The Presidents Episode

Dean Austen Parrish interviews four powerhouse UCI Law alums who are now presidents of bar associations: Mimi Ahn ’14 (Orange County Korean American Bar Association), Shirley Diaz ’18 (Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia), Cinthia Flores ’14 (Latina Lawyers Association), and Honieh Udenka ’17 (Thurgood Marshall Bar Association) They share some classic UCI Law folklore and discuss their leadership and thriving legal practices, how public service became part of their DNA at UCI Law, and why they wouldn’t trade the UCI Law experience for anything. 

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UCI Law Talks · The Presidents Episode


  • 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.

  • Mimi Ahn '14

    Partner, Kahana Feld
    President of the Orange County Korean American Bar Association

    Mimi Ahn, Esq., is an experienced litigator and trial attorney, with an emphasis in employment law. Ahn has represented numerous clients in various employment law matters including PAGA and class action matters. Ahn has represented clients through every part of the employment dispute process including pre-litigation investigations, DFEH investigations, Department of Industrial Relations hearings, binding arbitrations, and both State and Federal civil litigations. Ahn specializes her practice in representing employers in the food and service industry and is experienced with the unique issues this sector faces. Ahn also has substantial experience in business litigation and general liability matters.

  • Shirley Diaz '18

    Associate (Litigation), Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates
    President of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia

    Shirley Diaz assists clients in navigating inquiries and enforcement actions brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Diaz handles SEC investigations involving a wide range of topics, including those arising under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and those related to accounting issues. She has represented companies in the broadcast media, energy, brand management and packaging industries.

    Diaz also is deeply committed to pro bono work. She has been listed in the DC Bar Pro Bono High Honor Roll every year since her admission to the bar. Her pro bono experience includes assisting immigrants with their asylum applications, impact litigation challenging changes to immigration rules and a year-long secondment at Legal Aid where she represented low-income tenants in landlord-tenant court.

  • Cinthia Flores '14

    Board Member with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board
    President of the Latina Lawyers Association

    In 2020, Cinthia Flores was appointed as a Board Member with the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board by Governor Newsom. Flores formerly served as a Staff Attorney with the Coalition for Humane Immigration (CHIRLA) where she practiced immigration law with a focus on removal defense. Flores also has a background in labor law having represented private and public sector unions. Additionally, Flores serves on the board of the Latina Lead California, an organization dedicated to supporting Latinas in politics.

    Flores earned her Juris Doctorate at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. During law school, Flores served as a Regent on the University of California Board of Regents. She earned her B.A. in Political Science at UCLA, where she served as the first Latina undergraduate student body president. Flores is an alumna of the Front Line Leaders Academy and the New American Leaders Project - electoral campaign leadership development programs focused on training progressive and immigrant communities to run for office. She was born, raised, and resides in Los Angeles, CA.

  • Honieh Udenka '17

    Associate, Brown Rudnick
    President of Thurgood Marshall Bar Association

    Honieh Udenka is an associate in the Firm’s Litigation & Arbitration Practice Group. Honieh represents clients’ interests across the country in complex disputes in a variety of fields, including commercial and business litigation, government and regulatory investigations, white-collar defense, and bankruptcy restructuring matters. Udenka has experience in complex disputes on matters of national significance, ranging from litigation and restructuring matters involving global companies, to counsel, defense, and investigation work for individuals, celebrities, and C-suite executives. Udenka is able to develop strong relationships with clients through a client-centered approach to lawyering and by providing thoughtful analysis, judgment, and solutions to demanding and complex challenges.

    Udenka is committed to expanding access to justice in Orange County through the provision of free legal services to underserved populations. To that end, she incorporates pro bono matters into her practice. Udenka is deeply committed to racial justice and the diversification of the legal profession, and she advances this mission in her role as president of the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association (Orange County Chapter), and her involvement with Brown Rudnick’s Diverse Attorney Working Network.

Podcast Transcript

Intro 0:04
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.

Austen Parrish 0:20
Thank you for joining us. My name is Austen Parrish. I'm the dean and chancellors, professor at the University of California Irvine, School of Law. This is UCI Law Talks, the podcast where you learn more about the amazing anteater community, that is UCI Law, but also hear from inspiring leaders and lawyers in the legal profession. Today, we're doing something special, very fortunate to be joined by four of our star alums who are each serving this year as president of a bar association, going alphabetically by last name, first is Mimi Ahn, a 2014 graduate of law school, who's a Partner of Kahana Field and the president of the Orange County Korean American Bar Association. Second, Shirley Diaz, a 2018 graduate and associate in the litigation department ofSkadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, and the President of the Hispanic Bar Association of Washington DC. Third is Cinthia Flores, a 2014 graduate, a member of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, and the President of the Latino Lawyers Bar Association. And finally, we're joined by Honieh Odenka, a 2017, graduate and associate with Brown Rudnick in their litigation arbitration practice group, and the President of the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association of Orange County. Mimi, Shirley. Cinthia. Hi, so nice to see you. Thanks for making the time. And welcome to this special president's episode of UCI Law Talks. What a powerhouse. It's great to see all four of you and and so great to have you connected with the law school. Well, this is the first time we've interviewed four alums at the same time. And let me start off by saying, congratulations, we are so proud of all that you've accomplished, reflected in these presidencies. And I'd like to begin by setting the stage asking you a little about what it means to be the president, the organizations that you're part of and that you represent. Honieh, then maybe I could start with you. But what is the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association? And what is your role as precedent?

