On February 25th, 2023, AABANY held its Brooklyn Pro Bono Legal Clinic at Homecrest Community Services Bensonhurst Center where dedicated volunteers came together to provide free legal services to the community. In partnership with Homecrest and other community partners, the Clinic provided an opportunity for individuals to meet with attorneys to discuss legal issues related to housing, criminal law, and immigration. The volunteers were able to offer guidance on the legal process, discuss potential legal solutions, and help clients understand their rights.
The Clinic was made possible by volunteers who generously donated their time and expertise to help those in need. These volunteers included attorneys, law students, and our community partners who worked together to make a difference in their community. The Clinic provides vital support to those who may not have the resources to access legal services, and the volunteers’ dedication to pro bono work demonstrates the importance of giving back to those in need.
Please consider joining us at our upcoming clinics:
The Pro Bono Clinic is organized by AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service Committee. To learn more about the Committee’s work visit here. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the dedicated volunteers who made the Brooklyn Pro Bono Clinic such a success:
On October 15, 2022, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee held a Pro Bono Clinic at the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn from 12:00-3:30 PM.
In all, we met with 22 clients who had questions about contracts, fraud, housing, wills, trusts, and estates. Our volunteers are constantly learning and teaching one another. Many of this clinic’s volunteer force were law students or recent law school graduates, who put their memory of basic skills such as issue-spotting through the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) method to real-world use. We were also able to refer many clients to not-for-profit legal services to further help their case beyond the time constraints of our clinic session. Last, but not least, our volunteers demonstrated exceptional professionalism with the 4 C’s in mind: competency, confidentiality, conflict of interest, and compassion.
AABANY Legal Interns Daniel Kang and Connor Li recounted their experiences at the clinic. Daniel said, “Many clients came in with issues regarding estate and housing law. It was great having the chance to shadow attorneys like Kwok, May, and Johnny, and to see how their legal knowledge can be used to help people in their everyday lives. I sat in on a session where one client did not come with a particular issue, but with an information request regarding the drafting of a will—and the benefits of creating one. Attorney May Wong carefully explained the concept of a will, the legal challenges which might be confronted and avoided through the creation of one, and helped the client walk away with knowledge of a legal concept that will undoubtedly impact their family.”
Connor had a similar experience when sitting in on the consultations. He said, “I sat in on a session where attorney Johnny Thach was able to help a couple find the available resources to resolve their landlord-tenant issues. Especially for non-English speakers, and even for those of us that speak English as our native language, legal terminology can be confusing. For this couple, the resources we found online were filled with legal jargon, so it was great to see Johnny clearly articulate the issues and next steps in words that even I was able to understand.”
Thank you to all the volunteers who helped out this past Saturday. Your extra help was truly appreciated!
Interpreters & Shadowers
Kwok Kei Ng
Yiru (Lea) Jiang
Ming Chu (Judy) Lee
Please join us at our upcoming Pro Bono Clinics!
October 29 – registration closed at noon on 10/26 [remote option not available]
Manhattan Location – 33 Bowery, Community Room at Confucius Plaza, New York, NY 10002
November 19 – please register by 12pm, 11/16 [remote option available for NYS admitted attorneys only]
Queens Location – AAFE One Flushing Community Center, 133-29 41st Ave, 2nd Floor, Flushing, NY 11355
The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) congratulates William Lee on being honored as Mayer Brown’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year on July 12, 2022. Mayer Brown is an international law firm specializing in the global financial services industry with approximately 200 lawyers in each of the world’s three largest financial centers: New York, London and Hong Kong. William was the sole “Pro Bono Associate of the Year” of the Americas out of three international recipients.
William has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. His experience includes volunteering for AABANY’s pro bono clinic, overseeing Columbia Law School’s Pro Bono Caravan, and supervising a postering campaign to provide AAPI neighborhoods in New York with COVID relief information. He is also Co-Chair of the AABANY Student Outreach Committee.
William, an associate in Banking & Finance, emphasized the importance of pro bono work during these trying times. To William, pro bono work means urgency. He noted how right now is the most important time to engage in pro bono, and if we do not fight, nothing will ever change.
William spoke about his experience with AABANY: “Before COVID, I wasn’t really involved with AABANY. I got involved by raising my hand to help the pro bono clinic as a translator. I’m not smarter or more qualified than anyone else in any other way. All I did was raise my hand, continue to say yes, and always try to do the right thing. A lot of law firm associates think they have no time to do pro bono, but I am a walking example that you can do both.”
