One Case, Many Takeaways: Bei Yang’s Experience with AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic

By Bei Yang

As an out-of-state law graduate from Tennessee, I was not familiar with any specific New York practice rules. While waiting for my bar exam results and preparing for my legal career in New York, and with the encouragement of my mentor Mr. Rocky Chin, I participated in the AABANY Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic. The Clinic provides legal information and referrals to individuals, particularly those with limited English proficiency, with legal issues such as immigration, housing, employment, family, elder law, anti-Asian violence, and those pertaining to small businesses.

After registration, I received an email with a list of cases that was sent to all volunteers. Volunteers can choose to take on one or more cases based on interests or experience, and if you are not licensed or not experienced in a specific area, the Clinic partners you with a more experienced attorney to remotely shadow and learn from. Since I have not yet been admitted and this was my first time volunteering, I decided to shadow Ms. May Wong, an experienced volunteer attorney, on a contract law case.

Before making a callback, Ms. Wong and I knew that our client only spoke Mandarin and had been recently served with a Summons. With this limited information at hand, we discussed the legal matters that we needed to inform the client of. These matters included the risk of a default judgment if the clinic client did not respond to the service in a timely fashion (CPLR §3215: default judgment), the possible defenses the client might take, like defects in the service of process (§CPLR 308: Methods of personal service upon a natural person), and the statute of limitations (CPLR §213(2): 6 years for a breach of contract claim in New York). Ms. Wong then patiently went over the normal calling process and basic civil procedure in New York with me. Only after making sure that I did not have any more questions and was comfortable to make the call, she started our three-way phone call with the clinic client.

On the call, we explained our limited roles and asked the client to elaborate on the facts of his case. While acting as a language interpreter, I was able to ask the caller questions about his case to narrow down the issues, thus gaining useful intake skills. I learned that this case was about a family business dispute worth $25,000. The caller was not represented by an attorney and we strongly encouraged him to engage one rather than risking a default judgment, which is enforceable for 20 years and would cost him more money to vacate.

Not only did the client receive useful legal information regarding his case, but he also felt like his voice was finally heard. Volunteering with the pro bono clinic was a great experience, as I was able to learn so much about New York civil procedure rules and gain a lot of important legal experience from just one case. I look forward to continuing my volunteering experience to become an advocate to help those with limited resources and language skills.

To volunteer for the Remote Pro Bono Clinic, please email: [email protected].

For more information about AABANY Pro Bono Resources, please visit: https://probono.aabany.org/

Thank You to Our AABANY Student Leaders

AABANY recognizes and thanks its Student Leaders for all their assistance this summer in fighting COVID-19 and giving back to the Asian American community in New York. Our AABANY student leaders are:

Taiyee Chien, UChicago Law

Long Dang, Columbia Law

Alex Hwang, Cardozo Law

Dianna Lam, Fordham Law

Connie J. Lee, Columbia Law

H. Anthony Park, Ottawa Law

Jenny Park, Columbia Law

Xinyi Shen, Cardozo Law

Sejal Waghray, Emory University

Meng Zhang, Fordham Law

The flyer above contains short descriptions about why each AABANY Student Leader wants to give back and how they have been doing it, such as by volunteering at AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinic or participating in various COVID-19 relief activities and programs over the summer.

Please join us in thanking all our AABANY Student Leaders. We also recognize and thank Will Lee, Vice Chair of the Student Outreach Committee, for his leadership in bringing together our Student Leaders and helping AABANY channel their talents and energy to benefit the New York Asian American community.

Pro Bono Committee & AABANY Volunteers Promote New Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown

On Friday, July 3, 2020, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee of the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) launched a flyering campaign to promote the new Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Chinatown and Koreatown. The event was organized by William Lee, Associate at Alston & Bird and an active member of the Pro Bono Committee. The goal of the campaign was to ensure that Asian American small businesses had access to the Pro Bono Clinic’s various resources during this time of great need. Many law students from local APALSAs, including Fordham, Cardozo, and Columbia, volunteered at the start of the 4th of July holiday weekend to assist in distributing the flyers to local businesses.

The Chinatown volunteers were led by Dianna Lam and May Wong, frequent volunteers for the Pro Bono Clinic, and those in Koreatown were led by Will Lee. Both campaigns were very successful, and Dianna Lam and May Wong were even interviewed for the “Around the Boroughs” segment of Spectrum News NY1. Dianna and May emphasized the importance of the Remote Pro Bono Legal Clinic, especially for smaller businesses impacted by COVID-19. Both groups ended the day with a volunteer appreciation lunch at the West New Malaysian Restaurant on Bowery Street. The group was able to sit at tables set up outside the restaurant, spaced out so that they could maintain a social distance.