Honieh Odenka 1 2:10
Sure, so the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association is a local bar that its stated mission is to support black legal professionals in Orange County. And to that end, our mission is to help law students that really at every point of entry into the profession, from undergrad students, law students, and you know, people entering the profession, people already in the profession, we provide a series of scholarships that go to students, either in Bar Prep, or, you know, just law students who are first year or second year is, and we also provide mentorship opportunities, a lot of community events to make sure that people in the community feel supported. We also engage with the community outside of the legal profession, larger sort of Orange County community in different ways to make sure that we're giving back and sort of using whatever legal talents or otherwise financial resources that we have to help the larger Orange County community.

Austen Parrish 3:13
What I know many of our students have benefited from that. And I've been to several of those events, which have been absolutely fabulous. Cinthia, maybe I can have you chime in now, what is the Latina lawyers Bar Association? And what does it mean to be president of that organization?

Cinthia Flores 2 3:25
Sure. And again, thank you for having us. So the Latina lawyers Bar Association, is the only nonprofit Bar Association in the country that's focused on meeting the needs of Latinos in the legal profession, an important and critical mission being that Latinos only comprise approximately 2% of all attorneys in the profession. And our mission is essentially to provide support and a home for Latinas. We know that we provide a very unique perspective in the legal profession, and that we also need to rely on one another to ensure that we have success in the profession. And we do so by providing a number of avenues for support. We do provide scholarships for aspiring law students, law students and law graduates. We also do a host of programming efforts that are focused on MC CLE credits. We also host just community events, so mixers, general kind of programming etc. We are primarily based in Los Angeles and Orange County in Southern California, but our impact is statewide. And we do have a national reach, especially when we've pivoted some of our programming to include kind of a hybrid model. We've seen that we have audiences in New York and Texas, and you know, Illinois, basically all across the country. And so it's been a very exciting time for the LPA. We've been around for 26 years, and really excited to see what the future holds for organization.

Austen Parrish 4:55
Well, it's a great organization and the numbers are startling. I was just looking yesterday In California, 36% of the population is Hispanic. And less than 6% of lawyers are Hispanic. And as you say, that's not even looking at Latino lawyers. And so the numbers are stark. And so that support is so critical. Shirley, maybe that's a great tie in to your presidency and the organization that you're part of. Could you talk about your presidency and what your organization does and who they represent?

Shirley Diaz 5:21
Yes, and thank you, again, for having all four of us talk about our presidency, I think our background at UC Irvine really set us up for leadership. And you know, especially among diverse attorneys, which is a big part of my experience, at least at UCI law. So I'm the president of the Hispanic Bar Association of DC. It's almost 50 years old, it's 46 years old this year. And we serve the DMV area, which is DC, Maryland and Virginia, we have close to 500 members, and we make sure to build community among Latino attorneys here in DC. We also do scholarships also do social events, I think it's very similar to a lot of the work that all these peer organizations are doing. And ultimately, it's a way for us to practice, not just in our firms, and not just in our organizations, but to have that network that many of us maybe didn't have, if we don't have any family members that were attorney there if we just really don't have any other connections to any lawyers. So it's really a network for first gen lawyers and just lawyers who want to have that community. And that's where they come to us.

Austen Parrish 6:29
Well that networking is so important. And we've seen that the data is so clear on how that can make a big difference in somebody's career both early on and over the long term. Meaning it was just it seemed like it was just last week that we were getting installed as president on just an absolutely fabulous event. Can you talk about the Orange County Korean American Bar Association and New York terms precedent?

Mimi Ahn 6:48
Yeah, I'm gonna echo everyone else's thanks. This is very cool to be with everyone here and talking about our various organizations. So the Orange County Korean American Bar Association was founded in 2005. I don't know if everyone else's organization had a similar start. But the founders, actually, the Korean newspaper at the time would publish names of people who pass the bar, or they would just go on to see who passed the bar. And if their last name sounded Korean, they would just cold call them and say, Hey, are you interested in creating an organization to support Korean Americans. And so that's really how they got their start. And now we are an organization with close to 300 members. Really, the main focus of our organization is very similar to everyone else in terms of networking, supporting law, students transition into practice, and all of those great things. But one of our main focus as well is to try and get Korean American judges on the bench. And it's been difficult. For some time, we had Judge Richard Lee being the only Korean American judge on the bench for about 18 years until judge Kane joined him this year. So we're really happy about that. But yes, that's really the organization's main purpose. And as President, we're just really trying to continue the efforts that everyone had done in the prior past of making sure we keep up with events, keep our members informed and interested, which is I can think everyone agrees is one of the hardest things we have to do. But really, the main purpose is so that, like she said, we can provide support, maybe not the support we had initially, you know, starting off in our practice, but now like with the roasty, cava, I can say I've made like a great group of friends, as well as a support system. And I want that to continue for everyone else in the future as well, too.

