Bonnie Lau, Litigation Partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP
Rotsen “Chinny” Law, Attorney at The Ramos Law Firm
Mark L. Legaspi, Associate General Counsel and Director of Corporate Strategy, M&A, Investments and Emerging Technologies at Intel Corporation
Abigail Rivamonte Mesa, Chief of Staff at Office of Supervisor Matt Haney, District 6
Lisa Kim Anh Nguyen, Partner at Latham & Watkins LLP
Phi Nguyen, Litigation Director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta
Philip Nulud, Senior Counsel at Buchalter
Judge Rizza O’Connor, Chief Magistrate Judge at Magistrate Court, Toombs County, Lyons, Georgia
Candice Wong, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General & Chief of Staff of U.S. Department of Justice – Criminal Division
Maya Yamazaki, Partner at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Women’s Leadership Award Recipient:
Sandra Yamate, Chief Executive Officer at Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession
Military and Veteran Service Award Recipient:
Colonel Kay K. Wakatake, U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps
Pro Bono Award Recipient:
Alice Hsu, Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Karen Kithuan Yau, Of Counsel at Kakalec Law LLP
AABANY congratulates its members who were honored by NAPABA:
Glenn Magpantay, Daniel K. Inouye Trailblazer Award
Naf Kwun, Best Under 40 Award
Alice Hsu, Pro Bono Award
Karen Yau, Pro Bono Award
AABANY also congratulates Littler, an AABANY Silver Sponsor, on receiving the Law Firm Diversity Award.
All these award winners will be recognized during the month of October on NAPABA social media channels. Follow NAPABA’s Facebook and LinkedIn to hear the winners give their acceptance speeches and more!
WASHINGTON — The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) recognizes the historic significance of Sen. Kamala Harris’ nomination as vice president on the Democratic ticket. Harris is the first woman of color to be nominated on a presidential ticket for a major party. If elected, she would become the highest ranking Asian Pacific American ever in line for presidential succession.
“Sen. Harris has defined herself as a leader and legislator in the U.S. Senate,” said Bonnie Lee Wolf, president of NAPABA. “Her nomination is not only historic, but deeply meaningful to the Asian Pacific American community. Sen. Harris is the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, and she understands the priorities and concerns of Asian Pacific American and Black communities, which have been underrepresented at all levels of government. Since her tenure in the Senate, Sen. Harris has shown a strong commitment to diversity—including having one of the most diverse staff in the Senate and elevating people of color to leadership positions.”
“As a non-partisan organization, NAPABA works with presidential administrations and members of Congress from both parties to advance the interests of the Asian Pacific American community. NAPABA applauds Sen. Harris’ nomination and looks forward to greater representation and diversity of political candidates, executive branch appointees, and judges.”
Jane Jeong shares her reflections on the effects of COVID-19 on our day-to-day lives.
I had a really, really good feeling about 2020. On New Year’s Eve 2019, after billing my final hours of the year (I had gotten roped into a Christmas-Grinch corporate merger that finally signed that morning), my boyfriend and I wrapped up the old decade grabbing a cozy dinner with friends in Chelsea, dancing until seven AM at a rave in Brooklyn, refueling at a 24-hour Subway on the way home, and then sleeping the day away like two blissful college freshmen without a care in the world. We woke up only to grab dinner in the West Village, where the quiet streets marked a sobering contrast to all the festivities the night before.
During that dinner, like the two optimistic overachievers we are, we shared several New Year’s resolutions we each had on deck for 2020. My personal list was ambitious: I wanted to find a new job, exercise more regularly, publish my writing, meditate every night, and send my parents on a cruise to celebrate their recent retirement. I hoped to hike Machu Picchu and go to Burning Man for the first time. I already had five weddings, two conferences, two law school recruiting trips, four weekend getaways, and one bachelorette party penciled in my calendar ahead. I had a really, really good feeling about this year, I told him—it was a fresh start of a new decade, and it brimmed with nothing but hope and exciting possibility.
