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Incubator Boot Camp: Tools for New Lawyers Looking to Go Solo


Speaker(s): Anne-Marie Rábago, Cynthia Chandler, Janelle Orsi, Jo-Anna M. Nieves, Lilys D. McCoy, Luz E. Herrera, Maria E. Hall, Raquel Hines, Robert A. Hawley, Theresa Mesa, Vincent Tong
Recorded on: Feb. 24, 2017
PLI Program #: 201911

Anne-Marie Rábago is Director of the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator (TOJI) and the State Bar of Texas Law Practice Management Program. TOJI is an Austin, Texas based lawyer incubator program that started in April 2017 with a focus on bridging the justice gap by providing an innovative approach to legal access. As Director of the first and largest state-wide incubator program in Texas, Anne-Marie empowers recently licensed attorneys to build sustainable solo practices serving low- and modest-income Texans.

Prior to her work with the State Bar of Texas, Anne-Marie served as Director of the Access to Law Incubator at California Western School of Law (CWSL). In addition, she was an Adjunct Professor of Federal Income Tax at CWSL and a Faculty member for Solo Practice University where she teaches solo and small firm attorneys about tax requirements for their legal businesses.

In 2009, Anne-Marie started Rábago Business & Tax Law, APC, and over the following seven years, she advised hundreds of small business owners on tax and legal compliance matters. In her practice, she focused on the distinguishing characteristics and individual circumstances of each business and was committed to helping her clients simplify their obligations, ease their tax concerns, and build strong financial futures. Before stepping into the legal industry, she held various professional roles including fundraising for two regional theatre companies, sales management for an international retail chain, recruiting and corporate training for a Fortune 100 financial services company, and international tax consulting for a big-4 public accounting firm. These experiences inform Anne-Marie’s business and tax savvy and made her an invaluable team member for her business clients.

Anne-Marie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Member of the American Bar Association where she is actively involved with the Section of Taxation. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the Section’s Tax Practice Management Committee, is past Chair of the Young Lawyers Forum, and received the Section’s prestigious Nolan Fellowship Award in 2014.

After completing her JD at CWSL, she received an LLM in Taxation from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Anne-Marie is licensed to practice law in California and Texas.


Janelle Orsi is a lawyer, advocate, writer, and cartoonist focused on cooperatives, the sharing economy, urban agriculture, shared housing, local currencies, and community-supported enterprises. She is Co-founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), which facilitates the growth of more sustainable and localized economies through education, research, and advocacy. Janelle has also worked in private law practice at the Law Office of Janelle Orsi, focusing on sharing economy law since 2008.

Books: Janelle is the author of Practicing Law in the Sharing Economy: Helping People Build Cooperatives, Social Enterprise, and Local Sustainable Economies (ABA Books 2012), and co-author of The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community (Nolo Press 2009), a practical and legal guide to cooperating and sharing resources of all kinds.

Cartoons: Janelle's cartoons include: The Next Sharing EconomyEconomy SandwichShare SprayThe Beatles EconomyThe Legal Roots of ResilienceHousing for an Economically Sustainable FutureTransactional Law Practice for a Sharing EconomyGovernance is Life, and Citylicious.

Fun Fact and Blog: Janelle is an advocate for a more open, inclusive, and accessible legal profession, and you can see her 10-minute presentation on transforming the legal profession here. Janelle supervises two legal apprentices -- co-workers who are becoming lawyers without going to law school. Janelle and her apprentices are blogging about the process at LikeLincoln.org

Fellowship and Recognition: In 2014, Janelle was selected to be an Ashoka Fellow, joining a robust cohort of social entrepreneurs who are recognized to have innovative solutions to social problems and the potential to change patterns across society.  In 2010, Janelle was profiled by the American Bar Association as a Legal Rebel, an attorney who is “remaking the legal profession through the power of innovation.” In 2012, Janelle was one of 100 people listed on The (En)Rich List, which names individuals "whose contributions enrich paths to sustainable futures." In 2014, she was also awarded the title of Legal Innovator by the Recorder.


