March 2023 Professional Paragon - Kimberly La Salle

by Jacqueline M. Beaumont

Every now and then we encounter people in our professional lives who make us want to be better versions of ourselves. Kimberly La Salle is one such person. She has inspired me in several ways: by her creativity and thoughtfulness in pushing our profession forward in terms of diversity, feminism, and intersectionalism; by her service to the local bar and community; and through her ability to always find a way to bring joy to her work—an act of courage in a sometimes unyielding career.

Throughout her career, Kimberly La Salle has been committed to the representation of women, disadvantaged groups, and sometimes unpopular causes in Southern California. She has pursued justice for clients on difficult cases and trials as a Deputy Public Defender in San Diego and Los Angeles Counties, and as a Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles County. She has brought personal courage into her work representing survivors of domestic violence, arranging her legal support and presence in ways to empower her clients. For many years, she has maintained a practice representing indigent clients in trial and criminal matters, including serving on the appointments panel of Riverside County, the Indigent Criminal Defense Appointment program (ICDA), and the Independent Juvenile Defender Program (IJDP) of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. She now maintains a practice in indigent youth justice and educational needs with the IJDP, and provides representation in private criminal matters. These are challenging causes and clients, and they are lucky to have Kimberly on their side.

But what Ms. La Salle has done in her career—while impressive—only tells part of the story, because what makes my friend Kimberly unique is the whole-hearted, passionate, and innovative ways she has approached her service to the community. What is remarkable is that her dedication to improving access to justice and representation in our legal system goes far beyond her “day job.” Kimberly has exhibited tremendous leadership in providing outreach and mentoring to the next generation of law students and youth, many of whom may have never considered becoming law students were it not for her intervention.

While my area of legal practice in employment and class action defense is very different from Kimberly’s field, it is through some of these events that I first met Kimberly, as she has sought to bring in attorneys from different professional backgrounds to be involved in mentoring local youth.

She helped organize the Orange County Superior Court’s first “Young Women’s Civic Leadership Conference,” and has been a formative presence in the maintenance and establishment of student associations at law schools throughout Orange County. She has volunteered with the Orangewood Foundation, designing fun, interactive workshops for foster youth such as Juvenile Justice Jeopardy.

Kimberly’s mentorship style reflects her personality: it is creative and personable, focusing on providing mentorship holistically. A few examples include her presentation of “I Love Myself,” a wellness workshop for Black law students; a screening of the film “Miss Representation” and discussion on issues of media consumption and self-esteem; and the workshop “The Mask You Live In—Toxic Masculinity Harms Us All” for a student summit. She has created bar event videos linking legal decisions with hip hop music and themes of peace. As lawyers, we do not always connect with this side of our humanity in our work, but Ms. La Salle is, and always has been, a non-conformist, relying on her background in yoga and other cultural issues to inform her activities.

I know from our conversations throughout the years that Kimberly often works long hours, after putting work and family to bed, to passionately fulfill various gaps in our legal community. This mission is personal for her. As a panelist on an Orange County Bar Association Racial Justice Task Force event, I heard Kimberly speak about her experience being labeled with racial slurs as a child, and how that has informed her work. She is keenly aware of the intersections of race, privilege, violence, and injustice, and tenaciously works to break them in all facets of her career.

Kimberly has brought her vision to the legal community in Orange County through events I have been able to attend and learn from. She established the annual Diversity & Inclusion Unity in Service Awards to bring affiliate bar associations together. Kimberly has also developed and collaborated on programming to challenge attorneys in our community to learn from each other and from our legal history, with event titles such as “White Privilege & Presenting as Caucasian”; “Courageous Conversations for Women Lawyers in the Know”; “The Color of Law: Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”; and more. She has lifted up other associations, volunteering and bringing support to the Orange County Women Lawyers Association and the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association on events when I and others have asked for her assistance. For her efforts in these and other areas, Kimberly was recently awarded the prestigious, statewide Fay Stender Award from the California Women Lawyers Association.

Few people who have met Kimberly La Salle would fail to describe her as “a force.” She is a rare individual who leaves you with enthusiasm for your next steps after each encounter with her. I admire Kimberly for her ability to effect change as a single individual. She is an inspiration to others who seek to do the same.

Jacqueline M. Beaumont is a Shareholder at Call and Jensen in Newport Beach, practicing employment law and class action defense. She can be reached at jbeaumont@calljensen.com.

Professional Paragon is an occasional column featuring an attorney who has inspired others to pursue excellence.