On November 19, 2022, the Prosecutors, ADR & and Women’s Committees teamed up to learn self defense at the NY Wutang Chinese Martial Arts Institute (“NY Wutang”) in downtown Flushing.
During these times of anti-Asian violence, AABANY members wanted to be prepared. Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair Joe Gim first taught members about the New York laws on the justification defense, particularly in connection with the use of physical force in defense of a person.
Next, the Master of NY Wutang and Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair Dave Chiang trained the attendees. Here, Dave wore his ADA hat as well as his Master Chiang hat.
Master Chiang taught the group that the first step is to be aware of one’s surroundings: “Don’t keep your head down looking at your phone.” The group also learned how to quickly turn their camera on to try to capture photos or video of the perpetrator.
Next, Master Chiang warmed everyone up with stretching exercises and the group practiced shouting, “Stay away! Leave me alone!” so that witnesses will know that you are not the initial aggressor.
The group then learned that the three weakest parts of an attacker are their eyes, throat and groin. Master Chiang taught attendees how to strike and target those body parts during an attack. The group practiced with each other and took away valuable information we will not soon forget.
Thanks to all the co-sponsoring Committees for putting together an informative and useful program on self-defense during these challenging times, and thanks to Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair Joe Gim for teaching us the law on self-defense and Prosecutors Committee Co-Chair (and Kung Fu Master) David Chiang for teaching those who attended how to protect themselves while following the law.
To learn more about the Prosecutors Committee, click here. To learn more about the ADR Committee, click here. To learn more about the Women’s Committee, click here.
On November 19, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Services Committee and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) joined forces to hold a pro bono legal clinic at AAFE’s One Flushing Community Center in Queens.
This Saturday’s clinic used a multitude of digital and analog resources to provide top-notch services. We creatively used a hybrid Zoom call setup to bring in immigration attorneys (Jackson Chin and Judy Lee) and maintain a non-stop stream of consultations. One group of attorneys helped a client find actionable steps forward from his complex legal status, providing him with additional resources and referrals. AAFE generously made its printer and xerox machines available, which were critical in handling the larger-than-usual volume of Spanish-speaking clients we saw on Saturday. We were able to print out Spanish-language brochures about asylum, immigration eligibility for public benefits in New York State, and pro bono referrals.
AABANY Legal Intern Daniel Kang reflected on the work he witnessed at the Clinic: “Every attorney who volunteered their time on Saturday was deeply and professionally invested in the problems facing clients. I had the opportunity to shadow and complete intake forms for consultations held by Jackson Chin and Judy Lee. It was incredible seeing Jackson and Judy drill to the legal substance of each client’s case by asking the right questions and bringing their own legal expertise to the fore. I was also heartened by the presence of Spanish-speaking volunteer interpreters who successfully broke through the language barrier between volunteer attorneys and locally based clients.”
Not many of the attorneys who attended Saturday’s clinic practice immigration law or speak Spanish. Immigration law is a complicated practice area which changes with each Presidential administration. A 30-minute legal consultation may not help those in dire need of immigration legal services, but clinics like AABANY’s may be a client’s best hope. Immigrant clients come to AABANY consultations in their attempts at acquiring information about the legal process, updates in immigration policy, how to survive in New York, and legal referrals. As usual, AABANY welcomes any and all practicing attorneys across the city to sign up for future clinics—as well as non-attorney volunteers who can speak Spanish or Chinese. Free lunch is provided to all volunteers at our clinics.
AABANY thanks everyone again for coming to volunteer at Saturday’s clinic! Please join us at our upcoming clinics:
On November 17, AABANY together with several other bar associations co-sponsored a program on “Becoming an AUSA,” hosted by Cleary Gottlieb at their New York office.
Joon Kim, former Acting United States Attorney of the Southern District of New York (SDNY) (and longtime AABANY member) gave opening remarks to welcome the standing room only crowd of more than 100 attendees. He reflected on his years serving with Preet Bharara and then succeeding him after his much-publicized termination during the prior Presidential administration. To this day, Joon remembers the gravity and weight of the words, “My name is Joon Kim, and I represent the United States” whenever he appeared before a judge or jury. The seriousness of representing the United States in numerous cases of public importance has never been lost on Joon. Now a Partner at Cleary, Joon was the first Asian American Acting United States Attorney in the Southern District, following Preet Bharara, who was the first Asian American United States Attorney in the Southern District.