Austen Parrish 8:45
And when you're not a president, if you have a second job, or maybe your main job, maybe I maybe I can start with you, everybody on the podcast practices law and, frankly, and in different practice areas. Can you talk a little bit about where you practice and what your legal practice consists of?

Mimi Ahn 9:00
Yes, thank you. Um, so I work at Kahan and fell. We're nationwide, we I practice in the Irvine office, primarily doing employment law defense side. So I represent employers who are have charges for like discrimination and harassment and things of that nature. I also do compliance work to and I work with different companies to make sure that they're compliant with the with the law, and other litigation areas as well. But really, my main focus is on employment.

Austen Parrish 9:30
Thanks Mimi. Cinthia, can I bring you into the conversation? Where do you practice and what does your practice look like? Sure.

Cinthia Flores 9:36
So I am one of five board members appointed by the governor of California to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board. We are a board that adjudicate claims arising out of a state law, the agricultural Labor Relations Act, which is modeled after the National Labor Relations Act, essentially my job function is it more In line with a quasi judicial officer and a focus on the first stage of appeals, essentially in the administrative law context.

Austen Parrish 10:08
Wow. Well, thanks. Thanks. Hey, can I bring you in and what's your practice area?

Honieh Udenka 10:12
Sure. I'm an attorney at Brown redneck. We're a full service law firm. We have a national and European reach. And I work in the firm's litigation and arbitration group. I represent clients interests, really across the country, in complex disputes, but in high stakes litigation, or what we call like, bet the company cases in the context of commercial litigation, government or regulatory response work, or you know, bankruptcy restructuring matters.

Austen Parrish 10:44
And you're actually as we're doing this podcast, you're calling in from DC, right? I am. Yes. Surely you're also in DC and perhaps you could talk a little bit about what area practice you're in and what firm you're with? Yes,

Shirley Diaz 10:56
so I'm at Skadden, Arps, slate, Meagher, and Flom based in the DC office. I been here since I graduated law school. So I just finished my fifth year, I'm in the litigation group, specifically doing government investigations defense. So whenever a company is being investigated by the government, specifically, the SEC for whether it's accounting, malpractice, fraud, foreign corruption and things like that, I will be on the team helping the company navigate that investigation.

Austen Parrish 11:26
Right. One of the things I've been struck with as Dean is how I come across such talented alums who are doing so many different things, but really at a high level, and so fabulous to see that on the call. You know, one of the things we're proud of is not only your leadership, but how many of our alums are serving on boards of nonprofits or Bar Association's we weren't able to do this for the entire country. But looking just at Southern California, this year, we counted more than 70 alumni who are on boards, either in the in the executive leadership role or on the board of a nonprofit. And considering we've only We're celebrating our 15th year or 11th year of celebrations for you reunions, that's just absolutely extraordinary. And so maybe I just asked a broad question, why is it important to get involved with bar associations? If you're giving advice to young attorneys or law students who are just starting out? Why should they join the Bar Association's and? And surely we were just with you, maybe I could go back to you. Why should students or why should new lawyers get involved in bar associations are the starting out?

Shirley Diaz 12:25
I think there's lots of reasons but I'll stick to the lens of being in private practice. Because that's what I know. And, you know, aside from all the social benefits of meeting people, and all of that, business development is really important to start early on. Because if you are coming into a law firm, and let's say you'll be eligible for a promotion, whether to counsel or to partner, or depending on the structure of the firm, whether that's in seven years, 10 years, 15 years time, you need to start developing the trust of potential clients, as soon as possible, of course, you're not going to get new business as a first year out of law school, you might, you probably won't get it as a fifth year, I like it, that's something that takes time to develop. So by joining these organizations, you're starting to connect with peers and more senior people who will then either go in house or go, you know, somewhere that they might think of you, you know, 10 years down the road. And if you wait to do that business development, when time for you to be up for promotion, and you haven't done that work, it's just going to be that much more difficult. So of all the reasons, that's one that I'll pitch to those who are interested in going into private practice. That is a great way to start on your business development early on.

Austen Parrish 13:37
Surely that's great advice. Maybe Can I bring you in the conversation? Why do you think it's important that new lawyers or students should get involved with the Bar Association's I

