December 2019 Print

2019 ~ That's a wrap


Shelley Strong:  Why do we reflect? Well some say reflecting on the past year and doing some serious self-examination is good for the soul.  It helps you comprehend the changes within yourself that have occurred.  This is a great time of the year to step back and see if we are caught up in the speed trap as life keeps accelerating. One quote I found is “ it’s way too easy to race faster without zooming out on Google Maps to see where our little blinking blue dot is headed. Are we on the right road?”

Christie Ernst: What does reflection mean to me? Reflection means being really honest with myself and looking at the things that I have done and said. Have I been true to my values? Have I given more than I have taken? Have I owned my mistakes and fixed them? Do I make an effort every day to be kinder to people than they are to me? If I answer no to any of these questions then that is where I need to focus my attention. I have learned that life certainly has its ups and downs, but at the end of the day, if I am able to feel good about the things I've done, the things I've said to people, and am being my authentic self, then I'm on the right track.

Jim Karkas:  I am now approaching my 17th year with ALA and the Silicon Valley Chapter, 34 years in legal, and 25 plus years as a law firm HR/Office Administrator. Wow, what a run!  I had not set out/planned to be a law firm administrator working for attorneys but fate fell that way and I am glad it did! This career has given me the opportunity to raise a family and meet many great people/professionals who I love and respect.…a huge blessing to say the least…..I thank God every day for it. A lot of these professionals I have met have been through ALA SVC and our Business Partnership Program. I kid folks that ALA has been my therapy group…in reflection, that’s just what it has been. A beacon to help guide me through my professional journey (networking, education, best practices, recommended business partners/vendors and more). In order to succeed, you must fail so that you know what not to do the next time and in the beginning their definitely was some failure. There were definitely times that I questioned my career choice. I am very thankful that I persevered. 17 years of ALA therapy helped me get through this… continues to pay dividends for me.

Shirley Laboy: As I reflect on 2019, I am grateful for the professional teams I work with on a daily basis. Whether the team is in the office or within the legal community at large, I have the privilege of collaborating with smart, witty and engaging people. Personally, I took the time to stretch a bit and led a course on Intellectual Property Law at a local community college and was encouraged to do so by my colleagues. I now want to encourage you to also find an opportunity to stretch in 2020.

Heather Larrick: Maybe it's contagious, but like others, this year I found myself asking "Am I happy at work? or maybe better stated "Am I in the right job?" I understand that they call it "work" for a reason and we're not always going to be skipping down the hallways, but there's a line that I had not been conscious of beyond which lies more than just your job, but your personal and professional fulfillment. I realized that I wasn't in the right job. This is not at all a knock against my previous employer but more a matter of my fit for the role. So, I changed jobs and although its still new, I have a sense that this is a far better fit for me. I will make sure to periodically check in with myself to make sure I am asking if I'm happy at work and if that answer is no, to do some soul searching.

Kevin Lee:  This year, I find myself reflecting on what leadership means to me. As I reflect, there are 3 great lessons about leadership that I have learned.
Leadership Starts With You: Leading is about empowering others; empowerment is about delegating, but it’s also about servant leadership – showing others “how to” – so they can grow under your leadership. Leadership Starts With You Understanding Your Team: Each team is cognitively diverse. So, the leader must understand each personality/temperament/workstyle to maximize performance.
Leadership Ends With You: If you want to be great, you own it all. The good, bad and ugly. At the end of every day, a great leader understands that everything rests with leadership. As you step back, reflect on your leadership. What stands out to you? How can you be a better leader?

Debbie Sanders:  This year marks my 25th year as an ALA member, joining several of you in the in the so-called distinguished (eh hem…‘long timer’) category, with many many of you not far behind. I spent 24 of those years volunteering and participating in our Silicon Valley Chapter that I love so much — (formerly the “Peninsula Chapter” for you history buffs) — and at the regional and national levels of ALA. It has been an incredible experience! Not going to lie, it’s work, pressure, and deadlines, even some disappointment and tears along the way, but I wouldn’t want it any other way because of the business and leadership skills I have developed, the great progress in the chapter, and mostly the wonderful friends and colleagues I met and worked with along the way. You all lift me up, make me a better legal professional, and want to be so much more as a person. As for a reflection to share with you, I’m going with something I seem to say everyday…”you can’t make this *stuff* up” and I’m usually saying it with my right hand in the air to the heavens, head tilted down swaying back and forth…smile on my face. I know you are having the same day.

