Orange County Women
 Lawyers Association
For Women Lawyers and Those Who Support Their Advancement

2024 Slate of Candidates

2024 Slate of Candidates - Officers

Caroline Djang

President

 

My name is Caroline Djang, and I am a Shareholder at Buchalter. I currently serve as Vice President of the OCWLA Board of Directors. As part of my duties as Vice President, I have had the opportunity to plan our outstanding programs in 2023, including the spectacular Annual Gala. I am an Orange County native, and have been a member and proud supporter of the OCWLA since I moved back to Orange County from Los Angeles in 2011. I am honored to be on the Board of an organization that recognizes and celebrates the advancement of women in the legal profession.  

 

I have now served four years on the OCWLA Board, and it has been a great privilege to represent the OCWLA’s membership and to get to know the other members of the Board. I have made so many meaningful professional connections and personal friendships during my time on the Board. During my years on the Board, I have been very active on several OCWLA subcommittees, the Gala Committee, and currently chair the Finance Committee and the Programs Committee.

 

My leadership record includes the following: OCWLA Board of Directors (2019-present), Treasurer (2022), Vice President and Gala Chair (2023); OCBA Board of Directors (2023-26), OCBA Judiciary Committee, OCBA Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee, OCBA Commercial Law and Bankruptcy Section Chair (2022); Orange County Bankruptcy Forum Board of Directors (2011-19, President in 2018-19); Lawyer Representative for the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference (2014-17, Ninth Circuit Conference Executive Committee, 2017-2023); Justice Served Committee of CLA SoCal; Member of OCAABA; Member of FBA-OC; Conference Chair for the California Bankruptcy Forum Insolvency Conference (2016-17).

 

In addition to my community activities, I maintain a thriving practice as a Shareholder in Buchalter’s Insolvency and Financial Law practice group. I am a frequent speaker on the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2020 and other bankruptcy-related topics. I have been honored and recognized by my peers and the media, including being named to: Southern California SuperLawyers: Top 100, Orange County Top 50, Top 50 Women Lawyers; The Best Lawyers in America┬«; and Banking and Finance Visionaries by the Los Angeles Times.

 

I would be honored to have your vote for OCWLA President.

Tracy Hughes

Vice President

 

I respectively submit the following candidate statement for your consideration for the 2024 OCWLA Vice President position. 

 

I have been privileged to serve on the OCWLA board of directors since 2019. I have great respect for the important role the Orange County Women Lawyers Association has developed in the Orange County legal community in providing education, support and networking opportunities for women in the law. I am passionate about helping women lawyers to achieve their goals and to secure access to equal pay and opportunity, and would like to continue to support the mission of OCWLA as your Vice President in 2024.

 

Experience with the OCWLA and the California Women Lawyers

The varied experience I have gained on the OCWLA board has prepared me for the Vice President position. I have planned large and small networking and MCLE events, including dynamic MCLE panels this year on the Dobbs decision and Equal Pay Day. I have chaired or co-chaired the Women Judges Reception (with more judges than ever before in attendance in 2023!) every year since joining the board, and have successfully managed budgets for a variety events. I have also been a part of the gala committee each year and served as the OCWLA Affiliate Governor to the California Women Lawyers in 2019 and then the District 7 CWL Governor from 2020 to the present.

 

In 2020 I began serving on the Executive Committee for the California Women Lawyers, and have also planned many live and virtual networking and MCLE events for CWL, including serving as the chair of the 2023 CWL Annual Conference, held in Orange County. The conference featured a Presiding Judges Panel and a diverse lineup of speakers, for 6 hours of MCLE credit. Other CWL roles over the past four years include Secretary, Second Vice President and First Vice President, and service on the CWL Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Judicial Evaluation Committee, and as Chair of the Awards Committee. 

 

Legal Experience

I am a partner at Robinson Calcagnie, a plaintiff’s firm, where I work on mass tort and class action cases. I came to the Robinson firm in early 20222 from the Affirmative Litigation Division of the Los Angeles County Counsel’s Office, where I served as co-lead for the LA County Opioid and Juul litigation teams. Before LA County Counsel, I had a long tenure at the Orange County DA’s Office, where I completed 140 combined criminal court and jury trials and later served as the Assistant Head of Court for the Consumer & Environmental Protection Unit.  

 

Other Community Involvement

I served on the OCBA Administration of Justice Committee from 2018-2020, and was on the steering committee of SaferRX OC, a coalition of Orange County stakeholders working to reduce opioid overdose deaths in Orange County, from 2015 to 2020. In 2022, I was named by my peers as a Fellow of the American Bar Association, and was recently invited to join the OCBA Masters Board.