Mimi Ahn 13:46
echo shoulders comments with respect to business development, it's great to start early, because then by the time you might be ready to get clients of your own. You've known a lot of these folks for, you know, 567 plus years, it makes it really easy to transition into that role. Additionally, I think it's great because you are connecting yourselves with folks that are going through similar experiences as yourself, right. So if you're meeting, even attorneys that are that are older than you that may be able to mentor you through the life stage that you're at, that is something you may be able to find through a Bar Association versus, you know, within your own, your own firm, which might be smaller or limited in terms of people who might look or have similar backgrounds to yourselves. I also wanted to mention, you know, personally for myself, but where I'm at now kind of felt they actually are the ones who encouraged me to get involved in OC kava, every form I had been with fire actually didn't encourage that. And they were just more focused on working and billables. And so, you know, I think it's great to also identify where You are and if your employer is encouraging you to join Bar Association's that likely means that they care about your career and your your future and not just look at you as maybe more of a money maker, machine or billable machine. So I think that's really great. And I can tell you, I was promoted to partner very like last year or so. And I know that the reason why that happened in large part was because the OSI Cava community would oftentimes approach, you know, the leadership at my firm and say, Hey, Miss Gray, when is this going to happen for what are you going to do that and so there really is a cross function of both the firm benefiting yourself benefiting your physician benefiting by joining Bar Association. So I really highly encourage

Austen Parrish 15:50
that makes a lot of sense that we should pause there, there was a lot of finger clicking and applause there when you said you made partner last year, but congratulations on that achievement, and what two great years for you to go off with the partnership and then immediately move into the presidency. So congrats, Cynthia, maybe I could just ask you, so you're not at a firm, right? So and I know how much work it is to the President, and you've had a busy and an amazing year. So why do you do it, if you're not seeking to business development, maybe we could talk about some other reasons or your perspective on joining Bar Association.

Cinthia Flores 16:21
Definitely. And so just want to take a moment to congratulate me me, congratulations. So I will speak from my experience, specifically with LBA. So I was very fortunate to be become aware of LBA very young and my legal trajectory. And so I had a few mentors that had served on the board, or had been associated with the LBA, while I was in law school that I reached out to law school was a very unique period of time. For those of us that have gone through the experience, I think, you know, everybody's experience is different. But one of the common denominators for me was having support and having the kind of mentorship from individuals that had gone through the experience that I felt comfortable with and safe with expressing my experience in law school. And in 2013, I was also awarded a scholarship by the ELO VA, while I was in law school. And so I knew going or, you know, immediately emerging from law school and entering the legal profession that I would be involved with LBA, just because of the kind of functionality that it served for me and my development, primarily the type of support and community that I was introduced to just by virtue of being involved with the organization, and also the monetary support. You know, I was a first gen college grad law school, grad, and now attorney. And so I decided I would give back and that I just kind of gave back at the maximum level. And now I'm serving as president of the organization, which happens with these kinds of things, I guess. But for me, the experience was really based on a desire to give back to the organization, but also ensure that the kind of support whether it's the mentorship, the community, the safe space, and financial, of course, as well, that those kinds of support systems are in existence, and that they're helping folks enter the legal profession. And as a first generation attorney, I speak from my experience, you know, there's a lot of navigating and first time experience that you have to just be able to withstand. And so I think having these kinds of support systems and organizations really ease that transition. And I've been very fortunate to find great community, and also an opportunity to contextualize the issues that are unique to Latinos in the legal profession, we've been able to do some good work, we're actually working with UCLA to put on a convening of first of its kind and National Convening of Latina lawyers. And so providing that kind of support and community is so critical. So I'm really grateful to have had that experience. And now the honor of serving the organization.

Austen Parrish 19:15
That makes a lot of sense. Two things strike me One is I think you're downplaying your talents, it takes a lot of hard work, and you have to be inspiring to move up to presidency, although on the other hand, it does sneak up on you one day, you're volunteering. And next day, you're you're running the organization, maybe I could move to you and change the topic a little bit. You know, at UCI law, you know, we emphasize and it's part of our identity and who we are about the importance of public service and giving back and part of the society that lawyers have a special responsibility to the public. But I think and this talks a little bit to what Shirley and Mimi were talking about, is that we do think doing public service also helps prepare you to be a fabulous lawyer for your future career that it's it's both a way to fulfill your professional responsibility. doesn't do good in the world. But it's also a way that you learn in a particularly meaningful hands on way that if you don't do, it's, you're not as quick when you graduate. And so it's partly why we emphasize the importance of studying the legal profession. And we remain one of the few schools where that's a required course in the first year. And it's partly our commitment to doing good in the community, whether that's through the very large pro bono programs we have, or through our clinical program or through our simulation and externship courses. And I think it's why so many of our students end up being leaders in law school, not just the student organizations, but in the local community. And they maybe I could ask you, what was your experience? How is public service broadly impacted the way you think about your career? And and how were you involved in law school or after law school, in addition to your role in the in the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association?