Thea Wagner:  Here are my reflections: 1) There is no time like the present to tell the people who are important to you, just how much they mean to you. 2) It is better to be kind than right. 3) Accept responsibility for each decision you make. 4) Be relevant, constantly try new things -- remember and learn from the past, but don't try and live in it.

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Our summer networking and business partner event was held on September 5th at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Redwood City. This was a mystery murder event that involved participating in and then solving a murder. Everyone had a blast and we learned that some of our very own have some "killer" acting skills!!


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December 12th Chapter Holiday Party


And a big THANK YOU to Kevin Lee who organized the holiday party food drive to help LifeMoves with food bags for homeless families.

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Business Partners

ALASVC is fortunate to have so many returning business partners and welcomes CBA Premier Insurance Solutions and Epiq Global this year. 


ALA Silicon Valley Chapter business partners provide services specific to the legal industry and are knowledgeable and proficient in their respective fields.


We thank our business partners for their generous support which enables us to offer our members many benefits such as educational seminars, conference scholarships, and networking opportunities.


Special thanks to Katy Wrinkle and the team at Adams & Martin Group for being our highest level sponsor again this year.. 


Terabyte-level Business Partner

Gigabyte-level Business Partner

Megabyte-level Business Partner


Mutually Beneficial Partnerships

Even if you do not have a need for their services at the moment, we hope you will strive to meet all of our distinguished Chapter Business Partners -- building a positive business relationship and understanding their services is advantageous when you need a product or service at a moment's notice.  Business partners are an important resource for legal management professionals to perform their jobs, plan for the future, and build their knowledge about changes and trends in products and services for the success of their firms.


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Terabyte Level Business Partner


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Gigabyte Level Business Partner

Express Network

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Welcome New Chapter Member!

Travis Parker
Regional Office Administrator - California
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP

Marilyn Vazquez
Director of Administration
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Nichelle Craig
Director of Finance
Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley


Jim Karkas,
Director - Membership 


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Professional Development



Education Session

We hope you were able to join us for our September event " Small Mistakes, Major Consequences - How to avoid mistakes and inadvertent errors when applying California’s wage and hour and discrimination laws". The Employment Law group from Hoge Fenton provided a novel approach to thinking about employment disputes by walking us backwards through a hypothetical large jury award and looking at how each misstep along the way could have been avoided. This was a well-attended event and the participants really enjoyed looking at workplace problems from a different perspective. Speaking of missteps, in October, there was some miscommunication and the cryptocurrency event that was scheduled turned into a spontaneous roundtable. There were many interesting topics discussed (Have you noticed names on email signature blocks followed by "she/her" or "he/him"? Do you know what this means? If you had attended this event, you would!)

Because of the holidays, we did not have a professional development event in November or December, but please join us Jan 16 for our always popular Employment Law Update. This event will be at Sheppard Mullin in Palo Alto, starting at 4:30 and followed by a wine and cheese reception.

Our Feb event will be 2/20/20 on Cybersecurity and our March event will be on Emergency Preparedness.

Keep your eyes on your inboxes for further details. Hope to see you all there!

*If you have a topic you would like to add, please send your idea to Heather Larrick today.

Heather Larrick
Director-Professional Development



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Community Service

Christmas in the Park is an annual holiday tradition that takes place in the heart of Downtown San José at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

For over 39 years, this whimsical walk-through event has brought people from all over the Bay Area together during the holidays. 

Thank you to all those who braved the fierce weather and came out to help decorate the ALA Silicon Valley Chapter sponsored tree!


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ALA News & Resources

Your ALA Membership provides access to a number of resources. 

Learn more about ALA resources.

Visit our news feed on the ALA Silicon Valley Chapter website.

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Job Bank

ALA Members (all) and Business Partners of the ALA Silicon Valley Chapter may post available job openings in a legal-related field.

Job listings must include contact information to reply to a listing. The Chapter does not collect applications. Job listings are posted for 3 months unless an alternative expiration or extension date is requested.

To view current opportunities or submit a job listing, click here.


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ALA Conferences


Upcoming Events

Registration Open for 2020 Annual Conference & Expo!

Knowledge. Networking. Innovation.

 Are you joining 1,500 of your peers at the definitive meeting place for legal management professionals?

Don't miss ALA's 2020 Annual Conference & Expo on May 3 - 6 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Expand your knowledge and strengthen ties to your professional peer group through a comprehensive agenda of educational programs and unparalleled networking opportunities.





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Certification (CLM)

Regardless of the stage in your career, certification adds a valuable dimension to your professional development.

ALA's Certified Legal Manager (CLM)® program provides the opportunity to demonstrate you have mastered the knowledge, skills, and abilities to operate at a high level of expertise in the field of legal management.

