AABANY Hosts Panel on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the Workplace and Beyond

On July 28, 2020, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) hosted an event addressing diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace and beyond. Moderated by Margaret Ling, Director of Business Development and Co-Chair of the Real Estate Committee at AABANY, the panel featured: William H. Ng, Shareholder at Littler Mendelson and former Co-Chair of the Labor & Employment Law Committee of AABANY; Donna Dozier Gordon, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at USTA; Asker A. Saeed, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Principal at Saeed Consulting; Sean Bacchus, CEO and Founder of the Executive Diversity and Inclusion Council; and Prof. Meredith R. Miller, President of the Network of Bar Leaders. 

The program began with an acknowledgment of Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who recently passed away. Margaret urged the participants to follow the Congressman’s famous words, to get in “good trouble,” as they work to make their communities more equitable and representative.

Will Ng opened by recounting his experience with diversity and inclusion while working in large law firms. He noted that law firms need to have support from management and leadership in order to succeed in creating a more diverse workplace. He also stressed that recruitment was not the issue, but rather, retaining diverse, younger talent.

Asker Saeed followed by outlining steps that may help large law firms advance their diversity and inclusion efforts. First, law firms should think about their reason for promoting diversity: not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also better for business. Firms should hire the best people, and the best attorneys are not only one gender, race, ethnicity, or sexuality. Second, firms should examine their systems and procedures, particularly in lateral hiring and promotions. For example, when partners are asked to recommend people to a position, they are likely going to recommend individuals who look like them or remind them of themselves, thus perpetuating the status quo that partners should be white, male, straight, etc.. Thirdly, firms should hire and pay someone to be in charge of diversity and inclusion for greater accountability, as well as create a specific budget for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Finally, law firms should create more opportunities for all people to prove their abilities and advance in the organization.

Meredith R. Miller added that, in 2016, the American Bar Association identified discrimination as professional misconduct. She emphasized that firms should not focus on not discriminating, but rather being anti-discrimination and anti-racist. She also urged bar associations to build pipelines for minority communities in the legal field.

Donna Gordon examined the connection between diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the Black Lives Matter movement. Due to the nation’s changing landscape, especially after the Black Lives Matter movement, the success of a firm will depend on its ability to hire and retain diverse talent. Black Lives Matter has reignited corporate interest in diversity and inclusion. However, despite the long history of these diversity initiatives, African Americans still do not experience as much advancement in the workplace. Donna urged participants to focus on addressing the gaps in the African American talent pipeline by tapping into wider networks.

Finally, Sean Bacchus stressed that organizations must be recognized for their progress and held accountable for the work they are not engaging in. Mentorship and sponsorship from senior leaders towards minorities are very important, especially given the prevalence of nepotism in large firms. Sean also urged firms to not only target Ivy League students during recruitment but also look at the CUNY system.

We thank Margaret Ling for organizing and moderating the successful event, and the panelists for offering their valuable insights. Attendees received 1.0 credits in the diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias requirement, and 0.5 credits in the ethics requirement. To view a recording of the program, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxb4uylxkMQ or click the image above.

AABANY Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee Presents Webinar on Standards of Civility in the Courtroom

On May 28, 2020, the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) hosted a panel–“How to Woo Clients, Wow Judges, and Win Cases”–discussing professional conduct and standards of civility in the courtroom. The panel was also co-sponsored by the Litigation Committee and Judiciary Committee of AABANY.

The event, moderated by Bart Wu, Chair of the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee of AABANY, featured panelists: Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy, Supreme Court Justice in New York County; Hon. Lizette L. Colon, Acting Supreme Court Justice in Kings County; and Hon. John Wang, a Housing Court Judge who is a fellow member of AABANY and currently running for Civil Court in District 1.

All panelists emphasized the importance of enforcing civil behavior in the courtroom. Judge Kennedy noted that engaging in civility allows litigators to work towards an effective resolution of the case and weed out unnecessary conduct that frustrates the case. Judge Wang added that standards of civility lift up the bar and the bench, and they help counteract negative perceptions that the public has about members of the bar–for example, that some attorneys are uncooperative.

