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Ethical Issues in California Pro Bono Representation 2017


Speaker(s): Christopher M. Tirrell, Jonathan McNeil Wong, Phong S. Wong, Renee Glover Chantler, Tiela Chalmers, Toby J. Rothschild
Recorded on: Sep. 7, 2017
PLI Program #: 180319

Phong Wong is the Pro Bono Director at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and has devoted her legal career to helping those in need. At LAFLA, Phong oversees the pro bono program and coordinates the outreach, recruitment and hiring of all volunteers. She works closely with pro bono partners including law firms, law schools, bar associations, incubator attorneys, and community groups to develop and implement pro bono projects and trainings. These projects include technology innovations such as remote videoconferencing clinics and the online Pro Bono Training Institute as ways to expand pro bono service. Before becoming Pro Bono Director, Phong worked on slum housing litigation, subsidized housing, housing redevelopment and access to justice issues. Phong started her career as a Loyola Law School Fellow with the Western Center on Law and Poverty and LAFLA, focusing on reducing access to court barriers and supporting right to civil counsel initiatives. Phong also teaches students about client-lawyer relationships and public interest law at UCLA.


Jonathan McNeil Wong heads the firm’s immigration and nationality law practice, advising and representing domestic and international companies that are hiring foreign nationals to work in the United States. He recommends immigration strategies to employers and represents them before the Departments of State and Homeland Security. He has handled the immigration process for U.S. companies seeking the services of foreign engineers, scientists, technical specialists, and marketing and operations personnel in diverse business sectors ranging from architecture to zoological science. He is also experienced in the transfer of foreign executives, managers, and other key personnel to American branches of foreign companies. In employment circumstances involving access to trade secrets and other proprietary information, he assists employers in evaluating the foreign worker’s background and structuring a relationship that protects his clients’ interests.

An experienced litigator, Mr. Wong counsels employers and defends them against claims of wrongful termination, discrimination and sexual harassment, and other employment-related issues. He has also represented plaintiffs in employment-related individual and class litigation. He has served as trial counsel in multiple trials, has represented clients in numerous mediations and arbitrations, and has successfully argued his clients’ cases before California and federal appeals courts. He was lead counsel for instatement procedures and was responsible for negotiating the settlement of all claims made by 1,200 employees in a class action lawsuit settled by a consent decree. His litigation practice also includes advising clients, in-house counsel, and partner law firms on electronic discovery best practices, technology assisted review, and compliance with new federal and state electronic discovery rules.

Mr. Wong advises employers on personnel disputes, employee discipline, demotions, and terminations. He drafts and reviews employee policy manuals, checking for compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations. He also counsels employers on workplace safety and OSHA compliance and on the implications of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He assists employers in complying with federal, state, and local requirements governing wages, hours, and other conditions of employment and defends them in administrative proceedings brought by government agencies. As part of his employment and labor law practice, Mr. Wong negotiates and drafts employment agreements for key employees, executives, and officers. His labor relations practice concentrates on advising employers regarding union elections, employee grievances, contract interpretation and collective bargaining strategies and techniques.

Mr. Wong is the recipient of multiple awards for his provision of pro bono legal services to the indigent. His languages include French, German, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese.


Chris Tirrell is associate commercial counsel for Google, where he serves on the Legal Impact Committee and Civil Rights Committee. Before Google, he co-chaired Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Office of General Counsel U.S. Pro Bono Committee, which received the Pro Bono Institute’s 2016 Laurie D. Zelon Pro Bono Award, and was responsible for cultivating diverse volunteer opportunities, managing partner relationships, and the recruitment & retention of volunteers.

Tirrell serves on the Advisory Council of Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), a nonprofit legal services organization that provides legal assistance to low-income individuals and families in East Palo Alto and the surrounding community.  Tirrell partnered with DLA Piper LLP and CLSEPA to open a monthly Pro Bono clinic to assist clients with dismissing their criminal records; the clinic was honored with CLSEPA’s 2018 & 2016 Corporate Partnership Award. In 2015, Tirrell was recognized with the Community Champion Award by the Silicon Valley Business Journal/San Francisco Business Times.

Tirrell received his J.D. from Stanford University Law School in 2012, where he partnered with other SLS students to create Project ReMADE, a program that equips formerly incarcerated people with the tools necessary to be successful entrepreneurs.


Over the past 25 years, Renée Glover Chantler has earned a reputation for excellence in providing corporate and individual representation to clients engaged in single-party and complex business litigation.  Her current practice emphasizes litigation and strategic business advice in the areas of business contracts and torts and real estate.