Some goals for next year include expanding networking opportunities to include the business community, and offering a a professional “toolkit” series to help with career necessities like resumes, linked in profiles, and headshots. 

 

I would be honored to serve as a OCWLA Vice President for 2023. Thank you for your consideration. 

Heidi Plummer

Treasurer

 

I am honored to present my candidacy for Treasurer of OCWLA in 2024. It has been a privilege to serve this organization as your Secretary for the 2023 year. I am excited to continue contributing to our mission of empowering and advancing women in the legal profession.

 

My name is Heidi Plummer, I am the co-founder of Bock & Plummer, a boutique litigation firm.  Throughout my tenure with OCWLAW, I have had the privilege of working closely with our dedicated team and members, allowing me to gain valuable insights to our organization’s financial needs and operations. 

 

In my time with OCWLA, I have served in various roles and committees, including the finance committee, where I had the honor of working closely with our current treasurer. I have also simultaneously served on the OCWLA Foundation board where I had the opportunity to step in as interim treasurer in 2022 and work closely with the treasurer in 2023. These experiences have provided me with a deep understanding of our organization’s financial structure and responsibilities. I have also been involved in multiple committees, such as chair of the awards committee, programs committee, membership committee, social media committee, and philanthropy committee, which have provided me with a comprehensive perspective on the diverse needs and interest of our members.

 

I am committed to building upon the foundations laid by my predecessors and implementing innovative cost-saving processes and technologies. This will enhance the financial due diligence of OCWLA, ensuring transparency and empowering our Board of Directors to make well informed decisions. Financial responsibility and accountability are crucial aspects of any successful organization, and I am dedicated to upholding these standards. I am excited about the journey ahead and look forward to the opportunity to serve you as OCWLA's Treasurer. 

 

Thank you for your trust and consideration. Let us continue to work together towards a brighter future for OCWLA and the legal community.

Sayuri P. Espinosa

Secretary

 

Dear Fellow OCWLA Members:

 

It is with great passion and enthusiasm that I respectfully submit my candidacy to serve as a Secretary and Director of the OCWLA Board of Directors.

 

I have been a proud member of the OCWLA throughout my legal career, and recognize the tremendous value the organization has provided to the Orange County legal community. As a current Director of the OCWLA, prior member of the OCWLA Foundation Board, and Chair of the Public Law Center 2022 and 2023 Silent Auction Committee, I am dedicated to advancing women in the legal profession, raising awareness of discrimination and bias, and supporting charitable organizations.

 

Having lived and worked in Orange County my entire life, I am deeply familiar with the community, and have zealously advocated for the underrepresented in Orange County by providing pro bono legal services through the Public Law Center, and more recently, to human trafficking survivors through the Orange County Human Trafficking Project launched by Rutan & Tucker, LLP this year.

 

I have been lifted up, empowered, and supported by women in our legal community, including many of whom are members of this esteemed organization. By running for Secretary and reelection as a Director of OCWLA, I hope I have the opportunity and privilege to continue serving the organization, its member community, and the initiatives it supports, as a member of the Board of Directors. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Annie Nicholson

Secretary

 

My name is Annie Nicholson, and I have been involved in OCWLA since law school. As a first-year law student, I served as the OCWLA Student Representative, and I have continued to be involved with OCWLA until now as a second-year litigation associate at Haynes Boone. After two years on the OCWLA Board and five years of involvement with OCWLA, I am asking for your vote once again!

 

Five years ago, I became the OCWLA Student Representative because I believed that OCWLA fosters innovation and is comprised of female lawyers who are willing to fight for a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming legal society. I still believe so now.

 

I am the first lawyer in my family, and the first woman in my family to attend graduate school. I have been supported by so many inspiring women mentors who have supported me along my journey and encouraged me to support each and every peer in any way I can—many who come from, and are actively involved in, OCWLA.

 

It has always been extremely important to me to prioritize women advancement, and to encourage and celebrate the success of other women. My past two years on the OCWLA board allowed me to pursue this goal inside of the legal profession and connected me to a network of inspiring women, of whom I one day hope to emulate. I would love to continue to pursue this goal.

 

During my time on the OCWLA Board, I have become the Philanthropy Committee Co-Chair—where I helped facilitate charitable donations, organized volunteering with grant recipients, attended charitable gathering for OCWLA, and many other things. Also, this year I had the pleasure of being elected to the California Women Lawyers (“CWL”) Board as the Affiliate Governor for OCWLA and was recently sworn in at the CWL Annual Dinner to represent your interests in 2024.

 

During my five years of involvement with OCWLA, I have also been involved with planning numerous events for OCWLA including assisting in the coffee gatherings, the upcoming holiday party, hockey night and assisting in Gala preparations for the last five years.

