AABANY LGBTQ Committee Hosts the Program: “Protecting DEI at Big Law since SCOTUS: A Queer Asian Perspective”

On March 25, 2024, the AABANY LGBT Committee organized a program with the generous support and sponsorship of Goodwin Procter LLP titled: Protecting DEI at Big Law since SCOTUS: A Queer Asian Perspective. The program featured two prominent speakers: Kavita Ramakrishnan, Senior Director at Diversity Lab and Dennis Quinio, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer of the Americas at Allen & Overy. The program consisted of robust conversations about the meaning of diversity, and the personal experiences of attorneys who struggle with the complications of identity.

AABANY thanks the LGBT Committee for presenting this topical program and the speakers for sharing their insights. Thanks to Goodwin for hosting the event. To learn more about the LGBT Committee go here.

Corporate Law, Membership & Bankruptcy Committees Presents Summer Happy Hour Mixer at Maru

On July 25, 2023, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) organized a successful Summer Happy Hour Mixer. Spearheaded by the Corporate Law Committee, Membership Committee, and Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Committee, the mixer was sponsored by the renowned law firm, Allen & Overy. The event organization was effectively handled by Tracy Feng, a Structured Credit Partner at Paul Hastings; Ashley Wong, an M&A Associate at Sidley Austin; and Jinny Lim, a Summer Associate at Paul Hastings. Their meticulous planning resulted in a well-coordinated event that drew close to 50 attendees.

The environment encouraged the exchange of ideas and facilitated networking with experienced Partners and Associates from a variety of firms. The mixer provided a platform for attendees, which included Summer Associates from top law firms, in-house counsels, solo practitioners, and government attorneys, to engage in professional dialogues. As the event progressed, the atmosphere shifted from professional networking to shared entertainment, with karaoke serving as a fun conclusion. This shift emphasized the balance AABANY promotes between professional growth and community bonding.

The Summer Happy Hour Mixer effectively embodied AABANY’s commitment to community, professional development, and engagement. We extend our gratitude to the AABANY Committees and Allen & Overy for their contribution to this enjoyable event.

To learn more about the Corporate Law Committee, please click here.

To learn more about the Membership Committee, please click here.

To learn more about the Commercial Bankruptcy and Restructuring Committee, please click here.

Allen & Overy Presents AABANY Trial Reenactment: Oyama v. State of California

On May 24, AABANY and Allen & Overy (A&O) presented a reenactment of the historic case Oyama v. State of California, in commemoration of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This landmark case was reenacted by attorneys and law students to tell a captivating story involving AAPI litigants on an important constitutional case known to very few but which has resonance to the present day.

As described on the AABANY Trial Reenactments website:

Inspired by Prof. Rose Cuison Villazor’s law review article, “Rediscovering Oyama v. California: At the Intersection of Property, Race, and Citizenship,” 87 Wash. U. L. Rev. 979 (2010), the reenactment dealt with the California Alien Land Law which prevented “aliens ineligible from citizenship” – i.e., Japanese – from owning land. The case explored the ways in which denial of property rights also served to promote racial discrimination against the Japanese in California. In the case, Kajiro Oyama, a Japanese immigrant who was ineligible for United States citizenship at the time, bought a parcel of farmland which he deeded to his minor son Fred, who was born in the United States and was thus a citizen. Under the Alien Land Laws, this transaction was deemed a fraud and the State of California brought suit against Fred Oyama to escheat the property. The case went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where the statute’s constitutionality was placed before the Court for its review.

The in-person reenactment was followed by a lively panel discussion co-sponsored by A&O’s U.S. Asian Affinity Network. The discussion was led by A&O Partner John Hwang and Associate Rachel Lee and featuring guest speakers Professor Rose Cuison-Villazor and Shenyang Wu. As the Interim Co-Dean at Rutgers Law School, Professor Cuison-Villazor shared details of her personal discussion with the Oyama family in 2010 for her paper. Shenyang, a partner at Alpha Law NY PLLC and a co-founder of the Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA), reinforced that sentiments from legislation like the Alien Land Act of 1913 are still alive by noting Texas lawmakers’ recent decision to restrict Chinese foreign nationals’ land ownership.

