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Starting and Building Your Law Practice in a Pandemic World


Speaker(s): Anne-Marie Rábago, Cynthia Chandler, Erin Joyce, Maria E. Hall
Recorded on: Aug. 18, 2020
PLI Program #: 306188

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.