 

Not only this, but I am strongly committed to the Orange County Legal Community. I currently serve as the Vice-President of the UCI Law Alumni Association, a Board Member of Project Youth Orange County, the Pro Bono Committee Chair of the Public Law Center Advocates, the Business Development Chair for the OCBA Young Lawyers Division, and a committee member of the Federal Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

 

I have also served as a mentor for years for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, a College Panelist for Girls, Inc. Also, this past year I continued my commitment to pro bono work by serving as the UCI Law Alumni Chaperon for UCI Law’s pro bono spring break trip—taking numerous UCI Law Students to the Crow Reservation in Montana to assist in tribal law pro bono work.

 

I would appreciate the honor of continuing to serve on the OCWLA board to contribute to the advancement of women in the law, bring women in the legal profession together in a professional manner, charitable causes, and pro bono work. Thank you!

Jessica Munk

Immediate Past President

 

My name is Jessica Munk and I have had the privilege to serve as a member of the OCWLA Board for the past five years, including the positions throughout the Executive Committee, and Chair of our Events Committee and Philanthropy Committee. I am a Principal at Wiechert, Munk & Goldstein, PC, a boutique law firm where I practice white collar criminal defense and civil litigation in federal and state court. I am also on the CJA Criminal Trial Panel in the Central District of California, providing indigent criminal defense. 

 

Over the past five years, I have been honored to serve with other talented women who are passionate about this organization and its goals of advancing women in the legal profession and diversity both on the bench and in the law. As Immediate Past President, I look forward to continuing to work alongside the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee to provide great events that are relevant to our members, address issues women lawyers face, engage our local community, provide volunteer opportunities, educational MCLEs, and networking. 

 

I am passionate about the many issues we face as women lawyers, and I would be honored to continue furthering this organization’s mission of promoting diversity and the advancement of women in the legal profession as the Immediate Past President. I would be honored to have your vote of support. Thank you for your consideration.

2024 Slate of Candidates - Directors
Vote for up to ten (10) candidates

Jeanne Behling

Candidate

 

I am an Intellectual Property Attorney at Knobbe Martens. I have been a member of OCWLA for several years and I served as an OCWLA Director since 2018. In that time, I have enjoyed helping to organize the programs and events offered by the organization and I hope to have the opportunity to continue the work of the organization to give back to our community and advance women in the legal profession.

 

I have been dedicated to giving back to my community and advancing women and young professionals throughout my life. During law school at the University of Texas, I served as a board member for a local community organization, Young Women's Alliance, dedicated to connecting and empowering the next generation of women leaders. After moving to California, I focused my efforts on giving back to the Orange County legal community. I have served as a committee member and volunteer for the Silent Auction Committee for the Public Law Center's Volunteers for Justice Dinner. I am also a member of the Women Partners Committee and have been an organizer of the Women Associate Advisory Committee at Knobbe. Additionally, I am active in the Mentorship and Recruiting programs at the firm and have been a mentor for junior attorneys at the firm. While serving as a Director of OCWLA, I have been an active member of the Philanthropy, Membership, Awards, Website, and Gala committees.  

 

My hope for OCWLA is to continue the great work done to advance women in the legal field, to find ways to tackle the tough issues women face in the workplace, to provide opportunities for women to expand their professional network, and to find new opportunities to support charitable causes and organizations. None of these issues are simple or easy to achieve. If you vote for me, I will work hard to see these goals realized with creative solutions, collaboration, and honest discussions with our Board and members.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sayuri P. Espinosa

Incumbent

 

Dear Fellow OCWLA Members:

 

It is with great passion and enthusiasm that I respectfully submit my candidacy to serve as a Secretary and Director of the OCWLA Board of Directors.

 

I have been a proud member of the OCWLA throughout my legal career, and recognize the tremendous value the organization has provided to the Orange County legal community. As a current Director of the OCWLA, prior member of the OCWLA Foundation Board, and Chair of the Public Law Center 2022 and 2023 Silent Auction Committee, I am dedicated to advancing women in the legal profession, raising awareness of discrimination and bias, and supporting charitable organizations.

 

Having lived and worked in Orange County my entire life, I am deeply familiar with the community, and have zealously advocated for the underrepresented in Orange County by providing pro bono legal services through the Public Law Center, and more recently, to human trafficking survivors through the Orange County Human Trafficking Project launched by Rutan & Tucker, LLP this year.

 

I have been lifted up, empowered, and supported by women in our legal community, including many of whom are members of this esteemed organization. By running for Secretary and reelection as a Director of OCWLA, I hope I have the opportunity and privilege to continue serving the organization, its member community, and the initiatives it supports, as a member of the Board of Directors. 

