Dimetria A. Jackson is the 2012 President of the Orange County Bar Association, a freelance attorney with Montage Legal Group, handling corporate transactional matters, and the Chief Executive Officer of redBAMBINA.com, an online retail boutique, that caters to infants, children, and nursing and expectant women. In 2012, Dimetria was named as one of 20 Women to Watch by the OC Metro Magazine.
Dimetria is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in California and Illinois. Dimetria previously served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary with First American Trust, FSB. She has also held positions with First American Title Insurance Company, the Los Angeles County Counsel’s Juvenile Dependency Division and as an Echoing Green Foundation Fellow with the National Health Law Program.
Dimetria is actively involved as a mentor and on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. She has served in numerous leadership roles within the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA) and on the Boards of the OCBA’s Charitable Fund, the Orange County Bar Foundation and InTouch Credit Union. Dimetria and her husband, Ernest Priestly, reside in Irvine, with their two little boys.
OC METRO: For decades, Orange County was considered a second-tier law market to Los Angeles and San Francisco. But in recent years, with the growth of our regional economy, that has changed. Why?
Dimetria Jackson: Orange County is a thriving community with over 3 million residents, making it the third most populous county in California, according to the 2010 census. The county’s population has grown in both numbers and diversity. Orange County has a diverse economy and is the headquarters for many prominent companies, including Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, start-ups and technology companies, as well as the regional headquarters for several international businesses, fashion companies and restaurants. Orange County is home to the second highest number of technology clusters in the country. According to Carolyn Cavecche, chair of the Orange County Transportation Authority, “There are now more people commuting from Los Angeles to Orange County for work.”
Since 1999, membership in the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA) has increased by approximately 30 percent. This growth has occurred across all practice areas. Orange County now boasts multiple 100-plus lawyer offices, including several national and international law firms. Many of our attorneys are considered among the nation’s best in complex areas such as intellectual property, securities and tort law, with Orange County litigators assuming lead roles in several high-profile matters. Orange County has a sophisticated legal practice and clients with diverse and complex legal needs.
Orange County’s presence in preparing and educating law students has also grown in size and profile, with American Bar Association–accredited law schools like Chapman, Whittier and Western State continuing to gain acclaim, and with the opening of the UCI School of Law a few years ago; the success of our local law schools only adds to the pool of extremely talented attorneys in the County.
Additionally, many Orange County attorneys are committed to giving back by supporting community-based organizations and taking pro-bono cases to help indigent persons in our county. With so many talented professional attorneys in our community, Orange County’s future is bright.
OCM: What makes the county's legal community different from other major metropolitan markets?
DJ: Our legal community is not defined by a city, but by a county, with no defined urban center. Orange County spans a large geographic area with legal diversity that reflects the community. In lieu of working in a concentrated downtown, our attorneys’ offices are located in cities and towns throughout the county, which creates a small-town feel to our legal community. Orange County is fortunate to have a federal and state judiciary that is well respected, experienced and capable of handling complex matters. Orange County is a pleasant place to practice law due to the camaraderie among members of the judiciary and the bar and the civility, professionalism and congeniality that exists within the profession.
OCM: How has the growth in size and prestige of the local legal community impacted the Orange County economy?
DJ: With the continued growth and prestige of Orange County’s legal community, more clients, including businesses, are retaining Orange County-based attorneys to handle their legal matters, which will ultimately lead to growth in the local economy.
OCM: What inroads have women made in the legal profession in recent years? Is it enough?
DJ: Women have made progress within the legal profession since Clara Shortridge Foltz became the first woman admitted to practice law in California, in 1878. Three women are currently serving on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the California Supreme Court has a female majority. Kamala Harris became the first woman attorney general in California in 2011, and Justice Kathleen O’Leary was appointed the first female presiding justice of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Three, in Orange County, this year. Since 1990, nine women have served (or are serving) as president of the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA), one of the largest voluntary bar associations in California, with approximately 7,000 members.
Women represent 15 percent of all partners, 36 percent of all associates and 27 percent of the attorneys in Orange County (which includes offices in Newport Beach, Irvine and Costa Mesa), according to the 2011 National Association of Law Placement (NALP) survey. In regards to members of the judiciary, the Center for Women in Government and Civil Society reports that no state has ever achieved equality of men and women in federal or state judgeships. Women hold only 23 percent of all federal judgeships and only 27 percent of state judgeships.
Although women have made strides within the profession, they are still underrepresented in positions of leadership. There is still a ways to go before women achieve equality with our male counterparts.
OCM: The Wall Street Journal recently reported that some law schools are accepting fewer applicants to reduce the number of graduates flooding the market. Is the industry overcrowded and what impact does that have?
DJ: The recent decline in the economy has undoubtedly impacted the legal community, especially among associates, young lawyers and recent graduates. While many attorneys pursue non-legal careers, contract work, or open their own firms for a host of reasons, there are many attorneys who have recently selected alternative career paths as a result of the limited traditional legal opportunities.
Through the OCBA’s partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, attorneys can enhance their trial skills while serving the community. The Small Trials Program was created to enable attorneys with little or no trial experience to receive training to handle unlawful detainer cases likely to proceed to trial. Additionally, lawyers may participate in guardianship and bankruptcy trainings co-sponsored by the OCBA and the Public Law Center and handle pro bono cases through PLC to enhance their skill sets and obtain experience.
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