July 2019 Cover Story - Meet the OCBA YLD

by Kristin L. Gomez

This is an exciting year for the OCBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) as we strive to increase engagement of existing members, attract new members, and generate more opportunities to promote our members. By way of background, YLD is a division of Orange County Bar Association comprised of lawyers within our first five years of practice. The YLD is led each year by a Chair, supported by the Chair-Elect, and five appointed Committee Chairs (collectively, the YLD Leaders). We also work with two marvelous YLD Liaisons, OCBA Associate Executive Director Carole Martinez and OCBA Event Coordinator Kelly FitzGibbon, who help us plan and execute our events. The Committee Chairs oversee their respective Committees (Social, Sports & Fitness, Education, Community Service, and Diversity & Inclusion).

Our purpose is to serve as a pipeline program to the greater OCBA, help newly minted lawyers learn about OCBA programs and resources, and serve as a network of peers to help ease the transition into OCBA leadership and participation once they enter mid-level practice and beyond. To effectuate this purpose, the YLD Leaders brainstorm, plan, fundraise, and execute at least sixteen events annually. One of the ways that YLD’s programs stay current and responsive to our members is through a new set of incoming YLD Leaders each year. I’m thrilled to work with a talented, vivacious, and tenacious group of Young Leaders this year. We are a diverse group in practically every sense of the word: age, practice area, gender, race, law school, and affiliate bar membership. As a result, we have been able to harness our different perspectives, experiences, strengths, and professional networks to put forth a creative and ambitious agenda for 2019.

Drum roll, please. I’d like to introduce the YLD leadership team. A University of Illinois law school graduate, Tricia Halstead is a third-year lawyer who recently transitioned from law firm associate to Deputy District Attorney where she handles a heavy felony caseload. Tricia is serving as Co-Chair of both the Social and Sports & Fitness Committees and continues to serve as co-team manager of YLD’s softball team, Bad News Bearristers. She is also a member of the OC Women Lawyers Association (OCWLA) and Young Professionals Children’s Bureau (YP).

Vishwanath Kootala Mohan, Co-Chair of the Social Committee, is a third-year intellectual property associate at One LLP. Vish has been active on YLD’s Social and Sports & Fitness Committees since graduating from UCI School of Law in 2016. He’s also active in the community, as the Social Director of the YP, a Board Member of the OC Intellectual Property Law Association, and a member of the OCWLA.

Nico Mamone is a recent LA transplant who quickly became active in YLD, joining our indoor soccer nights and softball team. He’s now Co-Chair of the Sports & Fitness Committee and co-manages Bad News Bearristers with Tricia. He works as a second-year trial attorney with Bentley & More where his practice focuses on personal injury and product liability. Nico’s a Southwestern Law graduate and a member of the OC Trial Lawyers Association.

Our 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Hollie Washington, is passionate about diversity issues and, in this role, she supports the other YLD committees in diversity planning, as well as planning her own events. She’s a third-year finance and real estate associate at Troutman Sanders, with pre-law-school work experience in the financial industry. She’s a UCI Law alum and, in November, helped coordinate a fireside chat for the OCBA Diversity & Inclusion Committee where attendees discussed navigating discomfort in the workplace. Hollie is also the Vice President of the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association (TMBA) and a member of the OC Coalition for Diversity in the Law.

Lucia Valenzuela is the Education Committee Chair. With her can-do attitude, Lucy has brainstormed fresh topics and interesting, dynamic speakers for CLE seminars this year and is currently working with the OCBA’s Lawyer Wellbeing Taskforce to incorporate wellness into YLD’s programs. Lucy is a fourth-year attorney serving as a Tax Manager at the accounting firm, Moss Adams, where she specializes in federal and state R&D credits, with extensive experience in tech and manufacturing industries. She’s a Thomas Jefferson SOL alum who was recently elected to the OCWLA Board of Directors. Through Lucy, YLD has jointly hosted a hiking event with the OCWLA.

Nathaniel Epstein chairs the Community Outreach Committee. As a third-year associate at Helton Law Group, he practices healthcare law and litigates insurance claims. Nate is a Whittier Law graduate and ran for OC Assessor in 2018. He serves on the Board of Directors for the (i) Los Alamitos Youth, (ii) Filipino American Lawyers of Orange County, and (iii) Filipino American Chamber of Commerce, as well as sits on the Community Advisory Council for the Asian American Advancing Justice OC. This year, Nate has led YLD’s community service efforts in volunteering for the Tustin Half Marathon Hangar run and the Pet Adoption Day, among others.

Our Chair-Elect, Alexander Avery, served as YLD’s Social Chair in 2017-2018. He’s a Pepperdine Law alum and volunteers as Engagement Director of the YP, Co-Chair of the Pepperdine Law Alumni Network of OC, and member of the Federal Bar Association and William P. Gray Inn of Court. He’s a no-nonsense, quick-witted, affable fourth-year litigator at Brown Wegner LLP, specializing in intellectual property and commercial disputes.

