kevin Valine of EPIC
Member Julie Denker with Kevin Valine of EPIC

Aside from the excellent speakers, we were able to visit with our wonderful Business Partners. What I love about visiting with our sponsors is their ability to attend events such as this as our peers and not as sales people. While I am sure they would love our business (and many of us are customers of some, if not all, of the sponsors), they are fun to talk with and get to know.

They are not just our Business Partners but have become our friends as well. And I’m not just saying that because I won a prize. 🙂

Past President Penny Stauffer and Debbie Jordan of Sacramento Placement Services
Past President Penny Stauffer with Debbie Jordan of Sacramento Placement Services

Many thanks to our Platinum Sponsors: EPIC, Gallaway Commercial, Pacific Records Management, Sacramento Placement Services, Sierra Office Supplies & Printing and Terrapin Technology Group. (Click on the hyperlink to read the Business Partner Spotlights!)

Many thanks to our Gold Sponsors: CMA Insurance Services, Caltronics, First Legal Network and Fujitani Consulting.

Our Silver Sponsors, FlexManage and Smile Business Products weren’t able to attend but we appreciate them anyway!

Pacific Records Management, Richard Steed and Mike Young with  Nitza Medina-Garcia and Isabel Garcia
Pacific Records Management, Richard Steed and Mike Young with Nitza Medina-Garcia and Isabel Garcia

We also appreciate our Bronze sponsors: ABA Retirement Funds, Ahern Insurance Brokerage, HumanScale and DFS Green!

Finally, I have to say a HUGE thank you to Kellie Narayan, the SVALA Program and Education Chair, who has done a spectacular job this year of lining up interesting topics and speakers. She convinced Samson and Bianca of her firm, Wilke Fleury, to speak at our annual breakfast and I am pretty sure she didn’t even have to bribe them (except maybe with the promise of breakfast).  Kellie has one of the most time-consuming positions on the Board of Directors but has handled her Education duties beautifully!

If you missed the Workplace Update breakfast this year, be sure to look for it again next January. I can’t promise mimosas but I can promise a few hours of education, fun and fabulous prizes!

That’s (almost) better than mimosas any day, right?