… Well, I guess there is always next year.
There is no way we could have predicted how stunningly our day-to-day lives were about to change just weeks after that dinner. Even among the most fortunate or optimistic of us, there is no denying the emotional toll it has taken to face the stupendous degree and speed by which we parted with our pre-COVID lives. We have all been grieving some kind of loss lately:A loved one, a daily routine, a sense of normalcy or security or freedom, a job, a friendship or relationship, a sense of human connection, vacation plans, wedding deposits, graduation celebrations, our physical health, our mental health… and everything else in between.
My own COVID grief feels like a full-time job sometimes. In my thirty-one years, I have never been more keenly aware of the fragility of life—of just how little control and security we ever had to begin with (despite all the stories we tell to assure ourselves otherwise). There are the big, soul-shattering losses I mourn—like the thousands of lives we have lost and the countless families who are forever changed. I mourn for those of us who suffered alone in quarantined hospital beds during their final hours. I mourn for all the carefree memories and quality time we otherwise would have shared with those we love this year.
And then, of course, there are the smaller losses I miss—the little everyday freedoms I had once taken for granted—like those dinner parties filled with laughter and dates at cute West Village restaurants and sweaty Brooklyn raves and everything else that had all been so ordinary to me just seven months ago. I miss hugging people wherever I go. I miss wearing real pants. I miss old New York—the one brimming with pedestrians, 24-hour subways, rooftop parties, workout classes, bars, restaurants, yoga studios, coffeeshops, comedy shows… and every weird thing we could possibly imagine and then some. I miss the endless plans we used to make, things we used to do, strangers we used to meet.
Depending on the hour or day, I process our losses with varying degrees of grace.Sometimes, I relish the new normal: I appreciate the pockets of time we have gotten back in our days—all those dead minutes we used to pass idling in traffic or blow-drying our hair in the mornings—that now allow me to squeeze in some extra sleep and exercise and Netflix binges. I am grateful for the unexpected opportunity to work side-by-side with my new COVID officemate (and boyfriend, co-chef, roommate, breakfast-lunch-dinner-buddy, haircutter, lover, workout partner, quarantine buddy… all in no particular order). I appreciate how much easier it is now to eat healthier (since we cook most of our meals these days), to save money (it turns out doing nothing is pretty cheap!), and to find pleasure in the utterly mundane things (like rearranging our Tupperware cabinet).
Many days, though, I can’t help but feel like I am trapped in some kind of torturous Westworld loop, in which time is rendered meaningless and every day seems like an exact replica of the one before. July feels exactly like May and May felt exactly like March. I can’t help but dwell on all that we lost—both big and not big—that made the day-to-day once seem more exciting and brimming with promise. I often feel bored, isolated, trapped, lonely, frustrated, and desperate for normalcy again. I feel like I am stuck living at work instead of working from home. I genuinely can’t help but wonder if my youth is passing me by—with my days and weeks and months all bleeding together—all the while as I am stuck at home with nowhere to go.
But maybe… that is exactly the point. Perhaps there was nowhere to go in the first place.
This thought struck me on yet another nondescript Saturday night however many weeks ago (again, who’s counting anymore?), when I was curling up with my journal and realizing just how eerily still my life had become. Maybe this was a natural result of sheltering in place for the better part of this year. Or maybe all those attempts to meditate are actually working. Still, this new quiet is particularly weird for me, because “still” has never been the soundtrack to my life. My pre-COVID self was constantly on the move—always working, always going, always doing. My calendar was jam-packed with brunches and work and workouts and coffee dates and birthday celebrations and dinner parties (sometimes all of the above, all in one day). Even at work, I had my own workstation set up in my best friend’s office so I could avoid sitting alone in mine all day. For any pockets of downtime I had to sit with myself, I filled the quiet with FaceTimes, group chats, podcasts, yoga videos, books, errands, TED Talks—anything to avoid my own solitude. I was rarely, if ever, still.