Una Dean, former Assistant US Attorney in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) and now in-house counsel at IBM, helped organize the program and moderated the opening panel with current United States Attorneys Damian Williams (SDNY) and Breon Peace (EDNY). Una was also a past AABANY Board member.
Both Breon and Damian spoke about their paths to the US Attorney’s office and their desire to work on matters that would have positive community impact. Both expressed the belief that the US Attorney’s office provides a unique opportunity to do just that. Breon talked about criminal investigations and prosecutions his office has been doing, including a case that helped prevent a potential terrorist attack at the US Open. His office prosecuted R. Kelly for human trafficking. They fight hate crimes and also work on affinity fraud cases which target vulnerable members from diverse ethnic and religious communities in New York. In criminal cases, his office actively seeks out alternatives to incarceration and diversion programs as ways to resolve criminal complaints, and also supports programs that facilitate re-entry into society for formerly incarcerated persons. On the civil side, EDNY pursues civil rights cases, fights housing discrimination and brings cases to protect the environment. His civil rights division has also been addressing claims about NYPD’s handling of sexual assault complaints from survivors.
Damian, after being trained at a prominent law firm, believed that, for his further development as a litigator and trial lawyer, the US Attorney’s office was the next logical step. Damian has served in the SDNY for a decade and spoke about his time at the SDNY with great passion and fondness, and his love for the work is palpable. “It is the best job in the world, and the best job I can ever hope to have,” he declared. Assistant US Attorneys fight bullies, he noted, and he relishes working in an environment where everyone is dedicated to doing the right thing, serving the public interest.
Una asked both Damian and Breon what qualities they look for in candidates for their offices. Damian answered that they are looking for good, decent, human beings – “no sharp elbows” – who are team oriented. In other words, they don’t want any jerks. (He used a stronger word, but you know what he means.) Candidates should be good writers who are smart, can think on their feet and exercise good judgment. They must have a strong moral compass, a sense of right and wrong, because so much authority is delegated to junior attorneys at his office, and they must be “doing the right thing, the right way – always.” Candidates need to have a tremendous amount of energy, because they will be working hard. If you are looking for a lifestyle change or money, Damian advised, working at the US Attorney’s Office may not be right for you.
Breon agreed with Damian and added that for him, any candidate that has a win-at-all-costs mentality raises a major red flag. He believes in doing justice, and that means at times, his office may have to decline cases or admit error. A candidate that rushes to judgment would not work out. He also looks for attorneys with the courage to tell investigators or judges that the evidence is not there to bring a case or to prosecute a defendant.
Una then talked about the reason why she put this program together, noting that during her time at EDNY, the composition of the office did not reflect the makeup of the community they served. Breon responded that “it is incredibly important that the [EDNY] is a reflection of the community.” He wants people of diverse backgrounds and experiences in his office to help solve problems, because “diversity is critical to getting the work done.” To promote diversity, EDNY has made changes to make hiring more diverse and inclusive, such as by making the process more transparent, has implemented a mentoring program for all new AUSAs and has sponsored trainings through the Diversity Committee.
Damian pointed out that he is the first African American US Attorney at SDNY and acknowledged that diversity is a challenge that needs to be addressed. He believes that outcomes are better when there are diverse views on the team. He also offered that the jury box will look like New York, so the government table should try to look like New York as well. Damian emphasized that politics has no role to play in the US Attorney’s office, no matter who the sitting President happens to be. He shared that Justice Sotomayor, at the start of her career was an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan, and in a recent speech, she stated that she became a prosecutor because “it gave her the broadest option to do justice.” Damian agrees with that view.
Breon and Damian both closed by extolling the virtues of public service, particularly at the US Attorney’s office. Damian finds it hard to leave his desk each night because of all the great cases he gets to work on. “When I go home at night,” Breon declared, “I feel like I’ve done something good for the community.”
After Damian and Breon spoke, the program shifted to a panel of attorneys of color from both SDNY and EDNY, in both criminal and civil divisions, moderated by former AUSA Maria Cruz Melendez, now a Partner at Skadden. The panel included:
·Sagar Ravi, Assistant U.S. Attorney & Co-Chief, Complex Frauds & Cybercrime Unit, SDNY
·Rebecca Tinio, Assistant U.S. Attorney & Co-Chief, Civil Frauds Unit, SDNY
·Hiral Mehta, Assistant U.S. Attorney & Deputy Chief, Business and Securities Fraud Section, EDNY
·Marietou Diouf, Assistant U.S. Attorney, International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section, EDNY
·Camille Fletcher, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Narcotics Unit, SDNY
·Dara Olds, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Civil Division, EDNY
·Ivory Bishop, Assistant U.S. Attorney, General Crimes, EDNY
All the panelists echoed the passion of Damian and Breon in their love of their work and the weight accorded to representing the United States in court on important cases of great public interest, in both criminal and civil matters.
