back to Screen-Friendly page

Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

Judicial Mentorship Program: More Than Just a How-To Guide


By Maria Yuen Stein Law Group


I always thought that I would need to work as a district attorney, a public defender, or for a big-name law firm – the traditional routes to the bench – in order to have any chance of becoming a judge. As a Chinese-American and a woman with none of the above experiences, the judicial selection process was mysterious; and the possibility of someone like me becoming a judge seemed remote.

Seeing the advertisement for the Judicial Mentorship Program (one of the BASF’s Diversity Pipeline Programs) in the BASF Bulletin, stopped me from scratching the judiciary off my list of possible careers. My expectation coming into the program was that I would get a “how-to” guide to answer process questions, such as: what do the governor and the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation look for, what forms do I fill out, what should my resume contain, what makes a strong writing sample, etc?

The Mentorship Program answered my simplest questions and demonstrated there is much more to the effort than I ever knew. My assigned mentor is Justice James R. Lambden of the First District Court of Appeals, Division Two, who has introduced me to judges from several courts and encouraged me to “shadow” him regularly. When we met, I asked Justice Lambden, “Why do you personally care about diversity in the judiciary?” And he told me that his mother worked as a waitress to help pay his way through law school and that she often worked at banquets attended by judges. While some of the judges were very kind, others seemed to ignore her; and she later urged her son to become a judge who “sees everyone in the room.” Maria Yuen and Judge Lambden

The Mentorship Program has helped me take a good look at myself, my cultural competency and my own personal strengths. Having the opportunity to chat with many judges and commissioners about their backgrounds certainly debunked my impression that traditional routes are the only ways to the bench. I have observed Judge Julie Tang, who handles juvenile cases at the Youth Guidance Center, and Judge Andrew Y.S. Cheng, who presides over criminal matters at the Hall of Justice.

The Mentorship Program has encouraged me to recognize the skills that I could contribute to the courts and also to appreciate the importance of the courts’ service to diverse communities in California. One of the lessons I have learned is also the simplest: one should always try to “see everyone in the room.”

To find out more about the Judicial Mentorship Program, email Lauren Luke at

Our partners at BASFAhern Insurance Brokerage