It's almost time to vote! Your voice matters in selecting the people who will lead BALIF as members of the Board. Voting will be open from Thursday, April 15, 2021 until Thursday, April 22, 2021 to elect the BALIF Board of Directors for 2021-2022. We have a fabulous and diverse group of candidates this year! We will announce election results at our annual meeting on Thursday, April 22, 2021 online.
Check out the recording from our Candidate Forum event to meet the candidates.
We are excited to announce that we have reactivated our Nominations Committee (NomCom) this year. Consistent with our bylaws, the NomCom was appointed by our board and included six BALIF members not running for election, including four current BALIF board members. The NomCom managed advertising and recruitment for the board and evaluated candidates based on their qualifications and diversity they would bring to the board. The committee sought diversity with respect to race and ethnicity, gender, practice area and years in practice, and geographic location within the Bay Area. NomCom has formally nominated a group of candidates, and we are delighted to announce their endorsed candidates below. If you have any questions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
NomCom solicited candidate statements by March 23, 2021. Of the candidates reviewed, NomCom endorsed the following 14 candidates indicated below based on the majority of votes by the committee’s members. The endorsements are indicated below. Candidates who submitted statements after the deadline were not reviewed. The symbols below provide more information about the candidates.
* = board incumbent or previous board member
+ = endorsed by NomCom
Women (4 open positions)
- Monica Alcazar+
- Atticus Lee+
- Andrea Long+
- Monica Valencia+
Men (3 open positions)
- Stephan Ferris*+
- Mark Fickes*+
- Dustin Helmer*
- Jon Lucchese
- Ryan Louie O. Manuel
- Ernie Mejia
- Myell Mergaert+
TGNC/Other Genders (4 open positions)
- Angela (Ang) Clements+
- Nat Ochoa+
- Kel O’Hara*+
- Sam Potts*+
Law Student Women (1 open position)
Law Student Men (1 open position)
- Marjan Kris+
- Devin Oliver+
Law Student TGNC/Other Genders (1 open position)
- No candidates running at this time
Candidate Statements and Candidate Forum Event
Please click here to read all candidate statements! We truly appreciate everyone who submitted their candidate statements and expressed interest in running for the board.
If you would like to meet the candidates, please attend the Candidate Forum on Thursday April 15, 2021 at 6:30pm. Please RSVP to attend and receive the Zoom link!
Elections voting will be online from Thursday, April 15, 2021 until 4 pm on Thursday, April 22, 2021
We will announce election results at our annual meeting on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Due to COVID-19, our annual meeting will be held online. Please RSVP to attend to receive more information.
Check your inbox (and spam folder) for your personalized e-ballot. If you don't receive your e-ballot on April 15th by 5pm, please email email@example.com.
You must be a current member of BALIF in order to vote. Please make sure your membership is current!
Women: 4 Candidates for 4 Positions
My name is Monica Alcazar, and I am excited to run for a seat on the BALIF Board. I am the queer, first-gen, daughter of Mexican immigrants, and a UC Hastings alumna. I am now working at Gibbs Law Group, primarily on mass torts/personal injury class action cases and gig economy cases representing misclassified workers.
While at Hastings, I was an Executive Board member of La Raza Law Students Association, and Senior Notes Editor for the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal. I clerked for two terms with the AIDS Legal Referral Panel (ALRP), was a summer clerk with the Transgender Law Center (TLC) before that, and I want to keep supporting my communities on a new level.
I am running for a board position because I have seen the work BALIF has done internally to steer the organization in a more inclusive direction in the last couple of years, and I want to join in the continued growth and development of an organization committed to the empowerment and betterment of our LGBTQI+ communities.
Current position: Senior Associate in Class Action Wage and Hour Employment Law, Ogletree Deakins
I remember my very first BALIF event – I was a 1L at UC Davis and I was externing for Judge Feng in the city for the semester, and I was living the dream: living in a tiny room in a random house in West Portal (but just SO EXCITED to be in the city) and having to take the 8Bx bus for an hour every morning to make it to Hall of Justice by 8am, and dancing my nights away on the dark sticky floors of the Lex until my 3am dinner of bacon-wrapped Mission street dogs! That year, I went to my very first BALIF gala and I was shook: these lawyer gays, I thought to myself, they can vogue to Beyoncé and cross-dress and make out with strangers - all at a bar event?!
