As a law firm located in the San Francisco Bay Area, we at Leland, Parachini, Steinberg, Matzger & Melnick, LLP (“LPS”) firmly believe our firm must reflect the diverse community we serve, and we strive to further diversify our team and foster advancement for traditionally marginalized groups in the legal community and among those we represent. We pride ourselves on our attorneys and staff of exceptional credentials and diverse backgrounds as the foundation to provide excellent service for our clients.
Our Diversity Committee1 is committed to incorporating our core values as a firm to create a more diverse and welcome environment both in our firm and in the legal profession. We will work within the LPS organization and with our partners in the Bay Area (and beyond) to expand on what we do best:
- ADVOCATE for the underrepresented sectors;
- EDUCATE those around us about microaggressions, systemic and inherent biases, and the potential for change;
- COLLABORATE with our local partners championing diversity causes; and
- DEDICATE our human and financial capital to those same causes.
As we move forward, we will incorporate these principles not only into our hiring process, but also into our mentoring, charitable giving, and firm culture. We do this for the strength of our firm, our community, and to better serve our clients.
1 The Diversity Committee was established by unanimous vote of a 2020 amendment to LPS’s charter document – the firm’s Partnership Agreement. The Committee is constituted of five members, including at least one but no more than two from the following categories: administrative staff, non-partner attorneys, members of the partnership.
Oakland Black Business Fund
The Oakland Black Business Fund (OBBF) is a Black-led investment platform, providing capital, technical assistance, and growth strategy to Black-owned businesses.
American Indian College Fund
Through which seventy-two cents of each donated dollar goes directly to scholarships, programs, and public education.
Lorraine Hansberry Theatre
Founded in San Francisco in 1981 to celebrate the African American experience, LHT recently launched its Fund for New Black Voices.
San Francisco Destination Law School
Which operates under the umbrella of BASF’s Justice & Diversity Center.
The California Bridging the Digital Divide Fund
Working to provide devices, connectivity, and related digital learning supports for PK-12 students, teachers, and their families.
I am a legal assistant working with the firm's Estate Planning, Business Transactional, and Real Estate Groups. My several decades of working in law firms include extensive experience in the tax area as well. Before I began my career in law firms, in 1988, I spent a legislative term working for then‑New York State Senate Minority Leader Fred Ohrenstein, with the opportunity to see the sausage‑making up close. I worked on issues such as divestment from South Africa, marital property and drug policy reform, and halting the privatization of prisons.
I am the child of a Coptic teacher who immigrated from Cairo in the 1950's and a Methodist minister with heritage in Massachusetts and Upstate New York dating from colonial times. My mother's family has members living in many different parts of the world: all over the US, and in Canada, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. My brother has continued the tradition of mixing continents and has two children whose mother is from Brazil. My husband is Jewish, and I also have in-laws who were refugees from the Iranian Revolution. As a person with both colonizing and colonized heritage, I am particularly interested in educating myself on the situations of indigenous peoples.
My father was an activist for women's reproductive rights in the early 1970's. By the 1980's, he began to include me in his activism, bringing me to hold up signs protesting US activities in El Salvador in the square in his adopted New England town. When I lived in Upstate New York, I traveled by bus to march on Washington three times, twice for women's reproductive rights and once against the first Iraq War. Most of my social change activity since moving to California in 1993 has involved political campaigns rather than more direct activism, but I have been involved in letter-writing to improve women's health care. I also am a photographer, and I am interested in using visual storytelling to effect positive social outcomes.
I am excited to be working on improving diversity and inclusion at LPS.
I practice primarily with the Estate Planning Group counseling families and individuals with inter vivos and post-mortem planning including the creation of Wills, Trusts, estate and gift taxation, charitable gift planning, and estate administration.
I was raised on the Central Coast of California by a single mother who was a social and environmental activist. I spent much of my childhood protesting alongside my mother for causes near and far. It was instilled in me from a very young age that working for progress and equity was not optional. Now, as the mother of two young children, I am working to teach them the same.
I started my legal career working in domestic and international refugee policy, immigration, and asylum law. After law school I had a fellowship with the International Institute of the Bay Area preparing U Visa applications for victims of domestic violence and violent crimes.
While my legal practice has evolved into different practice areas, the core values and lessons from my childhood and diverse legal background have only strengthened my resolve to bring equity and inclusion into every facet of life. I am honored to Co-Chair the Diversity Committee to work with our firm to incorporate these values into the legal profession.
Since I joined the firm, I have focused my practice on Business Transactional concerns and Intellectual Property, mostly Trademark law. Before law school, I worked for a commercial animation studio in Manhattan. I grew up "across the river" as the only Latino in my high school class. Needless to say, my life in the New Jersey suburbs was very different what I found in the Big Apple. Looking back, I recognize that my previous isolation stifled me and becoming part of a larger, more diverse community certainly strengthened my character.
When I was in college, the Rodney King riots and associated trial were the big news events that occurred just before my graduation. I recall thinking that reform of governmental policies was necessary to further advance our society's quest toward true equality, including but beyond race and gender, and I naively believed that this change would occur sooner rather than later.