A particularly poignant moment during the panel occurred when John Hwang conducted an informal survey of the number of lawyers who had heard of the Oyama v. California case prior to the reenactment. In a room of more than 50 attorneys and law students, less than 5 people raised their hands. This demonstrates how much more work needs to be done for AAPI and the law in legal education and highlights the importance of reenactments like this. The significance of the case for the AAPI community extends beyond issues of immigration, residency, and land ownership. It symbolizes the power of every voice that deserves to be heard and every story that needs to be told.

We thank Allen & Overy and all of the participants in the reenactment for giving their time to raise awareness of the Oyama family’s legacy. For more information about AABANY’s trial reenactment project, visit https://reenactments.aabany.org/.  

AABANY Members Visit Capitol Hill for NAPABA Lobby Day

On May 22 and 23, 2023, AABANY members Yen-Yi Anderson, Vishal Chander, Chris Kwok, Rachel Lee, and Nandar Win Kerr converged on Washington D.C. for National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Lobby Day. Each year, NAPABA organizes the event to educate members of Congress on issues of importance to the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community. NAPABA Lobby Day is scheduled to coincide with AANHPI Heritage Month in May of each year.

AABANY members met with the legislative staff of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. They discussed issues such as support for the LGBTQ+ community, protection of the right to counsel in immigration, mental health support for AANHPI and other diverse communities, profiling persons of Chinese ancestry, state passage of alien land laws, and AANHPI judicial and executive nominees.

Rachel Lee, an associate at Allen & Overy LLP, shared, “I am happy to have participated in NAPABA Lobby Day this year. It was an educational and eye-opening experience to learn about different issues impacting the AANHPI community and be able to advocate for our community on Capitol Hill at various congressional offices with fellow NAPABA members. I highly recommend the program and would participate again in the future.”

NAPABA is the nation’s largest Asian Pacific American membership organization representing the interest of 60,000 attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. NAPABA Lobby Day activities include a 3-Part Training Event, Congressional office visits, and an AANHPI Heritage Month Congressional Reception.

Written By: Vishal Chander, active AABANY member and Co-Chair, Solo & Small Firm Practice Committee

AABANY LGBT Committee Hosts 2022 LGBTQ Asian American/South Asian Lawyers Networking Reception

On October 11, 2022, to recognize National Coming Out Day, over 40 members of the bar “came out” to celebrate the diversity within the LGBT, Asian American, and South Asian communities with the LGBT Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York and Allen & Overy LLP. After a 2 year hiatus from in-person events, LGBT Asian American and South Asian attorneys in corporate, commercial, government, and public interest practice gathered to build peer-support and expand their network. View the scenes from the reception below as we celebrated the growing diversity and inclusivity of our communities by building our networks and peer support.


NAPABA Presents Its 2022 NAPABA Awards

For over a decade, NAPABA has annually honored outstanding organizations that make an impact in the legal profession and within the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

NAPABA is proud to recognize these deserving innovative organizations for the following 2022 NAPABA Awards. All of these organizations will be celebrated at the 2022 NAPABA Convention from November 3-6 in Las Vegas .


Affiliate of the Year Award Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association

The NAPABA Affiliate of the Year Award recognizes outstanding NAPABA affiliates for their best practices and accomplishments in their local communities.

Honoree Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association (SCCLA) is the country’s first AAPI bar association and has created meaningful programs and events for its members as well as for law students and the local community. Learn more about the SCCLA


APA-Owned Law Firm of the Year Award Yang Law Offices

The NAPABA APA-Owned Law Firm of the Year Award recognizes our membership’s law firms—solo, small, and large—that have achieved prominence and distinction, and have demonstrated a strong commitment to the AAPI community. Honoree Yang Law Offices has shown this commitment through their work across multiple locations in California and internationally. Learn more about Yang Law Offices.


Law Firm Diversity Award Allen & Overy

The NAPABA Law Firm Diversity Award honors law firms that actively, affirmatively, consistently, and enthusiastically recruit, retain, and promote AAPI lawyers to equity partnership and firm leadership. It celebrates law firm successes in recognizing the potential, supporting the promise, and raising the influence of AAPI lawyers. Honoree Allen & Overy has made diversity, equity, and inclusion one of their strategic priorities — fundamental to the kind of firm they want to be. Learn more about Allen & Overy.

