When Central Coast native Leif Dautch returned to visit family and friends this month, he had some big news — namely, that he had made news as one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” leading young professionals.
Dautch, 28, more specifically was honored on the national business and financial publication’s law and policy list for his post as a deputy attorney general for the California Department of Justice in San Francisco.
Not bad for a guy with humble beginnings that include being born in Isla Vista and raised on farms in Carpinteria and Ojai.
Locals may recognize the Dautch name from Ojai-based Earthtrine Farm, a farmer’s market staple owned and operated by Dautch’s parents. The young lawyer still has siblings who attend the small Oak Grove School he graduated from in 2003.
On a national level, Dautch has become synonymous with reinvention and the ability to make positive change.
Forbes plucked Dautch’s accomplishments from thousands of reader nominations, calling him a bright star in one of 15 fields, which also include categories for big-name honorees such as basketball star Lebron James and actress Lena Dunham.
After small-town high school, Dautch went on to graduate from Yale University in 2007, with an ethics, politics and economics degree, and Harvard Law School in 2010. He then scored a one-year stint clerking for Judge Carlos Bea on the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Dautch said he learned a lot about the actual practice of law after coming into contact with hundreds of criminal and environmental cases, whose decisions could potentially affect millions of people.
“It was a great experience because it was my first job out of school,” he said.
When that gig ended, Dautch worked at a New York law firm in general commercial litigation and then for President Barack Obama’s voter protection team during the 2012 campaign. After the election, Dautch made his way back to California to his current post, where he handles criminal appeals for the state in a region that encompasses the Central Coast up to Oregon.
He has argued and won 13 criminal cases (sexual assault, domestic violence, robbery, etc.) and has filed briefs in more than 25 other cases, with many pending. Dautch is also working on a report outlining state and international gang activities — something he said Central Coast residents witness with the increase in Panga boat sightings.
“It’s really, really interesting,” Dautch said. “I love it. Every case is different. It’s been incredibly fulfilling work so far.”
While Dautch acknowledges his youth in the field, and appreciates the Forbes honor, he credits much of his success to past mentors and the colleagues who still teach him today.
“There’s a lot that younger attorneys can learn from professionals in my office,” he said, noting a desire to one day dive deeper into policy. “My main focus right now is learning as much as I can.”