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When Gordon & Rees associate J. Dominic Campodonico signed up last November to do this week’s 575-mile California AIDS Ride, he didn’t even own a bike. In the first week of January, Sarah Kowalski plunked down her $55 registration fee for the ride. By the end of the month, she’d signed on as an associate with San Francisco-based Farella Braun & Martel. Even though Kowalski, 30, mountain-biked recreationally, she didn’t have a pair of road biking shorts to her name. Over the past six months, the two crammed an arduous training regimen of hundreds and hundreds of cycling miles in between their personal lives and practices — and, in the process, raised thousands of dollars to benefit the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “I’ve had a lot of friends who have AIDS or that are HIV positive, so I do it in large part for them,” Campodonico said. “And also because it’s a huge goal for myself, so I want to accomplish that.” In the months spent training for the ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles Campodonico and Kowalski experienced an outpouring of support from their firms, friends, and families. They also revealed themselves as lawyers to others on the ride. “In general, I don’t like to announce it; I think people have an odd reaction to it sometimes,” Kowalski said. “I think people have preconceived ideas about lawyers, and I think it’s nice to get to know someone and know what they do before you label them.” Campodonico, 33, teaches nonlaw riders that lawyers are people, too. “A few times on training rides, I’ve said that I’m an attorney and people have said that isn’t it great that attorneys are doing the ride,” he said. The fact is, he said, “there are a lot of attorneys on the ride.” As attorneys, it’s tough to fit in a training schedule that for many of the 2,700 people doing the ride this year means spinning classes, yoga, weight training, and — of course — thousands of miles of cycling. “That’s my life,” Kowalski said. “Working and biking.” To stay in shape for the ride when she’s not pedaling, Kowalski attends one-and-a-half-hour Bikram yoga classes every week. She also takes spinning and aerobics classes. In between, she has her practice in the litigation department at Farella. “There’s so much more than working in a law firm,” Kowalski said. “And by doing the AIDS Ride, that gives me the personal goal and the bigger cause.” Lisa Leebove, 30, at Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, had an equally intense training schedule. A first-time rider, she started her days off with spinning and other exercise classes at 5:30 in the morning twice weekly before work. She also headed to the gym for a two-hour evening workout once a week after wrapping up her day’s practice in Lieff, Cabraser’s San Francisco headquarters. A partner she works under, Jonathan Selbin, supported her as few partners would. “[Once] he stayed at night until four in the morning so I could get home early and go to bed to train at 5 a.m.,” she said. Leebove also remembers a number of out-of-town assignments Selbin could have used her help on, but he let her stay in San Francisco to make sure she could keep up her training. “I’m sure he’ll cash in his chips eventually,” she said. Lieff Cabraser has also sponsored her with $2,000. “People at Gordon & Rees who I don’t even know are leaving checks on my desk,” Campodonico said. Kowalski said her firm was equally supportive. At Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Caren Jenkins, 42, jumpstarted her fund-raising drive in January with a pizza party in the firm’s conference room. She showed an audience of mostly legal support staff the AIDS Ride video from the ride she did in 1999. An interview with her ran on the tape. “Thirty-something people were there eating pizza and crying with every bite,” she said. Jenkins said she took last year off from the ride to spend more time on her practice in litigation at Squire Sanders. “I had to catch up on my work,” she said. “I can’t justify placing that much importance on training — as important as the ride is.” In addition to the support she discovered at the firm, Jenkins found a whole new welcoming, supportive community on the ride. Riders stop noticing who’s an executive or who’s a waiter, she said. Riders tend to remind each other they can meet their $2,700 fund-raising minimum and that they can make it over the endless hills. Kowalski remembers when she was 50 or 60 miles into a training ride on a windy Saturday in late April and got a flat tire. And even though someone had already stopped to help her, at least one other rider asked if he could lend a hand. “You offered when I didn’t want to ask anyone,” she said. With a smile on his face, Campodonico replied, “a lawyer offering to stop and help another lawyer.” For more information about the California AIDS Ride or the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, call (415) 908-0400 or e-mail [email protected]

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