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Alumni Profiles

USF School of Law graduates pursue justice in diverse professions. Our alumni include distinguished judges, partners at top law firms, business leaders, public interest lawyers, and directors of nonprofit organizations.

Jean Afterman '91, Assistant General Manager and Senior Vice President, New York Yankees

Jean Afterman

Afterman holds one of the most powerful positions within the male-dominated field of Major League Baseball. Her duties as assistant general manager and senior vice president of the New York Yankees include scouting, settling contracts, and working on union and immigration issues. After graduating from law school, Afterman was working at a law firm when she was asked to handle a dispute over the licensing of Japanese baseball cards. Her client was Don Nomura, who would become a close business colleague and friend. Nomura and Afterman eventually worked together to help Japanese baseball players break out of domestic contracts. “If it weren’t for her opening the portal to the Japanese league, we would not have the global game that we have today,” says Wayne McDonnell, a professor of sports management at New York University.

Ming Chin '67, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court

Ming Chin

One of eight children born to Chinese immigrants, Justice Chin is a decorated Vietnam War veteran who worked his way up to the state's highest court, with positions in private practice, as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County, as an Alameda County Superior Court judge, and as a First District Court of Appeal justice. He became the first Chinese American to serve on the state Supreme Court when he was appointed in 1996 by Governor Pete Wilson. "Over the years I have worked with many USF law students through judicial externships as well as many school-sponsored advocacy programs and other events. In every situation, I am pleased to see that the traditions of excellence, justice, and ethics continue to distinguish each of USF's students and alumni."

James Fox '69, District Attorney, San Mateo County

James Fox

In addition to serving more than 26 years as district attorney of San Mateo County, Fox is dedicated to giving back to his profession through his leadership of professional associations. He has served as president of the 7,000-member National District Attorneys Association, which represents 30,000 state and local prosecutors responsible for prosecuting more than 95 percent of all criminal cases in the U.S. He has also been active with the California State Bar's Conference of Delegates and the California District Attorneys Association. He also encourages the assistant district attorneys in his office to participate. "What we learn through this involvement, we pass along to our colleagues and can apply in our own work," he said. "Sharing expertise and establishing nationwide networks are especially important in relatively new areas like identity theft and terrorism, where the threats and the consequences go beyond any single jurisdiction."

Jessica Grant '95, Partner, Venable LLP

Jessica Grant

Prior to joining Venable LLP, Grant was a partner at Coblentz Patch Duffy & Bass LLP, Sher Leff LLP, Taylor & Company, and Furth Lehmann & Grant, LLP in San Francisco. In 2013 she led the state of New Hampshire to an $816 million verdict against Exxon Mobil Corp. in a case over groundwater contamination by the gasoline additive MTBE. Her strategy was to dramatically simplify this hard-fought case, which led to the largest verdict of any MTBE case nationwide. In 2007 she received a California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award for her work as the lead trial lawyer in Savaglio, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in which she obtained a $172 million jury verdict against Wal-Mart. The class action suit was the first to be tried under a California law requiring employers to compensate employees an additional hour of pay when they are not provided a complete lunch break. "We really invented the wheel, from our theory of the case to the jury instructions," Grant said. "Nothing in the law barred punitive damages, and Wal-Mart's conduct was egregious, not just in the sheer number of violations, but also in the company's efforts to cover up the problem." Named one of the "Top Women Litigators in California" by the Daily Journal (2007), and one of the "Best Lawyers in the Bay Area" by Bay Area Lawyer Magazine (2005), Grant has served as a USF adjunct faculty member teaching mediation, is active on the board of the Legal Aid Society, and is a member the Association of Business Trial Lawyers. 

