Joy in the Law Conference Panelists
The Finding Joy in the Legal Profession conference was held on Friday, September 23 in Corte Madera from 9:30 to 4:30, with networking opportunities before and after the conference. The day included five panel discussions, lunch, snacks, and tons of practical advice. There were short periods of guided meditation woven throughout the conference. You can read about our amazing panelists below.
Diana Maier owns the Maier Law Group, a boutique employment and data privacy firm in Corte Madera, CA that advises biotechnology and high-tech businesses on litigating, resolving and preventing workplace lawsuits and conflict; preserving and protecting important data and avoiding regulatory action; conducting workplace Investigations; and delivering sexual harassment, workplace diversity, and data privacy and security trainings. Diana graduated from Stanford Law School in 1998 and has practiced criminal defense, employment, and privacy law in her 18 year legal career.
James Baraz is a world-renowned meditation teacher and author who wrote, “Awakening Joy,” and “Awakening Joy” for Kids. His Awakening Joy book and course has been lauded by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates and thousands of other participants who claim that the book is life-changing. https://www.awakeningjoy.info/. James is a co-founding teacher of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center and has been teaching meditation for more than 30 years. James’ course and a meditation retreat was much of the inspiration for Diana’s idea to conduct this conference.
Leslie E. Wallis
Leslie E. Wallis is a Shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins in the Los Angeles office. She practices in the litigation in the areas of employment law, healthcare and unfair competition and trade secrets. Leslie also provides training in the areas of harassment, discrimination hour issues and workplace investigations. She has served as in-house counsel at a financial institution representing the bank in a broad range of litigation matters. In law school, Leslie was an associate editor of the UCLA Law Review and a judicial extern to the Honorable Harry Pregerson on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Prior to beginning her legal career, Leslie studied with the Royal Ballet in London, England and then earned her Bachelor’s degree in ballet at Indiana University. Following her career as a ballet dancer in the U.S. and abroad she returned to California to study law at UCLA.
Ivo Labar is a partner at Kerr & Wagstaffe. He is an experienced trial attorney representing both plaintiffs and defendants. He specializes in complex business litigation, with an emphasis on class actions, insurance policyholder rights, employment and intellectual property. Ivo is a contributing editor to Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, the preeminent treatise on proper procedures for litigating disputes in federal court. He also regularly lectures at law schools in the Bay Area on new developments in civil procedure and First Amendment law and was invited to be a presenter at the 2013 Practising Law Institute all day program focusing on California Trial Evidence.
Ivo graduated with honors from the California Maritime Academy. After serving as a deck officer aboard merchant ships, he graduated with honors from University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Following law school, Ivo served as a law clerk to the Honorable Charles Legge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Martine D’Agostino practices civil rights litigation as a Deputy Attorney General in the California Attorney General’s Office. She has been with the Attorney General’s Office since 2011 and graduated from University of San Francisco Law School in 2007. She mentors young attorneys through the Attorney General’s Office internship program and conducts trainings on Section 1983 litigation. She grew up in a family of Buddhists and developed her own practice ten years ago.
Edith Kelly Politis
Edith Kelly Politis has a solo general civil practice in Marin County. She practices primarily in the area of family law and emphasizes a consensual dispute resolution approach including collaborative law and mediation. Her goal is to help parties reach a deep level of resolution as they navigate one of the most difficult transitions most of us face in our lives.
Edith graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a B.S.Nursing. She was a nurse, a wife, and a mommy before she attended USF School of Law. She worked at a mid-sized firm in Oakland and then at Pillsbury, Madison, & Sutro before she opened her solo practice in San Rafael in 1990. In the mid-1990s she began a mindfulness meditation practice and became a student of Buddhism. She has been part of a group of meditating lawyers for whom Norman Fischer is a spiritual mentor since about 2000. With this group she has participated in a number of retreats for lawyers, introducing and supporting mindfulness and compassion practices for lawyers.
