Amy Laurendeau on the Southern California Legal Markets and Her Journey as a Product Liability Trial Lawyer

UCI Law Dean Austen Parrish interviews Amy Laurendeau, Managing Partner of O’Melveny & Myers LLP’s Newport Beach office, about the historical roots of the legal markets in Orange County and Los Angeles, being a trial lawyer in product liability litigation, her robust pro bono practice, and inspiring advice for law students. 

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  • Austen Parrish

    UCI Law Dean and Chancellor’s Professor of Law
    Expertise: Transnational Law and Litigation, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Federal Courts

    Austen Parrish assumed the role of Dean and Chancellor's Professor of Law of the University of California, Irvine School of Law in August 2022, becoming its third dean. He previously served as the Dean and James H. Rudy Professor of Law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. In 2018 and again in 2021, he was named a Wells Scholars Professor for his work with Indiana University’s prestigious Wells Scholars program. In 2019, he was bestowed with IU’s Bicentennial Medal and, in 2022, he was awarded the Provost’s Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Office of the Provost, recognizing outstanding and transformative contributions to Indiana University Bloomington. He serves on the board of directors of AccessLex Institute and is an elected member of the American Law Institute. Prior to academia, Parrish practiced law at O'Melveny & Myers LLP in Los Angeles. He earned his law degree from Columbia University.

  • Amy Laurendeau

    Managing Partner at O’Melveny & Myers | Newport Beach

    Amy is a Managing Partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP (has been with the firm for 25 years) focusing on consumer class actions, product liability & mass torts, consumer and retail products, life sciences and litigation. She demonstrates a strong willingness to lead her community as she is head of the Newport Beach Office and serves as the Firmwide Talent Development Partner and on the Partner Compensation Committee. Previously, Amy served as board member for the Orange County Constitutional Rights Foundation as well as in the Judiciary Committee for the Orange County Bar Association. She specializes in defending class and mass tort actions but also takes time to volunteer for the public good for matters such as political asylum and civil rights. Her most recent accomplishments include several recommendations from the Legal 500 U.S. for one of the top women lawyers as well as the top 500 lawyers specializing in product liability, mass tort and class action. She was also among a team of counsel members who led pharmaceutical defendant Johnson & Johnson to win a high-stakes trial worth $50 billion, resulting in the decision that pharmaceutical companies are not liable for the opioid crisis in California.

Podcast Transcript

Austen Parrish: [00:00:04] Welcome to UCI Law Talks from the University of California, Irvine School of Law. For all our latest news, follow UCI Law on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. [00:00:15][10.5]

Austen Parrish: [00:00:22] Good morning. Thank you for joining us. My name is Austen Parrish. I'm the dean and a chancellor's professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. This is UCI Law Talks, the podcast where you learn more about the amazing and eager community that is UCI Law. But you also hear from leaders and lawyers of Orange County and obtained a glimpse into why we have such an inspiring legal profession here in Southern California. Today, we're interviewing Amy Laurendeau, who is a managing partner of the Newport Beach, Orange County office of O'Melveny Myers and a member of the firm's executive committee. Nobody is a global law firm founded in Los Angeles that is one of the oldest and best known law firms in California. The Newport Beach office opened more than four decades ago in 1979. We're fortunate that Amy is joining us here today. Amy, so nice to see you. Thank you for making time this morning and welcome to UCI Law Talks. [00:01:08][45.8]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:01:09] Thanks, Austen. Thanks for having me and delighted to be joining you. [00:01:12][2.5]