[AABANY congratulates Allen & Overy on this recognition. Allen & Overy received the AABANY Law Firm Diversity Award at the 2022 AABANY Annual Dinner.]


AABANY Hosts Orientation and Reception for Committee Co-Chairs

On May 5, 2022, AABANY held a kick-off event for Fiscal Year 2023 at Allen & Overy. The new Fiscal Year began on April 1. Vice President of Programs and Operations Beatrice Leong, together with Executive Director Yang Chen, provided an orientation for new co-chairs and vice-chairs and a refresher for returning chairs on information and resources available to them to facilitate their work organizing programs and events for AABANY members and the broader community. (VPPO Joe Eng was unable to attend due to pressing work obligations.)

The 2023 cohort of Committee leadership learned best practices for being a leader of AABANY and learned how to plan and host events. AABANY’s Committee Chairs are ready to put on exciting events, panels and CLEs that all members look forward to. 

After the orientation, the attendees got to meet each other and mingle at Faces & Names Bar and Lounge, a few blocks north of Allen & Overy’s offices. 

We thank Allen & Overy for donating their beautiful space and for being a strong sponsor of AABANY. We also thank our Committee leaders for their dedication to AABANY. Special thanks to Kevin Hsi, Co-Chair of the Government Service & Public Interest Committee for his photos of the event. 

See https://www.aabany.org/page/CommitteesPage2022 for the list of all current Committee Chairs.

Please check the AABANY Calendar often to see the events being presented by our Committees. https://www.aabany.org/events/event_list.asp

AABANY Celebrates 2022 Annual Dinner with 800+ Attendees

On Thursday, April 28, 2022, AABANY hosted its 2022 Annual Dinner with the theme “Forging a New Path to an Equitable Future” at Cipriani Wall Street. The dinner attracted over 800 attorneys, judges, prosecutors, in-house counsel, government officials, and dignitaries and sponsorships from more than 50 law firms and corporations.

AABANY was proud to honor:

  • Flora W. Feng, Senior Legal Director, Global Intellectual Property, PepsiCo with AABANY’s Corporate Leadership Award 
  • Emily A. Kim, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Zeta Charter Schools with AABANY’s Women’s Leadership Award

To read more about our extraordinary honorees, read the press release here.

We were joined by New York Governor Kathy Hochul who delivered remarks on the strength of the AAPI community and the importance of coming together to effectuate change. 

This year, Actress/Comedian/Activist Kate Siahaan-Rigg served as MC. She was our MC last year during our Virtual Gala, and this was her first time serving as our live MC at the Annual Dinner. Thank you, Kate, for raising awareness on “representASIAN” while adding color and fun to the ceremony! 

We were proud to honor Allen & Overy with the Law Firm Diversity Award for its commitment to improving diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. To read more about the award, read the press release here. 

In addition, we were also pleased to present the 2022 class of Don H. Liu Scholars: Seung Hye Yan, Edward Jung, and Brian Liu. Read more about the program here.

We extend sincere thanks to everyone who helped us raise over $30,000 for AABANY-AALFNY’s Turn  the Tide (T3) Project to fight anti-Asian hate and violence. We thank Mayer Brown for challenging the audience to match its initial donation of $10,000. Over the course of the evening, attendees tripled the match! We thank MC Kate Siahaan-Rigg for her endless humor and compassion in helping us exceed our fundraising goal. To learn more about the T3 Project see https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.aabany.org/resource/resmgr/2021aav/Turning_the_Tide_v5_compress.pdf

We thank all of the AABANY Annual Dinner Planning Committee members and volunteers for their hard work in making this year’s celebration a huge success.

We thank all of our sponsors. Their generous sponsorships make it possible for us to pursue our mission to advance the interests of the Asian American and Pacific Islander legal community and the communities we serve. Our sponsors support AABANY’s many activities and signature events throughout the year.

Lastly, we thank everyone that attended the 2022 Annual Dinner and celebrated with us. We were happy to see you all in person after two years of quarantine, social distancing and endless Zoom meetings.

More photos to come. Stay tuned! 

AABANY and KALAGNY File Amici Brief Addressing Implicit Racial Bias in N.Y. Judicial System

An Allen & Overy cross-practice team acted as pro-bono counsel for the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York (KALAGNY) in filing an appellate brief amici curiae to the New York Appellate Division, Third Department. 