 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Shirin Forootan

Incumbent

 

I proudly served as an OCWLA Board Member in 2022 and 2023 and would be honored to continue to serve in 2024. Several years ago, I received OCWLA’s “Everyday Hero” award for my volunteer service to our legal community. Since then, I have appreciated even more the camaraderie and support from women lawyers in Orange County, and my goal is to pay it forward. As a woman business owner and founder of Forootan Law, I think it is especially important to create business and networking opportunities for women lawyers and help promote and elevate them in all respects. My practice area is exclusive to employment law, including litigation (both sides), workplace investigations, advice & counsel, and expert testimony. Having worked at large, medium, and small firms, on both the defense and plaintiff’s side, I am uniquely suited to connect with many of our members on a more personal level. I also bring a unique perspective to OCWLA’s board having served six years on the Board of Directors for the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA) and this past year on OCBA's Executive Board as Secretary. I would appreciate your vote! Thank you so much for your support!

Betty Fracisco

Incumbent

 

I am seeking the position of Board Member for the Orange County Women Lawyers Association for the 2024 Board year. I have been a member of this organization since 1991, and joined the Board in 2005. That first year I served as membership chair. In 2006 I was elected Secretary, served as Treasurer for two years, and then moved up through the offices, as required by the By Laws of the time. I served as President in 2009, an experience I thoroughly enjoyed, which afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with so many Orange County attorneys and judges and our Bar Association.  

 

While serving OCWLA, I also became involved in California Women Lawyers, beginning in 1992. In 2007 the OCWLA Board appointed me Affiliate Governor for Orange County. In 2009 I was elected District 8 Governor and served in that position until 2012. Due to CWL term limits, I stayed off their Board for two years until 2014 when I was again elected District Governor, serving 3 terms to 2020. In 2021 I returned to the position of Affiliate Governor for OCWLA and was recently moved back ino the District Governor position for 2024.

 

Within OCWLA I have chaired, co-chaired, or served on almost every committee, including the Book Group. For more than 12 years I chaired the Bar Stipend Committee, until Bar Stipends became the responsibility of our Foundation. In its first years of existence I have served as Treasurer and Board member of the Foundation, so I’ve been able to continue in the selection of Bar Stipend recipients. It has been so rewarding to help select the winners and then follow them as they pass the Bar and become active members of the Orange County legal community. Even if I was not an elected a member of the OCWLA Board, I would attend its Board Meetings, General Meetings and functions to properly serve the women lawyers of Orange County as their District Governor for California Women Lawyers, where I also serve on its Foundation Board and Awards Committee. Orange County Women Lawyers is a great organization, and I treasure the time I spend working to fulfill its goals. I love meeting the new women lawyers and advising them as much as I can, and I love meeting and mingling with the experienced women lawyers and judges and learning as much as possible from them. It’s an inspiring organization!

 

I would appreciate your vote.

Dana Heyde

Incumbent

 

I am thrilled to be a Past-President of Orange County Women Lawyers Association and would be honored to continue to serve this amazing organization. I feel so grateful to be among the smart and driven women of OCWLA who continue to inspire me. I joined OCWLA because I believe it is important that women support and encourage each other. In all that I do for OCWLA, I try to live by this credo and lead by example. 

 

I also strive to find unique ways for our members to network with each other. I am most proud of creating the OCWLA Book Club, which I moderate each month. The Book Club is entering its 9th year, and I am so happy that it continues to be a place where members can interact with each other in a small group setting that fosters congeniality. 

 

There is something so profoundly energizing about encouraging other women to join this group knowing that they will be welcomed, and treated professionally. As a board member, I love collaborating with the other board members to create networking opportunities and events that serve the membership. I have truly enjoyed serving on this board, and look forward to continuing to give back to the OCWLA community again next year as a Director. 

 

A little about me: I love musical theater and have seen over 100 performances! I am (obviously!) an avid reader and blogger (fastpageturner.wordpress.com), and read over a 150 books a year. The most amazing place I travelled to lately was San Gimignano in Tuscany with my husband and 6 year old son! 

Lauren Johnson-Norris

Candidate

 

Dear Members of the Orange County Women Lawyers Association,

 

I am writing to express my candidacy for a Director position. As a dedicated advocate for the interests of women and women lawyers, I possess the necessary qualifications and experience to contribute significantly to the association's mission. I also understand how important the work of OCWLA is as a member. 

 

Throughout my career, I have championed the cause of women's empowerment, particularly within the legal profession. As a juvenile dependency lawyer, I have tirelessly advocated for vulnerable women and mothers, ensuring their voices are heard and their rights protected. Additionally, my work includes obtaining restraining orders for women experiencing domestic violence and defending women falsely accused of domestic violence.