Austen Parrish: [00:01:13] Yeah. So Amy, I mentioned this in the intro. You're the managing partner of the Newport Beach office of O'Melveny Myers, and you've been with the firm for almost 25 years. You know, many of our listeners are new law students or aspiring law students or people who just started their legal careers. Can you introduce us to the firm? And and what does a managing partner do? [00:01:30][17.8]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:01:31] As you noted, Austin, O'Melveny is it's a global law firm. It was founded in Los Angeles. It actually was founded in 1885 by a 26 year old and a 32 year old, Henry O'Melveny and Jackson Graves. And at the time the firm was formed in Los Angeles, and its stated purpose was to practice law in the city of Los Angeles. And at the time, L.A. was undergoing a major transformation. It was moving from essentially a dusty cattle ranch to a bustling metropolis. And what's now the oldest law firm in the city of Los Angeles, the firm actually would undergo nine named changes between the time it was founded in 1939, when it became O'Melveny and Myers. But it always contained the name O'Melveny. That was one thing that was consistent. And today, this former two man practice is now a global international firm with 800 lawyers and 18 offices in the world's largest financial and political centers. As managing partner of the Newport Beach office. My responsibilities include overseeing all of the operations of the Newport Beach office, which includes approximately 90 lawyers and professional staff here in Newport Beach and Fashion Island. I actually became managing partner of the firm in March of 2020, so I think it was less than a week before we decided to shut down the firm for two weeks to flatten the curve. So for the first approximately 18 months of my tenure as managing partner, it was really focused on just managing the legal practice in a new remote virtual environment. One of my major goals and focuses was trying to keep the firm and our people connected and making sure that we continued to business as usual as much as possible, continue to support our clients and move our cases forward in the best way possible. So that was unchartered territory. But there were a lot of new managing partners around the firm who stepped in at the same time. And we worked together, along with our Chief operating officer, George Demos, who coincidentally is based in Newport Beach as well, to figure out how to navigate uncharted territory. And then on a day to day basis, I'm responsible for things like overseeing our employment and hiring our. Business development efforts in this office. Just two coordinating associate and staff reviews the various things that we need to do to to keep running operationally day to day. [00:04:06][154.9]

Austen Parrish: [00:04:07] Managing partner I think is busy enough without having COVID thrown on on top of that. But I can't imagine those first couple of weeks that must have been sort of a cruel joke of congratulations. And there's the pandemic. [00:04:17][10.2]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:04:18] I think we never really realized, okay, this is going to go on for 18 months or however long it was. We just kept thinking, okay, it's going to extend a little bit and we'll be back and up and running. And then at some point it felt like we were never going to be back. We're happy that things are closer to what they were pre-COVID than we thought they might ever be. [00:04:37][18.5]

Austen Parrish: [00:04:38] Yeah, we're feeling the same thing in the law school that it we feel we feel like we're very much sort of back to a little bit of that where we were and and that's that's a good feeling to have in getting ready for this podcast interview. I was I was stalking you on Google looking at your resume like you've done some amazing things. You've been recognized as one of the nation's top women lawyers, one of the best lawyers in the United States specializing in product liability, mass torts and class actions. Can you describe a little bit about your practice when you're when you're not managing and doing all that other stuff? What's your legal practice like? [00:05:07][29.3]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:05:07] Well, thank you. That's very kind of you to say. I have a broad based litigation practice. First and foremost, I consider myself a trial lawyer, and I've tried all kinds of different cases, but I do specialize in product liability, representing largely pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers and product liability cases, oftentimes coordinated proceedings or multidistrict litigation proceedings involving thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of people who say, I've taken your drug or I've used your medical device, and it's caused me to experience this injury. And so coordinated proceedings and multidistrict litigation involve all kinds of interesting issues on their own. In addition to litigating the cases on the merits, there are all kinds of issues involving how the inventories are going to be managed and how the cases are going to move forward, because it's rare that anyone goes into that one of those types of cases thinking that they're going to try every single one of those cases. So there needs to be some type of procedure for either selecting threshold issues and resolving threshold issues that will help resolve the inventory as a whole or selecting bellwether cases, test cases to be tried or worked up to provide both sides perhaps a value of the inventory as a whole. Oftentimes, issues need to go up on appeal before things can be better resolved or better manufactured. Those cases are very interesting. I love working on coordinated proceedings and models. I also handle a lot of consumer class action cases and still do a fair amount of general commercial litigation as well. [00:06:38][90.8]