Following his mostly unsuccessful personal injury case brought against the State of New York (Byung Choon Joe v. New York), Plaintiff, Byung Choon Joe, appealed the trial judge’s decision to the Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department. A&O, on behalf of AABANY and KALAGNY, filed a brief amici curiae in support of Mr. Joe, urging the appellate court to consider whether the trial court’s decision was negatively influenced by implicit racial bias.

Terry Shen, President of AABANY, said, “As the largest affinity bar association in New York and the United States, AABANY is devoted to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. When we learned about the case of Byung Choon Joe, we were concerned about the trial court’s irrelevant reference to his Korean ethnicity in the context of a finding of a lack of trustworthiness, recalling age-old negative stereotypes of Asian Americans. We therefore joined with KALAGNY to file an amici brief to call attention to the fact that judges and the judicial system are not immune to implicit bias.”

The New York State Bar Association and several affiliates of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association also supported AABANY and KALAGNY’s brief including: the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago, the Asian American Bar Association of Houston, the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Jacksonville Asian American Bar Association, the Network of Bar Leaders (a coalition of more than fifty bar associations in the Greater New York area), the South Asian Bar Association of New York, and the Thai American Bar Association.

The A&O pro-bono team for this case was led by Sapna Palla (AABANY member and Immediate Past President) along with associates Rebecca Cecchini and Ben Minkoff.


To view the entire press release, please click here.

Allen & Overy Honors the Legacy of Vincent Chin through a Virtual Trial Reenactment

Vincent Chin is a name painfully familiar to some and unrecognizable to others. It is the beginning of so many stories, including mine. Three years ago, I met Annie Tan (no relation to me, though we happen to share the same name), an Asian American activist, teacher, and niece of Vincent Chin. She was the keynote speaker at Crossroads, a conference for young Asian American activists organized by Columbia students. I was a confused 16-year-old attending my first conference dedicated to activism. 

At the time, I had just begun exploring my Asian American identity and history. Through self-education and discussions with other students, I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the model minority myth. But, despite my interest in activism, I did not believe that I could seriously pursue or be successful in creating change for the Asian American community. Who would listen to a young, Asian American girl, not even old enough to vote, talk about race, especially when these conversations are often so complex and black and white?

However, as Annie Tan stood behind the podium and began recounting her own journey in activism–how she found a supportive community through Columbia’s Asian American Alliance, and how the legacy of her uncle, Vincent Chin, affected her work–I realized that someone like me, someone who looked like me and even had the same name as me, could be an activist. Because of Asian American women like Lily Chin and Helen Zia, Vincent Chin’s death became not just a moment, but a movement for Asian Americans. And, it is because of people like Annie Tan, and maybe even people like me, that the story of Vincent Chin, and the story of Asian America, continues to be told and heard.

This year, on May 28, during APA Heritage Month, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) co-sponsored a virtual trial re-enactment of the Vincent Chin case with Allen & Overy–the first time a reenactment has been performed virtually via WebEx due to the restrictions of COVID-19. I attended this event, hoping to learn more about the man whose life inspired so many, including myself, to speak out against hatred, violence, and inequity.

Vincent Chin was beaten to death in 1982 in Detroit days before his wedding by two white men, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who were laid-off automobile workers. The fatal assault was preceded by an argument between Chin and Ebens, who hurled racial insults at Chin, reportedly calling him a “Nip.” At the time, Asian Americans were the face of the enemy: the robust Japanese automobile industry was putting many automobile workers in Detroit, like Ebens and Nitz, out of work. 

Despite the violent acts that Chin’s murderers committed, they were imposed only a fine for their crimes. When the case reached the Wayne County Circuit Court, Judge Kaufman, finding Ebens and Nitz guilty of manslaughter, only sentenced them to three years probation and a fine of approximately $3,000. They received no jail time, and no prosecutor appeared during the trial, nor was Chin’s family notified of the trial. 