A part of this is rather natural; I am an extreme extrovert and social butterfly by nature. But I would be lying if I didn’t now wonder whether there had been something more to this. Because for most of my teens and twenties, I never felt quite at home in my own skin. My mind was simply not the kindest place for me to live—and how could it be, when I was the only one in this world who knew all of my flaws and insecurities and mistakes? I was so exacting in all the ways I thought I fell short—all the ways I had wished I were someone “better” than the person I actually was. So was there a part of me that was constantly on the go—over-scheduled, over-stimulated—because I was unknowingly trying to avoid my own self (and all the criticism and anxiety that came with her)? Was I truly seeking joy, or was I unconsciously avoiding pain? And, if the latter, how many disappointments and heartbreaks and mistakes could I have then avoided, had I learned to embrace my own company much earlier in my life? How many Saturday nights in my past did I unknowingly choose to distract myself—with mindless activities and the wrong people—simply because the alternative of sitting alone was too uncomfortable to bear?
I do not suspect I will fully resolve these questions anytime soon; the truth is likely complex and layered somewhere in between. However, at the very least, I am beginning to see that there may be a different, perhaps more productive, way for me to start reframing this never-ending Westworld-loop of 2020. It might not make sense, and it might be scary and isolating and lonely as hell at times, but I am being pulled to my core in ways I never could have expected. I am not sure why it took more than three decades and a global pandemic for me to learn how to nest within for the first time, but regardless of how I got here, I can try to embrace it now—boredom, anxiety, and isolation and all—and see where this path leads me.Because when will I ever again get the gift to spend this much time to be still? After more than three decades of spending my time, money, energy, mind and body on external distractions, it is about time I look within. It is about time I learn there was never anywhere else to go in the first place.
In this way, I suspect my post-COVID life will look very different from the one I had just a few months ago. With some time and distance away from what was once normal, I find myself re-evaluating everything and stripping my life down to the very basics. I am learning I do just fine without all that makeup or pedicures or professional-grade haircuts or six-dollar lattes. I am outgrowing certain friendships and deepening others. I am exploring new recipes (like the perfect avocado toast) and hobbies (like acrylic painting) and DIY haircut tricks (my boyfriend is a good guinea pig). I am slowly mastering the art of doing nothing (and not feeling guilty about it). I am reading more and talking less. I am learning to trust in the disarray, even when I do not understand it.
I am growing and toughening up as we speak—and, if I may presume, I am not the only one. There are little, gentle reminders all around us of our boundless resilience throughout this weird and lonely time. There is my friend Meg, whose marriage crumbled in the early stages of quarantine and is now learning to live alone for the first time in thirteen years—all the while juggling a full-time job and a two-year-old daughter. And then there is Erin, who—after rebounding from a scary bout of COVID and is now seeking to reinvent her second chance at life—decided once and for all to trade in her fancy lawyer job and fancier Brooklyn apartment for the rustic charms of New Hampshire. There is also Dan, who lost both his job and girlfriend in March and—after nursing a badly bruised heart for the last couple of months—is now embracing this opportunity to finally launch that consulting business he had dreamed about since college. In this way, all our grief and fears notwithstanding, there have been unexpected opportunities this year for many of us to dive deep within ourselves and shed what was not meant to be—a relationship going nowhere, a toxic friendship, an unfulfilling job—and write the next chapter for ourselves ahead. We are learning to Marie-Kondo our lives from old attachments—to things, friendships, relationships, habits, jobs, cities, apartments, hopes and dreams—that no longer serve us.
I may no longer boast about that really, really good feeling I had about this year… but, at the end of the day, I still choose hope. And this is not to say that the storms won’t continue to rage on—we are in week who-knows-what of COVID, and there is no telling how much further we have left to go or even how much worse this may get. Our losses may continue to compound for a painfully long time. However, if I may try to find any silver lining here, perhaps it is this: Despite all the pain and senseless loss,we are still surviving. We are still evolving. Wherever we are, whoever we are, we are pulling ourselves through something we do not understand—and maybe that is precisely the test here. What we do with this opportunity, then, depends entirely on us.
