Alumni Profile: Kara K. Ueda '00 and Scott M. Lay '00
When the UC Davis School of Law Class of 2000 returns to King Hall for its 10-year reunion in October, Kara Ueda '00 and Scott Lay '00 will have some especially fond memories to share with their classmates and former professors. For Ueda and Lay, a married couple who are helping to organize the reunion and encourage fellow alumni to attend, King Hall was not only where they received the legal education that has formed the basis of their professional success, but also where they started dating.
"UC Davis School of Law has been such an important part of my life," said Ueda. "My law school experience not only allowed me to become an attorney, practicing in an area I love, but also led to life-long friendships and my eventual marriage to Scott. The law school does a great job of offering an outstanding legal education in an environment that promotes camaraderie, cooperation, and friendships."
For Ueda, a Stockton native with an interest in environmental law and public service who wanted to work in government, UC Davis was an obvious choice. She studied Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning as an undergraduate, served as a Senate Fellow in Sacramento for a year, then enrolled at King Hall.
"Davis was really my top choice, because the Law School had a commitment to public interest law and a reputation for a high bar passage rate. Those two things were really appealing to me, along with proximity to Sacramento, where I wanted to work." King Hall was Lay's only choice for law school as he had a similar interest in eventually working in Sacramento and wanted to continue working for the Community College League of California, where he had served an internship.
Ueda and Lay had classes together as undergraduates, and had gotten to know each other somewhat because they kept running into each other at Davis City Council meetings. (Ueda was serving an internship with Lois Wolk, then mayor of the City of Davis, while Lay, a Political Science major, ran for city council.) But it wasn't until law school that they became close. "We ended up sitting next to each other in the same section on the first day, and we started dating after that," said Lay. "We've been together ever since."
After law school, Ueda went to work for the League of California Cities, where she supervised the writing of amicus briefs on appellate cases, organized conferences, and served as an in-house attorney, gaining an intimate familiarity with the workings of municipal governments. In 2002, she was offered a position with McDonough Holland & Allen, where she is now a shareholder. Her practice includes transactional, advisory, and litigation matters for both public agencies and private entities. She currently serves as City Attorney for the City of Rio Vista, Assistant City Attorney for the City of Davis, and General Counsel for the First Five Yuba Commission. She co-authored "A Local Official's Guide to Ethics Laws," published by the Institute for Local Government and regularly provides ethics training to local officials. She is a member of the Public Law Sections of the State Bar and the Sacramento County Bar Association, Vice President of the Asian/Pacific Islander Bar Association of Sacramento, and a member of the Milton L. Schwartz/ David Levi American Inn of Court.
"I like being part of the process of local government, which is really at the core of providing services to California residents, and I enjoy the variety-every day is different," she said. "I feel like I am essentially a public servant, but I have the luxury of doing work that I love for a variety of different clients at a private law firm."
Lay is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Community College League of California, a non-profit organization serving California's 72 community college districts. An enthusiastic advocate for public education, Lay credits the California community college system for giving him the skills he needed to access and succeed at UC Davis after dropping out of high school. Lay states that to the faculty and administration at community colleges, "it does not matter where you started out in life." Lay has been inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame at Orange Coast Community College, has served as the President of the National Council of Community College State Association Chief Executives, on the Board of Directors for the EdFUND Loan Guaranty, on the Advisory Board of Directors for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and is a frequent media commentator and keynote speaker on education policy and politics. Lay is also a member of the Schwartz/Levi Inn of Court.
As an undergraduate at UC Davis, he was Legislative Chair of the California Student Association of Community Colleges, which led in 1995 to his internship with the Community College League, where he's been ever since. While at King Hall, he was president of the Law Students Association. Lay believes that one of the most important things he did at King Hall was to draft the Legal Education Enhancement and Access Program (L.E.E.A.P.) measure, which law students voted to support in April 1999. The L.E.E.A.P. initiative authorized a phased-in increase in student fees to fund several efforts, including the Retention, Recruitment, and Outreach Fund, which provides student organizations with resources to conduct student recruitment, outreach, and retention. "Continuing to support and encourage students from all backgrounds to access higher education is a priority for me, especially during these trying economic times," said Lay.
Lay founded and operates two websites devoted to California state politics, AroundTheCapitol.com and ElectionTrack.com and previously co-authored The Roundup (http://capitolbasement.com), a nonpartisan daily political news summary. He describes himself as an "avid gardener and wannabe chef."
Ueda and Lay married in August 2008. Their wedding was officiated by Cruz Reynoso, who holds the Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality at King Hall. "Cruz's commitment to civil rights and equality are unparalleled, and we were honored that he so kindly agreed to officiate our wedding," said Lay. As King Hall alumni, Ueda and Lay have been active supporters of the Law School. Ueda joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors in 2002, where she continues to serve as Vice President of Alumni Relations. Last month, Ueda helped organize a reception at the Sacramento office of McDonough Holland & Allen for more than 80 alumni and admitted students. Both Ueda and Lay have volunteered to help organize their class reunion, judged moot court, and participated in mock interviews. They are frequent attendees at King Hall events, and have been consistent and generous donors to the Law School since their graduation.
"UC Davis is a great place to study law, with a tradition of offering a first-rate legal education in a friendly, supportive environment," said Ueda. "We want that tradition to continue, so we try to support the Law School in as many ways as we can."