AABANY congratulates the AABANY members who have been named Super Lawyers in the New York Metro 2020 edition. Super Lawyers 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. Five percent of attorneys are named Super Lawyers.
Please join us in congratulating the following AABANY members on their achievements:
Eugene L. Chang, Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
Vincent T. Chang, Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch LLP, Former AABANY President 2007
Loyti Cheng, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Kenneth Chin, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP
John Ho, Cozen O’Connor P.C., Co-Chair of AABANY’s Labor & Employment Committee
Annie Huang, Robins Kaplan LLP
Glenn Lau-Kee, Lau-Kee Law Group PLLC, Former AABANY President 1997-98, First APA President of the New York State Bar Association
As an out-of-state law graduate from Tennessee, I was not familiar with any specific New York practice rules. While waiting for my bar exam results and preparing for my legal career in New York, and with the encouragement of my mentor Mr. Rocky Chin, I participated in the AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic. The Clinic provides legal information and referrals to individuals, particularly those with limited English proficiency, with legal issues such as immigration, housing, employment, family, elder law, anti-Asian violence, and those pertaining to small businesses.
After registration, I received an email with a list of cases that was sent to all volunteers. Volunteers can choose to take on one or more cases based on interests or experience, and if you are not licensed or not experienced in a specific area, the Clinic partners you with a more experienced attorney to remotely shadow and learn from. Since I have not yet been admitted and this was my first time volunteering, I decided to shadow Ms. May Wong, an experienced volunteer attorney, on a contract law case.
Before making a callback, Ms. Wong and I knew that our client only spoke Mandarin and had been recently served with a Summons. With this limited information at hand, we discussed the legal matters that we needed to inform the client of. These matters included the risk of a default judgment if the clinic client did not respond to the service in a timely fashion (CPLR §3215: default judgment), the possible defenses the client might take, like defects in the service of process (§CPLR 308: Methods of personal service upon a natural person), and the statute of limitations (CPLR §213(2): 6 years for a breach of contract claim in New York). Ms. Wong then patiently went over the normal calling process and basic civil procedure in New York with me. Only after making sure that I did not have any more questions and was comfortable to make the call, she started our three-way phone call with the clinic client.
On the call, we explained our limited roles and asked the client to elaborate on the facts of his case. While acting as a language interpreter, I was able to ask the caller questions about his case to narrow down the issues, thus gaining useful intake skills. I learned that this case was about a family business dispute worth $25,000. The caller was not represented by an attorney and we strongly encouraged him to engage one rather than risking a default judgment, which is enforceable for 20 years and would cost him more money to vacate.
Not only did the client receive useful legal information regarding his case, but he also felt like his voice was finally heard. Volunteering with the pro bono clinic was a great experience, as I was able to learn so much about New York civil procedure rules and gain a lot of important legal experience from just one case. I look forward to continuing my volunteering experience to become an advocate to help those with limited resources and language skills.
On Friday, September 25, AABANY kicked off the 2020 Fall Conference, held virtually this year due to COVID-19. The conference theme was “Stronger Together: Unity in Diversity” and commenced with the General Counsel Roundtable program, entitled “Promoting Unity and Strength Through Leadership.” The panelists included:
Michael Wu, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Madewell, Inc.
Vanessa Allen Sutherland, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Norfolk Southern Corporation
Deborah P. Majoras, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary, The Procter & Gamble Company
Rena Reiss, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Marriott International, Inc.
Ann Munson Steines, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Nordstrom, Inc.
Amy Weaver, President and Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce.com, Inc.
David Zapolsky, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Amazon.com, Inc.
The program followed a Q&A format and explored a wide range of topics, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian violence. Michael Wu started by asking the panelists how the pandemic has impacted their company operations and their outlook as organization leaders. One major takeaway was that legal departments are shifting into more generalist than specialist roles in order to adapt to crisis operations under a “rescue, recover, and reimagine” mandate. All panelists agreed that while companies and communities are currently in the recovery stage, a re-imagined world will look different from before and rely heavily on virtual and digital channels. Amy Weaver succinctly summarized that “two things are the most relevant today” to companies navigating these complex times: first, be a quick study; second, be able to make decisions quickly.
The panelists were then asked what challenges in diversity and inclusion their companies are facing and how are they being addressed? Rena Reiss emphasized the need to carve out time and space to discuss racial issues that weren’t previously seen as polite workplace conversation. Vanessa Sutherland and Amy Weaver highlighted the snail’s pace at which financial industries and law firms operate with regard to diversity initiatives and stressed the need for immediate change.
Michael Wu also asked about challenges Asian Americans face in corporate America, whether or not they are seen as minorities, and what advancement initiatives are in place. Panelists acknowledged the racial xenophobia and anti-Asian violence COVID-19 has wrought, and Ann Steines spoke to Black Lives Matter as an opportunity for allyship to advance the meaningful engagement of all diverse individuals in the workplace.
At the conclusion of the program, Michael asked the panelists to give advice to diverse lawyers seeking career advancement. In response, Vanessa acknowledged the tendency of diverse attorneys to be risk-averse due to the disproportionate pressure placed on them. She encouraged lawyers of color to not be afraid to take risks, because leaders need to demonstrate that they are capable of making uncomfortable decisions.
Ann recommended that minority lawyers consciously diversify expertise as their career progresses. “As lawyers we’re told to be experts in the areas we practice in. Then you get to a point in your career where you need to expand your horizons,” she stated. “People don’t always put their arm around the diverse candidate to tell them the advice that all the panelists have been giving today.” Ann thus highlighted the lack of formal and informal mentorship that places diverse attorneys at a disadvantage compared to their white counterparts.
As the panel drew to a close, Michael asked the GCs to share with up-and-coming lawyers the most valuable advice they have received in their career. David Zapolsky offered the following three-part answer: First, to be business people first and lawyers second. Second, “being a lawyer is about preserving your personal credibility even if you have clients who can’t.” Finally, “if you touch it you own it.”
The GC Roundtable is typically the highlight of the Fall Conference, and this year’s kept in line with prior GC Roundtables, offering impactful and pertinent viewpoints and guidance for all attendees. With this all-star panel the GC Roundtable kicked off another successful Fall Conference and set a high bar for the programs that followed on Saturday.
Thank you to all the panelists and our moderator, Michael Wu, for their invaluable insights on topical matters that are top-of-mind for in-house counsel and attorneys working in today’s challenging environment. To view a recording of the GC Roundtable, click here or click the image above.