 

I am the past President of the South Orange County Bar Association and am Secretary/Treasurer of the OCBA's Appellate Section. Beyond my legal involvement, I have dedicated my time and expertise to serving the community including previously serving as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, as Chair of the Irvine Children, Youth, and Families Advisory Committee, as an Irvine Finance Commissioner, and as a member of Irvine's Investment Advisory Committee. Currently, I serve on the OC Human Relations Commission where I work to eliminate the causes of discrimination and intolerance.

 

As a testament to my commitment to women's empowerment, I have successfully run my own law firm for the past 14 years. My firm is not only women-owned but also exclusively staffed by women. This unique environment fosters an atmosphere of support and understanding, allowing us to serve our clients better and address their specific needs.

 

Lastly, I am proud to be a mother to twin 10-year-old girls. This role has further fueled my passion for advocating for women's rights and ensuring a brighter future for the next generation.

 

If elected as a Director of the Orange County Women Lawyers Association, I will bring my extensive experience, dedication, and unwavering commitment to advancing the interests of women in the legal profession. I will strive to create opportunities for networking, professional development, and mentorship, fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for all members.

 

Thank you for considering my candidacy, and I look forward to the opportunity to contribute to the Orange County Women Lawyers Association's continued success.

 

Sincerely,

Lauren Johnson-Norris

Suzanne Leslie

Candidate

 

I have been a practicing attorney in Orange County since 1987, a time when there were not many women attorneys and we had to fight to be seen in the industry. I have been with the same firm since 1985 and went from being a law clerk to the owner of the firm. I have always enjoyed volunteering my time and mentoring young women law students and lawyers thought various programs with the OC Bar Association and Western State University.  

 

This past year I served at the Secretary for the OCWLA Foundation Board and really enjoyed the experience. I have gotten to know many of the fabulous women on the OCWLA Board and Foundation Board and watching them advocate for women lawyers in the community has been inspiring. I believe that I can contribute to the board with my many years of experience in the legal field and with my passion to help others.  

 

Thank you for your consideration.  

Maria Maldonado-Bashaw

Candidate

 

Maria Bashaw is the founding and managing attorney at Maldonado Bashaw Law, where she practices estate and corporate planning. Maria has practiced in small firms, in house, and in her private practice.

 

Maria is known for her positive attitude and always being the first to raise her hand when there is a need to serve the community. She has served as a Director and Officer on the Board of a nonprofit for many years and is a member of OCWLA, OCBA, and the HBA. Having over 25 years of legal, business, and nonprofit management experience, she will serve OCWLA well as a director.

 

Maria lives in Costa Mesa with her daughter, two dogs, a cat, and a desert tortoise.

 

Please vote for Maria for 2024 Director to continue her commitment to Orange County women in law.

Emily McCorry

Candidate

 

I am an Intellectual Property Attorney at Knobbe Martens. I am a newer attorney, joining the CA Bar in December 2022. I have been a member of OCWLA since I was a law student at UC Irvine. In that time, I have enjoyed participating in the programs and events offered by the organization. As a director, I hope to have the opportunity to continue the work of the organization to give back to our community and advance women in the legal profession.

 

I have been dedicated to giving back to my community and advancing women and young professionals throughout my life. During law school at UC Irvine, I served as a board member for PILF, Public Interest Law Fund, dedicated to advancing the careers of students interested in public interest law. I also completed many hours of pro bono during law school and received the 200 hour pro bono award at graduation. Now that I am an attorney, I continue my efforts of giving back to the Orange County community and women advancing their careers. I have been actively working on a pro bono matter with Public Law Center and am a volunteer with the Women in Intellectual Property Law Task Force for the American Intellectual Property Law Association. I am also a member of the Women Associate Advisory Committee at Knobbe.

 

I hope to continue the great work done by OCWLA to advance women in the legal field, to find ways to tackle the tough issues women face in the workplace, to provide opportunities for women to expand their professional network, and to find new opportunities to support charitable causes and organizations. None of these issues are simple or easy to achieve. If you vote for me, I will work hard to see these goals realized with creative solutions, collaboration, and honest discussions with our Board and members.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Lauren A. McKay

Incumbent

 

As a supporter of the OCWLA’s mission for years now, I have been lucky enough to have the pleasure of chairing the 2019 Annual Gala, serving on the 2022 OCWLA Gala Committee, sitting on the 2023 OCWLA Board and working with many of the current members of the organization and the OCWLA Foundation. 

 

As I have grown to learn more about the organization and people involved, I have become even more dedicated to and active in cultivating unique opportunities and programming to further the OCWLA’s work of promoting and supporting women in the legal profession. I hope to continue my journey and support of the OCWLA by serving on the 2024 OCWLA Board. 