Austen Parrish: [00:06:39] And I think you just gave us a taste of how complicated those cases can be, the models and the complicated class actions. Is there one of those, when you look back in your career that you're sort of most proud of? This may be overstating it, but one that you look back on fondly as sort of a great win or something that shaped you in your career. [00:06:54][14.8]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:06:54] As I said, I love trying cases, and so my most memorable experiences are always the trials, and it's always you're always part of a team working together to accomplish some result for our client. The most memorable experience I've had recently is definitely the Orange County opioid trial. We represent Johnson and Johnson and its pharmaceutical arm Janssen Pharmaceuticals in the opioid litigation. In the thousands of cases around the country where state attorney generals and municipalities have alleged that pharmaceutical manufacturers are responsible for the harms that the municipalities have experienced from the nation's opioid crisis. The litigation is so complex and sprawling, but we had a trial in Orange County in April of 2021, and that was special for a number of reasons. It was unique because it was a remote trial conducted over Zoom, and it was right as we were coming out of the pandemic and really still in the pandemic in April of 2021, the vaccine was just becoming available. And it wasn't at a point where Judge Peter Wilson in Orange County complex courts who presided over the case, felt that an in-person trial, particularly with all the number of lawyers and witnesses involved, was prudent and with the travel that would be required of all of our witnesses. So it was conducted fully over Zoom. And after more than a year of lockdown from the pandemic, first of all, it was wonderful to be back in the courtroom, although virtual. And it was just such a fascinating, interesting, fun case to try. It started in April 2021 and went through July of 2021. We had lawyers at O'Melveny from throughout the firm, although we were all based in our Newport Beach office in a virtual courtroom that we had created some of the best lawyers in the country, plaintiffs lawyers for Motley Rice, which is a very well-known successful plaintiffs firm, and our co-defendants represented by Kirkland and Ellis Morgan Lewis and Houston Hennigan. So it was just a really first rate lawyering with a wonderful judge. And just a really great interesting experience. The other fun thing about it is the trial was over Zoom so anyone could watch it without having to travel to the courtroom and sit in the courtroom. So my mom in Ohio would watch the trial and give us her commentary every night. And my young daughters would watch it as well. And I'd come home and they'd ask me questions about the trial and be excited about it. So that was really fun. And then at the end of the trial, the complete defense win obviously made the experience all the more special. [00:09:23][148.5]

Austen Parrish: [00:09:24] It sounds like an amazing experience in addition to sort of litigating some of these really big pharmaceutical and other cases. I know you've also been involved in a large number of pro bono matters, including political asylum and civil rights cases. Can you describe some of the work you do there on the public interest or pro bono side? [00:09:39][15.8]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:09:40] Yeah, absolutely. And first I'll say it, O'Melveny. We strongly encourage all of our lawyers to do pro bono work each year, and our partners are counsel and our associates all have to fill out as part of the annual review process to self-report, to talk about what they've done over the year. And everyone is asked whether they've met their pro-bono goal, and if not, why not? So we do take that commitment very seriously. And in recent years I've worked on and supervised a number of really impactful pro-bono matters. In fact, two of my first trials as a junior associate were pro-bono trials. So I always encourage young lawyers to get involved in pro-bono because in addition to being able to give back to the community and help someone who will really appreciate and you can make a meaningful difference to their life by helping them, you will also get perhaps some early experiences that you might not get on paid client matters depending on the types of things that you work on. So it's really a win win situation. One of the most interesting, I think, impactful cases I worked on is several years ago, one of our associates and I represented an inmate at Cal State Prison in litigation challenging the system's practice of instituting race based lockdowns. And our client was a model inmate. He didn't have any infractions in prison, and he was serving a life sentence. And he really took pride in and was fulfilled by his job in the prison library. And he was frustrated that he would regularly be placed on lockdown and wouldn't be able to go to his job or wouldn't be able to have visits with his wife because he was black. And when other black inmates would be involved in an incident, all black inmates would be placed on lockdown, which sounds crazy, but the prisons explanation was that that gangs are very prevalent in the prison system, and gangs are often formed along racial lines, and that they were doing it for safety reasons. But it was a really, you know, frustrating and just seemingly very wrong way of going about that. So we were very pleased to resolve that case in a manner that resulted in termination of that practice and both a good result for our client personally, but also more broadly in terms of this outdated practice that really needed to be changed. And then in recent years, as you noted, I have worked on a number of asylum cases which obviously are very meaningful and personally meaningful and rewarding to me, but obviously to our clients. It's life changing in terms of whether, you know, whether they're going to get deported or whether we can be an asylum for them. [00:12:07][146.6]

