CBL Scholars Program Opens Doors in Business Law for Three Students

First-year law students Joanna Chen, Malik Jefferson, and Veronica Louise Mendoza will receive financial scholarships and mentorship opportunities after being chosen as the fourth cohort of CBL Scholars.

The CBL Scholars Program is made possible by generous donations from individuals and corporate sponsors, including Orrick, Freshfields, Gibson Dunn and Gunderson Dettmer.

Launching new companies, helping innovative startups grow, and expanding economic opportunities in disadvantaged communities are among the top goals of this year’s three CBL Scholars from the Center for Business Law.

Joanna Chen, Malik Jefferson, and Veronica Louise Mendoza were chosen among a record-breaking number of first-year law students who applied to become CBL Scholars this year. They will each receive financial scholarships and unique mentorship opportunities with seasoned business law leaders and professionals.

Now in its fourth year, the CBL Scholars Program aims to accelerate the careers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and improve diversity in the field of business law, according to Evan Epstein, executive director of the UC Center for Business Law SF.

“This is a very exciting group of CBL Scholars, incredibly energetic and thoughtful about making an impact in the business law community upon their graduation,” Epstein said.

Each CBL Scholar has a unique history and background. Chen grew up in an immigrant family in Southern California, where she helped her Taiwanese parents run the family restaurant. She later studied political science and media studies at UC Berkeley before working in investment banking. For the last five years, she has helped dozens of startup founders grow their businesses, market their products, and close complex merger-and-acquisition deals. Her work in finance, business strategy, and marketing has spanned multiple industries, including consumer technology, financial technology, and consumer products.

“My passion to work with founders and the emerging companies/venture capital (EC/VC) practice area led me to accept a 1L summer associate position with Gunderson Dettmer,” she said. “After graduating, I know I want to work within the startup ecosystem and continue working with founders and investors.”

Jefferson grew up in Los Angeles, where he said a scarcity of money drove him to develop entrepreneurial skills from a young age. As a child, he sold lemonade on the weekends and sold candy to other kids at school. Later as an undergraduate student, he taught cooking lessons to private clients and landed gigs as a freelance events coordinator. Jefferson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from UC Berkeley, said he wants to change the status quo in low-income and minority communities that are too often deprived of opportunities in the worlds of business and law.

“By pursuing a career in corporate law, I plan to use my knowledge to both protect, educate, and bolster the economy of my community and other exploited groups to help them better navigate the financial realm and be a catalyst for systemic economic reform,” he said.

Mendoza, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines as an infant, said she was influenced by the entrepreneurial spirit of her hard-working, immigrant mother, who raised her in a single-parent home in Palo Alto, California. When applying to law school, Mendoza reached out to past CBL Scholar Jayshawn Anderson ‘23, who became her mentor and inspired her to pursue dual degrees in business and law. Mendoza, who earned her MBA from the University of Notre Dame, said she plans to take full advantage of networking and mentorship opportunities made possible by the CBL Scholars Program.

“This scholarship represents the sacrifices my immigrant mother made to pursue her American Dream and my inherited resilience to shatter glass ceilings,” she said. “I would love to use this scholarship to pay it forward and help encourage others to break these barriers.”

All three students are members of the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) at UC Law SF, which admits and provides financial support and academic resources for students who have overcome significant disadvantage to attend UC Law SF.

Assistant Dean of LEOP Elizabeth McGriff ’96 said programs like LEOP and CBL Scholars provide access and opportunity in the legal and business professions, from which many students have been historically excluded.

“The 2024 CBL Scholars are extremely well-rounded, talented students with premier intellects who are credits to themselves, UC Law SF, LEOP and the Center for Business Law,” McGriff said.

CBL Scholars Advisory Board member Scott James, who serves as partner and chief operating officer for the tech investment firm Goodwater Capital, added: “We’re thrilled to welcome another standout cohort of CBL Scholars, and I’m excited to see the impact these students will have on the future of business law.”

The CBL Scholars Program is made possible thanks to generous donations from individuals and corporate sponsors, including Orrick, Freshfields, Gibson Dunn and Gunderson Dettmer.

“It’s a remarkable mix of corporate and individual gifts that have allowed us to grow this program and make it a feature of business law education at UC Law SF,” Epstein said.