A Curious Mind
For two decades, Barry Vogel ’69 has explored society, culture, food, politics, and more in his Mendocino radio program.
BY SUSAN VOGEL
Barry Vogel would be the perfect instructor for a CLE course on how lawyers can find balance in life. On any given day his biggest challenge might be getting a client released from jail, preparing a complex estate plan … or reviving the sourdough starter that sat too long.
Barry Vogel '69
Vogel has practiced law in Ukiah since 1974. But he makes sure that he has time to bake bread, host a weekly radio show, and tend to his backyard fruit and nut orchard and the 75 rose bushes around the General Specialties Building, where he practices. Much of Vogel’s motivation for work and play come down to one thing: curiosity. “I like to explore ideas, ask questions. I’ve always been curious,” says Vogel.
It’s no surprise that his radio program is called Radio Curious. Broadcast for nearly 20 years on Mendocino public radio, Vogel’s programs cover a wide range of topics from American society and culture to food, politics, psychology, and genetics. Over 300 of his half-hour interviews stream on the web at www.radiocurious.org.
Vogel grew up near Hollywood, where his father was a lawyer. His mother worked as a clinical psychologist. (He will missed his 1969 class reunion to attend her 100th birthday celebration.) As a child, over dinner each night, the family discussed law, psychology, and politics, and he unwittingly became interested in law as a tool for social change.
Vogel graduated from San Francisco State University in 1964 with a degree in government and a minor in psychology. He spent two years in the Peace Corps in the southern Peru Andes among the Aymara people. There, he began hosting radio and television cultural programs in Spanish.
Upon graduation from Santa Clara Law, Vogel was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship and was assigned to Rhode Island Legal Services. New England winters soon brought him back to California. On a road trip in 1961, Mendocino County had caught his imagination. “It was the prettiest place I had ever seen,” he says. Professor Marc Poche “had suggested I’d enjoy practicing law in a small town, and he was right,” says Vogel.
Vogel immediately focused his practice on social change. He successfully challenged building officials who demanded that homes off the grid be torn down for building code violations. He led community efforts to ban aerial spraying of phenoxy herbicides (Agent Orange) on Mendocino County forests. As chief deputy District Attorney, he investigated environmental consequences of large scale timber harvesting, and uncovered illegal practices by collection agencies. He and a colleague successfully sued the Marine Corps for failing to control recruiters who regularly told teenage girls they must have sex with them in order to join the Marines.
Currently, Vogel’s practice includes real property law, probate and estate planning, business and criminal law, and “other important cases that come along.” He says his preference is “to be a counselor and help people avoid a legal mess in the first place, or find their way out of one with the least severe consequences.” He keeps up his Spanish and is still the only lawyer in private practice in Mendocino County who speaks it fluently. His business philosophy? “Be sure to have fun every day.”
Vogel lives with his partner Janet Mendell, a licensed clinical social worker. Bar commitments? How does a weekend retreat at the confluence of the middle and south forks of the Eel River sound? If the life of a country lawyer in Ukiah sounds ideal, get packing. “The community is ripe for a young lawyer who is willing to work hard and enjoy life,” he says.