Honieh Udenka 1 20:48
Sure. So I think that it's a little odd, because I don't have the benefit of never being involved, I think going to school at UCI, it's just the de facto sort of thing that you do. That's just like the default rule. And so I can only speak to the pros of it. I don't know any other life. I think, starting in law school being engaged with pro bono projects, clinics, taking up leadership roles in affiliate bar associations and other sort of like affinity groups on campus, kind of set you up for that life when you leave law school. So when I started practice, it was essentially just part of what I did. And thankfully, I was at a firm like Mimi said, where there's a huge emphasis on your life, that's a whole lawyer outside of just billable work. I think that learning that mindset of the responsibility that we have, as attorneys, the skill set that we have is so powerful. And so using it in your community to aid in that community's progress was something that just kind of learned in law school had taken through into the profession with me, I think, separate and apart from the fact that, you know, public service work is itself just inherently rewarding, engaging with either local organizations in your community, or bar associations, or pro bono projects, or clinics, or whatever it may be. That in and of itself is rewarding. I think that having now represented a wide range of clients from sort of the corporate, you know, businesses to individuals, no client is more grateful than client that you've helped achieve something that's, you know, a vital part of life, whether that's an immigration client, or somebody that you've helped navigate, you know, excessive use of force in prison, or whatever it may be, you know, going to a clinic and filling out a name change form. And so I think it's just inherently something that feels good for one of a better word. But it's helped me as an attorney, because in a number of ways, one, I think, as lawyers, we tend to sit in our offices and face our screens, and you detach a little bit from the community that you exist in, then you can get caught up in legalese and opinions and interacting with opposing counsel and judges, and you kind of separate yourself from the reality of the community that you live in. I think engaging with that community through public service and bar associations, and so forth, has, you know, helped me remain grounded as an attorney in real life. And basically like what's going on directly outside of the four walls of my office, I think the other sort of way in which it's made me a better attorney, is that regardless of whatever client, I'm sitting in front of having the situational awareness of everything that's going on around you, whether you're sitting in front of you know, a fortune 500 company, and individual or whatever it may be, I think brings an edge to what you're doing, because you can give them real practical advice about what's going on. And so that's my sort of two cents.

Austen Parrish 23:49
Well, I think that's an insightful two cents. And, you know, a couple of things just resonated with me that that point that you and me made about, you know, not all firms are the same I, that's hard to convey to students, right, that when you look at firms, they look fairly similar on paper, but each one has its own culture and its own commitment, and getting a sense about whether it's a good fit, and it's going to allow you to do what you want to do. And that's true for government agencies and nonprofits too. And then I really liked this idea of grounding in the idea that, you know, not only are you making difference to others, but you're also sort of making your life have meaning is sort of the holistic approach. You wanted to add on maybe, yeah,

Honieh Udenka 24:25
just to that point, I think, you know, if you're conflicted or confused about whether or not a firm has a true commitment to what they say they do, I would just look at the bios of the attorneys at the firm. And if they're engaged with the community, it'll be obvious like, you'll see that they have leadership roles and their members have certain things. And if it's a firm where that's not a priority, you will notice that no one's doing anything apart from their actual legal practice.

Austen Parrish 24:49
Fantastic advice, Cinthia, maybe I could get you in on this. You are deeply involved. How do you view as public service as your role as a lawyer as your own sort of personal career path and sort of how I would might have grounded you. Maybe I could ask you the same question that I have tonight.

Cinthia Flores 25:03
Yes. So I feel similarly, going to UCI law at the time that I went to UCI Lau was part of the third class, it felt like from the beginning of my legal career training, there was kind of a dual role that I serve or to, you know, or that I would serve, which is, you know, lawyer, but also public interest servant, and even just deciding to go to law school during such a critical time and its foundation. I know, Mimi and I are part of the third class, I think there was an understanding, at least I'll speak for myself, I felt very much inclined to help build something at UC I law. And it almost was part of the equation where, you know, I felt like, Okay, well, this is a new law school, and I'm going to be a law student. But I'm also going to be part of the foundation of a law school. And so that meant being involved in a number of organizations, I had the opportunity to serve as student region while I was at the law school, and then bringing kind of a perspective of being a person that was invested not just in the success of us as a law school. But also as part of the greater Orange County community, I felt like that was something that was instilled in us from the very beginning. And so that definitely translated to having a very clear commitment to public interest in public service upon my graduation. I think at its very core, the way that I think of lawyers, is public servants. You know, we serve a very unique and important function in society, as stewards of the law on ensuring that, you know, we are there to support folks in their pursuit for justice, my path in the legal my legal career has been primarily based in public interest in public service type work. Yeah, I've worked at nonprofits, I currently work at a government agency, you know, from that lens. In that perspective, I do feel that there is a very unique role that lawyers serve in society. And that is very intertwined with the service of the public. Additionally, I also do a number of other things that are also publicly facing and focus. And so I will credit, I think that attending UCI law really made that clear to me that this was, you know, a tool in my toolkit, this being illegal education would be a tool in my toolkit for positive impact and change. That's something that was at the core of my legal training and education. And I'm so grateful for that experience.