We thank the Pro Bono Committee members, including Will Lee, Dianna Lam, and May Wong, for their leadership during this campaign. We also thank the students and volunteers who took the time to help the Remote Clinic reach more individuals and businesses in need of legal information. The Pro Bono Committee will be organizing similar campaigns in Flushing, Queens and Bay Ridge, so if you are interested in volunteering, please add your name to this document. Read AABANY’s press release about the Remote Pro Bono Clinic here. For more information on the Pro Bono Committee, see https://www.aabany.org/page/117. To find out more about AABANY’s pro bono resources, visit aabany.org/probono.

AABANY Publishes Flyer with COVID-19 Legal Relief Resources

On June 16, AABANY published a flyer with a comprehensive list of digital resources for those seeking legal relief arising out of COVID-19 related issues.

The flier provides links for resources in multiple areas, including Small Business Labor and Employment, Restructuring and Bankruptcy, and other pages listing more general information, such as knowing your rights if you encounter anti-Asian racism or harassment and frequently asked questions.

Many of the resources are available in other languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and Japanese.

Click on the image above to access the flyer as a PDF, which includes embedded links to the resources mentioned above.

AABANY’s Pro Bono Committee Hosts a Remote Clinic Introduction Meeting

On Thursday June 4th, AABANY held a virtual introduction meeting for its Pro Bono Legal Advice and Referral Clinic. Since 2015, the Clinic provided in-person consultation to those with legal questions in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens on a walk-in basis or by appointment. Due to COVID-19, these operations have been suspended.  In order to continue serving community needs, the Pro Bono Clinic is transitioning to a remote clinic by setting up a telephone hotline for volunteer attorneys to provide legal information and referrals to all individuals. 

Judy Lee, Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair, and May Wong, a Pro Bono Clinic volunteer, led the meeting and discussed logistical concerns, such as how attorneys will be paired with the callers, the intake forms to maintain records, and the coordination of language interpretation. This will be a challenge during unprecedented times.

Judy and May also focused on confidentiality, how volunteers can best assist callers by being understanding and respectful, and how to use IRAC to answer the questions. They posed a housing and COVID-19 related hypothetical of whether a tenant who moved out from the apartment without providing 30 days’ notice to the landlord can recover his or her security deposit. After presenting the question at hand, they provided sample responses to show that many attorneys may have different approaches in solving the problem but at the same time the tenant is directed to the proper forum to seek relief.

The volunteers may not always know the answers to the caller’s issue but AABANY provides experienced coordinators, training materials, and CLEs to help. For example, such information can be found at: 

Anti Asian Violence – Know Your Rights:

COVID-19 Small Business Relief:

AABANY Covid-19 Resources: https://www.aabany.org/page/648

If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can view the recorded session at https://youtu.be/9FSmNG_Vfxw. We strongly encourage you to consider joining the Remote Clinic.

Please contact [email protected] for more information. To learn more about the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee visit https://www.aabany.org/page/117.

In the News: TKC Reports on AABANY’s Upcoming Queens Pro Bono Clinic

The Korean Channel (TKC) News, New York and New Jersey’s Korean news channel, recently covered a press conference leading up to AABANY’s upcoming Pro Bono Clinic in Queens conducted in coordination with Sandra Ung, New York State Committeewoman. 

TKC News elaborated on how AABANY plans to provide free legal assistance to Asian-American community members who face significant language barriers and financial obstacles. The Queens Pro Bono Clinic will be held in Ms. Ung’s Flushing Office and will continue on a monthly basis until June. The upcoming March 17th Pro Bono Clinic will focus primarily on Housing Law, the April 15th Clinic on Immigration Law, the May 20th Clinic on Elder Law and Public Benefits, and the June 17th Clinic on Family/Matrimonial/Education Law. 

TKC News interviewed Ms. Ung who expressed her appreciation working with AABANY to provide free legal services through her office. Additionally, the channel expanded on the criminal defense experiences of Eugene Love Kim, a regular volunteer at AABANY’s Pro Bono Clinics, and touched on how his early life has spurred him to stand for his community. 

In an interview with TKC, Mr. Kim stressed that in times of increasing racial tensions because of the Coronavirus outbreak it is important for the members of the Asian-American community to stand in solidarity with one another. As someone who has had the privilege of becoming a lawyer, Mr. Kim believes that he and others like him have a responsibility to help all Asian Americans in need of legal services to provide a brighter future for later generations. The news coverage ends with a request for all viewers in need of services to call to make an appointment. 

