Jake Gittes, Col. Nathan Jessep and … Wes Strickland

Water, water everywhere ...

Published in 2007 Southern California Rising Stars — July 2007

It’s not apparent at first blush, but the career paths of Wes Strickland, an attorney in the Santa Barbara office of Hatch & Parent, and the movie star Jack Nicholson have a curious Six Degrees of Separation quality to them.

Strickland practiced law while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1997 through 2000. Nicholson played Nathan R. Jessep, an arrogant Marine colonel in the blockbuster 1992 film A Few Good Men. Strickland practices environmental law, specifically those areas that cover water rights and water use. Nicholson, in Chinatown, played Jake Gittes, a Los Angeles private detective who uncovers a contested water supply.

Strickland insists that’s where the similarities between him and Nicholson end. “I like him fine, but I don’t follow him around or anything,” he quips.

Water rights is not the area of expertise Strickland saw himself practicing in as an undergraduate of Yale University (1993), nor as a law student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1996). As Strickland explains it, he was offered civil cases involving water rights during the last two years of his Marine Corps service, which he says was a welcome change from the court-martial cases he had worked on.

“It opened up a whole new world to me, one that provides a nice intersection of a lot of different areas of law that I get to look at,” says Strickland, who started at Hatch & Parent in 2002. He likes being involved in issues that will play a significant role in California’s infrastructure for decades to come.

Among the high-water marks of his young career was representing the San Diego County Water Authority as co-counsel in the negotiation and implementation of a collection of agreements known as the “Quantification Settlement Agreement,” to implement the largest water transfer in United States history and settle disputes over the use of Colorado River water in California. The only question now is will Nicholson play Strickland when Hollywood makes the movie?

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