Jane Jeong is an attorney at Cooley, writer, yogi, dog-lover, and former Wall Street analyst and fitness instructor. She is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School. She lives in Manhattan.
AABANY is excited to announce that Immediate Past President Brian Song and President Sapna Palla have been included in the 2020 Power List of the 100 Most Influential Asian Americans in New York Politics & Policy, released by City & State. Song and Palla are jointly recognized as 52nd on the list.
City & State wrote:
The Asian American Bar Association’s mission is to ensure “the meaningful participation of Asian-Americans in the legal profession.” It has made strides under Sapna Palla, a partner at Wiggin and Dana LLP, who is the president for the 2020-2021 term, and under her immediate predecessor, Brian Song, a partner at the top law firm Baker & Hostetler LLP. The organization recently surpassed 1,400 paid members.
Congratulations and thanks to Brian and Sapna to bringing AABANY to these new heights.
In addition to Brian and Sapna, several others among the honorees have worked with or been associated with AABANY, as members, community partners, or sponsors, to whom we also wish to extend our congratulations.
Among the top 10, AABANY has worked with Grace Meng, New York’s first Asian American US Congress Member; John Liu, State Senator and first Asian American to serve on the City Council; Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition; Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou, both state Assembly Members; and Margaret Chin, New York City Council Member.
Preet Bharara who, as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was a regular speaker at our annual Prosecutors Reception and an honoree at our Annual Dinner in 2015;
John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, one of our community partners;
Margaret Fung, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of our community partners;
Faiza Saeed, a Presiding Partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a Gold Sponsor of AABANY for many years;
Honorable Denny Chin, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and past AABANY President (1992-93), who currently helps lead our trial reenactments project.
From 51 – 100 on the list, we extend our congratulations to
Jayasri Ganapathy, President of the South Asian Bar Association of New York (SABANY), one of our sister bar associations and past AABANY member;
My Chi To, Executive Deputy Superintendent of the Insurance Division at the New York State Department of Financial Services, and past AABANY member;
Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese America, one of our community partners;
Wendy Cai-Lee, President and CEO of Piermont Bank, a Bronze Sponsor of the 2019 NAPABA Northeast Regional/AABANY Fall Conference; and
Justin Yu, Chair of the New York Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which has partnered with us for many years for our walk-in Pro Bono Clinic.
AABANY is privileged and honored to have worked closely with so many of New York’s most influential Asian American in politics and policy. Congratulations to everyone who made the list, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration and to partner in the future.
This month, households across the country will receive
letters inviting them to fill out their 2020 Census forms online. Are you ready
to fill yours out? Are you ready for the questions you may get as a lawyer
about the Census?
Everyone should be counted in the Census, regardless of
language ability, immigration status, age, income or identity. Unfortunately, in
some communities there is misinformation, confusion, and fear about
participating. And others, like the AAPI community, are historically
If our communities don’t fill out the Census, they lose out
on electoral power and representation, funding, resources and access to
services in their language. As lawyers and community leaders, we are in a
position to dispel myths and help our communities get counted.
In light of concerns about the coronavirus, Census officials are encouraging individuals to fill out the form online or by mail. For more information about the Census and the Coronavirus, please visit CountUsIn2020.org.
NAPABA, the South Asian Bar Association of North American
and Asian Americans Advancing Justice developed resources for AAPI lawyers
about the upcoming Census. Find more materials, including in-language resources
and videos, at napaba.org/census
Together we can ensure our communities are counted!
Questions about the Census?
You can contact NAPABA two ways:
Call the census language hotline, for answers
to questions in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog,
Urdu, Hindi, and Bengali/Bangla. Call
8:30 AM to 8:30 PM Eastern Time at 844-2020-API or 844-202-0274.