Read more about the Queens Pro Bono Clinic in the press release.

PRESS RELEASE: ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK TO EXPAND FREE LEGAL CLINIC TO QUEENS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH NEW YORK STATE COMMITTEEWOMAN SANDRA UNG

NEW YORK – March 5, 2020 – On the heels of its success in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) is getting ready to expand its Pro Bono Legal Clinic to Queens. 

According to the 2010 Census, of the over one million people identified as Asian American in New York City, nearly half live in Queens.  Located in the heart of Flushing, the Queens Clinic will be available every third week of the month with a specific focus each month on housing, immigration, elder law, or family and matrimonial law. Interpreters in Chinese (including Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese), Korean, Japanese, and other languages will be available during the one-on-one consultation with a volunteer attorney. Karen Lin will be volunteering her time to serve as Coordinator of the Queens Clinic.

The Clinic will be held in collaboration with New York State Committeewoman Sandra Ung, a longtime resident of Queens and leading community advocate. Ms. Ung stated: “Having a free legal clinic in Queens, where there will be translators, gives an opportunity for those who simply do not know where to turn when encountering a legal problem, a place where their concerns can be heard.   This Pro Bono Legal Clinic in Queens is the first step in helping our community better understand their legal rights. Thank you to AABANY for this partnership and making this clinic available to our Flushing community.” 

“As members of the legal profession, our members have achieved their career goals through the struggles of their immigrant parents and grandparents,” states AABANY President Brian Song. “Now it’s time to give back. Many people in our neighborhoods do not have access to reliable information and assistance about legal processes and available legal resources. We can provide assistance in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner, so that the community understands their rights and remedies. Thank you to our committed volunteers.” 

AABANY’s Pro Bono Legal Clinic opened in 2015 to serve members of the Asian Pacific American community who have limited English proficiency (“LEP”) so that they can have meaningful access to justice. Mobilizing the skills and experience of AABANY’s diverse membership, the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee has spearheaded the Clinic’s effort in helping nearly 2,000 LEP individuals in the vast yet underserved Asian American community in New York through its Clinics in Manhattan’s Chinatown and Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhoods.   The Manhattan Clinic takes place on the second Wednesday of each month at the Community Room, 33 Bowery Street. The Brooklyn Clinic takes place on the fourth Thursday of every other month at A+ Academy, 6802 8th Avenue. (If a community member is interested in attending these Clinics, please contact [email protected] to double-check their dates and for any additional updates.)

The New York State Bar Association recently awarded the Pro Bono Legal Clinic with its prestigious New York State Bar Association Bar Leaders Innovation Award, in recognition of the impactful work done to provide legal assistance, community education programs, and outreach. AABANY’s theme for its upcoming fiscal year, “Stronger Together: Unity in Diversity,” is especially fitting as the Pro Bono Clinic expands to Queens, the most ethnically and diverse county in the United States, with 138 languages spoken throughout the borough.

The first Queens Clinic will be held on March 17 at the office of the New York State Committeewoman located at 135-15 40th Road, Flushing, New York 11354, on the topic of Housing Law. Subsequent Clinics will be held on the third Tuesday of each month, and the subsequent clinics already scheduled are on April 15 (Immigration Law); May 20 (Elder Law and Public Benefits); and June 17, 2020 (Family, Matrimonial, and Education Law). Community members seeking legal assistance must call to make an appointment at (347) 391-6463 (English and Chinese speakers), (516) 690-7724 (Korean language speakers), or (845) 450-0726 (Japanese language speakers). Appointments will be made based on availability.  Please note that walk-ins will not be permitted at the Queens Clinic.

For more information, please contact Yang Chen, AABANY Executive Director, at (646) 653-2168, or direct any inquiries to [email protected].

The Asian American Bar Association of New York is a professional membership organization of attorneys concerned with issues affecting the Asian Pacific American community. Incorporated in 1989, AABANY seeks not only to encourage the professional growth of its members but also to advocate for the Asian Pacific American community as a whole. AABANY is a New York regional affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA).

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AABANY Celebrates 2020 Annual Dinner with More Than 800 Attendees

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 huge success.

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!

Thank You to Our January Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

AABANY’s Pro Bono Committee held its third Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic on Thursday, January 16, 2020, at A Plus Academy located at 6802 8th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. The clinic brought out 18 volunteers who volunteered their time to help 10 clients.

The Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic has allowed AABANY’s Pro Bono Committee to service a new community in need of pro bono legal services and indicates our efforts to grow and expand these services to more New Yorkers in need.