Congratulations to ALA New CLMs!

Please join us in congratulating our new CLMs on their outstanding achievement! Obtaining CLM certification shows great initiative and dedication to the profession, and demonstrates the mastery of a highly proficient legal administrator.

Elli Albert, CLM

Fox Rothschild LLP



Angelina Angelov, CLM

Russin Vecchi & Heredia Bonetti

Santo Domingo

DN, Dominican Republic

Patricia Beams, CLM

Thompson O'Brien Kemp & Nasuti, PC



Lori Busch, CLM

Cline Williams Wright Johnson & Oldfather, LLP



Wendy Feiner, CLM, PHR, SHRM-CP

Fox Rothschild LLP

Las Vegas


Paul Gargagliano, CLM, CPA, CGMA

Hill Ward Henderson



Pamela Groff, CLM

Barnes & Thornburg, LLP



Beverly Herring, CLM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner, LLP



Peggy Jimenez, CLM

Day Pitney LLP



Karen Kirby, CLM

GoodSmith Gregg & Unruh, LLP



Natalie Mazzuca, CLM

Tribler Orpett & Meyer, PC



Jeffrey McGillicuddy, CLM

Lourie & Cutler, PC



Robin McKay, CLM

Underwood Law Firm, PC



Shelby Nusrala, CLM, PHR

Martin Leigh PC

Kansas City


Janna Styskal, CLM

Bird Marella

Los Angeles


Tina White, CLM

Shook Hardy & Bacon, LLP

Kansas City


Kristy Williams, CLM

McDowell Hetherington LLP



2020 Dates


Heather Larrick, CLM, SPHR

Debbie Sanders, CLM

Thea Wagner, CLM


Test Date: April 20, 2020 / Application Deadline: February 20, 2020

Test Date: November 23, 2020 / Application Deadline: September 23, 2020


Competencies of Legal Administrators

In order to determine the competencies of legal administrators, ALA periodically conducts practice analysis studies. These studies identify the tasks and related knowledge, skill and other abilities (KSAs) required for exemplary day-to-day performance in the profession. They are important to legal management professionals because:

  • They document what is essential for successfully managing a law firm, including reassessing job requirements that may result from technological, societal, or regulatory changes.
  • They present a consensus of the people who do the work and others that are affected by it, such as employers.
  • They provide quantitative data that allows for comparisons among tasks and competencies.
  • They serve as the foundation for all of ALA's education and professional development programs.
  • They provide statistically valid data on which to base the Certified Legal Manager (CLM)SM exam.

ALA conducted its first comprehensive national practice analysis of the legal management profession in 1995, with periodic updates since then. The latest study was completed in the fall of 2012.

The resulting 65 competencies are available: 

The CLM exam is based on the competencies from this practice analysis. It was determined that 38 of the competencies are suitable to test in a multiple choice format. There are 14 competencies that are not suitable in multiple choice format, so they are the pre-requisite courses required in the application. The other 13 are ranked low in importance.


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Social Media: Join the Conversation

Stay Connected With Your Silicon Valley Chapter Colleagues



Website  For the latest announcements and up-to-the-minute information on events, be sure to visit often! The website is a great resource to help you locate other members, contact our business partners, and update your own contact information.

Member Area Login:  The default ID is your email address on file. Select “forgot password” to reset your password if you do not have it. Please contact [email protected] if you have trouble logging into the Member Area of the website. 

Discussion Groups  Consistently rated the best benefit of ALASVC membership is the ability to seek advice and “therapy” from fellow members.  Even if you are not able to participate in the monthly educational lunches on a regular basis, you can still be an active chapter member by joining the conversation in the chapter’s discussion groups!

  • Facebook:The Chapter will be sharing information about the Chapter and the Association, including video and photos of events. To find our page, search @ALA Silicon Valley Chapter.
  • YouTube: The Chapter will share fun and informative videos about our Chapter and the legal management profession. To find our channel, search ALA Silicon Valley Chapter.
  • LinkedIn (for members and business partners): As thought-leaders in the business of law, our members and business partners are in the trenches of the latest legal management trends and issues. Please share interesting articles, ideas, expertise, and concepts with your fellow members and business partners on our chapter’s LinkedIn page! Instructions and guidelines for participation in the group can be found on the LinkedIn Group Guidelines* page. To find our page, search "Association of Legal Administrators - Silicon Valley Chapter."
  • Discussion Group (for ALASVC members-only). Need a high-end caterer? Looking for ride-sharing options? Need advice about remote access? Find this valuable information and more in the chapter's members-only discussion group through YahooGroups.  You will need your own (free) Yahoo account to join the private ala-svc group, which includes access to all of the discussion archives. Instructions and guidelines for participation in the group can be found on the Discussion Group Guidelines* page.