On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, AABANY hosted its 2020 Annual Dinner with the theme “Stronger Together: Unity in Diversity” at Cipriani Wall Street. The dinner attracted over 800 attorneys, judges, prosecutors, in-house counsel, government officials, and dignitaries and sponsorships from more than 60 law firms and corporations.
This year AABANY was proud to honor:
Hon. Sri Srinivasan, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, with the Public Interest Leadership Award.
Alan Tse, Global Chief Legal Officer, Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc., with the Corporate Leadership Award
Yen Chu, Chief Legal Officer, Equinox Holdings, Inc., with the Women’s Leadership Award
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP with the Law Firm Diversity Award
To read more about our extraordinary honorees, read the press release here.
This year, Spectrum NY1 News Anchor Vivian Lee served as MC and was joined on stage by Immediate Past President James Cho.
James presented each of the honorees with special gifts from AABANY. Noting that Alan Tse was considered by his peers to be “The Closer,” James presented him with a bottle of McCallan, a nod to Attorney Harvey Specter from “Suits,” another well-known “Closer.” However, because Alan had to fly back to Chicago, the full-size bottle was replaced with a miniature size, with a ziploc bag that will ensure the bottle gets through security. (We have a feeling that the bottle was consumed well before Alan made it to the airport.)
For Yen Chu, James presented her with a monogrammed workout head towel for her next session at one of Equinox’s many gyms. That is one way to make sure that AABANY is “top of mind” for Yen in the days to come. Finally, for Chief Judge Srinivasan, we figured that as a jurist, he can never have too many robes, so James presented him a wizard’s robe, bearing his name above the Gryffindor crest. Although we doubt we will see Chief Judge Srinivasan wearing that robe on the bench any time soon, we can imagine him donning the robe in chambers, especially on those occasions where he may need to work some judicial wizardry to decide the most difficult cases.
In addition, we were also pleased to present the 2019 class of Don H. Liu Scholars: Grace Cho, Raymond Magsaysay, and Andrew Tran. To read more about the Don H. Liu Scholars, see our press release here.
Congratulations also to the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee. The Pro Bono Clinic was recognized with the New York State Bar Association Bar Leaders Innovation Award. NYSBA President Hank Greenberg attended the Annual Dinner to present the award. To read more about the award, see our press release here.
We thank all of the AABANY Annual Dinner Planning Committee members
and volunteers for their hard work in making this year’s celebration a
We extend sincere thanks to all of our sponsors. Their generous sponsorships make it possible for us to pursue our mission to advance the interests of the Asian Pacific American (APA) legal community and the communities we serve and support our many activities and signature events throughout the year.
Lastly, we thank everyone that attended the 2020 Annual Dinner and celebrated with us.
Thanks to Corky Lee for the photos in this blog post. More photos to come. Stay tuned!
Since 2014, AABANY has sought to recognize one law firm each year for its extraordinary efforts to improve the diversity of our profession by presenting AABANY’s Law Firm Diversity Award. The 2020 AABANY Law Firm Diversity Award will be presented at the Annual Dinner on February 26, 2020.
Nominees should be a law firm that has achieved significant success in the areas of recruiting, retaining and promoting women and diverse attorneys while also demonstrating a commitment to raising awareness of, and influencing the legal community to address, the challenges faced by women and diverse attorneys in the legal industry. Criteria for selection include:
Demonstrated commitment to diversity at all levels of the firm;
An established pipeline of diverse talent;
A track record of retaining and promoting women and diverse attorneys;
External activities, such as active participation in minority bar associations like AABANY and diversity programs of mainstream bar associations like the American Bar Association, New York State Bar Association, New York City Bar Association, and New York County Lawyers Association;
Any other factors the selection committee deems valuable in promoting AABANY’s mission.
The AABANY Law Firm Diversity Award recipient will be chosen by a selection committee through a competitive and confidential process.