Jo-Anna Nieves graduated from The Florida State University in 2005 with two Bachelors degrees in Multinational Business and Finance. Thereafter, she attended Florida State University College of Law where she earned her Juris Doctorate in May 2009.  Ms. Nieves interned with the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office in 2008 where she gained experience in the arraignment of misdemeanor and domestic violence offenses, the prosecution of Adult Sexual Assault crimes, and felony preliminary hearings and was offered a full-time position upon completion of law school. She also worked at the State Attorney's Office, 2nd Judicial Circuit in Leon County, FL where she chaired numerous felony trials including the prosecution of animal cruelty, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, battery on a law enforcement officer, and attempted murder charges.

Ms. Nieves passed the California Bar in 2009 and began her post-bar legal career at the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office where she prepared misdemeanor cases for trial, negotiated plea offers, argued suppression motions, built a rapport with members of the legal community, and further developed her trial advocacy skills. Two years later, she accepted a position as a trial attorney at Mandarich Law Group, LLP, a creditor’s rights law practice, where she effectively litigated over 400 cases by reaching favorable resolutions for Plaintiff by way of settlement prior to trial and maintaining a success rate of 95% for over 100 cases that were decided at trial.  She then formed The Nieves Law Firm, APC in order to help those accused of crimes successfully navigate the legal process.

Ms. Nieves is a member of the Alameda County Bar Judicial Appointments Evaluation Committee and has served as the Chair of the ACBA Barristers Section Executive Committee and on the ACBA Board of Directors.  She volunteers as a mock trial coach for El Centro Legal de la Raza’s Youth Law Academy, has been named a Rising Star SuperLawyer for the last 3 years, and was the 2017 Alameda County Bar Association’s Distinguished New Lawyer award recipient.


Luz E. Herrera is the Assistant Dean for Clinical Education, Experiential Learning and Public Service at UCLA School of Law. Dean Herrera promotes entrepreneurial efforts to address the access to civil justice gap. Her efforts are informed by her experiences in a community law practice and her ties to neighborhood lawyers. Before entering academia, Prof. Herrera ran her own practice and founded Community Lawyers, Inc., a non-profit organization that encourages access to affordable legal services and develops innovative opportunities for legal professionals in underserved communities. These experiences have influenced her scholarship that promotes legal “low bono” service delivery models and post-graduate support programs for lawyers starting their own law firms.

Dean Herrera currently serves as special advisor for the American Bar Association’s Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities. She was a member of the Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform that has developed the implementation standards for new admissions standards requirements for California lawyers. Prior to her current position, Dean Herrera was an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a visiting clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, a visiting professor at Chapman University School of Law and a Senior Clinical Fellow at Harvard Law School. In her various academic positions, Dean Herrera encouraged innovation and promoted access to justice through experiential learning. Dean Herrera is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School.


Raquel Hines currently serves as the Insurance & Affinity Program Coordinator for the State Bar of California.  Her oversight includes both the Committee on Professional Liability Insurance as well as the Committee on Group Insurance Programs.  Each Committee is comprised of 15 volunteer attorneys with expertise in a number of Insurance markets.  Together, they oversee a total of 11 insurance products now available to California admitted attorneys.  The Professional Liability Program currently covers over 6,500 attorneys in the state and growing.  Since joining the State Bar of California in May 2003, Ms. Hines’ primary responsibilities surrounding the Insurance programs are to oversee contracting and compliance, partner relationships, customer resolution, committee management and attorney education.  Prior to joining the Bar, Raquel worked as Insurance Program Manager for AeA, a national High-tech trade association out of Santa Clara, CA for six (6) years.  She brings a total of 19-years’ experience in the insurance market.