Max Gutierrez '59, Partner, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Max Gutierrez

Max Gutierrez specializes in planning for family wealth transfers, complicated valuation issues, and work on complex multi-state or multinational estates. In 2006, Max was listed as one of the Best Lawyers in America and was selected as one of the top ten Super Lawyers in Northern California for the second consecutive year. Gutierrez has served as chair of the Executive Committees of the Probate and Trust Law and the Family Law Sections of the State Bar of California; president and chancellor of the International Academy of Estate and Trust Law; regent of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel; and chair of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the American Bar Association. A frequent lecturer, he also has written numerous articles on taxes, estate planning, trust and estates, and family law. He is the author of Gutierrez on Marital Deduction Planning. "If you had to pick one alum in USF's storied history that best represents all that we are, it might very well be Max," said Dean Jeffrey Brand. "He is smart, without peer when it comes to respect in his areas of practice. He is an ethical, decent human being who understands that quality lawyering is about serving your client, as well as the profession at large."

Michael Hennessey '73, Former Sheriff, San Francisco

Michael Hennessey

Hennessey was the longest serving sheriff in the history of San Francisco and the longest tenured sheriff in California. He began his career as legal counsel to Sheriff Richard Hongisto and, in 1975, founded the San Francisco Jail Project, a legal assistance program for inmates with civil legal problems. During his 32 year tenure as sheriff, Hennessey pioneered numerous rehabilitation programs for inmates, including RSVP (Resolve to Stop the Violence Project, an in-custody treatment program) and the Five Keys Charter High School. The school is named after what Hennessey sees as the five most important factors for inmates leaving jail: education, employment, recovery, family, and community. Hennessey is proud of the diversity of the department's staff and the development opportunities they are afforded. Representation of African Americans and Asian Americans soared while Hennessey was in office, with more than 70 percent of women and minorities serving as deputies. "The thought process you learn in law school is invaluable. Plus, it instills a reverence for the Constitution that gives you a road map for your work and life," Hennessey noted. In accepting the award of USF School of Law Alumnus of the Year in 2007, Hennessey quoted Albert Einstein: "'The only life worth living is a life lived for others.' USF reinforced that for me," he said.

Frederick J. Kenney '91, Judge Advocate General, U.S. Coast Guard


As Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Coast Guard, Rear Adm. Frederick J. Kenney Jr. ’91 has a diverse set of practice areas to oversee. In addition to handling the standard legal areas of any military branch, the Coast Guard’s attorneys also act as legal counsel for the branch’s extensive regulatory and law enforcement functions, which includes everything from regulating the shipping industry to enforcing drug trafficking laws. “On any given day, people used to ask me what kind of law I practice,” said Rear Adm. Kenney. “I would say, ‘It depends on what my next phone call is.’” Appointed in January 2011 as the U.S. Coast Guard’s No. 1 attorney, Rear Adm. Frederick J. Kenney ‘91 oversees the delivery of all legal services in support of the Coast Guard’s worldwide missions, its units, and 50,000 personnel. He likens it to being the senior partner of a law firm; in Rear Adm. Kenney’s case, the “firm” includes 184 military attorneys, 92 civilian attorneys, and 87 legal support personnel. He also is the Coast Guard’s chief counsel, serving as the branch’s primary contact for legal advice for the Office of the General Counsel and the Office of Homeland Security.

Rear Adm. Kenney, who joined the Coast Guard in 1981 shortly after graduating from college, attended the USF School of Law while stationed in the Bay Area. “The thing that was most impressive to me about USF was the personal attention I got from the professors,” said Rear Adm. Kenney, who served as editor-in-chief of the Maritime Law Journal. “They took the time to sit down with you and talk about where you’re going. I really liked the way that they brought the teaching of law to a practical level. You really had to think about how you would apply things in the real world and that has helped me in my practice ever since.”

Stacy Miller Azcarate '96, President, Miller, Sabino, & Lee, Inc.

Stacy Miller Azcarate

Miller is founder and president of the legal placement firm of Miller, Sabino & Lee, Inc. She began her career practicing real estate and corporate law in San Francisco before joining the world's largest legal placement company as the executive director of its Northern California offices. She founded Miller, Sabino & Lee, Inc. in 1999. "Learning at USF is a true collaboration by and among faculty and students. There is no way I could run my company and be successful without my law degree and the support of the dedicated USF alumni community, which has continued well beyond my law school years."

