AABANY Hosts Weekly Membership Mixer on December 18 to Bid Farewell to 2020

On December 18, 2020, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly virtual Membership Mixer, with 22 participants in attendance. This week, AABANY celebrated the end of 2020 on Zoom. 

Participants were asked: “What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020 and what is your 2021 Resolution?” Participants reported that the best thing that happened to them in 2020 were cutting their commutes to have more time to themselves, spending time with family, exercising more, and learning to cook. As for New Year’s Resolutions, members said their goals were to be more active, take the COVID-19 vaccine, and find new jobs. 

At the end of the mixer, Barry Kazan, a Partner at Mintz & Gold LLP, was awarded 2020 “MVP” (Most Valuable Participant) of AABANY’s Online Membership Mixers, for his great accomplishment of attending 23 out of 27 online mixers! In addition, Barry actively engaged in every mixer, including during our joint mixer with the Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA-New York), offering to pick up the membership fees for members of FALA-New York who were not already members of AABANY and vice versa. Thank you, Barry!

Member Barry Kazan

Candace Yu, AABANY Intern, won our Mixer prize this week. She had a choice between a six month online gym membership, or $50 in cash. Candace chose the cash. 

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but many often stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups.

Membership Committee will continue to host weekly virtual mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person. 

We are giving away door prizes in some weeks. In order to win, you must be a member and must RSVP on the aabany.org website to get a raffle number. Non-members can join the mixer but won’t be eligible to win a prize. 

AABANY Hosts 2020 Holiday Party on Remo

On Thursday, December 10th, AABANY held its annual Holiday Party on Remo. The Remo event room was decorated with a holiday theme, including holiday character-themed table names and a crackling fireplace in the background. More than 30 AABANY members signed on to Remo to celebrate the holiday season. 

To kick off the celebration, President Sapna Palla thanked everyone for coming and wished everyone happy holidays. She also took the opportunity to encourage everyone to join AABANY’s Virtual Gala being held on February 24, 2021 to recognize our Virtual Gala award honorees, Frank H. Wu, President of Queens College, City University of New York, and Sneha Desai, Deputy General Counsel of BASF.

Throughout the night, guests were able to move from table to table and talk with different people. Many guests enjoyed the optional Holiday Wine & Cheese Gift Basket or Hot Chocolate & Treats Gift Basket they ordered through AABANY. 

Thanks to everyone who took the time to join us virtually to celebrate the season. AABANY wishes everyone happy holidays!

Membership Committee Hosts December 4 and December 11 Mixers on Remo

On December 4, 2020, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly virtual Membership Mixer on Remo, with 13 participants in attendance, catching up with each other. Then, on December 11, 2020, the Membership Committee hosted a Law Students’ Study Break Mixer on Remo, inviting students to take an hour break from studying for finals and come meet members, unwind and get a morale boost! It was a successful event, with 14 participants in attendance.

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but many often stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups.

Membership Committee will continue to host weekly virtual mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person. 

Please join us on December 18 for a “Countdown to 2021 Mixer” on Zoom. We are looking forward to saying good-bye to 2020. Register here by December 17: https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1420342 

AABANY Litigation Committee Hosts 2020 Trial Advocacy Program

On December 5, the AABANY Litigation Committee hosted its annual Trial Advocacy Program, featuring the Honorable Diane Gujarati as this year’s keynote speaker. The all-day program, which started in 2012, gives attendees the opportunity to participate in mock trials led by experienced faculty members. Additionally, the distinguished and experienced faculty members present morning and afternoon panels on effective trial advocacy.

The day started with a keynote speech by Judge Gujarati, who discussed her experience as a trial lawyer and gave advice to the attendees. She emphasized the importance of attention to detail and preparation, as well as flexibility. While working before and during the trial, unexpected challenges will arise, and it is crucial to be able to take the time to regroup and remain focused even in such a high pressure environment. Additionally, she highlighted the importance of having good “people skills” because trial attorneys must relate, talk, and listen to a wide range of people. Judge Gujarati also noted the importance of trial attorneys truly advocating for their clients and, in concluding her speech, emphasized that trial lawyers must, of course, conduct themselves honestly and ethically.