Chris Boyd is the Senior Director of Professional Services for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), a 750-attorney firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California. Chris leads the teams that recruit, develop, and retain the firm’s attorneys. Chris and the attorney recruiting team manage the firm-wide recruiting processes for all lateral partners, lateral associates and other attorneys, law students, patent agents and scientific advisors. In the areas of knowledge management and professional development, Chris and his team design, develop and market learning tools that give each WSGR professional the skills and knowledge required to deliver maximum value to clients. These tools include substantive legal training programs, professional skills group classes and one-on-one coaching, model and sample forms, profiles of past deals and cases, and expertise locators.
After graduating from Princeton University in 1987, Chris was a management consultant for two years and then went to Stanford Law School, graduating in 1992. After clerking for a Ninth Circuit judge, Chris worked as a corporate attorney at WSGR in the mid-1990s, where he managed numerous technology company initial public offerings, venture capital financings, and acquisitions. After deciding he no longer wanted to practice law, he left WSGR and led the knowledge management programs at several Internet start-ups. He re-joined WSGR in November 2001.
Kiki Williams is the current Director of Equity and Title IX compliance at SF Unified School District. Prior to joining SFUSD in November 2015, she litigated Title IX civil rights cases at Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco non-profit that fights to end gender discrimination at school and in the workplace. Prior to joining ERA, Kiki spent her first 5 years of practice as a civil litigator for a defense firm. Kiki graduated from UC Berkeley, where she received both her B.A. and M.A. She attended UC Hastings for law school and graduated in 2008.
Kiki has also been the assistant Varsity Girls Basketball coach at Redwood High School for the past 7 years. In 2014 she also started Prime Youth Sports, a sports camp and basketball club in Marin that focuses on giving girls in the area an opportunity to learn and play sports at all-girls sports camps and being coached by all women coaches.
Linda Grais, MD, JD is Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors of Ocera Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing novel treatments for gastrointestinal and liver diseases. Dr. Grais has extensive experience in the healthcare field as a physician, attorney, biotechnology entrepreneur and investor. Previously, she was a Managing Member at InterWest Partners, a venture capital firm investing in drug development and medical device companies. Dr. Grais was a founder and executive vice president of SGX Pharmaceuticals (SGXP), which pioneered the integration of genomics with high-throughput protein structure determination to accelerate drug discovery. SGXP went public on NASDAQ and was acquired by Eli Lilly in 2006. Prior to founding SGX, Dr. Grais worked in the corporate practice at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where she represented healthcare companies in venture financings, public offerings and strategic partnerships. Dr. Grais trained in Internal Medicine and Critical Care Medicine at Yale and the University of California, San Francisco, and was an Assistant Clinical Professor of Internal Medicine and Critical Care at UCSF.
Dr. Grais received a B.A. from Yale University, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, an M.D. from Yale Medical School, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She has served on several advisory boards, including the Master's Degree in Translational Medicine at UCSF, Yale Healthcare Advisory Board, and the Stanford Law School Board of Visitors. Dr. Grais currently serves on the Boards of Directors of Arca Biopharma, Inc. and PRA Health Sciences, Inc. She has received numerous honors, most recently the American Liver Foundation’s 2015 Salute to Excellence Award.
David Onek is the Director of Programs at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He is a long-time criminal justice reformer who previously served as Executive Director of the Northern California Innocence Project, as a Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission, as Deputy Director of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Criminal Justice, and as Executive Director of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice at UC Berkeley Law School. Onek currently serves on the National Finance Committee for Hillary for America and served on the National Finance Committee for Obama for America. He created and hosted the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast, a co-production of UC Berkeley Law School and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism, and served as Co-Host of City Visions on San Francisco NPR-affiliate KALW. Onek is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Brown University. He lives in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood with his wife Kara Dukakis and daughters Olivia and Nora.
Kristen Verrastro is an Attorney Search Director at Parker + Lynch Legal in San Francisco, where she is a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. At Parker + Lynch Legal, Special Counsel's Attorney Search Division, Kristen focuses on placing elite attorneys with leading law firms and corporations in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Oakland, the East Bay, Portland, Seattle, and the respective surrounding areas. Special Counsel is the largest full-service provider of legal staffing and recruiting services in the United States.
