Community Portrait: Attorney stages concerts for those in the know

By: Story and photo Michael Kirby
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John Paulsen spends his days as a high-powered Auburn attorney in a law practice he established in 1975. In 1979, Paulsen limited his practice exclusively to family law, becoming a state-bar-certified family law specialist in 1980. Paulsen is a very passionate man, and it shows when he talks about his job as a lawyer. He is very good at what he does, acknowledged as an expert in his field, well-versed in the intricacies of modern marriage dissolution. “Family law is a very specialized field. The dissolution of marriage, custody and spousal support issues, it’s very cross-disciplined in the sense we deal with accountants, we sometimes deal with complicated tax issues and assigning values to businesses, homes and assets,” Paulsen said. “The downturned economy has also presented unique situations in the last two or three years not common in family law practice in years past,” he said. Family law was not the first law discipline Paulsen pursued. He was originally interested in labor law just out of law school, and worked as a public defender principally assigned to the Placer County Juvenile Court. Changes in divorce laws in California in the early 1970s interested Paulsen and he began to read and study family law. He was recently honored by the California Bar Association as part of just a handful of Certified Family Law Specialists practicing for 30 years. “The rules I have to apply are relativity straightforward and easy. What makes my job interesting and sometimes difficult is human beings, the human factor,” Paulsen said. “We as human beings rarely order our day-to-day lives according to these nice and neat rules, and you’re dealing with good people who are probably in their worst times.” Paulsen has another passion, one he has a lot of fun with, almost as opposite to practicing law as you could get. Paulsen enjoys acoustic music: modern folk, blues, bluegrass and country are his favorites. A guitar player since he was 12, Paulsen has a deep appreciation for music and musicians. Once a month he produces a unique venue of music in Auburn, and if you are unfamiliar with it, don’t worry, most people have never heard of his gatherings. Paulsen’s concerts are all organized by word-of-mouth and the intimate concerts attract only about 40-45 attendees. Most of the musicians and guests find out about his concerts from someone else. It all began with an idea to bring musicians through Auburn on a night they were between gigs. “I started producing these shows on a Friday night in what is called a fill-in night, an extra night of playing they might not normally have,” Paulsen said. Fifteen years ago Paulsen arranged with the New Faith United Church of Christ, the church he attends, to use its facilities to host monthly gigs. “I have singer-songwriters that come from all over the country to play in Auburn. Somehow they have heard we do this from other artists,” he said. “We’ve had people from the east coast, Canada, and England play at DAve’s Cave. Paulsen sometimes sits in with a few acts but he is usually busy producing the show and running the sound system. “It’s funny, a lot of people think I’m Dave, but the joke is there is no Dave,” Paulsen said. The name was derived from the location of the church on D Avenue in the Dewitt Center in the early days. “The music is secular. We give the church some money for the use of the facilities and the church ladies sell baked goods at the shows,” he said. The shows now take place at 540 Wall St. in Auburn. If you’re interested in a unique musical experience, information can be obtained by calling (530) 878-2488. You won’t find a poster or hear a radio advertising for these shows. That’s what makes it fun and exciting.