 

As a member of the 2024 Board, I plan to draw upon the skills and relationships I have built in chairing and assisting in planning prior galas and sitting on the 2023 OCWLA Board and to use that experience to be more intimately involved in all of the organization’s events for the 2024 year and in furtherance of the OCWLA’s efforts to advance women in the legal profession. Thank you for your consideration.

Antoinette Naddour

Incumbent

 

As a supporter of the OCWLA’s mission for years now, I have been lucky enough to have the pleasure of chairing the 2019 Annual Gala, serving on the 2022 OCWLA Gala Committee, sitting on the 2023 OCWLA Board and working with many of the current members of the organization and the OCWLA Foundation. 

 

As I have grown to learn more about the organization and people involved, I have become even more dedicated to and active in cultivating unique opportunities and programming to further the OCWLA’s work of promoting and supporting women in the legal profession. I hope to continue my journey and support of the OCWLA by serving on the 2024 OCWLA Board. 

 

As a member of the 2024 Board, I plan to draw upon the skills and relationships I have built in chairing and assisting in planning prior galas and sitting on the 2023 OCWLA Board and to use that experience to be more intimately involved in all of the organization’s events for the 2024 year and in furtherance of the OCWLA’s efforts to advance women in the legal profession. Thank you for your consideration.

Ashley Peniche Montenegro

Candidate

 

My name is Ashley Peniche Montenegro and I have been a member of the OCWLA for the last several years. I am excited at the potential opportunity to serve on the OCWLA board and help in any areas that need assistance. I would be honored to serve on the board. As a Family Law Attorney practicing the last almost 5 years, I have been a member of OCWLA, OCHBA, OCBA-Family Law, OCBA- Mommy Esquire, and OCBA- Small/Solo Practitioner organizations, becoming an active member in the various organizations and serving on the Foundation Board for OCWLA the last year. I will be serving as co-chair of Mommy Esquire this upcoming year and holding a board position for the Family Law division. In addition, I intend on continuing to serve on the Board of Foundation of OCWLA, if not, an actual board position as well. 

 

I know that OCWLA provides a tremendous amount of support to other lawyers as well as providing aid to those in need in our community. I am dedicated to continuing to support the legal community in Orange County, as well as the legal profession and any other needs associated with the same. I am looking forward to possibly working with and serving on the board and getting to know other OCWLA members. 

Annie Nicholson

Incumbent

 

My name is Annie Nicholson, and I have been involved in OCWLA since law school. As a first-year law student, I served as the OCWLA Student Representative, and I have continued to be involved with OCWLA until now as a second-year litigation associate at Haynes Boone. After two years on the OCWLA Board and five years of involvement with OCWLA, I am asking for your vote once again!

 

Five years ago, I became the OCWLA Student Representative because I believed that OCWLA fosters innovation and is comprised of female lawyers who are willing to fight for a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming legal society. I still believe so now.

 

I am the first lawyer in my family, and the first woman in my family to attend graduate school. I have been supported by so many inspiring women mentors who have supported me along my journey and encouraged me to support each and every peer in any way I can—many who come from, and are actively involved in, OCWLA.

 

It has always been extremely important to me to prioritize women advancement, and to encourage and celebrate the success of other women. My past two years on the OCWLA board allowed me to pursue this goal inside of the legal profession and connected me to a network of inspiring women, of whom I one day hope to emulate. I would love to continue to pursue this goal.

 

During my time on the OCWLA Board, I have become the Philanthropy Committee Co-Chair—where I helped facilitate charitable donations, organized volunteering with grant recipients, attended charitable gathering for OCWLA, and many other things. Also, this year I had the pleasure of being elected to the California Women Lawyers (“CWL”) Board as the Affiliate Governor for OCWLA and was recently sworn in at the CWL Annual Dinner to represent your interests in 2024.

 

During my five years of involvement with OCWLA, I have also been involved with planning numerous events for OCWLA including assisting in the coffee gatherings, the upcoming holiday party, hockey night and assisting in Gala preparations for the last five years.

 

Not only this, but I am strongly committed to the Orange County Legal Community. I currently serve as the Vice-President of the UCI Law Alumni Association, a Board Member of Project Youth Orange County, the Pro Bono Committee Chair of the Public Law Center Advocates, the Business Development Chair for the OCBA Young Lawyers Division, and a committee member of the Federal Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

 

I have also served as a mentor for years for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County, a College Panelist for Girls, Inc. Also, this past year I continued my commitment to pro bono work by serving as the UCI Law Alumni Chaperon for UCI Law’s pro bono spring break trip—taking numerous UCI Law Students to the Crow Reservation in Montana to assist in tribal law pro bono work.

 

I would appreciate the honor of continuing to serve on the OCWLA board to contribute to the advancement of women in the law, bring women in the legal profession together in a professional manner, charitable causes, and pro bono work. Thank you!