It's now much later and still not enough change has occurred yet. While there may have been some steps forward, we unfortunately have had some serious steps back, as well.
Before I joined the firm, for five years I worked as a Supervising Attorney with the Justice & Diversity Center of San Francisco ("JDC"). As can be recognized in its name, the main missions of the JDC are to advocate for the underrepresented sectors and to promote causes that helped greater diversify the legal profession. I'm very proud of the accomplishments we made during my time with the JDC.
I applaud the LPS partnership for creating this Diversity Committee. Upon hearing about its formation, I immediately volunteered to become a member, believing that this change of which I'd dreamed can only happen if each one of us is willing to do something about it. After all, moving a mountain starts with carrying away the small stones. As Co-Chair for the Diversity Committee, I will strive to help move as many stones as possible.
M. Brooke Wilson
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community and as a mom to three bi-racial children, the fight for civil rights and equal opportunities in our country has long been a passion of mine.
I concentrate my practice primarily on estate and tax planning for individuals and families. Many of my clients are part of the LGBTQ+ community themselves, so much of my work involves preparing plans for non-traditional and blended families, and assisting clients with their philanthropic goals. I am a frequent speaker and author on the topic of estate planning for LGBTQ individuals, and am a volunteer with San Francisco’s Horizons Foundation, which is the first community foundation by, and for, LGBTQ people, as a member of their Professional Advisor’s Council.
I am a proud supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and the fight for indigenous rights and visibility in this country (#MMIWG), and I am honored to serve on LPS’ Diversity Committee, where we focus not just on bringing equality into the legal profession, but also on devoting time and resources to support other Bay Area organizations who are making a difference for marginalized groups.
I reside in Alameda, CA, with my partner, our three children, and our three dogs, two snakes, and one (very) large cat.
Chris DonnellyMember Emeritus
I am the head of LPS’s Family Law Practice Group. I have practiced family law since I joined the firm in 1990 as a newly graduated associate at age thirty-four. Before law school I was variously a structural steel construction worker, shipyard worker, journalism undergrad at SF State, and editor of a trade union monthly newspaper.
In the diversity context, my earliest and still primary background would be racial justice and civil rights. Coming from a multi-racial family in a small town in the 1960s, racial prejudice meant people failing to recognize the humanity of my adopted Korean sisters. My family was one of a few that hosted Black kids from Paterson, NJ in the summertime – one more at the dinner table when there were already eight or nine kids just added to the fun! But not all the neighbors approved.
When Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968, my father took a handful of us kids to Newark, NJ, for a march billed as the Black/White Peace March. I was eleven years old. Tens of thousands marched that day through the streets of Newark -- and in that suffering city, during that troubled month, the peace blessedly held.
After I came West, to San Francisco at age twenty, my eyes began to open on issues surrounding sexual identity. I am proud to say that today I am a godparent to a beautiful young woman who has two mothers. On gender equality, I work to make our firm’s workplace a welcoming home for women, who should not have to stand for hostility, harassment, being belittled or patronized, from the grand scale to the micro, in order to earn a living.
I am a firm supporter of the Council on Islamic American Relations (SF Bay Area Chapter). In May 2019 I teamed up with a host of our Muslim fellow citizens – American born and immigrants both – from throughout California at the most recent Muslim Day at the Capitol in Sacramento.
Personally, I have had beloved family members with disabilities – physical challenges and cognitive challenges both. Nobody should ever dispute the humanity or diminish the potential of another based on disability.
Finally, as a practicing attorney, I try to set an example through commitment to pro bono work, which over my career has spanned the gamut from representing near-indigent clients, to serving our profession in as a fee arbitrator in attorney-client fee disputes, and working with the local family law courts in various capacities, primarily assisting divorcing people in bringing their matters to settlement.
I am a co-founder of the LPS Diversity Committee. I grew up in two very different places: one, with my single mother, a few very homogeneous, wealthy suburbs of San Francisco; the other, with my father, a predominately Hispanic rural community in Northern New Mexico. In each community and by each parent I was taught to fight for my own place in addition to advocating for the rights of others.
I translated that upbringing into a lifetime of drug policy reform, advocacy, and education. Immediately after law school I was fortunate enough to help challenge everything from asset forfeitures and unconstitutional searches to systemic biases against THC. Later in my practice, I worked at a leading US-based biotech company on environmental and drug development issues, helping to secure access to clinical trials for those most in need.
To improve the lives of attorneys working in cannabis and the level of services they can provide I co-founded the International Cannabis Bar Association and remain as a “super volunteer” on the advisory board. I also co-founded the Bar Association of San Francisco Cannabis Law Section, where I sparked the San Francisco Cannabis Equity Program pro bono panel to provide meaningful and free legal representation to local social equity applicants. I am a frequent speaker on all matters cannabis, had the honor of being on the “Weed Wonks” podcast (August 13, 2020), and recently developed the curriculum for key cannabis classes at City College of San Francisco where I will teach. I was also honored to be on the team that drafted the Simple Agreement for Future Equity (“SAFE”) for Y Combinator to reduce costs of capital raises for California cannabis companies while better maintaining founder and minority rights.
I am looking forward to making more headway and developing more options for everyone to participate in the industry of their choice.