Austen Parrish: [00:12:07] My wife has done a fair number of asylum cases over the years and actually the very first matter I ever worked on in law school was an asylum case with Davis Polk Attorneys and Lawyers Committee for Human Rights in New York. And what a fabulous experience for a law student to have. You know, I'm particularly struck with what you said at the very top about the very start of your answer there about sort of how much the firm values that and what a leg up it gives to young attorneys and training and getting opportunities they might not otherwise get. That's so much the kind of the heart of UCI is this idea that we can train future lawyers best by having them learn through doing. And if they're learning through doing, they might as well do it in a way that supports the low income and the poor and others in the community. And. I often talk to students and I don't know if you agree with this. I almost find it more important for the person who's going into corporate law or transactional work because the person is going into pro bono and public interest work. It makes sense they're going to be doing it anyway. But there's few few places where you can get great experiences very early on, where you can build your network, learn and connect with others. Other leaders in the community so readily as doing pro ball matters early on in your career as a law student. But it sounds like you agree with that fully. [00:13:15][67.7]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:13:16] Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I think we're all very privileged as lawyers. We owe it to the community to give back. But I find and I think others tell me they find that you actually get so much in return as well in terms of your personal fulfillment, your professional growth, the lifelong relationships that you formed through community service and pro-bono and public outreach type efforts. [00:13:40][23.3]

Austen Parrish: [00:13:40] Yeah, well, that makes sense. We're talking about community service and giving back. You're doing it not just only in pro bono cases. You've also done it by serving as a leader in the community. I saw you served as a board member for the Orange County Constitutional Rights Foundation, for the Judiciary Committee, for the Orange County Bar Association. You served as the former president for the federal bar. I probably missing a few. But which rules have you found most meaningful in? And maybe you could talk a little bit about why they were so meaningful. [00:14:05][24.3]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:14:06] I find all bar related activities and community service meaningful for different reasons. The Constitutional Rights Foundation is a tremendous organization focused on hosting the mock trial program that is very well known for high school students, which, if folks have not participated in that, I strongly encourage them to do so. It's just so impressive to see these high school students and how poised and how articulate and how thoughtful they are. And in a mock trial setting, lawyers have the opportunity to go judge that or provide feedback throughout the competition. Constitutional Rights Foundation, also peer to peer court program for teens who have found themselves in trouble. And pure court allows other teens and others to serve on a jury to help come up with an appropriate punishment that avoids some of the more serious punishments that might come through the regular court system. So it's a really wonderful community based organization. Some of the bar organizations that I've been involved in, I've found personally very meaningful and rewarding, in large part because of the relationships that I've been able to develop and form with other lawyers in the community, with judges, with community leaders. Orange County is it's a very diverse and bustling legal community, but it is small enough that it allows you to actually get to know and connect with people pretty early on. So I would always, as a junior associate, attend things like the Federal Bar Association events and the Association of Business Trial Lawyer events and Orange County Bar Association events and would show up and not really know anyone. And after going for a few years now, I never have time to talk to everyone who I want to see because you see the same familiar faces all the time have made friendships and relationships and followed people throughout their careers and have really just found that personally meaningful and rewarding. And then when you find yourself on a case or on the other side of a case with some of these lawyers or in a judge's courtroom who you know from these settings, I think a lot of times it leads to more civility in the practice and also ultimately leads to, I think, easier dealings and ultimately better results for our clients as well. [00:16:22][136.8]

