Introducing The Port ...

Introducing The Portia Project | M.C. Sungaila

March 31, 2022 | by D. Todd Smith

This episode features the Texas Appellate Law Podcast’s first three-time guest, M.C. Sungaila. She joins Todd Smith and Jody Sanders to discuss her new podcast, The Portia Project, which chronicles the careers of women judges and lawyers and their impact on the legal profession. M.C. discusses what drove her new project, as well as her goal of inspiring a new generation of women lawyers and law students. Join us to hear about the podcast and how we can continue to make the legal profession more inclusive.

Listen to the podcast here:

Introducing The Portia Project | M.C. Sungaila

Our guest in this episode is our first three-peat guest here on the show. She is M.C. Sungaila, who is an appellate lawyer out in California. M.C., hopefully our guests are familiar with you by now, but if you would give us a little bit about you and what you do, that would be great. 

Thank you so much for having me back. I appreciate it. You have an excellent show. I appreciate being invited back. I co-chair or I chair the appellate practice at Buchalter. I’m based in California. I’ve been an appellate practitioner for many years.

There are a couple of different reasons we wanted to have you back. Number one, it’s been about a year since you were on our episode the first time talking about mentoring and the fellowship program at your firm. We also wanted to talk to you about a podcast that you’ve started. Let’s maybe start with an update about mentoring. What’s going on at your firm with the fellowship program? Is there anything different? How’s that going? 

Our first inaugural fellow decided that she wanted to do litigation. She has moved into litigation at the firm as a litigation associate. That’s good. That’s part of what we wanted with the fellowship. Is this something that you think you want to do full-time or is it just good training and entree to go into litigation more generally? That fits with one of the outcomes I anticipated. We’re looking forward to additional fellows in the future. We have hired a new appellate associate. We’re on hiatus from the fellowship for 2022, and then we’ll start again in the fall.

You have a lot of other things going on besides the fellowship. You started your own podcast. That’s really what we wanted to feature in this episode, although it is good to get that update about your firm’s fellowship program. Let’s jump in. Tell us about the podcast that you started and what you’re hoping to accomplish with it. 

The Portia Project podcast launched on February 7, 2022. We have a few episodes out there now. We have 5 episodes and 34 recorded. It keeps going up. We’ll have quite a bit for the rest of the year already, but many more interviews are scheduled. The podcast flowed out of an original concept that I had several years ago, which was there were not that many women appellate judges. Percentage-wise, there are more women trial judges than appellate judges. I noticed that. I did a little survey and thought there were maybe 130 around the country, federal and state, at that time. That’s certainly a doable amount of people to interview to include their stories, their personal histories, and what they like to see from advocates, little appellate advocacy tips and things like that all into a book.

That was my initial inclination to focus on women appellate judges and their stories and to focus on that in a book format, but as I started doing the interviews I found that the judges liked to talk. They would like to talk to me and we’d have this discussion for an hour. That would mean that I’d have to condense that into something in writing. We’d go back and forth. It was getting a little more unwieldy for a book format. Also, you would miss the spontaneity and their personality from the conversations that I had with them. I thought, “I’m not sure I’m liking this format as much as I thought initially.”

When podcasting got more popular, especially during the pandemic, I started thinking, “That’s maybe a different venue to do something like this.” You would be able to capture those kinds of candid conversations and more of their personality. I thought about it for a while, and then I thought, “Certainly, somebody else will do this. I can focus on other things.” As 2021 came to a close, I realized that no one had done this idea yet. There are a few more legal podcasts, but still not that many. You guys are still in the vanguard in terms of that and certainly not at the appellate level. There were a few podcasts focused on women in business or women entrepreneurs and a few interviews with women lawyers, but nothing focused on judges and nothing as comprehensive as I had envisioned. I was like, “I’m going to do it. Nobody else is doing this, but it seems like the right time to do it.”

That’s the evolution over several years of where the podcast came from. The first thing was I had to see what judges would be willing to do this. I was like, “Would they be interested in doing this?” If they don’t want to talk to me on a podcast, we’re not having a podcast. I reached out to maybe a dozen judges to see at first, “Would you be interested in doing this? Do you think this has value?” They all said yes. That’s why we have a podcast. It’s gratifying too. They were looking for an outlet. I’ll say that the timing was right for their willingness to be involved in this.