Then, the morning panel started with faculty members Manisha Sheth and Mark Berman giving a presentation on conducting effective opening statements and direct examinations. They emphasized the importance of rehearsing the opening statement, since it is the first thing the jury will hear and thus is incredibly important. Additionally, the opening statement should be a punchy, relatable, easy-to-follow description of the case that incorporates an emotional element to it in order to situate the jury with the client’s story. During the direct examinations, it is important to ask simple, open-ended, non-leading questions and practice with the witness beforehand. While asking these questions, it is equally important to be an active listener and avoid talking too much; direct examinations should be focused on humanizing the witness and letting them tell their own story.

Once the panel concluded, the students were divided into two break-out groups to participate in mock trials. This year’s scenario consisted of a parent of a three-year-old suing a day care for negligence after the child broke his arm under staff supervision. The participants were divided into a pair of plaintiff’s counsel and a pair of defendant’s counsel, and then conducted opening statements and direct examinations. The faculty members listened to the two sides and then worked directly with the students to give feedback and critique.

After a lunch break, faculty members Joe Gim and James Cho started the afternoon panel by presenting on cross-examinations and closing statements. Unlike during the direct examination, during the cross-examination, the trial lawyer is the star. In a standard cross, the goal is to plant seeds of doubt into the credibility of the witness by impeaching them or forcing them into a “gotcha moment” where the witness contradicts themselves. To accomplish this, the trial lawyer must first make the witness comfortable with easy, unintimidating questions, then lay the foundation for later admissions, and finally lock in a crucial contradiction or admission of guilt. The discussion then turned to the closing statement. Similar to an opening statement, it is critical to continuously rehearse the closing statement in order to present the story in a seamless and relatable manner. In addition to memorizing the first and last line, it is also helpful to practice in front of non-lawyer friends and family, since that will be most similar to the actual jury. Following this presentation, the students returned to break-out rooms to conduct cross-examinations and closing statements and receive additional critique from the faculty.

Despite being held on Zoom this year, Trial Advocacy Program was a great success. The participants all really enjoyed the program, and they were able to learn from the experienced faculty and get hands-on trial experience. Thank you to Jenny Wu, Aakruti Vakharia, and Luna Barrington, Co-Chairs of the AABANY Litigation Committee, for organizing the event. And thank you to Judge Gujarati and the faculty members Manisha Sheth, Mark Berman, Joe Gim, James Cho, Sam Yee, Connie Montoya, Yasuhiro Saito, and Peter Polchinski.

Fall Conference 2020: Allyship and Black Lives Matter—Racism, Bias, and Xenophobia in Our Communities

On September 26, 2020, as part of AABANY’s 11th Annual Fall Conference, the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee hosted a plenary session on the ongoing racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd and the rise in xenophobia against Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic. The panel included:  

  • Margaret T. Ling, Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair at AABANY and Senior Counsel at Big Apple Abstract Corp. (Moderator)
  • Letitia James, 67th Attorney General for the State of New York
  • Rahul Agarwal, Executive Assistant United States Attorney at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey
  • Paula T. Edgar, Attorney, CEO of PGE LLC, and Partner of Inclusion Strategy Solutions LLC
  • Chris Kwok, Co-Chair of the Issues Committee and Asia Practice Committee at AABANY and a mediator and arbitrator with JAMS
  • Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights

The esteemed panel discussed their experience addressing the issues of racism, bias, and xenophobia in their different capacities as government officials, bar association leaders, and diversion and inclusion specialists, especially in the context of the ongoing pandemic. As the opening speaker, Paula Edgar provided an informative presentation on systemic racism, the varying responses of Corporate America, and the importance for companies and law firms to invest in resources for diversity training as part of an urgent call to incorporate actionable plans into their missions for equity and inclusion. More importantly, allyship transcends performative activism, or surface-level activism, on social media and demands a sustained and active approach to listen to the experiences of marginalized communities, educate oneself on race-related history and issues, and speak out against any injustice. 

In highlighting the importance of using our vote at this historical moment, New York State Attorney General Letitia James suggested that the participation of more people of color in law-enforcement can be one of the ways to sustain the BLM movement and push for substantive, lasting changes. Some of the projects at the Attorney General’s Office include a lawsuit against the US Postal Service for their attempt to delay the vote-by-mail ballots and an effort to advocate for immigrants to ensure that they are counted in the 2020 US Census. Attorney General James emphasized the need to stay hopeful and utilize our vote as citizens to protect our democracy. 