Barbara Moser '90, Founding Partner, Kaye • Moser • Hierbaum LLP

Barbara Moser

Moser began her career in family law as an associate with Brobeck Phleger and Harrison, where she was mentored by fellow USF alumnus Max Gutierrez '59. In 1995, Moser established Kaye • Moser • Hierbaum LLP, a boutique family law firm in San Francisco comprised of many USF alumni. The firm is known for handling the most complex cases, and for dealing with issues such as stock option valuation and international jurisdictional issues. They have been involved in cases around the state involving top executives, professional athletes, and rock stars. The firm also does estate planning, probate and trust litigation, and trusts and estates work. "We are known for zealously representing our clients, so sometimes other attorneys describe us as being aggressive," Moser said. "But we settle the vast majority of our cases, and on very good terms for our clients, precisely because of our zealous representation, our thoroughness, and our attention to detail." Moser has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer three years in a row, and was the recipient of a Reader's Choice Award for San Francisco's Favorite Attorney by J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. In 2006, Moser was named USF's John J. Meehan Fellow for her dedication to the professional development of USF law students.

Frank Pitre '81, Partner, Cotchett, Pitre & Simon

Considered to be an outstanding consumer fraud, commercial torts, and personal injury trial lawyer, Pitre has won millions of dollars for victims. In 2007, Pitre was elected a fellow of the prestigious International Academy of Trial Lawyers, and in 2006, he was recognized by the San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association as Lawyer of the Year. He also was selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America (2006-2007) and ranked among the top 500 litigators in America by Lawdragon magazine. In addition, he has been named a Northern California Top 100 Super Lawyer for 2005–2007. He is a past president (2006) of Consumer Attorneys of California, a 3,000-member group of lawyers dedicated to protecting and seeking justice for consumers. "My years at USF awakened my social conscience," he says. "I learned the value of hard work and commitment. Professors modeled those characteristics."

Lindbergh Porter '81, Partner, Littler Mendelson

Lindbergh Porter

A 2008 Super Lawyer according to Law & Politics and a top employment attorney in the San Francisco Bay Area according to The Recorder, Porter is partner in one of the largest employment law firms in the country. He represents financial services, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, media, and technology clients as advisor, trial, and wage-and-hour class action counsel. His firm has hired numerous USF students as associates and summer associates. "What sets USF apart from other law schools is a belief by the faculty and the administration that they are preparing students to be full participants in both the legal community and the larger community in which they live," he says. "Students recognize that they have an obligation to participate fully in society, not just be good lawyers. Lawyers have a special obligation to be active in civic affairs, and USF furthers that notion."

Maria Rivera '74, Associate Justice, First District Court of Appeal

Maria Rivera

Prior to joining the bench, Justice Rivera was a partner with McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enerson and served as assistant U.S. attorney and deputy district attorney in San Francisco. She has been named Pro Bono Judge of the Year and serves on the Legal Services Trust Fund Commission, the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession, and the Commission on Impartial Courts. "In the past two decades, USF has become more and more focused on its mission to educate students to be effective lawyers with a social conscience, high ethical standards, and a global perspective," she says. "Unquestionably, a part of my path to the bench was rooted in the notion inculcated in me at USF that a law degree is a privilege and must be used not just to make a living but also in service to the community."

Kelly Robbins '91, Principal, Robbins Family Law Firm

Robbins has practiced law in San Francisco since 1991, making her start in civil litigation to gain valuable trial and courtroom experience. For the past 10 years her sole focus has been matters of family and divorce law with an emphasis on high-asset property division, support, and custody. In 2005, Robbins was certified by the State Bar of California as a Specialist in Family Law, a designation held by only a small group of practicing attorneys. Robbins has also served as president of the Queen's Bench Bar Association of the San Francisco Bay Area, an organization dedicated to advancing the interests of women in law and society and furthering the progress of women in the legal profession. The members of Queen's Bench are inspired by a "long and proud tradition of women lawyers standing up for equal rights and equal opportunity, and working together," Robbins says. The organization also leads public service efforts such as a project in San Francisco's Juvenile Hall and collecting business clothing for women re-entering the workforce. "The USF Women's Law Association came down with several boxes of clothing," Robbins recalled. "But that didn't surprise me, since I know from my own experience how engrained the ethic of public service is at USF."