See, I had been out since college, but had yet to reconcile the thought of rigid, traditional, serious, professional jurisprudence with the rest of my little gay and chaotic life. That night I felt liberated with possibilities: that I could one day also be outrageously successful and respected, but still fabulous, irreverent, and GAY in all-caps. I also just really, really, really hate golf.
I am running for the BALIF Board because I know how profoundly BALIF shaped my entire legal career and what it means to be LGBTQ+ and a triple-minority in the legal profession. BALIF changed my life as a lost first-generation immigrant, queer Asian female 1L – and as a member of your Board, I know we can accomplish anything together in these unprecedented times – by being authentically, unapologetically, fabulously: us.
My name is Andrea Long, I’m a bi-racial (latinx-apa), queer, formerly undocumented immigrant from Peru. I’m also the grateful recipient of the love and support of countless mentors, allies and friends, and I’m dedicated to paying it forward and doing the same: opening pipeline, mentoring students, and creating community. In my pre-law life, I co-founded my college’s affinity group for undocumented students, which is still active and whose meetings I still sometimes join. Currently, I serve on the board of the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, and am active with their Mentoring/Outreach and In-House Committees. I’m also a proud member of the Asian American Bar Association’s LGBTQ Committee.
I first joined BALIF as a 1L and recent transplant to San Francisco, and it has been a gift - a source of great friendships, mentorship, professional and volunteer experiences (ALRP Folsom Street Fair volunteer checking-in!) It would be a privilege to serve on the BALIF Board, and if elected, I would work to collaboratively ensure that BALIF remains a home for our diverse LGBTQ+ legal community, especially our newest members.
Please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions, and many thanks for your consideration.
My name is Monica Valencia and I would like to be considered to be a BALIF Board member. I identify as a female, Latinx lesbian. I believe I would be a great addition to the Board because of my diverse background. As the daughter of immigrant parents, my native language is Spanish. Learning to navigate my social spaces was a difficult feat, but one that I welcomed at a young age, nonetheless. I was monolingual for the first 7 years of my life. My language and culture are a very important part of who I am. As a woman of color, I can attest to the difficulties of each of the professions that I have held as well as fighting against gender norms. Serving in the military and abiding by the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy was extremely detrimental to my military service experience. Today, I am happy to be free to be who I want to be and to continue to develop myself as a professional.
As an immigration attorney, my focus is on protecting refugees and asylum seekers, especially women and children. As a professor and nonprofit director, it is my goal to create education equity for undocumented law students and students of color. I stand firm in my belief to fight for the rights of others and I hope to bring this perspective to BALIF.
MEn: 6 Candidates for 3 Positions
| Stephan Ferris*+
I am a writer, educator, speaker, and activist in the LGBTQ, leather/kink, and HIV/STI prevention realms. I earned my JD from University of California Hastings, where I served asPresident of the LGBTQ group OUTLAW and Managing Editor of the Hastings Women’s Law Journal. Currently, I serve on the CLE committee for the International Cannabis Bar Association and as an ambassador for Team Friendly, where I use my platform to raise awareness around treatment issues regarding PrEP and Treatment as Prevention (“TasP”) in sex-positive ways.
During my past five years on the BALIF board, I have led numerous efforts including producing events with Bay Area law schools and LGBTQ nonprofits, chairing the social committee, and serving as organizer of the mentorship program. In 2017, BALIF recognized my contributions to the organization bynominating me for the National LGBT Bar Association Student Leadership Award, and in 2019, I was accepted into the Equality California Leadership Academy.
I have also worked on numerous publications and participated in many speaking engagements related to LGBTQ issues. My most recent project is set to be published in Harvard’s LGBTQI Policy Journal. Having had the opportunity to serve at the intersection of many diverse communities, I know what it takes to be an effective and fair board member.
| Mark Fickes*+
I am Mark Fickes. It has been a pleasure serving on the BALIF Board for the past two years, and I would love the opportunity to serve for another two years.