Judge Colon warned panelists that when litigators engage in disrespectful behavior, they get a reputation for being rude and lackluster, not just to the judge, but also to the staff. Similarly, using condescending language, especially targeting an individual’s identity (for example, referring to a female court attorney as “young lady”), is unacceptable. Judge Wang also observed that courtrooms are now virtual due to COVID-19, and attorneys have difficulty adjusting to the new professional setting. They often sigh very loudly and make inappropriate facial expressions, and forget that they are still in a courtroom.

The judges advised attorneys, especially those who are inexperienced or younger, to study their case very well, research the judge and what they expect (such as reviewing the judge’s individual practice rules), and respect the authority of the court. Judge Colon suggested that attorneys get a summary sheet and review the basics of the case: what discovery is outstanding, if there are any motions, what the injuries or claims are, and what the policy is. Judge Kennedy encouraged panelists to ask their colleagues about what the judge is like in order to better understand the expectations of the judge. Judge Wang urged both seasoned and newer attorneys to respect humility and to not undermine the court’s authority by challenging the judge’s ruling in an unprofessional or inappropriate manner.

We thank the judges for their insightful comments and time, and Bart Wu and the Solo and Small Firm Practice Committee for organizing this event. This event fulfilled one hour of CLE credit in Ethics and Professionalism. For more information on the Committee, please see https://www.aabany.org/page/111.

AABANY Clinic Hosts COVID-19-related Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Webinar

On Wednesday, May 13, 2020, the Asian American Bar Association’s (AABANY) Pro Bono & Community Service Committee hosted the webinar, “Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” This event addressed the increase in violent incidents against the Asian American community, and the relevant State and Federal laws for victims and witnesses of these hate crimes who seek to report them.

The webinar featured panelists David Chiang, Supervising Assistant District Attorney, Queens District Attorney’s Office; Joe Gim, Deputy Chief, Nassau County District Attorney; and Julia Kerr, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP. Eugene Kim, a volunteer at AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic, moderated the panel.

David Chiang, Supervising Assistant District Attorney, Queens District Attorney’s Office, discussed New York Penal Law § 240 and § 485, both of which elevate sentencing for bias incidents to the criminal level. Section 240, covering Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree, states that threats of physical violence based on the perception of race are considered as misdemeanors. Section 485, the Hate Crime Law, enhances sentencing for incidents proven to be motivated by bias.

Joe Gim, Deputy Bureau Chief, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, advised victims and bystanders of anti-Asian hate crimes to record the crime by taking a video of the incident with their phones or calling 911. Doing so would not only preserve the evidence necessary to strengthen the case against the perpetrator but also publicize these hateful acts to highlight the prevalence of anti-Asian violence. Even if the victim is not willing to come forward, whether due to language barriers or distrust of law enforcement, bystanders can still report the crime. After preserving evidence and notifying the police, the police will file a Complaint Report, and the case will either result in an arrest or be handed off to prosecutors and end up in trial.

Julia Kerr, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, concluded the webinar by encouraging individuals to report incidents of anti-Asian violence to both government and non-governmental organizations to prevent future hate crimes. In addition to calling 911, victims and bystanders can also reach out to the New York State and New York City Hate Crime Task Forces, MTA Hotline, local District Attorney, and NY Attorney General’s Office. Other resources include AABANY, Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Communities Against Hate, Equality Watch, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Anti-Defamation League. 

We thank the panelists for joining us for this CLE program and Eugene for serving as the moderator. Look forward to more community presentations on COVID-19 and its impact on the APA community this month. For more information on anti-Asian harassment and violence, email aabanyclinic@gmail.com or call our hotline at 516-690-7724.

View the video of the webinar by clicking on the image above.

AABANY Hosts Webinar on Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic

On Wednesday, April 29, 2020, the Asian American Bar Association (AABANY) hosted a webinar titled “Anti-Asian Violence and Hate Arising from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” This webinar examined the recent trends and data gathering of Anti-Asian violence incidents, as well as the legal framework of hate crimes under New York and Federal law. The nearly 100 attorneys who attended were given resources to advise the community as to their rights, along with opportunities to volunteer with AABANY. 

The panel included Joe Gim, Deputy Bureau Chief, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office; Sheryl Koretz, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP; Jia Lynn Yang, Deputy National Editor, The New York Times; John Yang, Executive Director, Asian American Advancing Justice (AAJC); and Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation. Karen R. King, Counsel at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and a Vice Chair on the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee, moderated the panel.

Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, began by sharing some statistics to give some context about the Asian American community both in New York City and in the United States. She highlighted that Asian Americans are the fastest growing population within New York City and across the country, currently composing 60% of the overall population in New York City. Approximately one in four Asian New Yorkers live in poverty, which is the highest of any racial groups in the city. Yoo noted the Asian American Federation’s aggressive media strategy in sharing stories from the Asian American community on different media outlets in hopes of combating the Asian American community’s continued invisibility and marginalization. She noted that a rise in anti-Asian discrimination started when Asian Americans began to wear masks back as early as January, a practice that is not considered strange in Asia due to experiences with previous outbreaks such as SARS in 2002. 

Joe Gim, Deputy Bureau Chief, Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, discussed the elements of a hate crime under NY Penal Law § 485.05. Gim explained that § 485.05 elevates the level of punishment that a defendant would receive for a crime that already exists on the books. Among the hate crimes or bias incidents in connection with the pandemic that are the topic of this discussion, there are only a few that would fall under this statute. A second statute that is particularly important to know for community outreach on this issue is aggravated harassment in the second degree under NY Penal Code § 240.30, which deals with verbal or nonverbal threats that fall under misdemeanors or hate crimes.

John Yang, Executive Director of Asian American Advancing Justice, touched on the different channels available to witnesses or victims and the proper actions to take when put in such a situation. A reluctance to report hate crimes has always been an issue for all minority groups. The panelists reinforced the point that bystanders are crucial to these acts of discrimination coming to light. While it may not be safe to directly intervene in these situations, simply calling law enforcement, documenting or recording the crimes, or consoling the victim helps tremendously. Even without knowing the person harassed, as long as someone has proof of the crime being committed, it is possible to prosecute the person responsible entirely by the bystander. There is currently AAAJ/Hollaback bystander training available to help prepare for such situations. 

Jia Lynn Yang, Deputy National Editor for The New York Times, explained the thought process and impact of writing her article “Who Belongs in America,” which argues that the fight of Asian Americans for our place in the United States is far from over. Despite the historical struggle for racial equality through US immigration law, there are still those who deny the presence of Asians with legal status in the country. She found that people felt more comfortable with talking about their own experiences of harassment after her article affirmed the severity of these crimes.

Sheryl Koretz, Associate at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, highlighted the importance of identifying those responsible for the hate crimes, seeking reimbursement for the victims, and spreading the awareness of these cases. In New York, there are newly formed hate crime task forces such as the Asian hate crimes hotline launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James. Victims don’t necessarily need a physical injury to seek compensation. The police have reaffirmed that people reporting hate crimes will never be questioned about immigration status. 

Before wrapping up the CLE program, Karen King asked the attendees to consider signing up to be a part of the Community Response Task Force (CRTF), which AABANY uses to communicate with volunteers when there are pressing legal matters affecting the Asian community, including Ant-Asian Violence. Here is the link:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdumGO2c9heuQoMifYIWUdZsg3qmimijswUYmOFznXs9ROAww/viewform.   

If anyone is interested in bystander intervention training, here is the link to efforts on this front by Hollaback!:  https://www.ihollaback.org/bystanderintervention/.

We thank all the panelists for joining us for this timely and vital CLE program, and we thank Karen for organizing it and serving as moderator. Be on the lookout for upcoming community presentations on this topic during APA Heritage Month in May. We hope to be able to count on attorney volunteers to assist victims of anti-Asian violence. If you are interested in volunteering, let us know by filling out the CRTF form using the link above. 

The video of the webinar is embedded in this blog post and you can view it by clicking on the image above.

NAPABA Webinar on Combating a History of Anti-Asian Discrimination: How to Protect the Asian American Community

A racist cartoon originally depicted in the publication, the San Francisco Wasp, in 1881. The cartoon was a parody of the Statue of Liberty and represented a growing fear of Asian immigrants within the United States

On Friday, April 3rd, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) hosted a webinar titled “Pandemic and Acts of Hate Against Asian Americans: From Past to Present.” The webinar traced the historical roots of Asian American discrimination related to disease and public health issues and presented solutions for the present in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The webinar featured a panel which included Professor Jack Chin of UC Davis Law School, Matt Stevens of The New York Times’s Political News division, Harpreet Singh Mokha of the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, and Rahat N. Babar, Special Counsel, Office of the Governor of New Jersey. Chris M. Kwok, the NAPABA Dispute Resolution Committee Co-Chair and our very own AABANY Issues Committee Chair, helmed the panel as moderator. 