Rahul Agarwal focused on the recent rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and stressed the importance of active reporting on the part of community members to help law enforcement personnel investigate these crimes and open cases. Rahul explained that the law enforcement community takes reports on hate crimes very seriously because the perpetrators’ hatred often affects many individuals, and since the targeted population can become fearful, it is crucial for law enforcement to act quickly. 

Noting from a survey the significant increase in people’s perception and experience with racial inequality since 2016, Carmelyn Malalis described the active outreach by the New York City Commission on Human Rights to marginalized communities and its employment of staffers who speak a total of over 30 different languages at the Commission to increase community engagement. Echoing Attorney General James’ comment on the value of allyship, Commissioner Malalis added that allyship also means recognizing that the constructed narratives about marginalized groups are often inconsistent with the lived experiences of people in those communities. She emphasized the need to actively work on dismantling one’s biased preconceptions. 

Referring to the Stop AAPI Hate’s recent record of about 2,600 hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans in the past six months, Chris Kwok suggested that the actual number is most likely a lot higher since there has been insufficient attention directed towards AAPI hate crimes and a general lack of active reporting in the AAPI community. Chris highlighted the importance for Asian Americans to support the BLM movement since we are all fighting to challenge white supremacy and ensure justice in the United States. He concludes by emphasizing the need to say “BLM”— since black lives had been defined as property for decades, we, as allies in the BLM movement, should acknowledge the hashtag’s reflection of that history and recognition of the equal rights that every person deserves.

Thank you to Margaret, Attorney General James, Commissioner Malalis, Rahul, Paula, and Chris, for this insightful panel discussion. Thanks also to the AABANY Real Estate Committee and Issues Committee for organizing this event. To view a recording of the plenary session, click here or on the image above.

Fall Conference 2020: COVID-19 and Global Financial Distress: Where do We Go From Here?

On September 26, 2020, as part of AABANY’s 11th Annual Fall Conference, the AABANY Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Committee hosted a panel discussion entitled “COVID-19 and Global Financial Distress: Where do We Go From Here?” The panel included: 

  • Courina Yulisa, Bankruptcy and Restructuring Associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP (Moderator)
  • William Hao, Counsel in Alston & Bird’s Financial Restructuring & Reorganization Group
  • Vijar Kohli, Co-founder of Golden Door Asset Management
  • Vincent Roldan, Partner at Mandelbaum Salsburg’s Bankruptcy and Creditors Rights, and Banking and Financial Services groups

The panelists observed a general increase in commercial bankruptcy filings accompanied by a decrease in individual Chapter 11 filings compared to last year. As the opening panelist, William Hao remarked that the phenomenon was partly due to court closures during the pandemic, which made it harder to complete filings. New York City in particular, as Vijar Kohli and Vincent Roldan explained, has been suffering from a significant reduction in traffic, negatively affecting traffic-dependent industries such as hotels and has led to a domino effect on retailers, landlords and suppliers. The absence of employees entering and leaving office buildings signaled the slow reopening of businesses. The panelists also discussed the increased accessibility of Subchapter 5 under the CARES Act to small businesses in addition to larger corporations to speed up the recovery process. And while there has been heightened pressure on landlords since the pandemic began, Vijar suggested that tenants pay attention to details such as rent payment deadlines in existing contracts and openly negotiate with landlords to lessen the COVID-imposed financial impact. 

Regarding corporate strategies to preserve and increase liquidity, Vijar noted that the most significant move has been to preserve cash by increasing sales or reducing expenses. Since the protracted business recovery has added more uncertainty to the long-term trajectory of their business profitability, the lack of capital is still unfortunately a difficult problem to resolve. Vincent described the recent changes in the restaurant industry, where establishments have been transitioning to providing delivery-only services to cut production costs. Despite these challenges, William mentioned that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) can be helpful in getting capital temporarily, and again stressed that strategic negotiations with landlords can be particularly instrumental in preserving capital. 

The panelists foresaw a slow recovery timeline for small businesses and that real estate businesses, in particular, may take up to two to three years—also depending on the vaccine distribution timeline—to bounce back to a normal level of business operations. No major changes are likely in the next three months, since the next stimulus plans would not include much for businesses and thus it is up to businesses to ensure their own survival right now. Vincent stated that companies need to pay attention to signs of economic distress to plan their next moves and contact bankruptcy lawyers to know their rights. And unlike the 2008 financial crisis, Vijar explained that this year’s economic downturns have also been accompanied by high rates of unemployment and the replacement of local, small businesses with new technology companies. 

