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Solo Practice Bootcamp: Best Practices from Legal Incubator Programs to Help You Launch Your Own Practice

Speaker(s): Anne-Marie Rábago, Cynthia Chandler, David M. Majchrzak, Givelle J. Lamano, Jo-Anna M. Nieves, Lilys D. McCoy, Maria E. Hall, Otis C. Landerholm, Vincent Tong, William Kell
Recorded on: Apr. 23, 2018
PLI Program #: 241517

Givelle Lamano is a Bay Area criminal defense attorney who truly cares about her clients. She has represented people from all walks of life including gang members in prison appealing their life sentences to first time offenders who have never been arrested. She is licensed in both state and federal courts and has served as a court appointed attorney for the Alameda County Bar Association.

Ms. Lamano received the Super Lawyer Rising Star award in 2017 – 2020 for her professional achievement and peer recognition. She ranks in the top 2% of over 65,000 attorneys. She received the Client’s Choice award with Avvo from 2013 – 2016 and has a 10 ranking. In 2018, she was nominated as one of the top 40 under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers.

Ms. Lamano takes a more holistic approach to criminal defense by taking time to understand why a person was arrested in the first place and what factors contributed to an arrest or allegation. By doing this, she highlights the good traits in people who find themselves in a bad situation. She then uses that information to present her clients in the most positive light when negotiating deals in court. Ms. Lamano does not believe one bad act should ruin a person’s life or define who they are. Her goal is simple – get the charges dismissed and help clients avoid legal trouble in the future.

Ms. Lamano is also the founder of the Three Strikes Justice Center, a non-profit organization focused on alleviating the overcrowding of prisons through restorative justice. For 5-years, she served as a Board Member for Insight Prison Project, an organization providing services to prisoners and parolees all over California. She currently serves as a Board Member for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, an Oakland-based non-profit organization that advocates to release incarcerated people, restore human and civil rights, and reunify families.

Preceding her criminal defense work, Ms. Lamano represented low-wage and immigrant workers at the Women’s Employment Rights Clinic at Golden Gate University. Ms. Lamano began working at a young age in various blue-collar jobs so she is no stranger to hard work. She has spoken as a panelist for Women in Leadership and spends her free time with family and Boston Terrier.

If you need to get in touch with Ms. Lamano, please email her at

David M. Majchrzak is a seasoned ethicist and civil litigator with Klinedinst PC. Mr. Majchrzak devotes a substantial portion of his career to counseling lawyers on how to achieve their professional goals in an ethical way. For those attorneys who do not have general counsel in their firm or who simply need practical, outside advice, he helps navigate the often complex ethical waters of the legal profession. Mr. Majchrzak performs law office risk management reviews, trains law firm staff in ethics requirements, and advises on a variety of topics. These include conflicts of interest, fees and billing requirements, trust account procedures, law firm advertising and online marketing efforts, engagement and common interest agreements, non-engagement and disengagement protocols, attorney-client privilege/confidentiality analyses and protection, subpoena response, multi-jurisdictional practice, and ancillary business ventures.

Mr. Majchrzak has also achieved tremendous success for litigation clients over the years. He focuses primarily on professional liability defense, discipline defense, disqualification and fee disputes, insurance coverage, and directors and officers liability claims.

Mr. Majchrzak is active within the legal community. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the San Diego County Bar Association (SDCBA), the county’s largest and oldest legal organization. He also serves as Chair of the SDCBA’s prestigious Legal Ethics Committee. He recently completed service as a three-year member of the State Bar’s Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, and chair of its outreach committee. Mr. Majchrzak currently serves as a member of the marketing committee for the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL). In 2015, Mr. Majchrzak revived the then-abandoned Ethics Quarterly, and has continued as one of its two editors. Mr. Majchrzak is also active within the American Inns of Court. He served two terms, totaling four years, as president of the William L. Todd, Jr. Inn of Court and two years on the national program awards committee. Mr. Majchrzak also serves as a director of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Alumni Association and has volunteered hundreds of hours of his time to various other voluntary professional and community roles.

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.

Otis is a passionate immigration lawyer.  He enjoys working with clients from all over the world and enjoys fighting an often uphill battle against the powers that be.  He founded his office in January 2011, immediately after law school, and he has successfully handled immigration cases including deportation defense, asylum, green cards, visas and US citizenship.  Since opening his doors, he has been awarded the “rising star” award by four years in a row as well as “volunteer of the year award” from the AIDS Legal Referral Panel.  He has also served as the vice chair of BASF’s Solo and Small Firm Committee.

Otis greatly enjoys learning languages. He speaks both Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.  Before practicing law, Otis lived in countries as diverse as Spain, Argentina, Japan, China and Ecuador. He received two bachelor's degrees (in Philosophy and Linguistics) from Washington State University, and he later received his law degree from Golden Gate University School of Law.  While at Golden Gate, Otis received various honors and awards, served on the editorial board of the law review, graduated with honors, and placed among the top of his class.

He currently lives with his wife, Wendy, and their two young children, in Oakland, California.

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:

William Kell is the founder/director of the New Business Practicum, UC Berkeley Law’s premier urban-rural legal assistance clinic serving entrepreneurs of limited means.  He has practiced law since 1987 and is licensed to practice in CA, NY, MA and IL.

UC Berkeley Law, 432 Boalt Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720  Phone: (510) 642-4050; Email:; Web:

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.

Anne-Marie Rábago is Director of the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator (TOJI) at the State Bar of Texas. She led the April 2017 launch of TOJI and quickly scaled the program to become the largest legal incubator in Texas (and possibly the world). In 2019, she guided TOJI’s statewide expansion and transition to virtual delivery. In less than three years, TOJI served 69 Texas lawyers to help start and build 72 solo, small, and nonprofit firms spanning 35 areas of law serving low- and modest-income Texans. 

Prior to her work with TOJI, Anne-Marie served as Director of the Access to Law Initiative, a legal 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. 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 informed Anne-Marie’s business and tax savvy and made her an invaluable team member to her business clients. For this work, she was named a San Diego Super Lawyers® Rising Star in 2016 and 2017. 

Anne-Marie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Member of the American Bar Association. She has been active in the Section of Taxation as Vice Chair of the Tax Practice Management Committee and Chair of the Young Lawyers Forum, receiving the Section’s prestigious John S. Nolan Fellowship Award in 2014. Currently, Anne-Marie serves on the Membership Board for the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. 

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. In her spare time, she is an avid craft beer enthusiast who enjoys world travel adventures with her husband.

Maria E. Hall is a lawyer and director of Los Angeles Incubator Consortium (“LAIC”), a legal incubator that supports new attorneys who want to start their own law firms. Since its founding in 2015, more than 60 diverse lawyers have completed the program and have launched solo practices, providing affordable legal services throughout Los Angeles, with a focus on serving clients of limited means. Maria serves on Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee, and is the immediate past president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. She serves on the board of the Mexican American Bar Foundation, which has awarded over $2 million in scholarships. Maria was named Inspirational Alumna of the Year in 2017 by USC School of Law’s Latinx Law Students Association; received Southwestern Law School’s Public Service Program’s Award in 2018; and honored by the National Lawyers Guild-LA at its 2020 Annual Awards Celebration.