How does he make time for Pro Bono work as a BigLaw associate? William highlighted the importance of time management: “Sometimes, you have to sacrifice an hour with family or while on vacation for a meeting, but it is worth it in the end.”
William said that while this award was completely unexpected, he is extremely grateful for this honor. He also emphasized that this award is a big win for AABANY.
Please join AABANY in congratulating William Lee on being honored as Mayer Brown’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year!
On March 22, 2022, AABANY member Karen King argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Saada (20-1034), a case involving the interpretation of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction. Karen is a Partner at Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello, Co-Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee, and an active member of AABANY’s Anti-Asian Violence Task Force. She sat down with AABANY to share reflections on the oral argument, diversity among litigators, and the importance of pro bono work.
Looking back, the law was a natural career choice for Karen. She was president of the debate team in high school as well as at Yale University, where she majored in philosophy and political science. After receiving her J.D. from Harvard Law School, she moved to New York and began her career at Cravath. Two decades later, she appears regularly in federal and state courts on behalf of corporate clients, she was named a “Notable Woman in Law” by Crain’s New York Business, and she received both the Federal Bar Council’s Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service and the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)’s Pro Bono award. Her pro bono clients include victims of discrimination, survivors of domestic violence, students with learning disabilities, victims of gun violence, and prisoners on civil rights issues.
Karen’s impressive career reached another milestone this year when she had her first argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Golan v. Saada . She represents Narkis Golan, an American citizen and survivor of domestic violence, and mother to a young child who was born in Italy. The case has been pending for nearly four years and was accepted by the Supreme Court for argument last December to resolve a circuit split on whether district courts are required to consider ameliorative measures to facilitate return of a child to a foreign country, even after finding that return would subject the child to a “grave risk” of exposure to harm.
During oral argument, the justices were active in their questioning and seemed interested in how best to address situations where the grave risk is sourced to a complex problem like domestic violence. “Am I correct that the vast majority of these grave risk cases are ones involving domestic violence?” asked Justice Barrett, who continued to say: “It just seems to me that that’s a much different case for ameliorative measures than, say, the nuclear plant next door that the Chief posited at the outset. That would be a pretty straightforward move, and then there would be no more grave risk, whereas I think you get into the complexity of the financial support payments and the undertaking or restraining order, however it should be categorized, in these domestic abuse cases that pose maybe a unique circumstance?” The recording of oral argument is available here.
When asked whether she expected at the outset that this case would reach the U.S. Supreme Court, Karen replied that she did not. She added that, at the start of the case in 2018, “we were hopeful that it would end at the trial level.” But despite establishing, by clear and convincing evidence, that return to Italy would expose the child to a grave risk of harm, the case went back and forth to the Second Circuit on the question of appropriate ameliorative measures. Ultimately, Karen and the team came to believe that the interpretation of the Hague Convention set forth by the Second Circuit required review by the Supreme Court. Despite the extraordinarily slim odds of having a case accepted for argument, the Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on the cert petition and ultimately granted cert.
Arguing before the Supreme Court is the dream of many litigators. Karen prepared through “lots of moots [i.e., practice sessions], testing answers to every conceivable question we could think of, and reflection and discussion of the issues with colleagues, co-counsel, and pretty much anyone willing to talk about it.” In terms of approach to oral argument, she felt she needed to get straight to the point and anticipate challenging questions from the Justices about the key legal issues. Although the preparation process was similar to what she has done for other appellate arguments, it was clearly “more nerve-wracking, more high profile, and more work.” She credits having an amazing team supporting her at Morvillo, the incredible work of the Paul, Weiss team (her former firm and co-counsel throughout the case), and the lawyers at the Zashin firm (co-counsel at the Supreme Court merits stage). Although the oral argument was in person, it was not open to the public because of COVID-19 restrictions. Karen was accompanied only by co-counsel Dan Levi from Paul, Weiss on the big day.
At the Supreme Court argument, the Solicitor General’s office was represented by Frederick Liu, and the Respondent Jacky Saada was represented by Richard Min, a family law attorney in New York. It is believed that this was the first time all three advocates arguing a case before the Supreme Court were of AAPI descent. This is a remarkable moment for the AAPI community, and for AAPI litigators. Karen recognizes that it was important to “push [herself] to create the moment” and not to “be intimidated by milestones.”
Karen is a strong advocate for diversity in the courtroom and in law firms. She advises young litigators to strengthen their courtroom skills and give back to the community through pro bono work. Karen has been recognized for her pro bono commitment over the years and generally works on one or two ongoing pro bono matters on top of her regular workload. Reflecting on her career thus far, Karen sees her persistence, optimism, and creative thinking, as survival skills that have led to great opportunities. “You just have to push through… . Keep you head up and keep moving toward your goals. Don’t let the machine crush you.”
Oral argument in Golan v. Saada (20-1034) by Todd Crespi
Karen King, Richard Min, and Fred Liu, who argued Golan v. Saada (20-1034)
On June 10, 2022 AABANY Women’s Committee Co-Chair and AABANY Anti-Asian Violence Task Force member Jennifer Wu and AABANY Board Director Lawrence (“Larry”) Wee were recognized by Bloomberg Law in an article entitled “Why Paul Weiss Is the Pro Bono Go-To for Victims of Asian Hate.” Jennifer and Larry, both partners at Paul, Weiss, have represented some of the most high profile cases, including the families of GuiYing Ma, a grandmother who died after being bashed with a rock; Yao Pan Ma, an elderly man who was struck and kicked to death while collecting cans; and Zhiwen Yan, a deliveryman who was shot to death.
Jennifer and Larry spearhead their firm’s pro bono work fighting anti-Asian hate. They cite their close ties to New York’s Asian community as a reason for their work. Larry is a preacher at a church in Chinatown and Jennifer’s husband, Andy Woo, is a community organizer in Chinatown. Jennifer and Larry feel an urgent sense of responsibility to fight hate against the Asian community. Their urgency is well supported by AABANY’s second anti-Asian violence report, Endless Tide: The Continuing Struggle to Overcome Anti-Asian Hate in New York, which shows an increase in incidents despite media attention and calls by elected officials for change on the issue. (Paul, Weiss attorneys assisted in editing and drafting the Endless Tide report.)
Gaining the trust of victims and their families is not easy and requires great cultural sensitivity. “Often, they don’t trust people with money, and they’re worried that you’re in cahoots with authorities,” Jennifer said. She meets her clients in noodle shops in Queens rather than Paul, Weiss’ Manhattan office. Jennifer and Larry, both Chinese speakers, are the most visible members of Paul, Weiss’ fight against anti-Asian hate. They are grateful for the many additional partners, including Loretta Lynch, Jeannie Rhee, and Alan Halperin, who have been essential to the effort.
AABANY congratulates Jennifer and Larry on their well-deserved recognition. To read the full article, please click here.
On Saturday, April 30, AABANY’s Pro Bono & Community Service Committee formed The Pelican Brief team for the Bronx Zoo’s Run for the Wild, a 5K Run and 3K Family Fun Run/Walk. This year, Run for the Wild is inspired by the beloved and endangered hornbills. The Pelican Brief ran, walked, or crawled to improve their well-being and mental health. The Pelican Brief team was happy to participate and support this great cause, and to network with each other in the process.
AABANY members Kevin Hsi, Thomas Hou, Nelson Mar, and May Wong showed up at 7am to show their support. In first place was Thomas Hou who finished the 5k at 9:06am. In second place was Nelson Mar who ran with a pulled hamstring, with his newborn Esperanza cheering him on from her stroller. Co-chairs, Kevin Hsi of the Government & Public Service Committee, and May Wong of the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee finished around late 9am.
Congratulations to The Pelican Brief who placed 19th out of the top 100 teams and raised $1,085 to support the hornbills! And congratulations to Thomas Hou, who placed 20th out of the top 100 participants and raised $890!
Please join the Pro Bono & Community Service Committee at our next event, the Queens Pro Bono Legal Clinic on Saturday, June 25. At these pro bono clinics, attorneys and staff provide free 30-minute legal information and referral sessions to limited English proficient (LEP) clients who speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and/or Spanish, in matters relating to housing, family, consumer debt, estates, and immigration matters.
PBCS was extremely active in April! We ran the pro bono clinic in Manhattan for the first time this year on April 9, 2022. We couldn’t have run our clinics without the dedicated help from AABANY, the Pro Bono & Community Service (PBCS) Committee, Chinese Chamber of Commerce of New York (CCCNY), and volunteers. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you to all volunteers for participating!