Thank you to Courina, William, Vijar, and Vincent, for this insightful panel discussion. And thank you to the AABANY Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Committee, co-chaired by William and Vincent, for organizing this event. To view a recording of the panel, click here or on the image above.

Congratulations to AABANY Members Listed as Rising Stars in the New York Metro Edition of 2020 Super Lawyers

AABANY congratulates the AABANY members who have been named Rising Stars in the New York Metro 2020 edition. Rising Stars are selected through a rigorous selection process that includes being nominated by their peers, evaluated by third-party research in 12 key categories, and reviewed by a Blue Ribbon Panel of attorneys. Two point five percent of attorneys are named Rising Stars.

Please join us in congratulating the following AABANY members on their achievements:

  • Moses M. Ahn, Liakas Law, P.C.
  • Keala Fumiko Chan, Chan Hubbard PLLC
  • Shruti Chopra, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Mentorship Program
  • Mulan Cui, Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Han Deng, Reed Smith LLP
  • Anthony K.C. Fong, Law Office of Anthony K.C. Fong, Esq.
  • Flora Go, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
  • Ligee Gu, Halperin Battaglia Benzija, LLP
  • Lawrence S. Han, Rivkin Radler LLP 
  • Claire Huynh, Condon & Forsyth LLP
  • Kail Jethmalani, Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider LLP 
  • Albert K. Kim, William Schwitzer & Associates
  • Kathleen Y. Kim, Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Joyce E. Kung, Sive, Paget & Riesel P.C.
  • Olivia Sul Ki Lee, Lee Anav Chung White Kim Ruger & Richter LLP
  • Darley Maw, Baker & Hostetler LLP, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Young Lawyers Committee
  • Alysha M. Naik, Latham & Watkins LLP
  • Claudia Pak, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
  • Sun Ah (Michelle) Park, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
  • Nicholas Tam, Shaub, Ahmuty, Citrin & Spratt LLP
  • Shengyang Wu, Caesar and Napoli, P.C.
  • Stacy Wu, Law Office of Stacy L. Wu
  • Melissa Yang, Rakower Law PLLC
  • Ji-Young (Rachel) Yoo, Law Offices of Rachel J. Yoo, LLC
  • Honghui S. Yu, Olshan Frome Wolosky LLP

To view the 2020 digital edition of Super Lawyers, click here.

NAPABA Congratulates Katherine Tai on Nomination for U.S. Trade Representative

For Immediate Release: December 10, 2020

Contact: Priya Purandare, Executive Director

WASHINGTON – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) congratulates Katherine Tai on her nomination to be U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in the Biden-Harris administration. If confirmed, Tai will be the first woman of color to lead the agency.

“Katherine Tai has been a valued member of our NAPABA community, and we are thrilled that President-elect Biden has nominated her to be U.S. Trade Representative,” said A.B. Cruz III, president of NAPABA. “Her background is a story that many AAPIs can relate to—like many of us, Katherine is the daughter of immigrants who came to this country to embark on a better life. Since then, she has excelled in her illustrious career, counselling our nation’s leaders on trade policy in past administrations and in Congress. NAPABA congratulates Katherine and urges the Senate to confirm her as Trade Representative.”

Tai is currently Chief Trade Counsel and Staff Director of the Trade Subcommittee in the Ways & Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. She formerly served as Chief Counsel for China Trade Enforcement in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and clerked for Judge John D. Bates, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

NAPABA advocated for Katherine Tai’s nomination. We thank President-elect Biden for nominating her to the position.

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The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) represents the interests of approximately 50,000 legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local Asian Pacific American bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting Asian Pacific American communities. Through its national network, NAPABA provides a strong voice for increased diversity of the federal and state judiciaries, advocates for equal opportunity in the workplace, works to eliminate hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment, and promotes the professional development of people of color in the legal profession.

AABANY Congratulates Military & Veterans Affairs Committee Co-Chair Dong Joo Lee on His Promotion to Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy Reserves

Please join AABANY in congratulating Military & Veterans Affairs Committee Co-Chair Dong Joo Lee on his recent selection to be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy Reserves. He will be one of ten Asian-Americans in the entire Navy JAG Corps to be at this rank. 