Typically, in California, at least, we have these programs called the California Women Lawyers Association. We would put on quarterly, or maybe a little more than that every year, a So You Want to Be a Judge program where the women judges and people who were involved in the appointment process would go around the state and put it out there to invite women to apply and demystify the process a little bit, but over the last couple of years there was no way you can do that. You might have one Zoom program like that, but it’s not the same as meeting the appointments people and being involved in that. There was a gap in that. That hadn’t happened for a while.

Also, some of the appellate courts in California have a new initiative to encourage and mentor diverse potential candidates for the bench and open that up to them to consider. That program has started to operate as well. I feel like their mindset is there that they want to encourage that. What are the best ways to do that? One-on-one mentoring is certainly one thing, but this is a way to get the information out and to make it seem much more possible for people to listen to at any point in time and also meet people where they are.

They’ll listen to a 30-minute, 45-minute, or 1-hour podcast much more easily than maybe they can’t make a particular program. All of those things, what was going on at the bar and the bench level and together with COVID. Also, frankly, judges are more comfortable with Zoom hearings and Zoom everything. I think all of those things conspired to make it possible and something that people were open to.

I feel like the timing has been good the last couple of years because suddenly, everybody knows how to do Zoom and remote conversations. It does make it a lot easier to find people who are willing to do that. I would think a lot of judges probably have Zoom accounts now that maybe didn’t a few years ago. 

They are more comfortable with that format and recognizing the venue in which we would do this, a strictly bar event venue, many of those are by Zoom as well, but maybe thinking outside the box a little bit more. Also, there’s the fact that there are a number of judges on Twitter. There are a number of judges like the women state supreme court justices who have their own podcasts like Lady Justice. That happened during COVID. I don’t think they would have gotten together to create that before COVID, but they’re comfortable with that format. Some people aren’t and some people are. To each their own.

woman speaking into microphone
The Portia Project: There were a few podcasts focused on women in business and a few interviews with women lawyers, but nothing focused on judges and nothing as comprehensive as we had envisioned.

Once I started talking to the judges, I started thinking that if we’re going to have a survey like a women’s progress in the profession and where we’re at now, where we’ve come from, and what opportunities there are for women, then we can go beyond appellate judges. We want that to be a major part of this, but there are other kinds of judicial positions. I’ll be interviewing people in different states where the process of how they get there is different. They’re elected and not appointed, or it’s a mixture of appointments. I’m also then going to the voters or magistrate judge positions, which are appointed by the district judges in a particular district.

Being a judge, there are a lot of different ways to get there. There are a lot of different careers. There isn’t just one way to lead to a judgeship path. Third, different types of judgeships. I started thinking outside that going, “We’re going to open that up a little bit,” and then thinking what can you do, what other leadership positions do women have in the law and have they used their law degree in other ways.

It started branching out to other types of judges, but then there’s the general counsel and chief legal officers. Those who are public defenders. There are also those who work in public interest work. Beyond that, those who run nonprofits, whether they’re legal or not. There are those who found legal tech companies and go into business. I have one who runs a major cultural center. She used to run a legal nonprofit, but now she runs this whole cultural center. It’s a range of thinking outside the box about what you can do with a law degree and what that means these days as well.

I feel like that’s such an important conversation regardless, but especially now when a lot of people have started to reevaluate legal careers after the pandemic and, looking forward, everyone’s benefit to what those are going to look like in the next 10 and 20 years. It’s great that you’re providing some templates to folks from people that they might not normally come across.

My heart is in pro bono and public interest work. Even though I work at a law firm, I’m very committed to pro bono work. I also feel like showing the different ways you can go into a public interest career or also different types of pro bono work that can be done. One of our major public interest groups here had their second in command come on the podcast. I also had a woman who founded and runs the Veterans Legal Institute. I’m going to have some domestic violence organization folks on. It’s a whole array of different things so that people can think about if they want to do pro bono even if they don’t want to go into the public interest full-time. These are some organizations to consider or to partner with.

That’s an incredibly broad array of areas that you’re talking about there. In terms of trying to compare this to your first visit on our show, that episode focused on training up the next generation of appellate lawyers. We were suggesting earlier your firm’s fellowship program. This seems like it fits together very nicely with the aim of your podcast, but instead of training up new appellate lawyers per se, you’re focused on inspiring women lawyers and law students. You start with showing them in the first few episodes of your podcast that women lawyers can be judges too and giving them some great examples of folks who have followed that path. However, as you’ve traced for us, it is also telling some stories that are important to be heard.