We are asking every member to actively support AABANY’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinics by making donations that are vital to its continuing operation. In a few short years, with the tireless and generous assistance of our volunteers, we have helped hundreds of low-income clients with free legal advice and referrals to high-quality, culturally sensitive, and linguistically competent legal services. Together we have helped expand access to justice for underserved Asian American New Yorkers.

To make it easier for our members and our community to donate to the Pro Bono Clinic, we have set up a page on Give Lively where you can make a donation by texting APAPROBONO  to 44321. It takes seconds to donate, and we hope you will take a moment today to support the Pro Bono Clinic and help it meet its fundraising goals. Please donate today!

If you know family members, friends, or businesses, such as your firm, who would like to support the Clinic, please help us connect with them by contacting Karen Yau at [email protected].

Or please urge them to make a donation directly. They can visit the website of Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY), AABANY’s 501(c)(3) affiliate: https://www.asianamericanlawfund.org/donate/

AALFNY is accepting charitable donations on the Clinic’s behalf and can issue any donor a tax receipt. Any contribution, large or small, would help. Please be sure to indicate in the memo field that the donation is intended for the Pro Bono Clinic.

Thank you to all of the January Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

Lawyers: 

Tina Y. Song
Yifei He
May Kay Wong
Francis Chin
Veronica Louie

Interpreters: 

Teri Chou
Go-eun Son
Ru Hochen
Alicia Chan
Jonathan Wong
Jing Chu

Special thanks to Coordinator Xinyi Shen, Coordinator Roger Chen, Vice Chair Kwok Kei Ng for coordinating the clinic, and the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Co-Chairs Pauline Yeung-Ha, Judy Lee, Karen Kithan Yau, and Asako Aiba for their leadership. We also thank our “On-Call Expert” Beatrice Leong for offering advice by phone. The Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic will be a bi-monthly clinic occurring on the fourth Thursday of every other month. The next clinic will be held on Thursday, March 26, 2020, from 6:30 pm to 8:30pm. If you are interested in volunteering at future Pro Bono Clinics, please contact Asako Aiba at [email protected].

Thank you to our January 8 Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

AABANY’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinic, held on Wednesday, January 8 at 33 Bowery Street in Confucius Plaza, brought out 31 volunteers who volunteered their time to help clients.

We are asking every member to actively support AABANY’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinic by making donations that are vital to its continuing operation. In a few short years, with the tireless and generous assistance of our volunteers, we have helped hundreds of low-income clients with free legal advice and referrals to high-quality, culturally sensitive, and linguistically competent legal services. Together we have helped expand access to justice for underserved Asian American New Yorkers.

To make it easier for our members and our community to donate to the Pro Bono Clinic, we have set up a page on Give Lively where you can make a donation by texting APAPROBONO to 44321. It takes seconds to donate, and we hope you will take a moment today to support the Pro Bono Clinic and help it meet its fundraising goals. Please donate today!

If you know family members, friends, or businesses, such as your firm, who would like to support the Clinic, please help us connect with them by contacting Karen Yau at [email protected]

Or please urge them to make a donation directly. They can visit the website of Asian American Law Fund of New York (AALFNY), AABANY’s 501(c)(3) affiliate: https://www.asianamericanlawfund.org/donate/

AALFNY is accepting charitable donations on the Clinic’s behalf and can issue any donor a tax receipt. Any contribution, large or small, would help. Please be sure to indicate in the memo field that the donation is intended for the Pro Bono Clinic.

Thank you to all of the January Pro Bono Clinic Volunteers!

Lawyers:

Steven Schaefer
Eugene Kim
Simon Zhen
Bart Wu
Tina Y. Song
Yan Sin
Samantha Sumilang
Chris M. Kwok
Beatrice Leong

Interpreters:

Masako Catalina
Ya Peng
H. Anthony Park
Xin Zhou
Go-eun Son
Weixi He
Ruth Poon
Kenny Moy
Jing Chu
Limeng (Charles) Tan
Alicia Chan
Teri Chow
Sophia Catalina
Nanako Arai
Teri Chow

Other Volunteers:

Linda Liang, Research & Administration

Special thanks to Kwok Kei Ng and Zhixian Liu for coordinating the clinic, and the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Co-Chairs Pauline Yeung-Ha, Karen Kithan Yau, Asako Aiba, and Judy Lee for their leadership. AABANY’s Monthly Pro Bono Clinic occurs every second Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. The next clinic will take place on February 12. If you are interested in volunteering at future Pro Bono Clinics, please contact Asako Aiba at [email protected]