Just after finishing their respective LCLD Fellows years, Katherine Huang, Joseph Ybarra, and Carlos Singer joined colleague Aaron May to create a Los Angeles-based boutique law firm. The goal of Huang Ybarra Singer & May LLP was to meet a need for high caliber lawyers who can represent clients in complex matters that don’t necessarily warrant the rates of big firms.
“I’m happy to say that we’ve survived our first year – and happier to say that we’ve thrived,” said Carlos Singer, Founding Partner of HYSM, 2012 Fellow, and new LCLD Member.
Friends and colleagues for years, Singer and Huang reconnected in part through the Fellows program; Singer also served on a nonprofit board alongside Ybarra. When they began talking about starting their own firm, their similar educational backgrounds, clerkships, and work experience made a good match. Huang and Ybarra were also former partners at LCLD Member firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, a distinction that sets them apart from many other boutique firms. But their diversity also played a part in their decision to start the firm.
"The Fellows program had this very tangible, positive influence on the way we approach our careers."
“I think at some level, we sought each other out in part because of our diverse backgrounds,” Singer said. “Our diversity is something that binds us together. We have a lot of shared experiences…but diversity is very much a part of our connection.” The firm was certified as a minority-owned business in October of 2014.
While the dream of starting their own firm predated their time in the Fellows Program, Singer said LCLD did help them take charge of their careers.
“It’s a unique program…that really emphasizes leadership training and deepening your connections with your colleagues at other institutions,” he said. “I don’t think our Fellows experience is unique – for many of our friends, the program has enabled them to accelerate their progress. It’s had this very tangible, positive influence on the way we approach our careers.”
In the last year, they have received much support from Munger, Tolles & Olson, as well as friends and colleagues at other firms who have referred clients and made recommendations. The firm has had many successes in its first year – they’ve even been able to add a fifth partner – but according to Singer, one of their most rewarding experiences was actually a case they didn't get.
“Months ago we were invited to bid on a really massive class action suit for a major Fortune 50 company, alongside many large firms,” he said. “They didn’t hire us...but what was really cool was that the firm that did get the client very much tracked what we had proposed…. It was affirmation that we know what we’re doing, and we’re giving advice of the caliber that one could expect from one of these really prestigious, national firms.”
What’s next for HYSM? In addition to continuing to grow the business, Singer said they’d like to do more pro bono work. He also offered this advice for other Fellows: “As a partner in a relatively new law firm, something that I’m keenly aware of is that relationships and trust are at the heart of what we do…. Don’t be rote about advising your clients or keeping up with your friends. Listen to people carefully and then get in there and show them through action that you’re committed to being helpful.”