Hiral Mehta (EDNY) spoke about the proactive nature of the office and the flat structure. There is no hierarchy, and everyone’s input is sought. Ivory Bishop (SDNY) talked about getting to work on all types of cases, from street crimes to public corruption.
Rebecca Tinio (SDNY) mentioned that her cases were great for training, because they go to trial. Her unit works on high stakes cases, such as the tax and bankruptcy case involving Purdue Pharma, the anti-kickback cases involving Novartis, and groundbreaking cases involving the Clean Air Act.
Maria asked the panel what role diversity plays in the cases that the offices see. The panelists gave examples from cases they worked on, in which their own diverse backgrounds and experiences allowed them to connect with and relate to the witnesses in the case, ultimately leading to successful outcomes.
Maria asked the panel to address the hiring process. Dara Olds (EDNY) stated that her office has separate criminal and civil tracks. Rebecca (SDNY) explained that her office has one unified process for all applicants. Both offices have initial interviews, some conducted by those on the panel. Both offices request writing samples, which are reviewed to determine whether a candidate will advance. If the candidate gets through the first round, they are interviewed by more senior AUSAs, including section chiefs. The final round would involve the US Attorney and their executive staff.
Sagar Ravi (SDNY) stated that they are always accepting applications, and Hiral (EDNY) confirmed the same for his office, except during times when a hiring freeze is in place. Currently, there is none so right now “the doors are open.”
What if an applicant thinks that they do not have the right credentials to apply? Dara (EDNY) noted that the US Attorney’s office does not accept applicants straight from law school and encouraged everyone who has obtained several years of experience to apply, regardless of whether they are applying from a large firm or if they had clerked for a judge. Camille Fletcher (SDNY) advised that even if you don’t get called for an interview the first time, you should try again.
After the panels were done, all the attendees stayed for a reception with food and drinks generously provided by Cleary. Many of the panelists stayed to speak directly with the panelists and ask the questions they were not able to during the main program. The room was buzzing with lively conversations among prosecutors, attorneys, and law students in attendance.
Much thanks and appreciation go to all the speakers and moderators for the evening. Thanks to Una Dean for spearheading the event, to Cleary for being such a gracious host, and to all the co-sponsors:
·Amistad Long Island Black Bar Association
·Caribbean Attorneys Network
·Dominican Bar Association
·Hispanic National Bar Association – Region II
·Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York
On November 12, 2022, members of AABANY went to see “Photographic Justice: The Corky Lee Story,” which had its world premiere at the DOC NYC festival at the SVA Theatre. Thank you to Board Member and Issues Committee Chair Chris Kwok for organizing this event.
The film documented Corky Lee’s life and career as the “undisputed unofficial Asian American Photographer Laureate.”
Corky was a long time photographer for various AABANY events including our Annual Dinner, and a beloved friend to many AABANY members. Past AABANY member Lily Fan was one of the executive producers. AABANY members Rocky Chin and Kevin Hsi and past AABANY member Hon. Randall Eng appeared in the film.
Those from AABANY who attended uniformly gave the film an enthusiastic thumbs up. We were pleased to see AABANY listed among the community groups that Corky Lee worked with during his decades of photo-activism. We highly recommend everyone to see the film.
From Nov. 3 through 6, NAPABA held its National Convention in Las Vegas at the Cosmopolitan, for three days of programming, meetings, plenary sessions and the 34th anniversary Gala capping things off on Saturday night.
AABANY members and friends once again came out in large numbers, with nearly 100 people signed up for AABANY’s WhatsApp group, organized by Co-VP of Programs and Operations Beatrice Leong. The group’s members updated each other on programs they planned to attend, made lunch and dinner plans, and connected with each other about various receptions, parties and events around Las Vegas.
Many bonds were made and strengthened among AABANY attendees over the course of the Convention, and many new connections were made with the approximately 2800 registered attendees from around the country.
We congratulate all the awardees and honorees recognized at the Convention, with special shout-outs to the following AABANY honorees:
Kathy Hirata Chin, Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award
Jeffrey Mok, Best Under 40
Christina Lee, Partners Network In-House Counsel Network Diversity Leadership Award
We also congratulate AABANY Platinum Sponsor Allen & Overy on receiving the Law Firm Diversity Award.