Frustrated with this outcome, Helen Zia and Lily Chin, supported by the newly-founded Asian American civil rights organization American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), urged the U.S. Department of Justice to bring federal criminal charges against the murderers and investigate the case as a civil rights violation. The case was brought to Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, one of the first African American women to serve on the Federal bench, and in 1984, the U.S. District Court found Ebens guilty of violating the civil rights of Chin and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. However, Ebens’ lawyers appealed, claiming that the trial judge did not allow the defense to present evidence that suggested the prosecution tampered with the witness testimony. This led to a retrial in the federal court in Cincinnati on May 1, 1987, which found that Ebens was not guilty of violating Chin’s civil rights and that his actions were not motivated by Chin’s race. The same year, Ebens and Nitz settled a civil suit out of court, where Nitz was ordered to pay $50,000 and Ebens was ordered to pay $1.5 million to the Chin estate. To this day, Ebens has not served any jail time and has yet to pay the now $8 million (with accumulated interest) he owes to the Chin family.

The Vincent Chin case highlighted the flaws in our criminal justice system and served as a catalyst for Asian American civil rights engagement. Following the trials, federal and state laws were enacted to give victims of hate crimes greater rights. The case also led to reforms in sentencing and plea bargaining, including the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984. Most importantly, Chin’s murder awakened the civil rights consciousness of Asian Americans in a time when the subject of race was still Black and White. Asian Americans were galvanized by the notion that they, just like Vincent Chin, could be beaten to death because of their race without the perpetrators suffering any consequences. People across ethnic and socioeconomic lines joined together to seek justice for Chin, creating organizations such as American Citizens for Justice, now known as the Asian American Center for Justice, focused on civil rights work.

A panel discussion followed the trial re-enactment, featuring: Christine Choy, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary film, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” and professor at NYU Tisch School of Arts; Emil Guillermo, print and broadcast journalist, and contributor to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s blog; and Jia Lynn Yang, Deputy National Editor at The New York Times and author of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide, which examines the history of immigration in the United States. The discussion was moderated by John Hwang, Partner, and Jiawei Chin, Associate, at Allen & Overy. 

Christine Choy reflected on the evolution of activism and the Asian American identity, referencing major events such as the end of the Vietnam War, and the rise of the Black Panther Party and other young student movements. She cited the Red Guard Party in Chinatown as an early example of Asian American activism and stressed that Vincent Chin’s murder was responsible for asserting Asian Americans’ role in civil rights.

Emil Guillermo emphasized that though the crime of Vincent Chin awoke people in Detroit, he, himself, did not know as much as he should have about the case. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Chin’s death, most people still do not understand the full picture of what happened during Chin’s case. Guillermo also highlighted the similarities between Vincent Chin’s death and that of George Floyd, urging the Asian American community to recognize their shared experiences with Black communities.

Finally, Jia Lynn Yang noted how quickly the Asian American population has grown, rising from 3.5 million in 1980 to now over 20 million. Despite their growing presence, Asian Americans are still viewed as foreigners who will never belong in the United States, just as Vincent Chin was. In fact, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which allowed many Asian Americans to immigrate to this country, was not consciously written to welcome non-Europeans. Now, however, almost two-thirds of Asian Americans are foreign-born, and the xenophobic attacks Chin faced have transformed into anti-Asian violence and harassment from racially-charged fears over COVID-19.

Many of us are tied to Vincent Chin, often in ways we may not even realize. He is the reason why many individuals, like myself, are inspired and emboldened to engage in Asian American activism. Vincent Chin is not just a memory they think of once a year, on the anniversary of his death. As I listened to Annie Tan describe her family’s pain, and how brave and lonely Lily Chin–her great aunt–was as she fought for her son’s justice, I understood that Vincent’s murder is a wound that continues to haunt families, friends, and communities connected to him, and a legacy that is still alive in Asian Americans today.

It is easy for us to forget their names: Vincent Chin, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain. But we must recognize that these individuals are not simply statistics or hashtags. Their lives–cut short by racism, bigotry, and the failures of our criminal justice system–mattered. Their lives have the power to inspire people to take action against hate and to spark movements, but this is only possible if we continue to learn about and honor these individuals, whose stories have been lost and overlooked. Only then, by acknowledging those before us, can we strive to create real change and avoid repeating the past.

We thank Allen & Overy and all of the participants in the reenactment for giving their time to raise awareness of Vincent Chin’s legacy. To learn more about the Vincent Chin trial reenactment and to request the script, go here. For more information about AABANY’s trial reenactments project, visit https://reenactments.aabany.org/.