Austen Parrish: [00:16:23] Yeah, And I think that networking is so important and as you say, Orange County. So it's big, but it's not that big. And so you can get to know people quickly. You know, I'm struck with what you said with the Constitutional Rights Foundation. I had the privilege of working with them for about seven years when I was a young attorney. And I always remember this one day where I had a hearing and I was in court and, you know, you'd see a number of lawyers go up and appear. And then that evening I was watching the 10th graders. It was sad to see this, but the 10th graders knew the evidentiary rules and were better poised than most of the lawyers were in federal court, which is a little disappointing, although incredibly impressive on how how amazing these high school students can do and these in the CRC mock trial program. [00:17:03][39.7]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:17:04] It is amazing. And one of the other things I should mention that we do at O'Melveny that others could consider doing is we coach a mock trial team and some of these schools, there's huge disparity in terms of the resources that these schools have and some of these schools have a lot of resources and have multiple parents who are accomplished trial lawyers who are coaching and and helping the teams prepare. And then some of the schools just don't have any of those resources and don't even really have the ability to pay whatever the mock trial fee is for their team to enter for the year. And don't don't really have anyone with knowledge or experience to coach them. So we sponsor one of those less privileged schools each year, pay their entry fees, and then provide attorneys to serve as coaches and have found that to be such a meaningful experience for our attorneys. And also just really working with those students who are wonderful and tremendously appreciative. [00:17:57][52.9]

Austen Parrish: [00:17:59] Yeah, I don't know if you've had this experience. It's happened to me a long time ago, but I, I ran into somebody that I coached when they were 10th grade and then this was now over a decade ago. But they reached out to me and they were a partner at the L.A. Part Pipers. [00:18:10][11.5]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:18:12] That's amazing. I love I love hearing those stories. [00:18:14][2.7]

Austen Parrish: [00:18:15] Yeah, well, I do. And I don't I like those stories. But then I realize I'm getting old. And so. [00:18:20][4.7]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:18:20] Yeah. You're getting old. Whether you hear those stories, though, regardless. We all are. [00:18:25][4.9]

Austen Parrish: [00:18:26] That's right. That's right. You know, maybe one more question about your bio. You know, and talking about O'Melveny. You know, Warren Christopher was a major figure at O'Melveny. You were awarded in 2019 the Warren Christopher Values Award. I know the significance of that. But perhaps you could talk to us a little bit about our listeners. Who was Warren Christopher and and what was the significance of that recognition to you? [00:18:47][21.2]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:18:48] So Warren Christopher was an O'Melveny senior partner until he passed away in 2011. He was a very accomplished and well-known lawyer, public servant and diplomat. Most notably served as Bill Clinton's secretary of state. He was affectionately called by those who knew him well. Chris, He was a driving force in O'Melveny diversity, pro bono community service efforts and remains a source of inspiration to those endeavors and to all of us here today. And he led a task force within O'Melveny that came up with our value statement and essentially came up with the three core values of excellence, leadership and citizenship. And so each year we select two partners, two associates or counsel and two staff members to be honored with the Warren Christopher Values Award as chosen by their peers to exemplify the firm's values. And so each year, the firm receives lots of nominations from the entire firm for various people who have exemplified those values throughout the year. So I obviously was very honored and humbled to receive that award in 2019. One other thing that I should mention about Chris, which I think is perhaps less known, one of the things that I personally really loved about him was he took the time everyone obviously at the firm knew him, and at an 800 lawyer firm, it was not possible, I think, for for nearly any of us to know everyone. But Chris always took the time to get to know who everyone was. If he was going to a council retreat, he would look at and study and learn about all the counsel who were going to be there. And when I became a partner at my first partner off site, I bumped into him and he immediately says, Oh, hi, Amy, and starts asking me about things that I'm working on and what I'm doing, which obviously, you know, was very touching and that he took the time to get to know me and to get to know all of our colleagues. He was just such a wonderful person. [00:20:40][112.3]

Austen Parrish: [00:20:41] Yeah. Know, I had my own Warren Christopher story, I think. You know, I was with O'Melveny for some time in the mid-to-late nineties. My very first week at the firm. I was out in the central city office where he was at, and I was coming out late at night and somebody walked out in front of the car as I was leaving the garage door or the garage parking lot, I slammed on the brakes and it was Warren Christopher who I narrowly missed and I saw my career flashed before my eyes. I decided that hit him. But I think me, a young, brand new associate, that would not have been a good way to start my start. [00:21:11][29.9]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:21:12] That could be your claim to fame could have. [00:21:14][2.5]

