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

Speaker(s): Cynthia Chandler, Luz E. Herrera, Maria E. Hall, Otis C. Landerholm, Raquel Hines, Robert A. Hawley, Tiela Chalmers, Vincent Tong
Recorded on: Apr. 15, 2016
PLI Program #: 175519

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.

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.

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:

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 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.

Tiela Chalmers is the Chief Executive Officer and General Counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association and Legal Access Alameda.  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.