Dong was on active duty for almost seven years, serving in various duty stations including Guantanamo Bay, Korea, and the Pentagon. Upon leaving active duty, Dong remained in the JAG Corps as a part-time reservist and currently drills out of Washington Navy Yard. As a civilian, he worked as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, clerked at the Eastern District of New York for Judges Dora L. Irizarry and Roslynn R. Mauskopf, and is now a law clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Dong has been, and continues to be, a great Co-Chair for the MVA Committee and an active supporter of AABANY and other sister bar associations. Congratulations, Dong!

Sandra Ung, Former AABANY Treasurer, Runs for City Council on Platform of Unity for the Flushing Community

Former AABANY Treasurer and longtime community advocate Sandra Ung has announced her candidacy for New York City Council for the upcoming 2021 election. Sandra, who has dedicated her life to serving the Queens community, hopes to use her extensive experience in and passion for law and public service to best support and represent the Flushing community.

Growing up, Sandra always knew she wanted to be a lawyer. “I’ve always believed that it’s important to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves,” she said in a recent interview. Sandra, who is ethnically Chinese, fled Cambodia during the genocide and immigrated to the United States when she was just seven years old. Soon after, she moved to Flushing, where she has called home ever since. But growing up as an immigrant presented many challenges.

“It’s not easy when you come to a country where you don’t know the language and have to start over,” she said. “But I quickly realized that we were not the only family on this path.” With this passion for community justice in mind, Sandra attended New York City public schools until graduating from Hunter College and then going to Columbia Law School to get her J.D. in 2001. She then worked at a law firm, where she learned detail-oriented writing and organizational skills that allowed her to really understand how to be a professional.

She then worked for Sanctuary For Families, a New York non-profit focused on helping victims of domestic violence and related forms of gender violence. Domestic violence is not regularly or openly talked about in the Asian American community, and survivors often find it difficult to talk to counselors and attorneys, especially when they look nothing like them. When working with organizations like Sanctuary for Families and the Korean American Family Service Center, Sandra saw her Asian American clients slowly open up to her, and she realized how important it is to have a support system that truly understands you and, therefore, your needs.

Now, one of Sandra’s platforms is to provide greater assistance for domestic violence victims. The pandemic has revealed what people in the field already know: domestic violence is a real, pressing issue in every community, and it is not addressed well enough. Therefore, true domestic violence advocacy requires not only highlighting and funding service providers, but also providing ways for survivors of domestic violence to physically move-out, with better housing solutions, and become financially independent from their abusers.

Sandra has worked for the New York State Assembly as a Special Assistant to the NYS Commissioner on Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; a Legislative Assistant to former New York City Comptrollers Bill Thompson and John Liu; and Chief of Staff to former New York State Assemblyman Jimmy Meng. Currently, she is the Special Assistant to Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Queens), leading the congresswoman’s re-election campaigns and running Grace’s At the Table PAC, a political action committee dedicated to expanding women and minority representation in politics. As the eyes and ears on the ground while the congresswoman is in D.C., Sandra is proud to represent the immigrant community and support them through the same challenges she faced growing up. She especially enjoys running free workshops that teach public speaking and career-based skills to young women who lack access to this knowledge, like she did when she was also growing up in an immigrant family. “We really understand that if you want to have a seat at the table, you need the basic skill set to get you to that table in the first place,” she said.

While serving as AABANY’s Treasurer, Sandra felt empowered by the inclusivity that AABANY created for its community. Due to the breadth and diversity of its members and leaders, AABANY showed Sandra the importance of having strong representation of Asian Americans in leading legal, public interest, and government positions, where they will truly advocate for the communities they serve.

Therefore, after over a decade working for New York state and years of working on other people’s campaigns, Sandra feels ready to tackle and win her own. “The recent national and local elections have shown that we are more divided than ever,” she said. “So, in campaigning, it is especially important to me to set a positive tone.” She hopes to focus on creating unity within the Flushing community, building a broad coalition as strong as their neighborhood.

Now more than ever, Sandra looks up to her mother, who was born in Cambodia and forced to leave her family during the genocide. While working in a laundromat all her life, Sandra’s mother taught her about perseverance and hard work; her parents continue to inspire her to give back to the country that gave them everything they have.

“The people around me have given me the courage to try and do this,” she said. “I believe in my community, I believe in myself, and I believe that I will be the best person for this job.”

To learn more about Sandra’s campaign and find out how you can get involved, please visit sandrafornewyork.com

To hear more about the campaign from Sandra herself, please watch the video below.

To follow Sandra’s campaign on social media, please visit their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

This member profile has been published for informational purposes only and does not constitute and should not be construed as a campaign endorsement.