Austen Parrish: [00:21:14] Been well, except for I remember everything you said, which was how warm he was. He met with us, you know, as a small group, as a summer associates. And then for some reason, he either faked it or he seemed to remember me when I came back. And we had a nice little conversation in an elevator. He's just such a such a warm and special person. Hey, part of this podcast is also to introduce our listeners and students to Orange County. I know you've been in Orange County for a long time, but did you grow up here? And if you did, what brought you to Orange County? [00:21:38][24.0]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:21:39] I actually grew up in northwest Ohio and spent my whole life in the Midwest until law school. I graduated from University of Michigan in 1998 and I just was not sure where I wanted to end up. After law school as a summer associate, I summered at a firm in Columbus, Ohio, and had a good experience, but just was not super excited to go back or to live in Columbus. And so as a three thrill, I interviewed again and it was kind of looking at different options. I had a friend from high school who had moved to Orange County and then my best friend from law school, actually, your colleague, Professor Camacho's wife Kathleen, who's a leading lawyer in Orange County and a partner at Stradling, now had summered at Latham in Orange County. And so I had a couple people encouraging me to interview in Orange County, and I did I interviewed O'Melveny in a couple of other firms, and I met Mike Yoder, who is an amazing longtime O'Melveny partner and one of my mentors and closest friends. I met him on campus at Michigan, along with Bob Loewy, who is a lawyer here at the time and a close friend of mine to this day, and just really clicked and connected with them and was drawn to Orange County as this beautiful place that seemed much nicer than Ohio and really just liked the firm, was excited about all the exciting work that everyone was telling me they were doing and kind of ended up at the end of the day saying, okay, I'll give this a try. It'll always be easier later on to move back to Chicago or to the Midwest if I don't like this. But if I don't move to California now, I probably never will. And so here, 25 years later. I met my husband at O'Melveny. And many of my closest friends am not planning to leave Newport Beach anytime soon. [00:23:19][99.9]

Austen Parrish: [00:23:20] Yeah. Once you spent one winter in Newport Beach, it's hard to go back to Michigan or Ohio. [00:23:24][4.1]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:23:25] Really? Is even one summer. [00:23:28][2.8]

Austen Parrish: [00:23:29] Oh, yes. Well, over the over that 25 years, you know, you were talking at the very start about how Los Angeles had become sort of this bustling legal community. How was Orange County changed in my own perspective? Talk about being innovative and bustling now. It seems to have really changed over the last 25 years, but I'd love to get your thoughts. [00:23:47][18.6]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:23:48] I think it definitely has changed. I mean, when I started at the firm, the Newport Beach office, we were working, I would say mostly on representing middle market, Orange County based companies in litigation in Southern California. So my practice has changed significantly, and I'd say the practice of my colleagues has changed significantly to grow to be much, much more national in scope and in focus. But I think the Orange County legal community and the types of matters that we see in Orange County have changed as well. On the corporate side, obviously, we have some very large companies based in Orange County who are doing all kinds of exciting transactions and all kinds of interesting stuff on the corporate side. But on the litigation side, we're seeing some really, I would say, cutting edge patent litigation filed in Orange County. Lots of other really interesting, I would say on the consumer class action side with companies like here and Hyundai based in Orange County, as well as lots of tech based companies. We see lots of interesting litigation filed here as well. So there's a lot more, I would say high stakes litigation based in Orange County. And then I think the practice here and kind of everywhere has become more national in scope. So there's less of a feeling. When I came to O'Melveny, I think the office that you chose to be in was much more significant in terms of the type of work that you would be doing. And now I think just the way more people are working remotely, things are just much more connected everywhere. Wherever you end up, whatever office you're in, whether at O'Melveny or at another firm, I think the type of work you will be doing will not be as as defined by where you sit in your office. [00:25:38][110.0]