You don’t have to be a judge because you go to law school. We want to certainly encourage women to pursue that path if it’s something that they want, but in the law, as we’ve discussed many times here on the show, there’s a wide variety of things that one can go into in terms of practice areas. The broad scope of topics and work situations that your guests are in sounds fascinating.

I’ll say for Texas folks, Judge Rosenthal will be up to bat shortly. Justice Bland has also been interviewed. There are a couple of Texas judges that are already coming up in the mix.

I’m going to jump in there and say that I’m putting Judge Bland on notice now that if she can come on your podcast, she can come on ours. I’m letting her know as I’m prone to sometimes do and call some people out a little bit on the show. She’d be willing to do it anyway, but I’m a little jealous that you got her on your show before we got her on ours. 

She’s a lovely human being. She, Justice Ellis, and I were on a storytelling panel at the Appellate Judges Education Institute in Austin, Texas. We bonded over the panel. That’s how I nabbed her to come to be on the podcast. I’ve done work in making her feel comfortable with the format. Hopefully, she’ll be comfortable talking with you guys as well. They are amazing people. I’m very blessed to have both of them be willing to discuss things.

One of the things that I’ve heard a lot of the guests say to me is, “You have this person and that person.” They all know each other. They’re all across the country, but they’re like, “We’ve known each other and supported each other for a long time.” It’s a tight network of women who have accomplished a lot of great things. It’s nice to be able to feature them together.

My hope was that the individual stories would be interesting and teach things, but that collective story has emergent properties from the group as a whole. There’s something that’s unique from the collection itself that individually each person doesn’t have. That’s what I’ve been seeing in these interviews. There are commonalities. There are a number of challenges that women have had and they’ve overcome. Some of them are specific to their gender and some of them are just challenges you have in your career, but there’s the interweaving of their stories and how it captures women’s progress overall in the profession from the 1970s forward. It is something I’d hope would show up through the stories, and it does.

When you see the women who became some of the first chief justices or the first women judges in their state, they had challenges getting a job as a lawyer out of law school. This looks like a Justice O’Connor or Ginsburg challenge from that time. Soon after that, the jobs that we did that were open were government jobs. We were prosecutors or in the attorney general’s office. You can see those opportunities opening up such that people have a very different mosaic of a career path before they hit the bench.

That in itself shows a much broader story of where women are at in the profession. It shows their grit, resilience, and a lot of wisdom. Also, there’s a lot of good advice. Patricia Hunt Holmes, also a Texan, I interviewed her. She’s now retired and writes books. I thought she was an interesting mix of both historical accomplishments of women in law practice, but then many of us are frustrated writers, so seeing someone who then goes on to have a successful writing career is also inspiring. The other thing from these interviews is it shows that once you choose one thing, you don’t have to do that your whole career.

podium with california state seal and state flag in the background
The Portia Project: California appellate courts have a new initiative to encourage and mentor diverse candidates for the bench and open that up to them to consider.

There are lots of opportunities to change, move, and use your skills in different ways. In her case, it is being retired then using her legal knowledge to have legal thrillers and things that hopefully make a difference in society or maybe move the needle forward a little bit. One of her books was about human trafficking. There’s that, and then there are also the stories of the folks like Justice Sears who was on the Georgia Supreme Court. She was appointed so young and was on the bench for a very long time. Now, she has had a significant career afterward in law firms and in law practice. That’s a change too. A lot of judicial appointments tend to be later in your career, but now it’s much earlier in your career, which means you have a second or third career or a second or third act after being on the bench, which is also another trend. You can see that in the conversations.

You’ve got 30 something episodes in the can already. Are you releasing episodes weekly?

Yes, weekly.

Are you going to take some time off? You’re clearly putting way more episodes in the can than you need. Are you going to start publishing every other day or are you going to schedule it out a little bit and give yourself a little bit of a break? That’s a mind-numbing pace that you’re on. 