Prior to her career transition to legal recruitment, Kristen was an attorney in the Labor & Employment Department of Seyfarth Shaw LLP’s San Francisco office and a post-graduate law clerk and volunteer attorney at Transgender Law Center. During law school, Kristen was a judicial intern in the Chambers of Honorable Thomas I. Vanaskie, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Kristen also completed two full-time internships with the Office of the City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco (Labor and Government Teams). Before attending law school, Kristen was a sales professional at Merck & Co., Inc. for six years.
Outside of her work, Kristen is a member of the Development Committee, a committee of the Board of Directors at Transgender Law Center (TLC), where she is currently serving her third year as Co-Chair of the Host Committee for SPARK!, TLC’s annual gala. Kristen is also a Director on the Board of Trustees at Leadership High School in San Francisco, where she is Co-Chairing the Diversity & Inclusion Task Force this year. In her spare time, Kristen is a meditation practitioner and instructor. She was also a member of the Equality Committee (Intersectionality Sub-Committee) for the Bar Association of San Francisco’s 2015 Goals & Timetables for Minority Hiring, Retention and Advancement Report.
Avantika Rao is an attorney by design and an emotional self-management ninja by life circumstance, having survived multiple traumas. A graduate of Wellesley College and UC Davis School of Law, she studied women’s studies, environmental resource management, and Hindi language for two transformative years in India. She clerked for Judge Daniel R. Foley of Hawaii and then spent six years as a legal aid attorney in San Diego, the Sacramento Valley, and the Bay Area. Based currently in Sacramento, Avantika has an unusually fulfilling private practice at the intersection of immigration and human rights. Through her work, she affirms the right of all humans to freedom and self-determination. She has worked with members of many vulnerable minority groups. In addition, she is the in-house Bilingual Immigration Attorney at Women Escaping A Violent Environment (“WEAVE”), a non-profit that works towards a community free of violence and abuse. In 2011, Avantika was honored by the Bay Area Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights for her trailblazing representation of a Peruvian labor trafficking survivor who became state’s witness in a rare successful federal prosecution under modern human trafficking statutes, United States v. Dann. The case received press coverage in Latin America and the U.S. Also an educator and mentor who has opened many doors for her students, Avantika is fully fluent in Spanish and proficient in Hindi.
It’s not easy to talk about death, wills, trusts, terminal illness, or loss. Mediator and Estate Planning Lawyer John O’Grady’s legacy is alive every time he guides people to resolve their battles so they stay connected and in conversation for a lifetime. Since 1989, John has successfully mediated hundreds of inheritance, co-ownership, and business disputes. John’s path to pursue this work is personal. Soon after law school graduation, John’s sister, her husband, and their infant son were tested HIV positive. John’s journey through grieving the illness and loss of his loved ones was the most painful and transformative experience of his life. John welcomes invitations to inspire and empower forward thinking individuals to expand their lives by facing the big questions of loss, love, life and death. John served as the 2012 Chair of The Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco. He is continually refining his skills as a member of the Trusts and Estates Section of the State Bar of California, the San Francisco Estate Planning Council, the Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California, the Association for Conflict Resolution and Community Boards. John earned his J.D. and LL.M. (Taxation) from Golden Gate University and B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Learn more at www.ogradylaw.com.
Neha Sampat is founder, consultant, and coach at GenLead/BelongLab, where she collaborates with clients to innovate approaches to inclusion, leadership, and professional development that are both data-driven and grounded in the subjective experience. She obtained her JD from UC Berkeley School of Law and received her Certificate in Graduate Applied Psychology from Golden Gate University. After practicing technology and later education law, she served for ten years as Dean of Students and Adjunct Professor of Law and Leadership at Golden Gate University. Neha has a particular passion for helping lawyers bring their authentic selves to their work and thus find true joy in it. Neha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.genlead.co, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/nsampat.