I am a partner at Cannata, O’Toole, Fickes & Olson LLP. I have been practicing law for more than 25 years with a focus on civil rights litigation, business litigation, and civil and criminal regulatory enforcement actions. My husband and I are the parents of twins who will be high school juniors this fall.
I have been a BALIF member since 1992. When I joined the BALIF Board two years ago, I started with the goal of helping sustain BALIF’s long-term success. To that end, I served at the BALIF Gala co-chair for the 2020 and 2021 Galas. Our 40th Anniversary Gala was one of the last major gatherings in the Bay Area before the shelter-in-place orders went into effect. I am proud that 2020 co-chair Amanda Hamilton and I were able to put on such a great event with the help of Katie Carlson Cartwright and so many others. We raised what, at the time, was a record amount for a BALIF Gala. Little did we know at the time that those funds would be vital to sustaining BALIF over the past year.
Given the difficult economic times, I decided to serve as the 2021 Gala co-chair together with Kel O’Hara. When we started planning the event, we had no idea what to expect given all the uncertainties. I was thrilled to work with the so many BALIF Board members to put on a virtual gala that truly celebrated the diversity of our community. In 2021, we set a new fundraising record, thereby helping to assure BALIF’s fiscal viability as we head into the next year.
In addition to my work on the 2020 and 2021 Galas, I also served on the Governance Committee. There, we worked to update and modernize BALIF’s mission and vision statements. We also made great strides in revising our updated by-laws. If elected to a second term, I hope to continue my work on strengthening the great foundation build by my predecessors on the Board and to continue the Board’s efforts to making sure BALIF is an origination that celebrates the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community.
I’m a 12-year member of BALIF and am excited to run for the Board for the first time. I first joined BALIF on the heels of a hard fought although unsuccessful campaign to defeat Prop. 8. I canvassed diligently for the “No” vote and stood outside on the busy roads in Eastern Contra Costa County on the weeks and days up until Election Day. I thought we’d ultimately prevail based on the ample support I got in otherwise conservative parts of the Bay Area, and ultimately was devastated when we came up short.
Over the subsequent years, I was proud of BALIF’s efforts to strengthen the legal arguments against the measure’s unconstitutional discrimination in amicus briefs in the Perry and Hollingsworth cases, and ultimately for our position nationally in Obergefell before the U.S. Supreme Court. I thought a lot about the progress our local minority bar association helped ensure when I married my long-time partner, Jason, on NYE last year.
So, this personal celebration of our community’s fight for equality prompted my commitment this year to get more involved for the efforts still in front of us: eliminating transgender discrimination, guaranteeing employment rights for LGBTQ+ nationally, restoring asylum visas for our friends fleeing persecution abroad, and other important priorities. As a member of the Board, I’d like to continue our history of legal advocacy while maintaining a friendly bar association where we can assist each other in our individual practices and vocations. Thank you for your vote!
|Ryan Louie O. Manuel
My name is Ryan Louie Manuel, cis male (pronouns: He/Him). I am a first-generation Filipino-American immigrant from the Philippines who was raised in the Bay Area, and I would like to represent you and other people of color (POCs) in the BALIF Board. I am a Californian through and through, I attended undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara, a recent University of San Francisco School of Law graduate (2019) and a baby lawyer, having passed the first-ever remote bar exam during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As an LGBTQ+ POC and also an Asian Pacific Island (API) person, my run for BALIF Board is a personal call for action to address the recent backlash and anti-API sentiments. While in law school at USF, I was involved in the Pilipino American Law Society (PALS), the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA), Pride Law, the Environmental Law Student and Alumni Society and the USF Law Review Board. I organized various events, and panels by collaborating with other student organizations, and put together USF’s first-ever Pride Grad sponsored by USF and bay area law firms.
As a law student, I attended several BALIF events including the resume workshop and I am very thankful for my BALIF Mentor and now a friend!
