I have always felt that we all ought to do what we can to help others

A Conversation On Lessons Learned & Life In The Law With Gregg Ankenman

The holidays are upon us, so in the spirit of giving, in this week’s leadership profile, we’re in the East Bay to talk with attorney Gregg Ankenman in our Oakland office!

You really should be known as “Saint Gregg” in that you perform more community service than any other lawyer on the planet! Why is giving back so important to you? And how have these experiences shaped your life and legal career?

I have always felt that we all ought to do what we can to help others. I think it started with the way I was raised and the desire to give back out of gratitude for all I have been given and to make things better.  Outside of family, nothing has brought me more joy and satisfaction than service.  Many of my most valued friendships and experiences involve service in some way.  I have tried to make seeking and sharing service opportunities a guiding light in shaping the way I approach my life and career.

Your son, an accomplished musician, recently became an attorney. What would you tell him, or a 1L at the University of California Berkeley School of Law currently contemplating a career in the legal profession?

Take advantage of opportunities to build connections and relationships.  And maintain them.


Without naming your clients, are there any intriguing current matters that you’re working on in your hybrid Real Estate, Business & Finance and Green Business practice?

Helping a national retailer develop an approach to sustainability initiatives and supporting lease provisions.

Who is your hero – or the person who has had the greatest impact on your life and career?

Clearly, my wife Jerrilyn. As a dedicated pediatrician and a truly angelic human being, she is a shining example of love, kindness, compassion and selfless service.  To paraphrase what someone said of Fred Rogers, Jerrilyn is not only the nicest person I have ever met, she’s the nicest person anybody has ever met.

Talk about your biggest failure. What did you learn? And how did you pick up the pieces and move forward?

One big mistake I regret is growing up in Las Vegas while Elvis was still performing and never going to see him. We thought he’d always be there, so there was no rush.  I learned to not take things for granted and take advantage of opportunities.


What is the best – and worst – piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?

Best advice: It’s important to make your clients think that you care about them and their businesses.  And the best way to do that is to actually care.

Worst advice:  When I asked for advice from experienced lawyers when I was a law student and young lawyer, many essentially said “do exactly what I did.”  I discovered there’s no one right way.  We can learn from others, but we each need to figure out what’s best for us.


What are you currently listening to (podcast or music); reading; and watching/streaming? And what’s your go-to take-out food order?

I’m listening to Stevie Wonder albums from the early and mid-70’s.  I’ve come to agree with my musician son Dan that there’s nothing on the album Songs in the Key of Life that isn’t true.

Watching early episodes of one my all-time favorites, West Wing.

Go to take out is Happy Burrito in downtown Oakland.

You and your family and friends are hosting a lavish dinner party, Name the three people – from any time in human history – who you would invite.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and my Dad, Chuck Ankenman (before Alzheimer’s).

Many thanks to Gregg for his words of wisdom – and his inspiring attitude of gratitude!

For information on how to partner with our attorneys in the East Bay, please visit: https://www.fennemorelaw.com/contact-us/oakland/