Kevin Ryan '84, Director, San Francisco Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice

Kevin Ryan

In addition to leading Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Criminal Justice, Ryan serves as the mayor's deputy chief of staff. Prior to his tenure in San Francisco's City Hall, Ryan was the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California. Also a former Alameda prosecutor, San Francisco criminal court judge, and California superior court judge, Ryan's new job entails advising city departments on current policing strategies, writing legislation to curb criminal activity, and coordinating a database of cases and information for use by city agencies.

Donald Specter '78, Director, Prison Law Office

Donald Specter

When Specter joined the Prison Law Office in 1980, it was a two-attorney office, handling cases for individual inmates. Today, the nonprofit public interest law firm, located just outside the gates of San Quentin, employs 14 lawyers who lead class action cases that have improved conditions for the nearly 170,000 inmates in the state's prisons and juvenile facilities. "I'm proud of our growth and impact," Specter says, citing as examples successful litigation for improved living conditions and a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision holding that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to prisons. "USF gave us all the opportunity to try new things and to make mistakes without doing any real harm. It let me experiment, to take a sort of 'taste test' approach to finding which area of the law was right for me," Specter said.

Paul S. Speranza Jr. '71, General Counsel, Wegmans Food Markets Inc.


Paul S. Speranza Jr. ’71 rose from humble beginnings as the son of a barber to vice chairman and general counsel of Wegmans Food Markets Inc., a Rochester, N.Y.-based company with 38,000 employees and $5 billion in sales that is consistently ranked in the top 5 best places to work by Fortune magazine. He also recently completed a term as chairman of the board of the 3 million-member U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he was the first practicing attorney to lead the board. As the first in his family to graduate from college (he earned a full academic scholarship to Syracuse University), Speranza has used his positions at Wegmans and with civic organizations like the chamber to improve access to education for disadvantaged youth and to improve the quality and affordability of health care. “At USF I received a great education and a practical education and I continue to use what I learned to this day,” Speranza said. “Being a part of the USF community, taking clinic courses, and helping the economically disadvantaged helped me to form an understanding of the importance of corporate social responsibility.”

Mary Jane Theis '74, Justice, Illinois Supreme Court

Mary Jane Theis

Justice Theis was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court in 2011. Prior to her appointment, she served on the First District Appellate Court and as an assistant public defender. Judge Theis is a member of the Illinois State and Chicago Bar Associations, the Women's Bar Association of Illinois and the Illinois Judges' Association. In addition to her service on the bench, Justice Theis has served as president of the Appellate Lawyers Association. "I hope to strengthen that sense of civility and professionalism in every aspect of our professional lives. That accords with the values-based approach to the law and life that I learned at USF and which has colored my entire career."

Steve Varholik '02, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Division of Enforcement


Varholik is senior counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement, a position he has held since 2011. He previously served as special counsel in the SEC Division of Trading and Markets. In this role, he worked with other commission staff to interpret and enforce federal securities laws, oversee the markets and market participants, issue new rules, and amend existing rules under the federal securities laws. Varholik says one of the most challenging aspects of this position is weighing the interests of investors, the securities industry, market participants, and other Americans as new rules are developed. He credits USF, where his interest in securities law was first piqued, for helping inspire him to pursue a career in public service. Before joining the SEC, Varholik focused on securities litigation and security industry at the Washington, D.C., office of Garvey Schubert Barer. He has an LLM in securities and financial regulation at Georgetown Law, where he teaches as an adjunct professor.