Professor Chin began by outlining the extensive history of anti-Asian discrimination within the United States. He focused on how discriminatory legislation at the state level in California and at the national level through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 frequently correlated Asian American immigrants with disease. In particular, Professor Chin noted how San Francisco became a focal point of race-based efforts to control the bubonic plague in the early 1900s. Multiple political attempts were made to isolate and discriminate against Asians in the city which were repeatedly rebuffed by legal challenges such as Wong Wai v. Williamson and Jew Ho v. Williamson. Professor Chin underscored the ugly but recurring theme pushed in American politics about the “foreignness of germs.”

Following the professor’s historical account, Matt Stevens, an Asian American political reporter for The New York Times, noted the efforts that legislators are making to combat these acts of discrimination. Moreover, he noted the pervasive feeling of fear that permeates the Asian American community.

Harpreet Singh Mokha, National Program Manager for Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, and Hindu (MASSAH) issues at the Community Relations Service of the DOJ, explained the role and function of CRS during this pandemic. Established under Title X of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS, frequently called “America’s Peacemakers,” works directly with communities facing conflict on racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, and disability issues. It has four primary functions: facilitating dialogue, mediating conflict, training community members, and providing consultation for methods of community assistance. Mr. Mokha noted that members of communities all across the country should be encouraged to make use of CRS’s resources and report hate crimes at their first occurrence. 

To wrap up the panel, Rahat Babar, Special Counsel for Litigation with the Office of the New Jersey Governor, echoed Mr. Mokha’s point to report hate crimes without hesitation. He noted a 2020 in-state report which found a 65% increase in bias incidents between 2018 and 2019 with 46% of those engaging in such bias incidents being minors. Thanks to this report, Governor Phil Murphy was able to set up a task force to explore why minors were engaging in such behavior. Mr. Babar notes that without a robust data set of incident or hate crime reports, lawmakers and community leaders will not be able to identify root problems or pose solutions. 

Overall, the panel outlined past and present cases of racial discrimination targeted towards the AAPI community. All panelists acknowledged the importance of speaking out during this time of uncertainty for the sake of protecting fellow community members both now and in the future. 

This event  reached the largest audience for a NAPABA webinar to date, with 160 registrants. The program stressed placing the events of today within historical understanding of America, engagement with our government institutions charged with enforcing our laws, and collaboration across civil society organizations. We at AABANY thank and acknowledge Chris Kwok for proposing this program to NAPABA and serving as moderator.

A racist cartoon published in San Francisco-based publication, The Wasp. The cartoon promoted then-common racist myths that Chinatown was riddled with disease.
A racist cartoon published in the illustrated San Francisco weekly “Thistleton’s Illustrated Jolly Giant” depicting San Francisco’s The Globe Hotel. The cartoon insinuates that the Globe Hotel secretly contained a “small pox hospital” and an “underground Chinese cemetery,” perpetuating racist stereotypes of the time.

AABANY Presents: Understanding Diversity and Inclusion in Our Everyday World

On January 30, 2020, AABANY’s Real Estate Committee hosted a CLE entitled “Understanding Diversity and Inclusion in Our Everyday World.” The CLE and networking event took place at Hanover Bank in Flushing Commons in Queens, and over 25 attorneys attended.

The panel discussion covered all the basics of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and its relevance to the legal profession. The speakers included AABANY’s very own William Ng, Shareholder at Littler,  and Shirley W. Bi, Associate at Littler. Margaret Ling, AABANY Real Estate Committee Co-Chair, moderated the event. Attendees received 1 credit in Diversity, Inclusion and Elimination of Bias.

Many thanks to our sponsors, John Pollock and Jimmy Lee, both of Hanover Bank, Littler, Big Apple Abstract Corporation, KALAGNY, and the Queens County Bar Association. To learn more about the Real Estate Committee, go to https://www.aabany.org/page/120 .