I felt like it was a good time in December 2021. January 2022 was a good time because things tend to slow down. Also, we had another rumored Corona outbreak, so the trials stopped and the cases slowed down. I thought that if I was going to be able to match my schedule with the judges, this would be the best opportunity. I took that opportunity when I could. I have twenty more interviews scheduled in the first part of 2022.

The issue is that those who’ve been on have enjoyed doing it, so they go in and ask someone else. They’re like, “My colleague would like to do it,” or they suggest someone else who would like to do an interview, which is lovely. That’s where it goes. It’s like the little game of telephone down the line. I’m sure you may have had the same experience.

We have had that. You develop a synergy around past guests, especially when their episodes air and then there’s a buzz about it. That’s gratifying when things start to perpetuate themselves and you don’t have to go and hunt down guests. We’ve been fortunate to have that happen, but the other thing I wonder is if it has been the same with you. Your radar as far as people that you might want to have on the show, maybe someone that’s not expected or someone that you see maybe on social media. I know you’re active on LinkedIn. That’s your social media sandbox. I would imagine you’ve been able to develop through your network a good list of contacts and potential guests for the show too. 

One of the early guests was someone who is a general counsel I met on LinkedIn. Her name is Lisa Lang. She is a general counsel at a Kentucky college. She was on my list because I like her thought leadership. Directly from LinkedIn, I’ll tell you a good story of this one. When I decided to broaden it to not just practicing law, I saw Jennifer Friend, the Executive Director of Project Hope Alliance, which works with motel-living youth in Orange County to ensure them a better future. She was a firm partner. She left that to become the executive of this nonprofit, which she has grown tremendously in the last few years. She made it leaps and bounds beyond what it was previously.

When I was thinking that, I went to LinkedIn and saw her video. She had a little video of her story. I was like, “I want to interview her for this. She’s great.” That was because I was thinking about it and saw her video. It’s the power of social media and LinkedIn. I might’ve gotten around to it eventually because she’s right in my neighborhood if I had asked people who I should talk to, but that encapsulated it. I DMed her on LinkedIn and she responded right away.

She was like, “I’d love to do it.” She’s one of the people I would say who is the most cogent and has thought a lot about how lawyer skills translate to non-lawyer settings. She describes it like, “As a litigator doing this, is it a direct corollary to what I do running the nonprofit here? I have to get stakeholders together.” There are all these various things. She has thought a lot about how her skills translate. She was a perfect guest for that because that’s one of the questions people have. They’re like, “I’m a lawyer. I know how to lawyer, but I’m not sure I know how to do anything else,” and being open to that. We have a lot of skills.

I was going to interject that those times that you do reach out that your interviewees aren’t necessarily coming to you. One thing we’ve seen and been very pleased by is how open people are to the idea of coming on. As we’ve suggested, the pandemic changed people’s attitudes about Zoom, which helped, but even a couple of years ago it would have been harder to persuade people.

They could get used to the idea of having a conversation like this, but having it recorded and then published in some format is different. As lawyers, we’re the last ones to adapt usually and adopt new technology. Even though podcasting is certainly not new, it has certainly taken hold. It is a nice aspect of it now that people don’t think you’re crazy when you reach out to them and say, “I’d like you to come on my podcast.” They don’t say, “She has a podcast? What kind of a nerd is she?”

There was a complete leap of faith for all of these people who agreed to be interviewed before there was anything. Most people want to say, “You want me to be on your podcast? Can I go see what your podcast looks like? Can I go check out what am I getting myself into?” Many of these people who are open-hearted and very gracious to do this got nothing. I’d be like, “Trust me. It’s not going to be bad.”

That was the opposite for us. We’ve told the story before about how having Justice Boyd on our show as our first official interview gave us some street cred among the folks that we did ask to come early on. That has perpetuated itself over time. That is a testament to people’s faith in you that they would be willing to come on sight unseen. You’ve had so many interviews, and now, of course, we’re starting to see the product of that effort.

people sitting in desk chairs in a circle conversating
The Portia Project: You need to create a good team to put something together.

I would imagine that once people hear those episodes, you’ll have the benefit, too, of having something to show people and have them tune in to. It’s not to say that your existing guest list is not impressive because it is, but for us it was like, “We got a supreme court justice out of the gate.” Anything was possible. I’m not sure that would have been quite as possible if we hadn’t had a guest like Justice Boyd to begin with, because otherwise it would’ve been me, Jody, and a microphone. I’m not sure how seriously people would have taken us. 