The AABANY Trial Reenactment Team presented its latest production, “From ‘Tokyo Rose’ to the ‘China Initiative’: Espionage and AAPIs” on Friday afternoon, Nov. 4, to a capacity audience. We were privileged to be joined by Brian Sun, attorney for Wen Ho Lee, who shared his personal recollections from that landmark case in which a Chinese-American scientist was wrongly accused by the US government of divulging US nuclear secrets to China.
Many AABANY members and leaders spoke on several programs throughout the Convention. If you are among them, thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise. Please send us your photos and, if possible, a short recap about your program. You can send it to email@example.com.
Congratulations to Sandra Leung, NAPABA’s new President, and Anna Mercado Clark, NAPABA’s new President-Elect. Both were sworn in by the Hon. Denny Chin, together with the entire NAPABA Board, during Saturday night’s Gala.
Thanks to NAPABA for putting on a great Convention, which included many first-time attendees. By all accounts, everyone had a wonderful time, learned a lot, forged new connections and renewed existing ones. We look forward to more great things to come in the next year!
On Tuesday, October 25, Paul, Weiss and AABANY’s Women’s Committee invited alumna Helen Wan to host a lunch and discussion on the 2022 Netflix series, Partner Track, based off of her 2013 book, The Partner Track. The event drew about 50 attendees in person at the New York office of Paul, Weiss and about 30 more who joined online via Zoom. The book follows Ingrid Yung, a first-generation Chinese-American and the first lawyer in her family as she attempts to navigate the old-boy corporate culture of her law firm. As she is about to become the first minority woman to make partner at the firm, an offensive incident at a summer outing highlights her outsider status.
Helen heavily based the book off of her own experiences with corporate culture and the legal profession. As the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, she went to law school and entered the legal profession as an aspirational goal and for the experience, seeing this as the American Dream. It was only when she came to Paul, Weiss that she experienced the social dynamic of the corporate environment – who was sinking or swimming or being called on for more involvement with clients and committees. As a young woman of color, she noticed the subtle differences and it played a role in her decision to seek other opportunities: “I think if there had been more representation and more people who looked like me in the senior ranks, I would have considered staying longer.”
It was after transitioning from a law firm to in-house counsel that she found the opportunity to dedicate more time to her passion of writing. She began writing The Partner Track 20 years earlier on the subway to work. It consisted of journal scribblings of observations about corporate life in the city, about people, group dynamics, work dynamics, and not just the legal field but even anecdotes from friends in different industries. In order to further perfect her story, Helen took writing classes at NYU night school and forced herself to attend after spending grueling hours at the law firm. It took several years of securing the right literary agent, publishing house, marketing approach, compatible creative visions, and 3 different endings before releasing the final version of The Partner Track.
While the book and series are decidedly fiction, it was very important to Helen to write as realistic, authentic, and unvarnished a portrayal of corporate life as possible. She saw a big overlap in workplace experience and culture across fields and the experiences of her friends and peers. Consequently, most of the characters were amalgams of people she knew or heard about from friends. The conversations and topics the book tackled became more real and concrete. It is this tangibility and intersectionality that makes The Partner Track special. It may speak a lot on Asian American lived experience but also on dating, corporate culture, materialism, personal values, etc.
The Netflix adaptation, altered from the novel, tried to do “so many things at once, be so many different things to different audiences.” For instance, human resources colleagues at law firms Helen worked at also felt heard when the show discussed how prevalent racist undertones and commentary is present in corporate settings and the struggle HR representatives go through when ensuring that these moments are resolved properly and effectively. Other audiences expressed that they were unable to finish the show because it reminded them of the struggles associated with navigating American corporate life as a Asian-American.
Helen repeatedly stated that she believes the conversations surrounding both the book and the show are optimistic rather than pessimistic. The story not only reveals a side of American corporate culture that often gets hidden behind fancy suits and tall buildings but also shows how valuable it is when audiences are represented rather than merely mentioned. The Partner Track shows that real life stories are relatable to everyone.
We thank Helen Wan for taking the time to discuss her book and its new Netflix series. For more information about her work and life, visit her website here. Helen, joined by actress Arden Cho and show runner Georgia Lee, presented the keynote remarks at the Saturday night Gala during at the 2022 Annual NAPABA Convention in Las Vegas on Nov. 5. Congratulations to Helen on the success of the book and series!