Ms. Hines attended San Jose State University where she studied Accounting and also earned a minor in Mathematics.  In addition to earning her certificate of completion in the Life, Health and Benefit Insurance training, she continues to be a student in this field and works very closely with the managing brokers for each State Bar sponsored program.


Robert Hawley served as Chief Labor Counsel, Deputy Executive Director and then Acting Executive Director of the State Bar of California.  His areas of responsibility for the State Bar included oversight of the State Bar’s Professional Competence Unit, which administers the Ethics Hotline, the Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC), the State Bar’s professional responsibility publications and other functions related to the development of California's Rules of Professional Conduct.  He also oversaw the State Bar’s internal operations and served as the State Bar’s employee relations officer overseeing all labor and employment functions.

He received his Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law and his Masters in Law (LL.M) in labor law from New York University, School of Law.

Mr. Hawley began his legal career as a disciplinary prosecutor for the State Bar.  He then entered private practice for over ten years representing management in labor and employment matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies.  He served as a member of the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC) as well as its Chair and Special Advisor, as a hearing officer in the former voluntary State Bar Court, as a frequent MCLE speaker, and as a qualified expert witness in professional responsibility and labor law matters.  Prior to rejoining the State Bar’s staff as its chief labor counsel, he served as Risk Management Chair and Deputy Managing Partner for a major Bay Area law firm.

Mr. Hawley has taught Professional Responsibility and labor law at various Bay Area law schools for the past twenty-five years, and is currently on the adjunct faculty of Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

Mr. Hawley is the recipient of the National Organization of Bar Counsel’s 2014 President’s Award, recognizing lifetime achievement and service in attorney regulation.


Vincent Tong is the owner of TONG LAW, an employment and business law practice based in Oakland, California. Vincent exclusively represents plaintiffs in employment litigation and business-to-business disputes. He is a tenacious litigator and a zealous advocate for his clients. Vincent has taken three cases to trial, in which he served as lead counsel, co-counsel and second chair counsel. In his business transactions practice, Vincent advises, counsels and supports his clients on matters pertaining to business formation, employment law compliance and monitoring and protecting their intellectual property rights.

Vincent sits on the Executive Board for the California Employment Lawyers Association and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Alameda County Bar Association. He also serves as  the Northern California District Representative for the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. Vincent regularly provides pro-bono legal services to low-income communities through the Employment Law Center’s Workers Rights Clinic, AIDS Legal Referral Panel and California Lawyers for the Arts.

Vincent is the 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award for New Attorney from the Alameda County Bar Association. He is also a Super Lawyers – Rising Star, Northern California. You can find him online at: www.tong-law.com.


Attorney Lilys D. McCoy received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in June 1987 with Department Honors in Political Science with Distinction. She graduated from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in May 1991 and was admitted to the California State Bar in December 1991. After 20 years in private practice, Ms. McCoy joined the staff of Thomas Jefferson School of Law to pursue her passion for legal education. At Thomas Jefferson School of Law, she serves as the founding director of the Center for Solo Practitioners, a lawyer accelerator program for TJSL alumni who wish to start solo practices that focus on access-to-justice and community service. In her capacity as director, she has written and administrated several grants for the provision of legal services to under-served populations, spoken to national audiences about how to start and build a lawyer incubator program, and coordinated monthly community law clinics. In addition, she is the Director of TJSL’s Epsten, Grinnell & Howell National Trial Team. In that role, she brought on talented trial attorneys to teach and coach a carefully selected group of students for competition in national, regional, and invitational mock trial tournaments. The TJSL National Trial Team has experienced several successes in the past five years, including winning the Texas Young Lawyers Association Regional Championship in 2013 and 2018, advancing to the Semi-Finals in the National Trial Competition in San Antonio Texas, winning the award for Most Professional Team at the 2014 Pacific McGeorge National Ethics Trial Competition, and advancing in other major regional tournaments.

Before joining TJSL, Ms. McCoy practiced almost exclusively in the area of civil litigation, with a focus on individual and class action consumer protection cases. She has tried matters to judges and juries and represented clients in judicial arbitrations, contractual arbitrations, and mediation hearings.