For ten years, Renée served as West Coast Pro Bono Counsel for DLA Piper LLP (US), a premier international law firm.  She coordinated the firm's national pro bono programs on the West Coast and managed the operations of those programs in the firm's offices in California, Washington and Arizona.  In that position, Renee served as the primary liaison between the firm's billing lawyers in those offices and their regional legal services organizations, directing the firm's pursuit of high-quality, impactful, pro bono representations. She served as the department's point-person on ethics issues relating to the firm's pro bono service, and nonprofit organizations

Renée developed and managed a number of innovative pro bono initiatives with DLA Piper's partners and associates, billable clients, other commercial law firms, and nonprofit organizations.  These include DLA Piper's first juvenile record sealing and adult records expungement clinics in Sacramento and East Palo Alto, its first virtual law clinic (along with Fenwick and West) in Santa Clara County, and the San Francisco Pro Bono Alliance, a consortium between DLA Piper and corporations created providing representation before USCIS to survivors of domestic violence.  Renee also played a key role in the creation and initial implementation of DLA Piper's national signature project for veterans, Serving Those Who Serve Our Country.

Renée was previously associated with Heller, Ehrman White & McAuliffe’s Silicon Valley office, specializing in insurance, business contracts, and unfair competition litigation.  She began her career at the real estate boutique, Goldfarb and Lipman, LLP, handling redevelopment and affordable housing litigation and transactions, representing numerous Bay Area cities and non-profit clients.

Renée has provided legal practice management advice and support to other attorneys, in both for- and non-profit organizations.  Renee formerly served as Consulting Litigation Director for Fortune Law Group (now, Schein & Cai), a full-service minority-owned firm based in San Jose.  She also served as Consulting Supervising Attorney for the Volunteer Attorney Program (VAP) at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, mentoring and supervising volunteer attorneys, and students from Bay Area law schools, in their efforts to assist low income residents of the Bay Area.

Renee received her Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1991.  She served as an adjunct clinical professor for the Law School from 1998-2001, simultaneously with her service as the Executive Director of the former East Palo Alto Community Law Project.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Stanford University, a degree which permits her to leverage the skills and intuition developed in that field towards dramatically improving outcomes for her clients.

Renee approaches the practice of law with a unique perspective and mission:  ensuring client access to the same quality of legal representation usually found only at the nation’s top firms charging rates well outside the reach of emerging, small and mid-sized businesses.  Her emphasis on rationally aggressive, creative, advocacy emphasizes client satisfaction and has led to success in her corporate and individual representations.

Ms. Chantler is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, the United States District Court for the Northern and Central District Courts of California, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  She has been awarded an AV ("Preeminent") rating by Martindale Hubbell.

Throughout her legal career, Renee has maintained a strong commitment to community and public service.  Renee previously served as a Planning Commissioner for the City of East Palo Alto (including as that body's its Vice Chair and Chair), and as Chairperson of the East Palo Alto Rent Stabilization Board.  She also previously served as a member of the California Democratic State Central Committee.


Tiela Chalmers is the Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association and its Volunteer Legal Services Corporation.  She has been a leader in the fields of free legal services for low income communities for 20 years.  After working for years in a downtown law firm, she moved to the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Volunteer Legal Services Program, where she worked for 15 years, ultimately as its Executive Director.

In 2011, Tiela left VLSP and became a consultant, working with legal aid programs, law firms, other non-profits, and national organizations focusing on legal services for low-income communities.  In 2014, she was named as the Chief Executive Officer of the ACBA and VLSC, where she is working on several projects, including building a Legal Incubator to address the needs of modest means clients.

Tiela has been presenting the Poverty Workshop to law firms, schools, social workers, medical professionals and government offices for 12 years, and is particularly passionate about working with those groups to increase awareness of poverty issues, and facilitate discussions about ways that individuals and organizations can make changes in how they respond to poverty.


Toby J. Rothschild is Of Counsel to OneJustice, providing ethics training and counselling to legal services programs in California. He retired after serving as the General Counsel of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles for 13 years. Prior to that, he was the executive director of the Legal Aid Foundation of Long Beach for 28 years and Interim Executive Director of LAFLA. He graduated from UCLA School of Law in 1969, and has worked at legal aid programs since graduation. He has been the president of the Long Beach Bar Association and was Vice Chair of the California Commission on Access to Justice. Toby served as a member of the State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct and as Chair of the Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar. He also was liaison on access to justice issues to the first commission which drafted the proposed new California Rules of Professional Responsibility, and was a member and vice chair of the second Rule Revision Commission. He also has served as a member of the State Bar Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission.