AABANY Co-Sponsors: The Rise in Anti-AAPI Violence and a Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law 2.0, a Fireside Discussion with Justice Goodwin Liu

On August 24, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the Asian American Bar Association of Silicon Valley (APABA-SV) and Cooley LLP co-sponsored “The Rise in Anti-AAPI Violence and a Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law 2.0,” a discussion held on Zoom with Associate Justice Goodwin Liu of the California Supreme Court. The conversation was moderated by United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York Pamela Chen, who made history as the first openly LGBTQ+ Asian American judge to serve in federal court. Both speakers were introduced by Matt Nguyen, a Litigation and Investigations Associate at Cooley LLP and a former law clerk of Justice Liu’s. This discussion was prompted by two trends: The dramatic rise in anti-Asian violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of AAPI representation in senior leadership roles in the legal profession.

Justice Liu opened the discussion by giving attendees an overview of A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law (“The Portrait Project”), an analysis of trends related to Asian Americans in the legal profession that was published by Yale Law School and NAPABA in 2017. Notably, the Portrait Project found that there has been a persistent lack of Asian American representation in senior leadership, managerial, and governmental positions, roles with decision-making capabilities, and other prestigious positions in the legal profession, such as clerkships, despite a dramatic increase of Asian Americans pursuing the law in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Respondents in the Portrait Project’s study also reported that they faced many barriers in their professional life, most notably inadequate access to mentors and contacts and a lack of formal leadership training programs. When asked how their colleagues thought of them, respondents said they were frequently perceived as hard-working, responsible, logical, careful, introverted, and awkward, but not as empathetic, creative, or assertive. Justice Liu pointed out that these descriptors could indicate implicit bias towards Asian Americans in the legal profession, as many of them align with stereotypes of Asian Americans as passive, hard-workers who lack social capital. Justice Liu also noted that lawyers and judges should conduct outreach to Asian American students in high school or earlier in college, as AAPIs have the largest declining percentage change in law school enrollment of any ethnic group, and AAPI undergraduates considering an advanced degree are less likely than those of other ethnic groups to think of pursuing a JD.

When asked by audience members why fewer Asian American students are pursuing careers in the law, Justice Liu answered that while the authors of the Portrait Project did not have a definite answer, he believed that negative perceptions about the legal profession during the Great Recession could have dampened interest in the law among AAPI students. In addition, Justice Liu also said that Asian Americans in the law suffer from a continued lack of visibility, as there are few Asian judges, prosecutors, district attorneys, and there have never been any Asian American justices on the United States Supreme Court. According to Justice Liu, increased representation of Asian Americans in government positions, elected office, and in the federal and state judiciaries would bring more attention to issues facing the AAPI community.

AABANY Executive Director Yang Chen also discussed AABANY’s Hate Eradication Active Response Team (HEART), which AABANY launched early in the COVID-19 pandemic to help Asian American community members report potential hate crimes. HEART assists community members who may have difficulty reporting anti-Asian violence due to cultural and linguistic barriers to bring reports to the police or to their local prosecutor’s office. If you would like to learn more about the HEART program or get involved, please follow the link here. Chen also mentioned generally that the AAPI community has come forward to report bias incidents and hate crimes but have not been taken seriously by law enforcement, and the anecdotal evidence for this trend is disconcerting and disappointing.

Justice Liu described this trend as illustrative of the dual challenge faced by Asian American lawyers; while they are responsible for advocating for the AAPI community, they are also victims of anti-AAPI violence and casual racism themselves. He also described such challenges as intersectional, as he discussed how female Asian American lawyers are frequently mistaken for paralegals, defendants, support staff, or almost every other position aside from a lawyer when they are in the courtroom, as the idea of a female Asian American lawyer is seemingly unimaginable. Justice Liu also said that representation is important in ensuring that the public understand the obstacles facing the AAPI community and the severity of the recent increase in hate crimes. In addition, Liu advocated for the increased use of data, as data can illustrate the widespread nature of such violence and can add credibility, while anecdotes can be dismissed as statistically insignificant. Liu also said that it may be wise to recruit those with law enforcement or prosecutorial experience in helping community members make reports, as these individuals would have a strong understanding of reporting procedure and how to work with law enforcement.

When asked about how courts should protect victims of anti-AAPI violence, while also ensuring that courts and the criminal justice system are not contributing to systemic racism targeting Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), both Justice Liu and Judge Chen said that they did not view these as zero-sum issues. They encouraged Asian, Black, and Brown communities to engage in conversations about these issues, while also saying that anti-Blackness and racism towards Brown and Asian people are all indicative of a larger trend of othering people.

Justice Liu was also asked about ways to reduce partisanship in appointments to higher level positions in government. However, Justice Liu responded by saying that he never believed Asian American representation in judiciaries and district attorneys’ offices to be political, as Asian Americans span the range of the political spectrum in the United States and many Asian community organizations are non-political.

An audience member also asked how Asian American partners and leaders can advocate for themselves and the AAPI community while also ensuring that the law is race-blind and neutral. Justice Liu responded that he viewed advocacy as a way to address implicit bias and negative perceptions that disadvantage people, instead of as a call to give individuals special treatment based on their race. He also called for leaders to re-examine processes and criteria for hiring and promotions, as many of them rely heavily on interviews or other forms of evaluation that could convey implicit biases.

AABANY would like to thank Justice Liu, Judge Chen, and Matt Nguyen for taking the time to lead such a thoughtful, relevant discussion. AABANY would also like to express its gratitude to NAPABA, APABA-SV, and Cooley LLP as co-sponsors for this event, as well as all of the attendees who came to this event. If you are interested in learning more about the Portrait Project 2.0, which is set to be published in 2022, please follow the link here.

Pro Bono & Community Service Committee and Government Service & Public Interest Committee Launch First Hybrid Pro Bono Clinic on Aug. 14

On August 14, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee and Government Service and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee hosted a hybrid legal clinic and provided a “Know Your Rights” presentation for residential and commercial tenants on the topic of rent arrears and evictions. The event was held at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) in Manhattan’s Chinatown and was co-sponsored by AABANY, CCBA, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York (CCCNY).

During the presentation, which was shown on Zoom and screened in-person at CCBA, Rina Gurung, an associate court attorney at the New York State Unified Court System and co-chair of the GSPI Committee; Kensing Ng, a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society in East Harlem; and Meghan Liu, a Cleary Gottlieb pro bono fellow at Legal Services NYC, discussed different types of cases that are brought in housing court, such as nonpayment, holdover, and housing part cases. They also explained which eviction moratoria are in effect due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized that these laws can change at any time. This was especially relevant, given the imminent expiration of the COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act on August 31, 2021; the expiration of the CDC’s moratorium on October 3, 2021; and the U.S. Supreme Court’s August 12, 2021 opinion striking down part of the New York moratorium.

Gurung, Liu, and Ng also provided resources that tenants could contact to file hardship declarations and explained the basics of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provides rental arrears, temporary rental assistance, and utility arrears assistance to low- and moderate-income households at risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They also explained that landlords seeking to sue their tenants should hire a lawyer and for those who received a marshal’s notice to go to court. In addition, the presenters explained differences in procedures for cases involving commercial tenants and provided resources for both landlords and tenants, phone numbers for free consultations for income-eligible individuals, and a guide to landlord disputes. Bei Yang, a contract attorney at On Call Counsel, interpreted the presentation live into Mandarin Chinese.

Eighteen clients attended the clinic for one-on-one legal consultations with AABANY volunteers, including 12 who had registered beforehand, one virtual caller, and five walk-ins. Topics ranged from housing and matrimonial law to immigration, fraud, medical malpractice, and personal injury. All available client consultation slots were successfully filled.

One client, an older man who only spoke Cantonese, came to the clinic because he had been scammed by a woman who claimed to be interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him online. She then asked him to send her a significant sum of money, and he did so before realizing that she was a fraud. Such occurrences are not uncommon, especially among elders, and individuals who have been or who know victims of similar types of fraud should not feel ashamed to tell their stories or speak to an attorney. Sharing these stories promotes awareness of these types of scams and helps others avoid them.

While AABANY volunteers were conducting one-on-one consultations, several clients watched the presentation in the CCBA sitting area. One client asked for the PBCS email to see if she could get a recording of the presentation and re-watch it, as she missed a portion of the live presentation. She also was impressed by clips from the Anti-Asian Violence PSA that explained what hate crimes were and how they can be reported, and asked for the link to the YouTube video, even though she spoke no English. After the one-on-one consultations concluded, volunteers debriefed the clinic and got to know each other over a post-clinic meal at Canton Lounge.

The PBCS Committee thanks Rina Gurung, Kensing Ng, and Meghan Liu for lending their expertise in rent arrears, eviction moratoria, and landlord and tenant rights and Bei Yang for providing a live interpretation of the presentation. The Committee would also like to thank Beatrice Leong, Francis Chin, Guiying Ji, Jae Hyung Ryu, Judy (Ming Chu) Lee, Karen Kithan Yau, Kwok Ng, Samantha Sumilang, and Shengyang Wu for providing clients with legal information and resources during one-on-one consultations; Kloe Chiu and Esther Choi for providing language interpretation during one-on-one consultations; Luna Fu and Wai Yip from AAFE for language interpretation and other assistance; Zhixian (Jessie) Liu and Poonam Gupta for acting as standby consultants for immigration-related questions; and Asako Aiba, Karen Lin, Kevin Hsi, Kwok Ng, May Wong, Megan Gao, and Olympia Moy for coordinating and staffing the clinic.   AABANY would also like to thank CCBA, CCCNY, and AAFE for co-sponsoring this event. We are also grateful to the staff at Charles B. Wang for providing video resources on mental health and anti-Asian hate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the PBCS Committee and its work, click here and here. The PBCS Committee is tentatively planning to hold its next hybrid legal clinic on Saturday, September 18, 2021 between 12:30 PM – 3:30 PM. For up-to-date details about the clinic and registration information, please click here.

NAPABA Prospective Partners Program Application Deadline Extended until September 15

Prospective Partners Program (PPP)

Application Deadline Extended Until September 15

The deadline to apply for the NAPABA Prospective Partners Program (PPP) has been extended! PPP aims to increase the number of Asian American and Pacific Islander partners at major law firms through introduction, mentorship, and relationship building. In anticipation of the program’s eleventh year, the PPP is inviting candidate applications and nominations for participation in PPP sessions taking place at the 2021 NAPABA Convention in Washington, D.C., from December 9-12, 2021.

Membership Mixer at Sour Mouse on August 25

On Wednesday, August 25, 2021, the Membership Committee hosted a Mixer at Sour Mouse, a fun venue in the Lower East Side that first opened up a year ago. It is an inviting space for people to gather to eat, drink, and play. AABANY members and friends who joined us were able to mingle and meet over a few games of pool, drinks, and pizza, surrounded by works of art from local artists and a live comedy show in the performance space on the far side of the room. All this was available without a cover, and the Membership Committee paid for a pool table and pizza. The bar offered plenty of drink choices. Guests also could opt to play ping pong or foosball if billiards were not their thing.

Sour Mouse is Asian owned and operated. They have daily events, foosball, pool, ping pong and a full bar. Please show your support! For more information, visit https://www.sourmousenyc.com/. The Membership Committee will be planning future outings at Sour Mouse, so stay tuned!

AABANY Members: One Week Left to Apply to NAPABA Connects

There’s one week left to apply as in-house counsel as part of NAPABA Connects, an exclusive program available to in-house counsel convention registrants and Solo and Small Firm, Gold, or higher-level firm sponsors. 