AABANY Presents: Understanding Opportunity Zones and 1031 Exchange Deferrals

On November 14, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented a CLE and networking event entitled “Understanding Opportunity Zones and 1031 Exchange Deferrals.” The CLE program was presented by John J. Lee, Esq, Vice President and Account Executive of IPX 1031. Margaret Ling, Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee moderated the program. Thanks to our sponsors: Xavier Wong of First Republic Bank, KALAGNY, and  Big Apple Abstract. John Lee discussed the basics and the differences between the 1031 Exchange Program and the Tax Deferral Structures provided by Qualified Opportunity Zones. In the photo, from left to right: Margaret Ling, Co-Chair of AABANY Real Estate Committee; Qili Li, MD; John Lee of 1031 Exchange; George Xu of Century Development LLC; Larry Litwack of Big Apple Abstract Corp.

AABANY CLE: Understanding Diversity and Inclusion in Our Everyday World

On October 2, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee presented the CLE entitled: “Understanding Diversity and Inclusion in Our Everyday World.” The CLE was co sponsored by Flushing Bank, Big Apple Abstract Corp, KALAGNY, and Littler. It took place at Flushing Bank in New Hyde Park, New York and was attended by 40 attorneys. The panelists were AABANY’s very own William Ng, Shareholder at Littler; Samitha Lukose-Khan of Flushing Bank; and Sanjay Nair, Associate at Littler. The CLE was moderated by Margaret Ling, Co-Chair of the AABANY Real Estate Committee. The presentation invoked some powerful and informative discussion specifically on diversity, inclusion and bias in the legal profession.

Pictured above from left to right: Riyaad Khan of Allstate Insurance; Maria Silva of Flushing Bank; Margaret Ling of Big Apple Abstract and AABANY; Thomas Kane of Flushing Bank; Mohammad Yusuf of Flushing Bank; William Ng of Littler; Sanjay Nair of Littler. 

AABANY Co-Sponsors: The Third Annual APAC NYC Conference

On April 29, AABANY co-sponsored the “Third Annual Consilio APAC NYC Conference: Caught in the Crossfire: Navigating Regulatory, Transactional and Regulatory Risk in Light of Current US-China Relations” at Fordham Law School. The panel was comprised of several experts in the field: Karen King of Paul Weiss, Che Lai Chang of East West Bank, Brian Burke of Shearman & Sterling, Bill McGovern of Kobre & Kim, and Jon Shaman from Consilio, moderated by Geoffrey Sant of Pillsbury Winthrop. For a fuller description of the topical and timely discussion visit Consilio’s website at:

https://www.consilio.com/2019/05/recap-3rd-annual-consilio-apac-nyc-conference/

AABANY was the CLE provider and attendees were able to receive 1.5 credits in the Areas of Professional Practice requirement. Thanks to Consilio for including us in this insightful and informative program. Thanks also to our Asia Practice Committee for spearheading this event for AABANY. To learn more about the Asia Practice Committee, go to https://www.aabany.org/page/582.

AABANY Co-Sponsors: Trends in Long Island Real Estate Development – IDA Zoning and Land Use

On April 11, 2019, the AABANY Real Estate Committee successfully presented a CLE and networking event entitled “Trends in Long Island Real Estate Development – IDA Zoning and Land Use.” Over 60 attorneys and real estate professionals were in attendance. The event was held at the Omni Building in Uniondale and was co-sponsored by AABANY, KALAGNY, Forchelli Deegan Terrana, Flushing Bank, and Big Apple Abstract Corp.

The panelists were:

  • Margaret Ling, AABANY Development Director and Real Estate Committee Co-Chair
  • Daniel Deegan, Partner at Forchelli Deegan Terrana
  • Kathleen Deegan Dickson, Partner at Forchelli Deegan Terrana
  • Rose Liu, Director of Finance & Research at Colliers International
  • Herbert Agin, CEO of Colliers International

The speakers led an insightful discussion on the following topics: title insurance, the key facets of Industrial Development Agencies (IDA) in Nassau and Suffolk County, zoning, variances, and municipal regulations in Long Island and how they have a significant impact on the success of real estate projects.

In addition, Rose Liu discussed the latest statistics involving real estate development projects in Long Island and Herbert Agin shared the latest updates on the Lesso Holdings development project in Westbury, Long Island.

The key takeaway of the event was that there are a lot of real estate development opportunities for investors in Long Island, but for the project to be successful, you need to have the right people on your team to navigate the rules and regulations surrounding real estate developments.