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

Speaker(s): Anne-Marie Rábago, Cynthia Chandler, Dawn K. Young, Givelle J.. Lamano, Jessica Bednarz, Lauren Lester, Maria E. Hall, Saedra A. Pinkerton
Recorded on: Dec. 1, 2020
PLI Program #: 311610

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

Jessica Bednarz is a modern law ambassador and legal entrepreneur. In her role as Director of Innovation & the JEP at The Chicago Bar Foundation, directs special projects to advance innovation in the practice of law, including the CBA/CBF Task Force on the Sustainable Practice of Law & Innovation. Jessica is also responsible for leading and overseeing all activities of the Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP), a small business incubator for lawyers to start their own socially conscious and innovative law firms targeting low- and middle-income people and small businesses.

Jessica is also the Co-Founder of On Purpose Legal NetworkOn Purpose Legal Workshop and A Different Practice. All three of these initiatives are centered around inspiring legal professionals to think differently, define success for themselves and build careers they love.

Lauren Lester, is a solo-preneur who practices family law in Colorado with her client-centered firm Lester Law, LLC ( She graduated from the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and earned her law degree from Georgia State University. Before becoming a lawyer, Lauren worked for a decade as a project manager overseeing website development for numerous clients, including national brands. Lauren is passionate about the business of law and helping lawyers build practices they love. Connect with her 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.

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.

Dawn K. Young is Director of the Academic Skills Program, Adjunct Professor, and Writing Specialist at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago, Illinois. In her role, Dawn implements the law school’s academic success program, where she works closely with faculty and administration in maximizing student learning and law school achievement.  Dawn also oversees Chicago-Kent’s Solo & Small Practice Incubator (SSPI) – the first law school in Illinois to launch a post-graduate incubator. She currently leads all aspects of SSPI, including creating innovative programming, moderating workshops/trainings, and advising and counseling graduates on career and professional development.  Prior to joining IIT Chicago-Kent, Dawn founded a law practice in Wilmette, Illinois where she advised clients in real estate, business, and domestic relations matters. Dawn K. Young holds a B.A. in English from Boston University, J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and LL.M. from Boston University School of Law.

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.

Saedra is a shareholder in Turton & Pinkerton, a boutique family law firm in Dallas. She litigates complex family law cases and serves as an advocate for children. Saedra strives to guide her clients through difficult transitions in life with thoughtful consideration of their long-term goals.

In addition to her law practice, Saedra serves as the Director of the Dallas Bar Association’s Entrepreneurs in Community Lawyering program, the first local legal incubator in Dallas. The program guides newly-licensed attorneys through their first year of establishing a law practice geared toward serving everyday people.

Saedra began her career at a Dallas non-profit providing legal services to the homeless and victims of family violence. These early experiences helped shape her dedication to finding solutions that protect fragile families. In private practice since 2010, Saedra is a certified family law mediator and enjoys helping families emerge from the court system with a solid plan for the future.

A Texas native, Saedra graduated from Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law and lives in the Lake Highlands area. When she’s not working, Saedra enjoys spending time with her husband and twins, as well as her two dogs and a bossy three-legged cat.

Saedra serves the community through her work with multiple organizations. Her affiliations include:
Texas Bar Foundation, fellow
Dallas Bar Foundation, fellow
Texas Bar College, member
Pro Bono College of the State Bar of Texas, member
Dallas Bar Association, Family Law Pro Bono Activities Committee member
Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, volunteer
University of North Texas, Dallas, College of Law, 2016-2018 Family Law mentor
2018 and 2020 Family Law Amicus and Ad Litem Attorney Training, moderator