Honestly, for a few people, I could point them towards your show to say, “Some judges do that. Some judges have been willing to be interviewed. It’s up to you whether you want to or not and how adventuresome you are, but it happens.” It was helpful to have you pioneering that so that I could refer to that in talking with people.

I was grateful for so many of the folks who were willing to take the leap to do this without any net. These are people I had met through a bar association, had appeared in front of, or knew in various ways, but some I didn’t who were very kind, like Justice Sears. We’ve seen each other on LinkedIn, but I’ve never talked to her. I reached out to her and DMed her on LinkedIn. I said, “I’m doing this podcast. Would you like to do it? You’re quite historic in your appointment. I feel like it would be very important to have you included in this.” She was like, “Yes.” They are wonderfully generous people.

How did you choose the name, The Portia Project? 

I chose it because when I entered law school and the legal profession in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, it was frequently a common term that people would refer to. There were a lot of articles about women’s progress in the profession and they would refer to it as Portia’s progress. The reference came from Portia in The Merchant of Venice, who had to pretend to be a man to act as a lawyer. That was the term that was used early on. I don’t know if it’s used so much anymore, but to me it encapsulates Portia’s progress in the profession and ensures the continued progress of women in the profession.

You’ve invested your own time and some money on that, too, because I see that you’ve trademarked the name, which to me is a sign that somebody is taking something very seriously. Congratulations on that. That’s a neat connection between the name and the function of the podcast. It’s helpful to know that, but I wanted to ask you how it has been with handling the scheduling and the production side of the podcast because we’ve been where you are, although you are miles ahead of where we were at the same stage because you got so many episodes already recorded. To some, it is a daunting task to start a podcast from scratch. How did you go about handling the mechanics of it? 

First, I called you guys and asked, “How do you do this production thing?” That’s the part I don’t know anything about. You gave me some very helpful tips in terms of who to call for podcast production, so thank you. One thing I learned from publishing my books and the merchandise around those was that I knew you needed to create a village or a good team to put something together. I had experience doing that and knew that that’s what needs to be done.

I was like, “What are the moving parts here? Who do I call for those things?” Number one is the logo, which is important. It’s the most important design element to create. Everything flows from the logo, the website, how you design things, and how it stands out or doesn’t stand out in the podcast parade on Apple or whatever platform.

It took quite a bit of time. It was an expensive proposition to do a logo design, as it turns out. It took a month to design the logo back and forth. From that, I then had somebody else design the website before we were even recording because I needed to get a sense of how that all fits together, what look we were going for, and what’s happening for the tone of the podcast. There’s the audio and video production. My tech team at the law firm was helpful in setting up everything every time I recorded. I’m at home, but when I do the podcasts I’m in a business-y office setting.

There’s also the scheduling part. It consists of reaching out to people, choosing the guest, coordinating the schedules, sending proposed questions in advance, reserving rooms, and coordinating all of that. As of the moment, I do all of that. My assistant does some of the calendaring after I’ve done it, but I do all of that myself. At some point, I’d like to be automated like you guys are. That would be very nice, but it’s snowballing out of control before I could set that up with the people referring a friend as it were who wanted to be interviewed.

You’ve got proof of concept. Now you know that your time would be well spent to work on making your processes more efficient, which I’m going to go into nerd land now talking about that. It is daunting to start, and it is hard to get out of the gate, but you’ve succeeded. The conventional wisdom is that if you don’t make it to ten episodes, that’s pretty common for a podcast. Most podcasts don’t make it and don’t go more than ten episodes. You’re going to defeat that because you’ve already done the work.

Partway through it, it became less a podcast. It became more of a project or a mission. It started with the judges and this finite group that I could invite, but then it became more of a mission to me as things grew. That’s partly why I’m moving so fast and doing this so much. The critical mass of stories you have or the more women’s lived experiences you would have together, the greater the whole. I want to do it as fast as possible because the more we have, the more it’s going to provide to people, and the more it’s going to give, the more of a unique thing it’s going to be. I’m driven at this point.