  • ALA Online Communities (for ALA members-only):  Beyond our Chapter, another resource for seeking information from fellow ALA members around the country can be found in the new online communities. Visit, select Communities in the top-center tab, and log in or go to  In the Shared Interest Groups, you can access topics on Diversity Issues, Financial Issues, Human Resources, Information Technology (includes Privacy & Data Security), Intellectual Property (IP), Nonprofit / Public Interest Legal Professionals, Personal Injury Plaintiff, and Certified Legal Managers. Our chapter has its own group as well, which we are currently using to submit board meeting minutes. To find the Silicon Valley Chapter Group, go to Communities and select Chapters. 

    *Please take care to adhere to antitrust guidelines related to rates and pricing, and please refrain from sharing messages outside the discussion group without the author’s express permission.

     Questions? Contact Debbie Sanders, Director - Website


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Chapter Board & Committees


Chapter President: Shelley Strong
Office Administrator • Littler Mendelson LLP

[email protected]

Immediate Past-President: Shirley Laboy
Office Manager • Sidley Austin LLP
[email protected]

Secretary:Deborah Piker Sanders, CLM
Administrator/Controller • Rehon & Roberts APC
[email protected]

Treasurer: Lisa Hild
Office Administrator • Skadden, Arps, Meagher & FLom LLP
[email protected]

Director - Membership: James P. Karkas
Senior Firm Administrator • Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP
[email protected]

Director - Professional Development: Heather Larrick, CLM, SPHR, PHRca
Executive Director • • Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel Inc.
[email protected]

Director - Communications and Website: Deborah Piker Sanders, CLM
Administrator/Controller • Rehon & Roberts APC
[email protected]



Community ConnectionKevin Lee
Legal Support Manager/Senior Legal Analyst • San Jose City Attorney's Office
[email protected]

Member Outreach Chair: Shirley Laboy
Office Manager • Sidley Austin LLP
[email protected]

Communications and Website: Thea Wagner, CLM
IP Paralegal • Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel Inc.
[email protected]

Diversity & Inclusion: Kevin Lee
Legal Support Manager/Senior Legal Analyst • San Jose City Attorney's Office
[email protected]

Newsletter Editor: Christie Ernst
Office Manager • Fish & Richardson PC
[email protected]


Please contact any member of the Board of Directors if you are interested in a chapter leadership opportunity, no matter how small. It's a great way to get more involved with - and get more value from - our chapter!


On behalf of the Silicon Valley Chapter and its members, 
thank you for volunteering and keeping our chapter flourishing.

CELEBRATING 36 YEARS  •  •  1982 - 2018



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Address Changes

Help us keep your member record up-to-date by contacting both ALA Headquarters and the Silicon Valley Chapter if you have a change in name, employer, address, phone number, email address, professional designation, or job title. 

  1. To update your ALA Headquarters membership record, log in to your profile at and update your profile under My Account, or go to

  2. To update your Silicon Valley Chapter membership record, log in to your profile at and update your profile in the Member Area, or go to Your default log-in is your membership ID. You can select Forgot Password to change your password. 

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Megabyte Level Business Partner





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Editorial Policy

"The Download" is a publication for members of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators to provide information for the education and benefit of legal administrators. The Editor welcomes articles, letters, suggestions, and comments.  Opinions expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ALA SVC or its members. Reprinting of any portion of this newsletter by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, is prohibited without the express permission of both the Editor and the author.

Christie Ernst
Newsletter Editor


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About Us

ALA Mission Statement

ALA is the premier professional association connecting leaders and managers in the legal industry. We provide extensive professional development, collaborative peer communities, strategic operational solutions, and business partner connections empowering our members to lead the business of law.


The Silicon Valley Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators was formed in 1982 with members in the South Bay area from Salinas to San Mateo. The Chapter has a strong presence within the community, as well as active representation at the Association of Legal Administrators regional and national levels.

The Silicon Valley Chapter advances the mission of ALA by leading and inspiring excellence through the pursuit and exchange of knowledge to elevate legal management professionals in their organizations. 

Please contact any member of the Board of Directors if you are interested in a chapter leadership opportunity, no matter how small.  It's a great way to get more involved with -- and get more value from -- our chapter!

ALA Silicon Valley Chapter:

ALA Headquarters:

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