Austen Parrish: [00:25:39] Now that that makes sense. And I think we've been seeing those trends for a while. I've been struck by how much Orange County seems to be such a hot and growing legal market in many ways. And I think, you know, one of the things that I find exciting about having law school here is, you know, we're nestled between a great legal market in Los Angeles, a fabulous legal market in San Diego, and then probably one of the hottest and fastest growing markets in the country in Orange County, which is kind of a neat place to be. What do you find most inspiring about the Orange County legal community? [00:26:09][29.9]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:26:10] For me, it's it's again, kind of going back to it's a tremendously diverse and talented legal market. We have some great companies here who are doing amazing things. We have tremendous judges who are very committed to and have all involved in the community. And we have some of the best practitioners in the country here with a diverse range of practices. And what I really like about it is, again, it's not so overwhelming or unmanageable that you feel like you're never going to get to know anyone. You'll never get a leadership position in any type of local bar organization or community service related organization, because I think it is a very welcoming community. And if there's something that even as a young lawyer you're interested in and dedicated to and committed to, it's pretty easy to make a name for yourself as a as a pretty young lawyer and to get leadership opportunities and to make those connections and to really make a difference. Whereas some of my colleagues in L.A., which is a wonderful legal market, the competition is just so much greater because there are so many more people to get appointments to various organizations or to get leadership positions within those organizations. It's just it's much more difficult because there are far more people who are looking for those types of opportunities. [00:27:34][84.1]

Austen Parrish: [00:27:36] Yeah, no, I think I think that makes that makes a lot of sense. I mean, you mentioned there the diversity of the of Orange County. You and your firm have been longtime supporters of the law school. And you, along with Gary and Melanie Singer, created the O'Melveny Diversity Scholarship at UCI Law for first year law students. You describe that scholarship, how it came about and and why O'Melveny chose to create it. [00:27:58][21.8]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:27:59] Sure. So we supported a diversity scholarship for a UCI student, and that was actually funded entirely by partners in the Newport Beach and Los Angeles and some of the other offices as well, who have ties to or otherwise wanted to support the law school, which has obviously been a wonderful addition to the Orange County legal community. And we've all benefited from having such a great first rate law school here in Orange County. One of the things at O'Melveny that we've been focused on is providing diversity scholarships. So we provide the William T Coleman scholarship to one LS and two LS. We provide a few of those throughout the firm to try to increase diversity amongst our ranks. And one of the things that we wanted to focus on is to the extent we have really talented, diverse students here at UCI, as we know we do, we want to encourage them to stay in Orange County to develop relationships with firms like O'Melveny. And I think the more diverse students we get to come to UCI, the more we will be successful in increasing the diversity of the legal profession here in Orange County. So that was one of the reasons we wanted to focus specifically on a scholarship at UCI, and we're very happy to support that and have greatly benefited both by the law school, by the diversity of the wonderful students coming out of the law school. [00:29:23][84.1]

Austen Parrish: [00:29:24] Yeah, well, we're so grateful. It's it's amazing on that front how much Orange County has changed in the last couple of years. We're averaging between 25 and over 30%, first generation college students in the first year law school class. And this year and last year were the last couple of years we've been averaging between 55 and 60% students of color in the entering classes, which is really remarkable compared to where things were, let's say, ten or 20 years ago. And just just the students that are applying to law school and and the different backgrounds they're coming from, which that's wonderful. [00:29:53][29.5]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:29:54] Yeah, that's something that we're constantly looking at increasing the diversity of our teams to reflect the communities we live in are it's something our clients are very focused on. So I think to the extent we have wonderful, diverse candidates coming to us out of law school, that just makes things all the better for everyone. [00:30:14][20.1]