Amber Poston

Incumbent

 

As a public defender I have dedicated my career to serving the community. I have worked as a deputy public defender with the Orange County Public Defender’s Office since 2015. Prior to this I worked as a deputy public defender with the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office from 2007 to 2015.

 

As a law student I worked as a law clerk for the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office, the Santa Clara Public Defender’s Office and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. I ask you consider my candidacy to continue my service the Orange County Women Lawyer’s Association.

 

If chosen to continue to serve OCWLA, I will support women in the practice of law, work to reveal discrimination and bias in the profession, and support charitable organizations in Orange County. My career as an indigent defender has equipped me with a strong work ethic, humility, and compassion. Over the course of my career I have represented thousands of clients and mentored countless young lawyers and law clerks.

 

I have also served as a board member of both the Yolo County Attorney’s Association and the Orange County Attorney’s Association. In my capacity as a labor union director, I have assisted attorneys in navigating all aspects of labor disputes, many of which centered around discrimination and bias. The Orange County bench is currently 66% male. In the last year women have gained an additional 4% of representation on the bench, an improvement from the last decade. 

 

In an effort to continue to remedy this disparity, I have supported numerous applicants to bench, in both the preparation of their applications and in their journey to appointment. As one of the co-founders of the Orange County Unity Bar, these efforts are central to my commitment to continue to elevate women to the bench. My greatest hope is that this disparity will continue to equalize given the efforts of OCWLA.

 

This year I have supported OCWLA by contributing to the Programs, Membership, and Gala committees. I also supported the OCWLA Foundation in the execution of the silent auction at the recent 2023 Gala. 

 

My service to OCWLA has enriched my life, and if given the opportunity, I will continue to humbly bring my experience as a woman, a mother, and a lawyer, to my service to OCWLA. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter. 

Janani S. Rana

Candidate

 

My name is Janani Rana. It is with sincere enthusiasm that I submit my candidacy to serve on the OCWLA Board of Directors.

 

I have been an OCWLA member for several years, and was privileged to serve this year on the Gala Committee. I remain thoroughly impressed by the talented, authentic, and goal-oriented women who advance the OCWLA mission by putting on wonderful events that offer varied and meaningful opportunities for education, volunteering, and networking. It would be an honor to work more closely with each of these women on the OCWLA Board.

 

I am a Certified Family Law Specialist and family law trial attorney at Minyard Morris in Newport Beach, handling high income/asset divorce matters. I have presented to other lawyers on family law issues, have guest lectured for USC Gould School of Law's Community Property course, and have been recognized by my peers and legal media for my commitment to the practice of family law, including by Southern California Super Lawyers Rising Stars, and The Best Lawyers in America: Ones to Watch.

 

I am incredibly passionate about promoting diversity and the advancement of women in the legal profession. This December, I will be the first female Partner at Minyard Morris. I greatly enjoy mentoring the new generation of female lawyers at our now 19-lawyer exclusively family law firm. I am a past President of the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California (SABA-SC) and presently serve on the SABA-SC Steering Committee and as the SABA-SC Orange County Judicial Evaluations Chair. I am also the Co-Chair of USC Gould School of Law’s Orange County Alumni Association and am involved with the OCBA DEI Committee. Last but not least, as the mother of a beautiful little girl with infantile spasms, a catastrophic form of epilepsy, I am actively involved with the Epilepsy Foundation of Orange County, and serve as a Parent Advisor to the Pediatric Epilepsy Research Foundation (PERF).

 

I look forward to expanding my involvement with OCWLA and I would appreciate your vote to serve on its Board of Directors.

 

Thank you,

 

Janani S. Rana, CFLS

Attorney

Laurie Rowen

Incumbent

 

I’m excited to submit my application to serve as an OCWLA board member. Prior to co-founding the freelance attorney platform, Montage Legal Group, in 2009, I practiced litigation at Snell & Wilmer LLP. I graduated from UCLA, then obtained my JD from USD Law, serving as President of the Student Bar Association and as an editor of San Diego Law Review.

 

I am honored that my business Montage Legal Group has received various awards due to its advancement of women lawyers in an alternative legal setting, including NAWBO-OC’s Entrepreneur to Watch, OC Metro Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40, and USD Law’s Rising Star Recent Alumni. I frequently write articles and speak on issues related to women in the law, bias, remote working, and legal ethics, and I love mentoring law students and young entrepreneurs. Montage is also officially certified as a Women Owned Business, and we are extremely proud. 

 

I am also passionate about philanthropy. I have served on the OCWLA Board’s Philanthropy Committee for five years, and helped review applications to award grants to local non-profits. I have served as Chairs and Presidents of local non-profits, and I currently serve on USD Law’s OC Alumni board.  