Austen Parrish 27:57
It's part of why I'm proud to be dean here. There's lots of schools that emphasize public service and public interest and pro bono work. But it's not really at the same scale or scope that we do here at UCI. And I think it's special. And I do think it makes you a better attorney. But I also think it's important to have that connection with the community more broadly. Maybe, maybe I can bring you Yeah, so I just

Mimi Ahn 28:19
wanted to add on. I think we probably all of us, because we come from UCI, I just love talking about public service and giving back. And as someone in private practice, I want to say I really appreciate it doing so much pro bono work in law school, because the number one thing that it did was it taught me how like when I say how good it feels. So even when I'm tired, right, I had a long billable week. And OC cava, we actually do pro bono clinics, and we used to do it monthly. We're doing it every other month right now. It's after work. It's at nighttime on a Thursday. It's in Garden Grove. It's like an hour drive. But every time I do it, I feel great, right? I've worked with PLC just recently and we got to asylum applications, Afghani asylum seekers, granted and they had a party just this past Sunday. I was tired to Sunday I had all these social functions, but I stopped by and when I saw them, just beaming from ear to ear, right? Because when I was helping them, they're in crisis mode. They're upset they've left family behind. One of the clients had her two young daughters that she had to leave and who was just like one year older than I was, so I felt very empathetic to her but when I saw her, and she was just over the moon, it made it so worth it. So I really want folks who are hearing this podcast who are thinking about, well, I don't really know how to do anything. I can't help. Listen, this is as much for you as it is for everyone else is going to be that foundation that rock that reminds you, this is why I went to law school. This is how good it feels. And this is how great it is. So I just wanted to quickly mention that to know,

Austen Parrish 30:08
I think that's so well said. And my sense is that at least from colleagues or friends of mine, you're always trying to get this balance between professional reward and there's ups and downs, you'll have a good day, you'll have a not so good day. And you're right, doing public service and pro bono and engaging with the community is a way to help with that broader professional identity and making life rewarding. Surely I want to get you in the conversation. And we've started talking about UCI law, which is my favorite topic, the law school. And we're all you know, everybody on the podcast this today, our graduates, maybe I can ask you what is your fondest memory of UCI law school when you're here and sometimes people don't think of law school and fond memories together, they they may think of the first year civil procedure class and the first cold call or whatnot, but but is there a particular professor or particular experience that left its mark, and surely, maybe, maybe I can go to you. There

Shirley Diaz 30:59
are a lot of fond memories at UCI, I mean, it is law school. So there, you know, studying for finals. And all that can seem daunting, but I found it enjoyable. I really enjoyed having my study group and making outlines all of that, but I'll be more specific about well, so there's there's a few that I enjoyed this one is going to be funny to the people from my class year, but there was an event for the three L's when I was I was a one Oh, and there was an event for the three L's where they had got them pizza. And it was sort of like to meet us in the courtyard. And this is like a farewell event for the thrills. Anya remembers this, she would have been a tool at the time. pizza gate as a name for this. And it just so happened that the way the class schedules worked out, all the one hour classes were done before the upper level classes were done. So like the one L's got done at 12pm, let's say and then the two L's in three hours were done at like 1215. So in that 15 minute period difference the one L's ate all the pizza. So now the pizza is completely gone. There is no pizza for the three L's. And so the three L's come out and they're like really excited for their like farewell thing in the courtyard. And like I said, there is no longer any pizza lot. And the one offs are gone to like we grabbed our slices of pizza, we ate them, and then we you know, we went off to do whatever we were going to do. And we got so many emails about this. And it was just there was so much chatter about this for three

Honieh Udenka 32:27
L's were so offended. It was like a personal affront. I was a tool at the time. And so we were just observing.

Austen Parrish 32:36
This is hilarious. Just keep the gate pizza gate. That's hilarious. This is somewhat similar. Fortunately, we didn't have this, this controversy. But I a couple of weeks ago, I did doughnuts in the courtyard with the dean. And we had I don't know 300 doughnuts from Randy's which were fabulous. And most classes were out so people were getting doughnuts. But there was one class in the main the large room and 1111. And apparently the professor was standing in front of the mirrors blocking students from looking at the doughnuts because they've been distracted from class. And apparently there was a there was some upsetness that there wasn't as many I think it was Boston creams left by the time that class got out. So anyway, I didn't need to cut you off. That's a great I'm gonna have to dig into pizza gate I I've also heard cake in the courtyard is another standard that only UCI law students know about. It seems like food in the courtyard kind of go hand in glove. 

Shirley Diaz 33:29
yeah, so maybe get the class schedule and don't release the food until all the classes are out. Otherwise, feelings get heard.

Austen Parrish 33:36
That makes a lot of sense. Do others of you, and maybe I'll bring in others. The others have fond memories or specific things, either professors or experiences or events that particularly left their mark on them as they look back.

Mimi Ahn 33:47
I can go and I think it's great was that then the class of 2014 knows that the real or it would have been 16 Basic.