You have to go with it while you’re motivated and have the time to do it because that’s the other major aspect. If anyone’s reading this thinking, “How do I start a podcast?” Having that initial motivation and getting over the initial technology hurdles is one thing, but you have to be able to sustain it for it to work. We’ve taken a different approach to ours. We know more or less the schedule that we want to release new episodes on. We strike a balance between things that are current events versus the longtail episodes that, if it’s not published for a month or two, are not going to make any big difference.

Those are all things that folks have to think about before they dive into this. With that said, if we can do it, there is a number of other people out there who can do it. It’s just a matter of taking to it, sticking with it, and making it a passion. For us, I don’t know if it started out to be quite the same passion as it did for you, but certainly we felt like we had stumbled onto something pretty good and have enjoyed doing it ourselves for as long as we have.

tiles with a man outlined on them
The Portia Project: The more we have, the more it’s going to provide to people, the more it’s going to give.

 We’re not filling the niche quite the same way you are. You’ve got an audience that will enjoy the content you’re putting out. You don’t have to be female to enjoy it and listen to it. You’ve got some great guests talking about things that impact lawyers and non-lawyers alike. I’m interested in it for personal reasons, but the idea of translating your skills that were developed as a lawyer in other areas is something that’s very interesting because you hear about more and more lawyers leaving the profession. I always wondered, “What are they going to do? What do you mean you’re not going to practice law?” That’s a foreign concept to me.

I started thinking about that too. I was like, “What can you do with a law degree?” Years ago, they had that book that has 100 things you could do with a law degree, but I was like, “What does that look like?” Now, it looks like some pretty cutting-edge stuff between the legal tech. I want to have a panel on legal design, which is a whole new international movement. There are a number of nonprofits that are focusing on discreet issues with regard to human trafficking. I’d like to feature a bunch of them. There are so many different ways to make an impact that doesn’t involve deciding cases or working on them.

It’s an interesting intersection of time where there are a lot of new things that can be done with that. I get all these referrals from the different interviewees even if their episode hasn’t come out yet. I really take that as a compliment because it means to me that they enjoyed the interview because they didn’t even have the high of like, “My interview is out. I had the interview and enjoyed that.” I take that to heart because it means they enjoyed it and felt that it was productive, useful, and interesting. Even the people who are doing interesting things with their law degrees type of people, I get referrals from those folks too.

Is there anything that has surprised you from doing this? Are there stories you’ve heard or things you’ve learned that you were surprised by that you didn’t expect going in? 

I’ll say even the people I know or thought I knew well that I interviewed, there were still things I learned. Doing different things means that you develop different muscles and different skills. The number one skill that I have surmised from being a podcast host is that you’re a very good listener and you facilitate people sharing their stories. I was also becoming a better listener. In some ways, with some of my friends who I was closer with that were on the podcast, I was like, “I never knew that about you.” That made me feel like I was a bad friend because apparently I’m not listening well enough or asking the right questions unless I’m in this particular role. I feel like maybe I need to be a little more of a better listener in the friend zone.

I was surprised about the number of things that I had learned. Even they were surprised about some of the things that they shared that they hadn’t shared previously. That was nice. There were also a number of times I was emotionally touched by stories they’ve told, whether it’s triumph stories or stories of people that they have helped.

Out here on our Court of Appeal, Justice Eileen Moore was a nurse in Vietnam and does a lot of work with veterans. Some of the stories are tear-jerking stories. It’s about the people that she has managed to touch and help because of her time as a nurse. The amount of trust and faith that they had in her to turn their lives around is amazing. That’s the most surprising. Some of the more important things she has done in her career have been her decision-making and all of that other stuff as a judge, but as a good human being there to mentor the veterans and provide them with opportunities to open up their lives, those are the things that she feels are very close to her heart. It’s nice to hear those kinds of stories

There’s great value in being able to give them a format for that because the public-facing side of the judge is always such a small little slice of who they really are. That gets lost because there isn’t a channel to communicate that most often. 

It’s not even the personalities but the people behind the robe. There’s value to that from an educational standpoint in terms of the public knowing that there are people who want to serve and they’re only human. These are people who are deciding these cases. It’s a good opportunity to showcase the bench in that way.

You got me interested and looking forward to more of your episodes because it’s easy to tune in to the things that we are already interested in. I can go listen to another appellate podcast or another legal-related podcast, but I’m not going to hear the kinds of stories that you’re most likely talking about listening to those. It’s a great service that you’re doing not only for women in the legal profession or thinking about entering it but for everyone because the storytelling aspect of what you’re doing is phenomenal. Thank you for doing that. It’s wonderful.