Through NAPABA Connectsdiverse law firm attorneys are given a forum to meet one-on-one with in-house counsel to make meaningful connections and cultivate a business relationship. In-house counsel can grow their diverse preferred provider portfolios.

In-house counsel and law firm participants will be matched for one-on-one meetings during NAPABA Convention. All participants are invited to attend the exclusive Sponsor Breakfast and NAPABA Connects VIP Reception during the NAPABA Convention December 9-12, 2021.

To participate as in-house counsel, you must fill out NAPABA’s brief application form. You can be matched with diverse law firm attorneys to cultivate new business relationships, or you may choose from a list of participating firms to expand your network with existing provider firms who may be in your preferred network. NAPABA will also send a list of all certified minority or women-owned firms to participating companies that may already have a preferred provider firm list.

The deadline to submit an IHC application is August 25 at 8 pm ET. For questions, please contact Operations Director, Maureen Gelwicks, at mgelwicks@napaba.org.

NAPABA Connects participants are eligible to receive a $750 reimbursement to the 2021 NAPABA Convention. You are encouraged to register by September 20, NAPABA’s early bird deadline. Attendees of the NAPABA Convention can earn up to 14 hours of CLE Credit, which will be focused on changes unfolding in this turbulent year as well as challenges lawyers have faced for decades.

NAPABA Statement on the Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) expresses its grave concern at the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. The United States has historically been a beacon to those fleeing oppression and persecution, and NAPABA has long championed resettlement and humanitarian protections for refugees and asylum seekers. In the case of Afghan nationals who have risked their lives to support the efforts of the United States government or the International Security Assistance Force, including as interpreters, NAPABA urges the Administration to expeditiously safeguard, evacuate, and process at-risk Special Immigrant Visa eligible persons and ensure that our refugee and asylum system is equipped to handle the influx of those facing immediate threat by the Taliban, including women, children, and religious, and ethnic minorities.

“As a former flag officer in the United States Navy, I greatly appreciate the danger and risk that our Afghan colleagues assumed in order to support the global war on terrorism in Afghanistan and to secure the country from the repressive rule of the Taliban, who banned education for girls, and severely restricted the rights and freedom of women,” said A.B. Cruz III, President of NAPABA. “We must ensure that those who risked so much to support our mission are not forgotten or left behind, and that women, children, and others at risk can be protected.”


The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), represents the interests of over 60,000 Asian Pacific American (APA) legal professionals and nearly 90 national, state, and local APA bar associations. NAPABA is a leader in addressing civil rights issues confronting APA 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 all backgrounds in the legal profession.

In the News: Paul, Weiss Partners Jeannie Rhee, Lawrence Wee, and Jennifer Wu Offer Advice to Young Asian American Lawyers in “For Asian American Lawyers, Good Mentorship Is Crucial”

In “For Asian American Lawyers, Good Mentorship Is Crucial,” a Law360 Guest Column published on August 16, Paul, Weiss partners Jeannie Rhee, Lawrence Wee, and Jennifer Wu discussed the importance of mentorships and common setbacks and stereotypes faced by Asian American lawyers. Wee and Wu are both AABANY members. Wee is a co-chair of AABANY’s Corporate Law Committee and a former AABANY Board Director, while Wu is a co-chair of the AABANY’s Women’s Committee. Rhee, Wee, and Wu stated that finding good mentors is vital for professional development and career advancement, but also took care to note that the mentor-mentee relationship is two-sided. The authors recommended that mentees find ways to anticipate their mentors’ needs and assist them, while also encouraging mentors to be good listeners and step into their mentees’ shoes. While they maintained that these relationships can help young lawyers learn to manage some challenges associated with being an Asian American in the legal profession, they also recommended that Asian American lawyers should seek out a range of mentors, whether they share the same cultural background or not. 