Mimi Ahn 33:56
oh my god, god, man, you know, that's not our forte. So first, I wanted to mention, yes, just going back to the Bar Association, we attract law students with food. And I don't know, I think it's like with all of our associations for the law students that are listening. We want to attract you to go to our events, because when you come to our events, it makes it cool. So if you're ever like, Oh, I'm scared to go. I don't know if I'm, you know, I'm gonna be able to talk to people. That is not the case. We are dying to talk to you. We want to get to know you. So please come work. Every time we have food. It's to attract you guys. So didn't get mentioned we were in the inaugural class. We were the final three class that came in making a full class of law students we had, I want to say we had like 92 folks in our class around that around that number. We had fantastic professors and I feel bad just only naming a few. But you know, like Bob and Kerry both, like instrumental in my development. Professor white talk, you know, taught me civil procedure. And it's boring if you don't practice. But he made it fun because he was so passionate about it. But one of my fondest memories is so you know, law schools are notorious for being very competitive. I've heard of folks like, doing all sorts of things to try and get other students to, you know, fail because everyone's on a curve and, and all that I remember, we had a final, and one of the students overslept. And we're a small class, right? So we know who the student is. And we immediately call her, because she's not there. And she's like, Oh, my gosh, I overslept. I'm on my way, and we all collectively as a class that we aren't starting to spinal until she gets here. And that is one of my favorite stories. And that really is one of the reasons why I'm so glad I went to UCI law school because we really had that mindset. We were so supportive of each other, and there was no way we were going to start this test without her. So that's a that's a quite short one. But

Austen Parrish 35:59
I think it speaks volumes, you know, we're now up to about 150 to 160 students in each class. So we've grown a little bit. But I think that same sort of that heart, that core that that sort of idea of collegiality for just brought collegiality, but the idea that we're friends, and that we want to support each other and got each other's back, I think that's still I still think that still exists here. And I think that's special. Mimi and Cynthia, you both mentioned, the inaugural classes, you're both members of the Class of 2014. And we sort of refer to those first three classes as the inaugural when I first heard it, I it took me a while to figure out what people were talking about. But there's something special about being in the first three years and simply maybe I can go to you. And maybe you could talk a little bit about why it was special. And I think maybe story just really capture that well. But is there something special about being an inaugural being in first three classes?

Cinthia Flores 36:51
Yeah. And it kind of ties into the previous question. I always tell folks that my experience at UCI Law was a tremendously positive experience. And it was primarily, I think, part of being part of a group that was invested in one another success, it was very clear to us that we were there to ensure that the law school did well. And for the law school to do well, we had to do well as a collective, and that we were all invested in one another's well being and my favorite part of being a UCI law grad is the people, professors, staff, definitely classmates, you know, they're still classmates, like a few of us that still get together, like every other month, and just hang out and relax. And we're all still very much invested in one another success and just well being. And so I think that's what was special to me is that we all especially in the inaugural class, right when our class went in, I think we weren't even accredited yet. So, you know, it was it was a little bit of a risk. But I liked that. Because I felt like, okay, so folks are taking this risk, we're taking this risk together. And we understood that we were going to be part of something special and a foundation of a law school. And that was gonna take all of us. And I think, you know, from professors to staff, there was a tremendous uniform vision of what the law school was, you know, what it was at the time and what it could be and what it could mean, not just for the legal community, or the UC system, it was what it could mean for Orange County, and what it could mean for the people of Orange County, and the people of California. And I think being part of that group of trailblazers, I felt like everybody was committed, everybody was really focused on meeting that goal. And we were invested in one another success. And that was just, I've not been in an environment of that nature. Ever, I don't think I've had that kind of experience duplicated. And it's not to say that, you know, I've been in a number of great organizations, educational institutions, etc. But there was something special about being part of the foundation of a new educational institution and understanding this was a risk that we were all taking together and that we were we were all committed to succeeding. And so it was just it was a special time. And I wouldn't trade it for any other experience in like my educational law school career. I was like, that was the right choice. And I'm so grateful to have had that experience.

Austen Parrish 39:42
 You say that so well. And it makes me proud to be dean here, I have to say so I sort of I actually had a reunion event. We were grouping people and I heard that somebody who was I think they were class of 2020 or 2021. They were saying something about a challenge that they were facing, I think in practice and Nobody from the inaugural class yell from the across the way. That's nothing. I went to an unaccredited law school. I thought that was, that was great. It almost sort of felt like the, you know, those old stories were like, when I was young, I used to have to climb up both sides of the road in the snow, working 24 hours a day. And it's a bit but it's not that sort of special that that identity continues and that commitment. And I do think it's true. Everybody I've talked to I think the law school has transformed Orange County, in many ways, you know, recruiting students that otherwise might not have opportunities, or traditionally haven't been legal profession, and creating sort of, frankly, a talent supply to the top firms, the not nonprofits, the government agencies. And frankly, we've just looked at it, we probably one of the largest providers of pro bono legal services in Southern California, which is we just I think, on pro bono alone, we just topped over 150,000 hours from our students, which is really phenomenal. Meaning I didn't mean to cut you off, you're also integral and you've told that great story, but I just wanted to make sure you didn't have anything to add to what Cinthia was saying.