Thank you. I’m very grateful to those who have agreed to sponsor the podcast. Most of them were willing to support it even before there was a podcast because it’s not inexpensive to produce, as you know, and especially to launch. I appreciate the sponsors, including two legal tech companies founded by women.

That’s a great fit. I could see Clearbrief, and it’s worth mentioning that we had Jackie Schafer on our show. She was a great guest. I really enjoyed hearing her perspective and all about her product. You have three sponsors. I know we share one of your sponsors. You’ve got CSBA, Court Surety Bond Agency, as a sponsor, which is a natural fit, of course. 

Dan Huckabay is based here in Orange County. We know each other quite well. They’re very interested in supporting appellate-related podcasts. We were a natural fit in that regard. Trellis Research is the other women-founded legal tech company that supports the podcast. Nicole Clark, one of the cofounders, was a litigator here in Orange County, California. She went off and started her company. I was one of the initial investors in that company. It’s coming full circle for her to invest in my project. It was kind of her. There’s also Clearbrief with Jackie. Ross Guberman and BriefCatch also sponsors the podcast.

You’ve got some good ones there. Ross was also on our show. We see the commonalities here, even aside from the fact that we’re all appellate practitioners. Thanks for coming back and spending the time with us and telling us all about what you’ve got going on with The Portia Project. It’s an outstanding effort on your part and I’m looking forward to checking it out. Before we let you go, tell us, first of all, where can our readers find you? Second, where can they listen to the podcast? 

I’m on LinkedIn. I’m also on my firm website, The podcast is everywhere you can find a podcast. It’s on Apple, Spotify, Google, and Stitcher. There are a few others I probably haven’t mentioned, but there’s also a podcast website. It’s All of the episodes and transcripts are there. We’ll have videos of the interviews up soon as well. The website is a good one-stop shop.

Thank you so much for coming back. Good luck with everything. Let us know how we can help. 

Thank you so much. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Important Links

About Mary-Christine (‘M.C.’) Sungaila

M.C. Sungaila is the leader of the Firm’s Appellate practice group and a Shareholder in the Firm’s Orange County office. Ms. Sungaila is a highly regarded appellate attorney who has briefed and argued appeals raising cutting-edge and fundamental business issues for over two decades. Her work has helped shape undeveloped areas of the law in constitutional law, employment, franchisor liability, product liability, class actions, probate, immigration, Holocaust art recovery, and human rights. She crafts creative approaches to clients’ emerging legal issues and provides pretrial consultations in cases where an appeal by either side appears inevitable.

Chambers USA reports that clients describe her as “a phenomenal writer,” “an excellent strategist,” and a “gifted appellate lawyer who consistently delivers bottom line results.” Clients praise her “great practical sense,” “laser” focus on key issues, “excellence in creative thinking,” “deep local knowledge of the California Supreme Court, as well as other appellate venues,” and her ability to “advise on the business side just as well as she does on the legal side.” She has been recognized for over a decade by the Daily Journal as one of California’s 100 Leading Women Lawyers, and as one of the state’s Top Labor & Employment Lawyers. She is a recipient of two back-to-back California Lawyer of the Year (CLAY) awards, including one in 2015 from California Lawyer magazine, Daily Journal Corporation, for the precedent-setting franchisor vicarious liability case she argued before the California Supreme Court, Patterson v. Domino’s Pizza.

In addition to her appellate practice, Ms. Sungaila is also frequently recognized for her sustained commitment to community service and pro bono work. In 2017, she was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, whose recipients include seven U.S. Presidents, Nobel Prize winners, athletes, leaders of industry, artists, and others whose work has made a lasting impact on humanity, for her combined professional achievements and humanitarian and pro bono work. She has also been recognized by groups such as California Women Lawyers, Alpha Phi International Fraternity, Orange County Women Lawyers, the Orange County Hispanic Bar Association, the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, and Coastline Community College Foundation.

Ms. Sungaila is regularly published and quoted in top industry publications, and her articles relating to effective amicus briefing, appellate brief writing, and gender issues are cited frequently and are required reading in law schools throughout North America. She has taught appellate law at University of California, Irvine, Loyola, and Whitter Law Schools.

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