Finally, I understand and value the importance of community building, collaboration, and being presently aware of the issues so we can all be part of the solution. It would be an honor and privilege to serve the LGBTQ+ community as a member of the BALIF Board.
Hello BALIF! My name is Ernie Mejia, my pronouns are he/him/his and I am running for the BALIF board to provide a better experience for you all. I work in management defense with a background in business and family immigration.
I received a JD from the University of San Francisco, where I excelled both academically and through extracurricular activities. I was the Executive Editor for USF Law Review, the Graduation Coordinator for La Raza Student Association, Case Counsel for the Moot Court Program, and large group tutor for 4 semesters for the Academic Support Program.
I have had the privilege to publish two of my student comments; El Peligro De Ser Igual: The Danger of Being the “Same” and A Damaging Cure: Queer Youth and Conversion Therapy, in Willamette Journal of Social Justice and Equity and Florida A&M University Law Review, respectively. The latter earned me the 2019 Best Student Note Award at my law school graduation.
My time and participation in BALIF may not be extensive, but I believe in the organization’s intention. I have held multiple leadership roles in the organizations throughout my life and I do not shy away from responsibility, challenges, or work. The pandemic changed the way we live and BALIF has the opportunity to be an impactful resource for LGBTQIA-identifying law school hopefuls, law students, and new and experienced attorneys alike and I want to be part of the Board that does so.
After a year clouded by uncertainty and urgent calls to end systemic injustice, BALIF is in a unique position to enact meaningful change as a community-centered space for understanding, growth, and action. As a proud LGBTQI+ Black attorney, I am applying to serve on the board to advance BALIF’s mission during this critical time. My passion alongside my personal and professional uniquely qualify me to drive justice and equity in our LGBTQI+ legal community.
BALIF’s members span across races, classes, genders, and sexualities and its leadership should support this diversity intersecting identities of our membership. As a board member, I will work to develop opportunities and tools to support law students and new attorneys: I want to shape and influence a future for the folks past survival and the barriers that marginalize them.
Currently, I am a part of the in-house legal team at Liftoff Mobile, Inc. During my time at Hastings Law, I served as Student Body President and organized a “Dress for Success” program that provided gender affirming clothing and headshots for students. I also launched the UC Hastings LGBTQ Alumni Association to create dedicated space for future community members. Lastly and importantly, I have worked as an educator focused on increasing educational outcomes for LGBTQI+ students and students of color. I am committed to continuing this work through BALIF.
I appreciate your time and consideration, thank you!
TGNC/OTHER GENDERS: 4 CANDIDATES FOR 4 POSITIONS
|Angela (Ang) Clements+
Angela (Ang) M. Clements (she/they) is the Principal Attorney and Founder of Clements Employment Law, P.C., with offices in Santa Rosa and San Francisco. I am a labor and employment attorney focused on serving the needs of culture-first organizations and businesses. I also represent individuals who have been treated unfairly at work. I identify as genderqueer and nonbinary.
I am excited to become involved in BALIF as a longtime advocate in the LGBTQ+ community, and as an LGBTQ attorney who has worked in nonprofit, government, BigLaw, and small law settings. I am passionate about helping LGBTQ attorneys find their way in a daunting profession, and to advance LGBTQ equality through the courts and legislatures. I am a founding member of the Diversity Section of the Sonoma County Bar Association. I also serve as a school board member of the Oak Grove Unified School District.
Previously, I was Senior Counsel at Hanson Bridgett, LLP, where I practiced labor and employment law for eight years. I also was a law clerk at NCLR. Prior to attending Berkeley Law, I was a Congressional lobbyist at the Human Rights Campaign.