Dr. Karpa is a public interest environmental attorney who seeks to bring mindfulness practices from the engaged vipassana Buddhist tradition and principles of nonviolence to resolve environmental issues. Ever since his childhood spent on Mt. Tam, Dr. Karpa has been strongly connected to the natural world. That connection led him first to earn a Ph.D. in plant community ecology at Harvard University, but when increasing awareness of the environmental challenges to life on earth forced a recognition that scientific research alone would not suffice, Dr. Karpa left academia to pursue a career in environmental law. However, after graduation from Boalt Hall, the pressures and expectations of Big law led him to take positions in land use law at first Bingham McCutchen and Holland & Knight. Ultimately, unsatisfied by the nature of corporate work, Dr. Karpa left first for a solo practice focused on small development and community environmental challenges. The desire to join a team led to a position as the Legal Program Co-Director and Science Policy Director at Turtle Island Restoration Network, a small marine conservation non-profit. Dr. Karpa has now returned to his solo public interest legal practice.
Andrea (Andi) Berlin
Andrea (Andi) Berlin specializes in high stakes decision-making, negotiation, conflict facilitation and transition management. With over 20 years of experience, clients range from fortune 500s to small religious non-profits. An intuitive listener, Andi breaks down walls among teammates to help leaders explore and articulate the deepest challenges facing their organizations. She creates a space where opposing voices can be heard so teams in conflict can move forward with cohesion.
She holds degrees in anthropology, sociology and world religion from Ohio Wesleyan University and received both ordination and an MHL from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (a five-year postgraduate program). She served Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA as a pulpit rabbi for 13 years. She was then brought to the Union of Reform Judaism to help congregations in North America achieve their highest goals. Through her work with synagogues across the continent, Andi found a particular passion for transition management and conflict facilitation. On July 1, 2014, she launched Berlin Consulting, LLC which provides transition management and conflict facilitation to organizations in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Berlin Consulting, LLC also provides synagogues with general consulting.
Andi is a certified facilitator, mediator, transition manager, chaplain, and pre-marital counselor. Andi is currently on the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s ethics committee and a member of the executive board of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis. She has been President of the East Bay Council of Rabbis, as well as serving on numerous SF Bay Area and national boards. An award-winning sermonizer, Andi is also widely recognized for her teaching on a variety of topics. She lectures around the SF Bay Area on such topics as “Conflict as a Source of Growth”, the history of the reform movement, Jewish gratitude, Shabbat, Jewish liturgy, and the Jewish response to special needs.
Away from work, Andi enjoys backpacking, canoeing, cooking, reading, and demonstrating endless hope as she cheers on her beloved Cleveland Browns. She lives in Walnut Creek, CA with her spouse and two children.
Steve Sulmeyer, J.D., Ph.D.
Stephen H. Sulmeyer is a lawyer, psychologist, mediator, and collaborative law practitioner. His psychotherapy practice is based in Marin County, California. He offers alternative dispute resolution services in Marin County, San Francisco, Sonoma County, the East Bay, and throughout the Greater Bay Area. Steve’s unique blend of law and psychology allows him to identify and work effectively with, rather than shy away from, the underlying psychological obstacles that are often the real barriers to the resolution of conflicts. Steve’s conflict resolution work covers a wide range of subject areas including family and divorce, business/commercial, intellectual property, employment, probate, elder, trusts, estate planning, discrimination, partnerships, insurance, and community matters. He is also a trainer in psychotherapy, mediation, and collaborative divorce.
Rochael Soper Adranly
Rochael Soper Adranly is General Counsel + Legal Design Lead for the international design firm, IDEO. A JD/LLM graduate of Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina, Rochael has been representing creative and innovative individuals as well as pursuing her own creative projects for over 15 years. She has also been a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, and an adjunct professor at UC Hastings College of the Law. She was featured in Modern Counsel magazine for her role as a creative counselor, walking the line between the rules based world of law and the non-rules based culture of innovation.
In her role as Legal Design Lead, Rochael hired IDEO’s first legal design intern whose role was to make IDEO legal processes and assets fit the human-centered culture of the firm. Additionally, Rochael works closely with her IDEO colleagues to bring a design thinking offering to the legal industry, building on IDEO’s work with organizational design throughout the fields of healthcare, government and education. She is currently co-leading IDEO’s legal design and innovation practice bringing IDEO’s design methodologies to some of the most pressing challenges of the legal industry.
Rochael finds inspiration through writing, pleasure from amazing food, and beauty in the flat-faced furry friends (Persian cats, pugs, owls and especially the French bulldogs).