Austen Parrish: [00:30:15] Well, talking about students, you know, we're maybe if you reflect back on your own experience, do you have advice for new students that are just starting law school or or thinking about applying to law firms, things that you would wish you had been told when you went to law school? [00:30:27][12.0]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:30:28] I guess one of the things I didn't realize and that I encourage people to do is just take advantage of all the wonderful resources opportunities that are available to you as a law student, as a summer associate, or an extern or an intern. You have all of these wonderful resources available to you and will form all of these tremendous relationships throughout your career as a law student and as a lawyer. Really get to know the people around you, get to know your professors that you have an opportunity to extern or clerked for a judge, get to know the judge and the other clerks, your co clerks, and maintain those relationships to the extent you can and you're able to, because you will learn so much from those people, you will find it very, I think, comforting to be able to call on those people when you have a question and to continue to rely on the wisdom of your many mentors and colleagues and friends who you meet along the way, and it also will just be personally fulfilling and enriching to form those relationships. As I mentioned, I met my husband at O'Melveny, many of my best friends. I have many close friends, friendships from law school, from clients I've worked with over the years, judges who are former O'Melveny colleagues who've gone on to be judges. And so it's wonderful to have those relationships both to follow the trajectories and the successes of your friends and colleagues draw on their experiences, but also to, you know, many, many times those people will become your boss or your colleague or your client. And so it's nice to to maintain those connections and to really draw on those resources. [00:32:08][99.9]

Austen Parrish: [00:32:09] That resonates with me so well. I just actually gave a talk to law students yesterday about classmates being your future colleagues and how quickly that changes. You know, we don't have a lot more time, so maybe I'll end with one simple question. When you started law school, did you see yourself doing what you were doing now? Had you had you figured it out or was this a bit of a surprise how you became managing partner, one of the one of the nation's premier law firms? [00:32:31][22.3]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:32:32] So I really didn't know what I wanted to do when I was in law school. I remember I cringe now to think about I was interviewing with firms as a tool and being asked what I thought I wanted to do, and me saying, Well, I think I either want to do corporate law or litigation. So realizing now that I had narrowed anything down and I didn't have any lawyers in the family or any close friends who were lawyers, so I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. And when I was interviewing at law firms, I didn't necessarily see myself at a big firm long term or for my entire career because I just wasn't really sure what it entailed. I had heard that it was really demanding and a lot of hard work, and it kind of come into it thinking, okay, this is this is what a lot of people do out of law school to get good experience and to pay off your loans, but wasn't really expecting necessarily that I would love it so much and that I would find a way to make it work for me and that I would continue 25 years in to feel like I'm still learning and growing and having wonderful experiences and the privilege of working with great colleagues and for wonderful clients and loving to come to work every day. So I've just been really fortunate that it's worked out the way it has, but it's certainly not something that I knew from day one. This is what I wanted to do, or even as a young associate knew that I would be doing long term. I received the good advice again from my mentor and friend, Mike Yoder. At one point in my career, I just wasn't sure if I wanted to become a partner and I wasn't sure what I saw myself doing long term. And Mike said, Amy, you don't have to think about what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just think about what you want to do for the next few years. And if you really like what you're doing and if you're happy here and you owe it to yourself to reassess periodically and to ask yourself so you don't just go on autopilot, but think about at some point, if you think about your life in smaller increments, it becomes less overwhelming. [00:34:24][112.2]

Austen Parrish: [00:34:25] And that's such great advice. You know, it's funny when sometimes when you read well, you read the blogs and national papers, you kind of get this impression that, you know, there's not many happy lawyers out there. And there's, you know, there's a steady stream of articles every once in a while that talks about law not being the same as it may have once been. And I have to say, it's so contrary to what I talk with alumni and with lawyers all the time who frankly, really love their jobs. And, you know, there's there's ups and downs. There's there's difficult, challenging days. But overall, I found it's such a rewarding career. So it's inspiring to hear that from you and Amy. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you for making the time. I know you're super busy, so I really appreciate you carving out a little time to be on U.S. law talks. Any final words for our listeners? [00:35:07][41.5]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:35:08] Not that I can think of. Thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure. Lovely seeing you and wish you and all the students the best of luck for a successful school year. [00:35:17][8.8]

Austen Parrish: [00:35:18] Lainey, we really appreciate it. Thank you so much. And thanks to all Melanie, for always being such a strong supporter of our students in law school. I'm sure I'm going to see you at one of those Orange County Bar Association. [00:35:25][7.9]

Amy Laurendeau: [00:35:27] I will see you soon. [00:35:27][0.5]

Austen Parrish: [00:35:28] Take care. Take care. [00:35:29][0.8]

Austen Parrish: [00:35:34] Thank you for listening to UCI Law Talks. For all our latest news. Follow UCI law on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. [00:35:34]