Barefoot in Bali

David Neale says deep sea diving makes him a better lawyer

Published in 2009 Southern California Super Lawyers — February 2009

David Neale likes to leave work behind when he escapes on the two or three exotic dive trips he manages to squeeze in each year. That's why he was disappointed when he landed on Baltra Island, an entryway to the Galapagos Islands, and discovered that his BlackBerry still worked.

"It's a great feeling to be remote," says Neale, a 46-year-old founding partner of Levene, Neale, Bender, Rankin & Brill, a bankruptcy boutique practice that was formed in 1995.

A lifeguard while growing up in New York, Neale earned his diving certification when he moved to California for work in 1989. "I paid my dues diving in Catalina," he says of his first forays underwater.

Now he scours dive magazines and plans trips to exotic locations for himself and two teenage sons, both of whom were certified divers by the time they turned 12.

Neale has taken more than 500 dives. His hobby has taken him to Bali, the Maldives, Belize, Honduras, Fiji and Palau in Micronesia. He will spend an entire week on a boat, diving as many as five times a day.

"I've always said that in a perfect world, I'd have a job that didn't require me to wear shoes," he says.

Despite his desire to remove himself from workday demands when he's diving, Neale says his time underwater actually makes him a better lawyer. "You learn how to stay calm—how to breathe and take things in stride. It definitely is a mindset that you bring to everything you do."

Even if that means wearing shoes in court.

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