I am originally from Nebraska, where I engaged in local LGBTQ+ advocacy. Currently, I live in Sebastopol with my wife and two children. I have a deep love of the outdoors and wild, open space. When I am not practicing law, you can find me hiking a trail or camping with my family in one of the many beautiful spots in Northern California.
| Nat Ochoa+
My name is Nat Ochoa (they/them) and I am a second year Associate at Reed Smith LLP. Being a non-binary, Latinx attorney presents a host of challenges. Nevertheless, I continuously work to combat those challenges by advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights and striving to achieve visibility for transgender, non-binary, and gender queer+ folk at my Firm and in the legal community at large. In my short time practicing, I have played a vital role in advancing Reed Smith’s policy and outreach. Where it was otherwise absent, I drafted Firm policy regarding declared name and pronoun recognition. This policy, of which I received guidance from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, has now been implemented Firm-wide and is felt both here in the United States and globally. Similarly, I played a key role in implementing my Firm’s Pronoun Initiative, which affirms all gender identities and encourages both internal and external personnel to think critically about gender constructs as a whole, show allyship and support for transgender, non-binary, and gender queer+ folk, and highlight and celebrate gender diversity at Reed Smith. Of further note, I have been featured on Reed Smith’s diversity podcast (“Ask me my pronouns: Creating transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary inclusive workplaces”), and have acted as a panelist on the Firm’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion series for my work as non-binary attorney. I am also an active member of my Firm’s LGBTQIA+ Business Inclusion Group. On a pro bono basis, I continuously seek out opportunities to advocate for our community. Of note, I recently negotiated a successful buy-out agreement for a prominent LGBTQIA+ establishment in San Francisco. I am dedicated to continuing this work throughout my career.
As a BALIF Board Member, I hope to raise awareness and visibility for our community that goes beyond Reed Smith. I aim to lift up the voices of non-binary folk like myself and to contribute to a larger dialogue of gender identity and acceptance. Although I am a present member of BALIF, I hope to strengthen my involvement by serving on the Board and I am extremely excited about, and humbled by, this opportunity. Thank you for your consideration.
| Kel O'Hara*+
My name is Kel O’Hara (they/them) and I am a queer non-binary civil rights attorney and current BALIF Board member running for election after being appointed to a one-year position in 2020. As an Equal Justice Works fellow at Equal Rights Advocates, my self-designed project focuses on expanding support for LGBTQ students. I have been involved with BALIF since I was 1L at Berkeley Law nervously attending my first Gala, and I have greatly benefited from the connections I made through BALIF’s mentorship program and networking and educational opportunities.
Through my own practice and my work with BALIF over the years, I have seen just how important it is to build and support the Bay Area’s LGBTQ legal community for the sake of both ourselves and LGBTQ clients. The students I work with often express how much more comfortable they are working with a queer lawyer and this has made me particularly invested in BALIF’s efforts to address the unique concerns of the most marginalized members of the LGBTQ community, whether it be by conducting attorney trainings or fundraising for community organizations. I am proud of the recent steps BALIF has taken to be more intersectional and think my perspective as a non-profit attorney who frequently works with low income people of color is a valuable addition to that ongoing effort.
I have greatly enjoyed my work with BALIF over the past year and believe I have demonstrated my commitment and value added to the organization in that time. I hope to continue supporting BALIF’s mission as an elected board member. Thank you!
| Sam Potts*+
My name is Sam Potts and I am excited about the possibility of rejoining the BALIF board of directors. I am a queer transgender man and recently barred attorney.
BALIF has been an integral part of my personal and professional development. I was first introduced to the organization in 2006 when I had the opportunity to attend its fabulous gala. Since then, I have had the privilege of serving on the board from 2015-2017 and 2018-2020, first as a law student representative and then as Social & Membership Chair, Community Ambassador, and Secretary. Over the years, as both organizer of and attendee at BALIF events, I have met amazing colleagues and have had unforgettable experiences. I am eager to get back to service.
I have long worked in criminal defense, but I have recently pivoted into the class action arena. However, I am still focused on the persistent injustices inflicted upon marginalized communities caught in the criminal justice system, and hope to bring my experience and perspective back to the BALIF board.
I'd be honored to have your vote. Thank you for your support.
LAw Student WomEn: 1 Candidates for 1 Position
Hello everyone, I am Alyssa Aguilar, I am a 1L at Santa Clara Law, and I am interested in studying Intellectual Property/Tech/Privacy law. As a bisexual woman of color, I look forward to bringing in my perspective to further BALIF’s commitment of representing intersectionality in the legal profession.
