Small Law Lifestyle: Tom Jacobson

September 21, 2011

In addition to being a lawyer, Tom Jacobson is a licensed locomotive engineer and the president of the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Southern California. Come aboard and check out Tom’s unique Small Law Lifestyle article to find out more.


Well, I started practicing quite awhile ago. I passed the California bar in 1972  and worked for what is now Exxon before I spent about four years as a judge advocate in the Air Force. Afterwards, I went to work for a firm for 30 years, before starting my own practice in 2008. I practice mainly real estate law, environmental law, and business law.


I was one of those kids who grew up liking trains and never got over it. Southern California had a railway museum started in 1956 now called the Orange Empire Railway Museum. It was started by a group of young people interested in preserving relic streetcars and railway equipment at a time when it was the end of the street car era in Los Angeles. I got involved with the group around 1973, right after I finished law school. In 1984 I became President, and I have been President ever since. We are one of the largest railway museums in North America and we have over 225 pieces of rail equipment, which range from street cars that ran on the city streets of Los Angeles to main line locomotives, steam engines and passenger cars. In a nutshell, what we have done over the years is built a non-profit railway museum from scratch. We have built buildings, laid asphalt, built track, installed overhead wire for the street cars to obtain power, and re-built steam engines and diesel locomotives. We have literally gone from having nothing to having a very large operating museum. And one of the characteristics of our museum and many others like our museum is that it is not a static museum; we operate the equipment for our visitors and that is why I became a licensed locomotive engineer.  We are required to comply with the federal regulations, the same as the main line railroads, so all of the people who run locomotives on our railroad must be certificated in accordance with the federal regualtions.


It’s one of those things that is open every day on my computer. I use it for both my museum work and practice. For instance, our railroad has to comply with regulations and I have the Code of Regulations to refer to for the museum. I also have to look at the California Corporations Code to assure our business matters are compliant with California law. In my other community activities I often carry my laptop and answer questions about legal matters after referring to WestlawNext.  And, of course, in my practice I use it not only to complete research for memos and points and authorities, but I also use it for presentations I make. It also gives me excellent access to the sources I use and the sources are easier to extract for research.

Visit Tom’s firm website.

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