Ms. McCoy also participates in a number of local and state bar organizations. She is currently the president-elect of the San Diego County Bar Association. She received the SDCBA’s Service to the Profession Award in 2014. Ms. McCoy served as president of Lawyers Club of San Diego from 2002-2003 and served as Co-President of the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association from 2005-2007. She received the THLA Co-President’s Award in 2008 and, in 2007, she received the Belva Lockwood Award from Lawyers Club of San Diego. She is also passionate about legislative advocacy and served as Chair of the Conference of California Bar Association from 2009 to 2010. She has been named a Super Lawyer, a Top Attorney in the San Diego Daily Transcript, a Top Attorney by San Diego Magazine, and a Woman of Achievement by California Women Lawyers. Ms. McCoy has an AV Preeminent Rating™ from Martindale-Hubbell.


Cynthia Chandler is the Director of BALI | Bay Area Legal Incubator, where she describes her work as 90% fairy godmother and 10% fixer – she helps to make attorneys’ dreams come true while keeping them out of trouble and promoting social justice. BALI is a social-mission legal incubator that supports emerging solo practitioners in accelerating the launch of affordable law practices serving low- and moderately-incomed communities. BALI is an Oakland, CA based project of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, in collaboration with five San Francisco Bay Area law schools and the Alameda County Law Library. As Director, Cynthia is responsible for establishing systems, training and opportunities to accelerate participating attorneys’ practice development, as well as managing the daily operations of BALI.

Cynthia has over 20 years’ experience as a social entrepreneur, launching and building innovative social justice organizations. As an attorney, her practice has been equally innovative: when the law does not allow for the relief she seeks for her clients, she changes it. For example, after founding Women's Positive Legal Action Network in 1995 - the first organization advocating for women living with HIV and facing imprisonment - she helped craft and introduce compassionate release legislation, creating the statutory mechanism for terminally ill people to be released from prison before they die. This model legislation was replicated nationally.

Cynthia currently maintains a legislative practice, regularly conceptualizing and contributing to key legislation aimed at shrinking the prison system and its harms. Cynthia also coaches entrepreneurs on how to realize and sustain their visions for building community-based social ventures that ally with communities to make real change. She currently is an Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University School of Law, where she inspires the next generation of radical lawyers.

Cynthia has received numerous awards for her work empowering and representing people in California’s prisons. Among them, in 2015 Cynthia was awarded the prestigious Fay Stender Award from California Women Lawyers. In 2005, she was named by Women's Health Activist Network a Top 30 Activist for Women's Health. Cynthia received the 2001 Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award. And in 1997, she was designated the Attorney to Whom California Can Be Most Grateful by California Law Business.

Cynthia received her JD from Harvard Law School and a MPhil in Criminology from University of Cambridge.

Cynthia is the mother of two activist daughters. She learns from them daily.


Maria E. Hall is a civil rights lawyer and director of the Los Angeles Incubator Consortium, a legal incubator that equips UCLA, Southwestern and Loyola Law School graduates with the tools to launch community-based, solo law practices.  After graduating from USC Gould School of Law in 2003, she received a post-graduate fellowship to work as a staff attorney for Communities for a Better Environment, a grassroots environmental justice organization in South East Los Angeles.  In 2005, she opened her own practice, representing lower and moderate income clients in the areas of civil rights, housing and employment.  She currently serves as Co-President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and Vice President of the Board of the Mexican American Bar Foundation.


Theresa Mesa is a Program Developer in the Office of Legal Services at the State Bar of California.  The Office of Legal Services works to improve the delivery of legal services to low-income Californians; works with stakeholders to expand access to justice in courts and administrative agencies; provides grants to legal aid programs and works to expand available legal aid resources.  Theresa is also the staff liaison to the State Bar Pro Bono Coordinating Committee and a graduate of Stanford Law School.