Montage Legal Group’s newest freelance attorney, Dimetria A. Jackson, will become the Orange County Bar Association’s first African American female president on January 19, 2012. But serving the community is certainly not a first for Dimetria – she has been doing just that, continuously and consistently, since childhood. With more academic, professional, and community accolades than most could possibly imagine, Dimetria is poised and ready to serve in her important new role for the OCBA.
We sat down with Dimetria to ask about her vision for the OCBA in 2012 and beyond.
Erin Giglia: You are one of the busiest people we know on a normal day, and this month is especially busy as you ramp up to take the reigns as the OCBA’s new President, so thank you so much for finding a few minutes for this interview. For those of our readers who have not met you yet, can you provide us with a brief summary of your background?
Dimetria Jackson: Growing up in Cambria Heights, New York, I was very active in my community. I raised money for charities, donated clothing and toys, campaigned for local politicians and participated in marches, with my family, to protest civil and racial injustices, in New York. I was inspired by my parents, to make a difference in my community, and by the Honorable Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice and lead attorney in Brown vs. Board of Education, to attend law school. I attended Dartmouth College, where I majored in Government and Sociology, and the University of Virginia School of Law.
While in law school, I was selected as an Echoing Green Foundation Fellow. I relocated to Los Angeles to pursue a fellowship with the National Health Law Program, a national public interest law firm, where I founded the Women & HIV Policy Development Project to provide legal advice, trainings and advocacy on access to health care for low-income HIV positive women and those at risk. I advocated on behalf of the women locally and on Capitol Hill. Upon completion of my fellowship, I joined the Los Angeles County Counsel’s Juvenile Dependency Division, where I represented the Department of Children and Family Services. I then transitioned to an in-house counsel position at First American Title Insurance Company. In 2000, I began working at First American Trust, FSB, where I served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary. My duties included managing the legal and compliance departments, drafting and negotiating agreements, managing litigation, and handling all legal matters including, investment management, regulatory compliance, banking, litigation, and corporate governance.
My husband, Ernest Priestly, and I have been married for over 7 years. We are the proud parents of a very smart, energetic and handsome 3 year old little boy, named Jackson. We are also parenting an adorable and curious 15 month old boy through foster care, that we would love to adopt.
Currently, I am CEO of redBAMBINA.com, an online retail boutique that caters to nursing and expectant women, infants and children. My responsibilities include management and operation of the business. Last year, I also decided to join Montage Legal Group to utilize my legal skills, on a contract basis. I have several years of extensive legal training that may benefit law firms and corporate legal departments seeking additional legal support.
Throughout my legal career, I’ve been involved in the community. I’ve chaired the OCBA’s Diversity and Equal Justice Committee, presented Elimination of Bias MCLE seminars, served on the OCBA’s Leadership Task Force, and was appointed to the California State Bar’s Ethnic and Minority Relations Committee. I’ve mentored several law students and participated in Chapman Law School’s Mentor Program. I am currently on the Board of the Directors of the Orange County Bar Association (OCBA), the OCBA’s Charitable Fund, the Orange County Bar Foundation, and InTouch Credit Union. I have previously served on the Boards of the Public Law Center, the California Minority Counsel Program, and Pink Ladder. I’m honored and looking forward to having a positive impact on the OCBA as its 2012 President.
Erin Giglia: What do you hope to accomplish in 2012 as President of the Orange County Bar Association?
Dimetria Jackson: As President of the OCBA, I plan to implement a few initiatives in 2012. First, to create and implement a strategic plan to identify the OCBA’s long term goals. It has been 14 years since the last strategic plan was drafted. The practice of law and practice management has changed tremendously over the past 14 years and as stewards of the OCBA it is time to set new priorities and goals for the future of the OCBA. Hopefully, the OCBA’s strategic plan will be reviewed annually to ensure unity, direction, and focus of the association.
Similarly, I plan to emphasize technology and social networking for lawyers. Because technology has dramatically altered the way lawyers are selected and hired, it is crucial that the OCBA assist its members to understand the benefits and pitfalls of technology in their practices and to understand how to implement technology. The OCBA currently has a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. To ensure that the OCBA remains in the forefront of technology, we are exploring the launch of an OCBA app and creating an OCBA President’s Page on Facebook. The OCBA will also host seminars to educate members on technology and social media, email, and blogs, to promote their firms and to provide engaging content.
Another goal is to create networking opportunities between lawyers and the business community through hosting events with local chambers of commerce and other professional organizations. These relationships will foster potential business opportunities and enhance the representation of lawyers in the community.
Additionally, we plan to create a new OCBA committee pertaining to the issues, challenges, and joys of parenthood while practicing law. As much as I love being a lawyer, since my son was born, I realize that I am very passionate about motherhood. I am hopeful that a new committee will provide an excellent opportunity for networking among similarly situated attorneys, foster mentoring relationships and social activities geared toward families. Working with the OCBA’s Education Committee, I would also like to plan MCLE panels focusing on issues relating to women in the law.
Erin Giglia: What made you decide to become a freelance lawyer with Montage Legal Group?
Dimetria Jackson: As a parent of a 3-year-old little boy and a toddler foster son, who we hope to adopt, life is joyously hectic. Family, community involvement, mentoring, and being a excellent lawyer are all huge priorities for me, priorities that do not always lend themselves to harmonious mingling. Practicing law, as a mother of young children, presents very unique challenges. On one hand, I have significant and valuable training, skills, and legal experience that are an asset to employers. On the other hand, I know that being a full-time attorney is rarely limited to 40 – 50 hours per week (or even 70 for that matter). Montage Legal Group provides the opportunity to do high level substantive legal work for law firms and corporations, nationwide, but virtually, according to my schedule, and with the support of likeminded women. There are so many extremely talented women with young children, who desire to use the legal skills that they worked tirelessly to achieve. Montage has figured out a way to make the practice of law beneficial to mommy lawyers, law firms and their clients.
Erin Giglia: With your freelance legal work, OCBA position,redBAMBINA.com, and two toddlers, you are going to be very busy in 2012! Do you have any advice for other parent lawyers who are trying to find balance?
Dimetria Jackson: Work life balance is something that I consistently try to achieve. One recommendation is to schedule time on your calendar (with reminders, if necessary) for you, your family and whatever else is important to you. Our calendars are filled with so many meetings and appointments, but in order to ensure that you make time for yourself, include date nights with your spouse, gym appointments, lunch with friends or family, hobbies and whatever you enjoy, as well as play dates and family outings. It will give you something fun to look forward to. If you enjoy going to the gym, calendar workouts for a time before the family awakes, once the children are asleep or during your day. If you need to take the children with you, many gyms offer day care for your little ones, for a small fee, while you reap the benefits of a great workout. Another recommendation is to seek assistance, by asking for help when needed. Too often, we try to do everything ourselves, but it will ultimately save time and money, if we retain or utilize the services of a sitter, housekeeper or shop online. Fortunately, I have a wonderful supportive husband who has agreed to rearrange his schedule and priorities this year so that I may balance work, my OCBA commitments, community involvement, family and my life.