 

In addition to serving on the Philanthropy Committee of the OCWLA board, I’m the current Chair of the Membership Committee and I have spent the past year focusing on increasing both online and in person networking opportunities for members. I created the OCWLA Featured Member Blog Series, where members and their accomplishments are featured on the OCWLA website and on social media. I organized free, in-person coffee meetings where members are encouraged to network by bringing a friend and meeting other OCWLA members. If elected this year, I will continue my efforts to increase networking opportunities. 

 

My priority in holding a board position with the OCWLA is to help support all women lawyers, whether their desire is to advance to equity partnerships at firms, in-house, or judicial positions, or to utilize an alternative practice model. I am committed to keeping women lawyers in the legal community, including JD military spouses who relocate to jurisdictions where they are not admitted, lawyers seeking career flexibility, lawyers seeking pathways to re-enter the workforce, or lawyers working remotely.  My background enables me to offer OCWLA a unique perspective, and I would be honored to serve on OCWLA's Board for my seventh year. 

Lisa Smith

Candidate

 

I am thrilled to announce that I’m running for the board director of our prestigious organization. As a dedicated member for 7 years, I am fully committed to advancing the mission and goals of the Orange County Women Lawyers Association. It will be a profound honor to be considered for this role,

 

My qualifications for this position include:

 

Professional Background: With nine years of experience as an attorney. I have a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities that women lawyers face in Orange County. My practice in immigration law equips me with the knowledge and skills needed to make informed decisions on the board.

 

Leadership Experience: Over the years, I have held leadership roles in several organizations. I was 2019 Immigration Law Section Chair of Orange County Bar Association (OCBA), where I had successfully led initiatives that have benefited our immigration law community. I was also President of Orange County Chinese American Chamber of Commerce.

Dedication to Gender Equality: I have consistently championed the cause of gender equality in the legal profession and have a strong track record of supporting women's professional development.

 

Community Involvement: I am also an Outreach Committee member and Legal Referral & Information Services Committee member of OCBA. My involvement in the community organizations has given me a well-rounded perspective on the broader issues affecting our local community, which I believe is essential in this role.

 

My vision for the Orange County Women Lawyers Association:

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: I am committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion within our organization. I will work tirelessly to ensure that women from all backgrounds are represented and supported in our legal community.

 

Professional Development: I will advocate for programs and resources that foster the professional growth of our members. This includes mentorship programs, continuing education opportunities, and career development resources.

 

Community Engagement: Our association should be actively involved in community service and pro bono work. I plan to create meaningful opportunities for our members to contribute to the broader Orange County community and demonstrate our commitment to justice beyond the courtroom.

 

Collaboration: By forging strong partnerships with other local legal organizations, we can amplify our impact and further our shared goals.

 

I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to serve on the board and to contribute to the growth and success of our association. Together, we can achieve remarkable results and continue empowering women in the legal profession in Orange County.

 

Thank you for your consideration, and I kindly ask for your support in this important endeavor. I look forward to the privilege of working alongside you to create a positive impact in the lives of our members and our legal community. Please feel free to contact me at (949) 529-5288 ext. 2003 or lsmith@yklaw.us if you have any further questions.

Heather Stangle-Smith

Incumbent

 

I am honored to have served on the OCWLA Board of Directors since 2018 and hope to continue my service to this great organization, which has played a pivotal role in my life, both personally and professionally. 

 

I joined OCWLA in 2015, after moving to California from the Washington, DC area. During that time, OCWLA provided me with a community and resources that greatly assisted my transition to life as an attorney in California.  

 

Since then, I’m proud to have been able to give back to OCWLA as a Director. I have served as Chair of OCWLA’s Philanthropy Committee for the past several years, as the previous Co-Chair of OCWLA’s Law Student Outreach Committee, and as a member of the Events Committee, Gala Committee, and OCWLA Book Club.

 

If elected to continue my service to OCWLA, I will bring to the role my varied experience over more than a decade of practice as an attorney on the east and west coasts, both in-house and as a Partner and Associate at a law firm, as well as significant volunteer experience.  

 

I currently serve as Associate General Counsel for Blue Shield of California, where I handle a broad range of health care disputes and issues, with a focus on health care litigation, provider arbitrations, regulatory enforcement actions, and investigations. Before joining Blue Shield of California, I was an attorney for UnitedHealth Group. I was also previously a Partner at Watt Tieder Hoffar & Fitzgerald, where my practice focused on construction litigation and government contracts. 

 

As a Director, I am passionate about advocating for all OCWLA’s members, including my fellow in-house OCWLA members. I hope to have the opportunity to continue to serve OCWLA as a Director, and I thank you in advance for your consideration of my candidacy.


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