An Interview with ACBA Board Member Alice Cheng

ACBA Past-President Michael Johnson sat down with three of our newer young board members to introduce them to our membership and show their journey to leadership. Third in our series is Alice Cheng.

About Alice

Alice Cheng
Alice Cheng

Alice Cheng, Law Offices of Vanessa Candelaria, P.C., is a family law practitioner and an active member of the ACBA Barristers Section, and was its 2017 and 2018 Executive Committee Chair. Alice was the 2017 recipient of the ACBA Distinguished Service Award for Barrister. Alice also speaks Cantonese and basic conversational Mandarin.

Prior to her work in family law, Alice worked as a legal intern, legal research assistant, and deputy district attorney at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, where she completed eight criminal jury trials and numerous bench trials, preliminary hearings, motions to suppress evidence, and more.

Alice received her undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Sociology from the University of California, Davis. During her senior year, she received an Outstanding Senior award. She continued her legal education at the University of California, Davis School of Law (King Hall).  At graduation, she received the Pro Bono Program Certificate, Public Service Law Program Certificate, and the Frank and Margaret Johns Alumni Association Award.  

The interview

Please describe your experience coming up through the ranks of ACBA, e.g., how did you become involved with ACBA, what was your experience in your first ACBA leadership role, how have progressed to the ACBA Board of Directors?  

I joined ACBA in 2014 when I started a new job in Oakland. Through the Earl Warren Inn of Court, I met Vincent Tong. At the time, Vincent was the Vice-Chair of the Barristers Section for ACBA. He invited me to attend a Barristers Executive Committee meeting. I decided to join the Barristers Ex-comm after discovering that the group was full of young, active attorneys with similar goals to grow as professionals and to give back to the legal community. I climbed the ranks of the Barristers Ex-comm, first serving as Secretary, then as Vice-Chair, and then as Chair for two years. During my time as the Chair for the Barristers Section, I was also honored to serve as an ex-officio member of the ACBA Board of Directors. I have been recently selected to continue serving as a director on the ACBA Board of Directors for the next two years.  

What impact (if any) has your participation in ACBA leadership had on your professional development?  

As a leader for ACBA, I have helped plan MCLEs, social events, and other events such as a candidates’ debate. Also, as the Chair of the Barristers Section, I ran our Executive Committee meetings for two years. All of these experiences have helped me grow professionally and personally. I have improved my presentation and communication skills. I have also gained more confidence to act as a leader but also as a member. Also, serving on a non-profit board has improved my skills in reading budgetary and tax documents, which are also documents I often review at work. Learning about marketing for ACBA has assisted me in improving the marketing for the small firm that I work for.

Have you used what you’ve learned as an ACBA Board Member in other aspects of your career?

Serving on a board of dynamic individuals with such different backgrounds and personalities has taught me to be a better listener and participant. I spend a lot of my time conferring with opposing counsel and with my clients, so it has been very helpful to hone these skills. More importantly, I have made many contacts with the bench, other members of the bar, and community members. These contacts have acted as great mentors, sounding boards, and referral sources. Thanks to the network that I have built, I feel very securely cemented as a member of the Alameda County legal community. Most importantly, I have learned how to engage people and to bring them to the table for serious conversations or to encourage them to dedicate their time or skills to an important cause.  

Do you feel that you have become a better lawyer and leader because of your participation on the ACBA board? 

Absolutely. Good lawyering is more than just knowing the law. Participating on the Board takes dedication and passion. It also tests your time management and concentration skills. From discussing important issues at our board meetings and committee meetings, I have improved my skills of persuasion.

How has your view of the Bar Association evolved from when you first engaged the ACBA until now as a Board Member?

Yes. I better understand all of what the ACBA has to offer. I used to view participation in the bar association as discretionary or just something that I should do if time permitted. Now I view bar association participation as mandatory if you want to get your name out there, whether it is to improve your career prospects, or to engage potential referral sources or clients. Not only should our members utilize ACBA as a source for legal education, they should rely on the bar for its social and networking activities. These are priceless opportunities to meet fellow attorneys, members of the bench, or other legal professionals. Finally, members should see the bar as a resource for giving back. Legal Access Alameda (formerly VLSC) offers many different clinics and is always looking for volunteers.

Interested in getting more involved with the ACBA?

Welcome to the Board Alice, and thank you for your service! If you are interested in learning more about the ACBA Board of Directors, please reach out to Tiela Chalmers at tiela@acbanet.org.