As Chair, I have a couple goals I’d like to share with you.


It can be daunting to attend your first Judges’ Night and envision yourself rising within a bustling organization where so many people already know each other, or at least that’s what I remember when I attended mine just a month after being sworn in. If you’re a junior associate seeking to make partner, developing some of the most important skills—building a book of business, distinguishing yourself in the greater Orange County legal community, and honing client relations skills—may be difficult to prioritize while hitting your billable hours each month. But, the sooner associates start incorporating these into their practice, the faster they are likely to develop as an attorney. Likewise, it can be difficult for new public interest attorneys to find their footing as their fellowship year winds down and they seek a permanent position. Newer lawyers, regardless of practice area, face a set of similar challenges in the areas of career uncertainty and learning to carve out a space for ourselves in the legal community.

Enter YLD. We offer a far-reaching platform for interested members to promote themselves. For example, this year, YLD members were encouraged to write articles for Orange County Lawyer—indeed, some are featured in this and the upcoming issue. For our Q2 Business Meeting, we hosted an OCBA Section Leaders Open House where representatives from more than half the Sections gave a quick overview of the type of seminars and events they offer, followed by a meet-and-mingle session where our members could sign up for the Sections most interesting to them. Creating opportunities for our members to promote themselves professionally is vital to YLD.


My primary goal for the year—more inclusive programming—is informed by my first four years actively involved in YLD, where I served as a Sports & Fitness Committee member, Co-Chair, and then as Chair-Elect under my dear friend and predecessor, Kelly Galligan (who still is in YLD and also serves on the OCBA Board of Directors). In these capacities, I heard from members and non-members about what’s working and what’s not.

Inclusivity means different things to people, so trying to give this idea teeth meant looking at our processes, talking to folks in the YLD and young lawyers in the Affiliate Bars, and approaching the issue in a way that would broadly increase access and interest in our events. Many people objected that some of our programs were too expensive. Pricing for events has generally been less than $40 per event during the last five years. To encourage greater participation in important networking and educational events, we’ve sought to reduce ticket pricing even further by setting a soft cap of $25 per event. Through June 2019, our ticket prices ranged from $0 to $25, with our average ticket price at $15. Include our free Quarterly Business Meetings and the amount drops to $10 on average. We have been able to achieve these pricing levels without compromising our program quality, whether it was our March Ducks Game (with pre-game food and drinks) or the Second Annual Meet & Greet Affiliate Bar Mixer. We are committed to maintaining this level of access for our members and could not do this without our generous sponsors Rutan & Tucker LLP, JAMS, Brown Wegner LLP, One LLP, Snell & Wilmer, Advanced Depositions, Regal Court Reporting, Zingler Associates, Patrick Farber, Kamryn Whitney Court Reporting, and First Republic Bank.

Concurrently, we strive to offer programs of interest to our members. Our Education Chair, Lucia, is working hard on engaging and informative events for our members, including past CLE events discussing the State of the Law on Cannabis, as well as a July event offering Tips to Avoid Legal Malpractice with Gerald Klein of Klein & Wilson. She is also collaborating with the OCBA Lawyer Wellbeing Taskforce to provide free wellbeing seminars and activities for our members. Our first such seminar will be August 7 at OCBA Headquarters, where Senior Assistant District Attorney Tracy Miller will discuss tools to learn stress management early in our careers. Please look out for our YLD email blasts to learn of future events.

In addition, Hollie, Tricia, Vish, and Alex spearheaded the Second Annual Meet & Greet Mixer with the Affiliate Bars at Mesa in March where we had a fantastic turnout from the Affiliate Bars. The Social and S&F Committees recently and jointly hosted a free Summer BBQ and Beach Day for our members, and there’s more to come! As just one teaser, YLD has booked a suite at Angels Stadium on July 27 to watch the Angels take on the Baltimore Orioles. We’ll continue working hard through Q3 & Q4 to deliver impressive community service opportunities, potentially an NBA Game, and a terrific capstone to the year with our holiday party.

In closing, YLD will finish strong in 2019 before I hand off the baton to my friend, Alex. Alex has been an ardent supporter of our 2019 programs and my agenda as Chair, for which I am so grateful. He’s been fine-tuning his ideas for 2020 and, as an innovative thinker and doer, I know he’ll make even further improvements next year. If Alex and the other YLD Leaders are any indication of what’s to come, then OCBA can rest assured its pipeline program is working. The YLD will bring a wave of lawyers into the OCBA’s ranks who strive to contribute, brainstorm new ideas, and expand inclusivity for events.

Kristin L. Gomez is corporate counsel at Honda North America, Inc. She can be reached at kristin_garcia@hna.honda.com.