At Santa Clara, I am a 1L Representative for our school’s LGBTQIA+ organization, Equality at Santa Clara (EQSCU). There, I have helped organize and promote events, and worked to grow the organization. At BALIF, I have been an active member of our mentorship house, House of Disco-Tech. Additionally, I have immensely enjoyed working with the Social Committee on events and I cannot wait for all of the fun events and socials we will have in person.
Moving to the Bay area from Orange County during the pandemic has been challenging, but everyone at BALIF has been so welcoming; I feel like I already have a home here. I will continue to extend that camaraderie to all of our current and new members, so they receive the same benefits that I have since I joined. Making sure my fellow law students have the resources they need to succeed is my priority. Mentorship is absolutely critical in this profession, but especially so in law school. I would love for us to continue to improve upon what is already an incredible mentorship program. I am committed to supporting my LGBTQIA+ community and being a Law Student Representative will help me do just that.
Law Student MEn: 2 CANDIDATEs FOR 1 POSITION
My name is Marjan Kris (he/they/siya) and I am excited to be considered as a law student board member with BALIF.
Prior to attending UC Davis, I volunteered with community orgs dedicated to connecting the LGBTQ+ folks to food, housing, and healthcare. I was fortunate to continue that work through a legal lens when I spent my 1L year with my school’s Gender and Name Change Clinic.
This past year, I assisted in fostering King Hall’s LGBTQ+ legal community in my role as an Executive Board Member of Lambda Law Students. I helped organize socials and speaker events to highlight the intersections of race, class, gender, and the LGBTQ+ community. As a student board member, I hope to leverage BALIF’s resources to bring a specific awareness to trans migrants rights, PrEP access to low-income communities of color, and sex workers advocacy.
BALIF’s legacy is not lost on me, and to serve in this capacity is a powerful reminder of those who’ve come before me in the struggle for justice. I hope that my perspective as a queer immigrant will lend a critical lens to BALIF’s advocacy and governance. I am hopeful that with our region’s transition back to in-person gatherings (feels weird to say that...IN-PERSON), BALIF will be able to provide more opportunities to share space with each other and build the inclusive professional networks that LGBTQ+ law students are seeking.
I am ready to get to work! Thank you a million times over for your consideration.
My name is Devin Oliver, and I’m currently a 2L at Berkeley Law! My path to law school has been anything but straightforward: From Ohio to Texas, Brazil, and California, I came to law school after graduate school and careers in academia and environmental policy.
I have spent the last decade shifting the center of gravity of the LGBTQ movement toward the “margins,” uplifting queer and trans folks of color, women, and low-income people. At Berkeley Law, I’ve continued evolving as a leader and advocate, having served as co-chair of Queer Caucus and volunteer for the Name & Gender Change Workshop. I’ve centered intersectionality as my guiding ethos in Queer Caucus, not only through programming and community service but also through collaborative, behind-the-scenes operations. This year I’ve acted on my promises by organizing events on LGBTQ asylum and prison abolition, developing exclusive programming for QTPOC members, and fostering meaningful relationships with grassroots organizations.
Through BALIF, I’ll finally be able to broaden my advocacy to regional and profession-wide levels. With this new responsibility, I hope to become an effective resource for LGBTQIA law students across the Bay Area. I will identify student needs and broaden access to professional resources, beyond the “prestige” bubbles of Berkeley and Stanford. Additionally, I plan to connect our region’s LGBTQ student organizations as a cross-campus organizer, so that students can share resources, engage in public service, and build community. Lastly, I want to better center public-interest students and strengthen the clerkship pipeline for QTPOC students and young attorneys.
In sum, I want to serve as a student representative to keep evolving BALIF to reflect our immense collective diversity—all without tokenizing or othering. My commitment to equity and intersectionality is steadfast, even when the going gets tough and hope seems fleeting. This last year as a pandemic-era leader has taught me this much.
LAW STUDENT TGNC/OTHER GENDERS 0 CANDIDATES FOR 1 POSITION