As mentors, Rhee, Wee, and Wu encouraged younger lawyers to take risks, speak up during meetings and challenging cases, and actively seek out promotions and leadership opportunities, especially since Asian Americans can be seen as risk-averse and face obstacles such as the bamboo ceiling. The authors also cautioned young Asian American lawyers, warning them that they will encounter stereotypes and that not everyone would acknowledge that they are minorities. However, they urged young Asian American lawyers to be their best, most authentic selves and to engage in positive, open communication about race-related issues. They also encouraged Asian American lawyers to become active in affinity groups and seek out organizations dedicated to the Asian American community and the career advancement of Asian American lawyers. The link to the full article is here.

AABANY Goes to Brooklyn for AAIFF Comedy Night, August 13

The 44th Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) rolled into town on August 11, billed as “the nation’s first and longest running festival dedicated to celebrating independent Asian, Asian diaspora, and Pacific Islander cinema.” Because we are not yet entirely out of the pandemic, AAIFF is being presented as a hybrid event with some screenings held in person and others made available on demand. One of the in-person programs took place on the third night, August 13, an evening featuring AAPI comics performing stand-up, fittingly called “Comedy Night.”

In a part of Brooklyn that the current generation calls Gowanus, nearly two dozen AABANY members joined a standing room crowd at Littlefield, a performance space that once was a warehouse (probably back in the days when this part of town was still known as Park Slope). The show was produced and hosted by Claire Yoo, an Events Coordinator for AAIFF who also happens to be President of Harvard College Stand Up Comic Society. Before you can say, “What? Harvard Students know how to laugh?” Claire took to the stage and launched into a profanity-laced opening monologue that filled the room with appreciative laughter, getting the entire audience properly riled up for the hilarity to come. (And don’t worry, Claire, we won’t tell your dad — who was in the audience — about your foul mouth.)

The line-up featured an assortment of top comedy talent, including award-winning writers from popular shows such as “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Patriot Act with Hasan Minaj,” and NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me.” The diversity of the comedians reflected East Asian, South Asian, and HAPA voices as well as LGBTQ+ perspectives that we rarely hear from in mainstream media. As one of our attendees, Lauren Kim of Fordham Law School, deftly summarized, “It was excellent, tons of fun, and every single comic was hilarious.” Indeed, they were! None of our performers bombed on stage. If anything, the level and quality of the comedy seemed to go higher and higher from one comic to the next. (Apologies to Moss Perricone, the first comic to go. We don’t mean to say you weren’t funny or that the other comics were funnier than you. Oh, wait … maybe we are saying the second part.)

By the way, we should mention that our host, Claire, was an AABANY intern during Fall 2020. During her internship she learned that AABANY is a community partner of AAIFF and asked how she could get involved with Asian CineVision, the non-profit that organizes AAIFF each year. We hooked her up, and just a few months later … she is the producer and host of the largest comedy show she has ever put together. Congrats, Claire! Great job! (And Asian Cinevision, you are welcome!)

Thanks to all the AABANY members and friends, including President Terry Shen and his wife, Stella, who joined us. We hope everyone will support AAIFF and its mission to promote and spotlight AAPI artists, writers, performers, producers, and filmmakers. Read about the AAIFF films we are co-sponsoring this year here.

NAPABA Prospective Partners Program Application Deadline in Two Weeks

Prospective Partners Program

Application Closing September 1

The deadline to apply for the NAPABA Prospective Partners Program (PPP) is two weeks away! PPP aims to increase the number of Asian American and Pacific Islander partners at major law firms through introduction, mentorship, and relationship building. In anticipation of the program’s eleventh year, the PPP is inviting candidate applications and nominations for participation in PPP sessions taking place at the 2021 NAPABA Convention in Washington, D.C., from December 9-12, 2021.

AABANY Real Estate Committee Presents “Cannabis Law and Real Estate” CLE on August 3

On August 3, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented a “Cannabis Law and Real Estate” CLE, which explored the current state of real estate in New York State, within the context of recent cannabis legalization and a growing cannabis industry. Real Estate Committee Co-Chair Margaret Ling moderated the webinar, welcoming four speakers to introduce and explain current cannabis law and real estate practices, before opening the floor for a Q&A session.