Mimi Ahn 40:59
No, I echo Cinthia 100% It was fantastic. I'm always proud. I mean, you never want to, you know, start off at a where I went to law school. But anytime someone asked me, I'm very happy to let them know, it was UCI Law. And it was part of the inaugural class. And I think one of the great things about being in this class is I feel like we all still have a sense that we are contributing to the legacy, right. And so as I look here, at my fellow lungs, who, by the way, are all women? Wow. And see how great you guys are doing. It makes me feel really proud. And I know that that's going to hopefully have a an impact on UCI law as a whole to be a forefront in people's minds say, hey, I want to go here because some great people have come out of it, our 10 year reunion that's actually coming up for myself and Cynthia. And just as an example of you know, us feeling still like we need to be in that forefront. I know that our class is already like we need to make this 10 year reunion. Amazing. We're talking about it by a reunion that's going to happen next year already with like full pack schedule of work, extracurricular activities, you know, family, all of these things. We're still like, we need to make this 10 year reunion. Amazing. And this needs to be something we do not just for our class, but so that other classes will see that I think we need to also do it this way. So I feel like in that sense, it's really amazing to be in that class and still make an impact on later classes.

Austen Parrish 42:38
And that alumni support is is amazing, that strong connection. The fact that you guys responded to a Dean's email inviting to a podcast, within moments of sending the sending out the email speaks volumes. Most people see that Dean title and say, well, let's put that to the end of the week. And maybe we'll take a look at it. So I appreciate how quickly you reply. I'm sure seal it. Surely, they might be saying, yeah, 214 was good. But 218 and 217. Come on. Like we've got to talk about those classes, too. We've only got a few minutes left on the podcast. So maybe I can ask a final question. And surely I'll start with you. What advice would you have for new students who are just starting out as lawyers? And is there something you wish you had known as you were starting out and any kind of final words of wisdom before we end the podcast

Shirley Diaz 43:19
for students that have recently graduated and are just starting out as lawyers, keep thinking of yourself in that way that you did when you started law school where you're like, there's so much that I need to learn. And you're looking for mentors or joining student organizations, it's the same thing. Once you're out in the practice world, like you don't know what's going on, you don't know what you're doing. No one expects you to know. So find the mentors, join the organizations get involved. You're not doing it alone, you have the entire UCI law network. I know anytime a UCLA law student reaches out to me cold email, LinkedIn, and they're asking for help. I always respond, I make sure to make myself available. So don't think that you're done now, like you're kind of just at the beginning, actually, of what it is to practice to stay involved and find those mentors.

Austen Parrish 44:06
I like this idea as a life and lawn and always being an anteater. The name maybe I could turn to you. We're doing a rocket round any quick words of advice for new graduates or law students.

Honieh Udenka 44:16
I agree with everything surely said, I think something that I wish somebody told me when I was struggling as a law student is that this is a privilege. And so I now approach every challenge as an opportunity. As cheesy as that sounds as like hardest things feel. I just approach it as an opportunity and a privilege because there are a lot of people that don't have the opportunity to do the things that we do every day and sit in the rooms that we said encounter the difficult complex problems that we encounter. And I would say something that bliss said to me when I was studying for the bar exam, you can do hard things. And even though it feels really really uncomfortable in the moment, you can do it and you'll get through it and you'll be better for it.

Austen Parrish 44:57
I like that and Mimi, any words of wisdom?

Mimi Ahn 45:00
my gosh, I feel like I, the one thing I share a lot with law students that I've seen them and it's not D but I 100% agree with Shirley and when I, but I always tell them take a bar trip, you're never going to get an opportunity like this, where you have this gap to take a trip after you done probably one of the hardest things you've done in your life will take a bar to enjoy yourself. And the second one is be respectful to everyone, you don't know who is going to end up helping you in your either career or personal life, you're going to meet a lot of people in this role. And that is a privilege, like when I say it is a absolute privilege. But if you you know become arrogant, or you think you're better than that is not going to help you out in the long run. I think for many of us, we got to where we are because someone said, Hey, you should do this, you know, and there's just going to be people in your life that are going to support you and get you to where you are. But in order to get to those people in order to have those people on your side and be your cheerleaders. Be a good person. Be a nice, respectful person. That's my advice.

Austen Parrish 46:07
That's great advice. Now you got me thinking I've got to do a podcast on a post bar trip episode, that would be a good episode. But Cinthia, you get the final word, words of advice?

Cinthia Flores 46:17
I'm just gonna cosign everything that everyone has said thus far, I think the one thing I would add is, this is an ever changing and evolving profession. And so give yourself grace, right? You are tasked with a very big job, entering the legal profession, succeeding at the bar. And then now you know, you're entering a profession, you know, take and make the time to invest in yourself. Yes, your professional development, but also you as a person. So I totally agree with, you know, take a bar trip, but also find the time within your legal career and development to make time for you. Really self care, community care. I think we all find a lot of joy in our work. And the more we spoke about public interest, public service, you know, our legal careers, but then also make sure that you're doing the kind of activities and also focusing energy on on you, and what what makes you whole and complete. And again, self care, community care, super important.

Austen Parrish 47:26
I can't agree more. So thank you guys, so much for being on UCI Law Talks. It was great to have a president's episode again, how proud we are of you. I say that for the entire law school and great to have you out there representing us is not only an inaugural but for some of the 17 and 18 things and just really appreciate you spending the time this morning with us. So this has been a treat. Thank you for all you do for the school. Looking forward to that 10 year reunion. Cinthia Mimi, and hope to see you guys in the community soon. Thanks so much.

Outro 47:58
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