On October 13, over two dozen law students and New York Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) braved the pouring rain for the Prosecutors’ Committee and Student Outreach Committee’s first-ever mixer. Pizza slices in hand, ADAs from across the five boroughs and Nassau County shared their wealth of experience and helpful advice with law students interested in following them into prosecutors’ offices.
Prosecutors’ Committee Co-Chair David Chiang made clear that the Asian American prosecutors at this meeting, whose roles ranged from bureau chiefs to brand-new ADAs, were there on a mission. “Asian Americans are incredibly underrepresented” in the prosecution field, Chiang told the room. While many prosecutors have mentors and networks that help them get ADA positions and rise up the ranks, Asian Americans may not have the same breadth of resources for doing so. Building support networks for career advancement in the ADA space was the reason why ADAs and Prosecutors’ Committee members met with law students that night.
“I want aspiring prosecutors to learn what it’s like to be in the office,” Devin Ly, a Kings County ADA, said. While the workload could be heavy and the demands sky high, he and his colleagues stressed that it’s worthwhile because of the good they were doing for their communities. For many of the prosecutors in attendance, their jobs felt meaningful not through tallying convictions or locking up their fellow borough residents. Rather, many AAPI prosecutors see their job as an opportunity to seek justice more holistically. Talking to students, these prosecutors shared stories, the philosophies of their offices, and how they work hard to do right by defendants and their communities. While the problems of incarceration should still be considered by prosecutors, a prosecutor’s job is ultimately to look beyond someone’s criminal record and the circumstances of the case and ask whether justice is best served by alternatives like social services or other pretrial interventions that would better serve the defendant and the community.
“It was awesome to meet all these prosecutors from all these bureaus!” Andy Xu, a second-year law student from Cardozo exclaimed. “It’s great that AABANY opens things like this up for us!” Justin Lee, a third-year law student from NYU, added.
The event was co-hosted by the AABANY Student Outreach Committee and the Prosecutors’ Committee. We would like to thank Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Cleary’s DE&I team for providing us with space as well as food and drinks for the event.
With these lessons in mind and with so many connections made between these future lawyers and mentors, and maybe even future colleagues, we can’t wait to see where this collaboration goes from here.
To learn more about the Prosecutors’ Committee please click here. To learn more about the Student Outreach Committee please click here.
On October 5, for their first event in the fall, the L&E Committee hosted committee members, AABANY colleagues, and beyond for a night of authentic Thai food and delicious cocktails at Top Thai Vintage in the West Village.
It was a night of mixing and mingling where conversations hit topics from committee developments/events, law firm practices, litigation trends, and more. It was a wonderful night out and perfect event to kick off our event calendar for the fall.
Interested in joining L&E Committee for their next event? You may subscribe to their mailing list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep an eye out for the Committee’s events on AABANY’s Calendar. To learn more about the AABANY L&E Committee, please visit the Committee’s subpage here.
On October 21, 2022, Adhikaar, a community organization for New York’s Nepali-speaking community, hosted its sold-out Fall Utsav at the Queens Museum. Rina Gurung, Board Chair of Adhikaar (and one of the co-chairs of AABANY’s Government Services and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee), opened the ceremony by thanking the Adhikaar Board and its staff for spearheading a wonderful organization that empowers the Nepali-speaking community by addressing social rights, workers’ rights, and women’s rights. Gurung also gave a shout-out to her work colleagues and AABANY.
Kevin Hsi, co-chair of GSPI, and May Wong, co-chair of the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, were also in attendance at Fall Utsav to support Rina and Adhikaar. AABANY’s GSPI and PBCS Committees wish the best to Pabitra Khati Benjamin, Executive Director of Adhikaar, who steps down from her leadership role at the end of October.
Moving forward, PBCS hopes to bridge a partnership with Adhikaar to secure Nepali-speaking clients for PBCS upcoming legal clinics! For more information about AABANY’s PBCS, please contact email@example.com.
In other news, AABANY’s ties with other Asian American community organizations are as strong as ever. AABANY member and Prosecutors Committee co-founder Kin Ng attended the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn’s (UCA) 20th Anniversary Gala to accept the Community Leader of the Year Award. PBCS partners with UCA to host its pro bono clinics. Register for the December 10th Brooklyn PBCS pro bono clinic here. Read more about AABANY members celebrating with Kin at the UCA Gala here.
Next event coming up that supports AAPI Community-Based Organizations: 11/17 – MinKwon hosting its Virtual Anniversary Gala with NAKASEC