Kristin Jordan spoke first, giving a broad overview of New York State’s adult use cannabis bill, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (“MRTA”), which was passed on March 31, 2021. Kristin is the Executive Director of Asian Cannabis Roundtable, a NYC-based professional networking community for those engaged in the cannabis industry, and Founder of Mannada. She explained how the bill positioned the state’s new cannabis regulatory body under the State Liquor Authority, because developing an entirely new agency would take too long. The new body comprises three agencies, the Office of Cannabis Management, the Cannabis Control Board, and the Cannabis Advisory Board. She also enumerated the different kinds of cannabis licenses available under the MRTA:

  1. Cultivator,
  2. Processor,
  3. Cooperative (non-profit),
  4. Distributor,
  5. Retail,
  6. Microbusiness,
  7. Delivery,
  8. Nursery, and
  9. On-site consumption.

In terms of New York real estate, Kristin noted that cannabis legalization and its budding industry would exact the most tangible effect on leases for retail stores, warehouses, and distribution facilities, because they provide the brick and mortar for cannabis businesses. Finally, she emphasized that since cannabis legalization is so recent, cannabis law and best practices promise a steep learning curve, with so much uncharted territory.

Steve LaFredo, Chief Banking Officer at Piermont Bank, discussed cannabis and real estate specifically as it relates to banking. He emphasized that “banks are safety, soundness, and risk organizations first”; in other words, banking is a slow industry, and it would take time for banks to adapt to the growing cannabis industry. He underscored the difficulty of navigating often differing state and federal law when dealing with cannabis businesses, though he noted that New York State has been relatively progressive, as the first state to create cannabis banking guidelines under the Department of Taxation and Finance. These guidelines aim to preserve the safety, soundness, and security of businesses involved with cannabis. Steve explained that in states that have legalized cannabis, the banking industry tiers cannabis businesses into 3 categories: Tier A, those with direct contact (e.g. growing, producing, selling); Tier B, those that derive more than 25% of their business from the cannabis space; and Tier C, those that derive 25% or less of their business from the cannabis space. Banks are most likely to be receptive to working with Tier C cannabis businesses.

Since they lie precariously between state and federal regulators, most banks have a zero tolerance policy for cannabis. Disclosure and transparency are critical for finding a financial institution with which cannabis businesses can safely operate; smaller, private banks and credit unions will be most likely to open their doors to cannabis businesses. Unfortunately, cannabis businesses are still largely relegated to cash transactions, and since mechanisms for depositing and delivering cash are scarce and expensive, banks are hesitant to get involved. After the federal decision to stand down in states that have legalized cannabis, however, banks have slowly begun entering the cannabis space. Steve expressed optimism about the future of cannabis banking.

Kathleen Deegan Dickson and Danielle Tricolla of Forchelli Deegan Terrana spoke last, focusing on the role of the law firm in the cannabis space. Kathleen is a Partner and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Group at Forchelli Deegan Terrana, and Danielle is an Associate and Co-Chair of the Cannabis Group at Forchelli Deegan Terrana. They underscored the importance of “knowing what you don’t know,” since cannabis legalization not only means new legislation but also changes to existing legislation. Specifically, cannabis legalization involves changes to Public Health Law, Penal Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Civil Practice Law and Rules, Labor Law, Vehicle and Traffic Law, and General Business Law. Like Steve, they touched on the interplay between state legalization and federal prohibition of cannabis. Devoting special attention to law firm clients interested in cannabis, they explained that “cannabis law” is a multidisciplinary practice area, since it affects real estate transactions, leasing, land use, zoning, banking, labor, and employment, among other areas.

The intersection of cannabis law and real estate presents a new and exciting business area, and AABANY thanks the Real Estate Committee Co-Chairs Margaret Ling, Wendy Yu, and Jane Chen for putting together such an informative and current event. To learn more about the Real Estate Committee, visit https://www.aabany.org/page/120.