Thank you to all the following volunteers:
Teresa Wai Yee Yeung^
Karen Kithan Yau
Kelly Tang (CCCNY)^
Kwok Kei Ng
Min Jung Esther Choi
^ = non-attorney volunteer
On April 9, we met with 17 clients – 3 spoke English and 14 spoke a second language (i.e., Mandarin or Cantonese). Many clients had mostly housing-related questions, as housing has always been a popular issue given the lack of resources and information available.
In fact, many legal services have stopped taking cases due to the shortage of staffing and heavy workloads. Unfortunately, due to space issues, we too will be suspending our Manhattan clinics until further notice.
However, we are continuing the Queens Pro Bono Clinics. In fact, on April 23, we had 14 AABANY volunteers present at our pro bono clinic! These volunteers assisted 13 clients who had questions related to immigration, torts, wills, trusts and estates, and referrals.
On March 26, 2022, the Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee held its Pro Bono Clinic in Flushing, Queens at the offices of the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE). We couldn’t have run our clinics without the dedicated help from AABANY, the PBCS Committee, AAFE, and volunteers. We are extremely grateful for our volunteers who traveled all the way from Manhattan and Brooklyn during the torrential rain and MTA’s weekend schedule to meet with clients who needed legal assistance.
Thank you to all the following volunteers:
*Karen Lin (on-call)*
Ruihan (Yvette) Wang
Jennifer Park (not admitted)
Zulma Vazquez (AAFE)^
Chen Yo (AAFE)^
Judy (Ming Chu) Lee*
Yini Fang (AAFE)^
Maria del Carmen Cruz (AAFE)^
Gabriel Hisugan (AAFE)^
Wen-Hsien (Wendy) Cheng
^ = non-attorney volunteers
* = remote
On March 26, we met with 14 clients – 3 spoke English and 11 spoke a second language (ie: Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, or Korean). While a majority of the cases related to housing, we had a few cases involving torts, trusts and estates, family law, and immigration law.
One noteworthy case highlighted the point that not all matters need to be resolved through the courts. One of our volunteers was able to direct an individual who had a problem with a store purchase to seek recourse through filing complaints with NYC Department of Consumer Affairs, Better Business Bureau, or maybe even the media:
AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service (PBCS) Committee would like to thank all in-person and remote volunteers at the Flushing Clinic on February 26, 2022. PBCS is especially grateful to the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) for hosting this clinic at their Community Center, for providing the coffee and snacks to keep participants alert and energized, and for the staff to interpret for the Spanish-speaking clients.
The clinic began at 11:00 AM with attorneys quickly being split up into three rooms to prep for the arrival of clients, with other volunteers preparing documents that needed to be handed out and information that needed to be collected. The clinic assisted 17 clients facing a variety of issues from tenant disputes, domestic violence, marriage and divorce, and loans and contracts.
With the help of AAFE and AABANY translators, clients with limited English proficiency were able to find the aid they needed from volunteer attorneys who were able to understand the nuances and emotions of their situations. For example, one client who only spoke Mandarin, had a temporary order of protection made against her by a family member, but the order was limited. Under the order, the client was permitted to return to the apartment, but the family member refused to let her back in. Many factors go into the enforcement of orders of protection, and it would be difficult in the limited time available for consultations at the clinic to fully analyze a given situation. However, the two volunteer attorneys assigned to help this client assisted her to the extent they could, pointing her towards other resources, and alerting her about specific laws that could apply to her situation.
This clinic could not have been possible without the gracious help of many AABANY members and committees. A special thank you to May Wong, a current Vice-Chair of PBCS, for organizing these Pro Bono Clinics, Eugene Kim, another Vice-Chair of PBCS, for serving as an attorney volunteer, and Committee Chair Judy Lee, for helping to prep the paperwork, attending the Prep Meeting the night before (2/25), and appearing virtually to advise clients. Additionally, thank you to Beatrice Leong, AABANY’s Membership Director and long time Pro Bono Clinic participant, for guiding newer volunteers, consoling a domestic violence victim, and assisting as a volunteer; Meng Zhang, for helping to translate and helping with the organization of the clinic; Evelyn Gong, Co-Chair of the Government Service and Public Interest (GSPI) Committee, for serving as an attorney volunteer, and Kevin Hsi, also a Co-Chair of GSPI, for serving as a volunteer.
PBCS greatly appreciates the law students from Columbia University who were able to attend and observe the clinics as part of their Caravan, a program in which law students spend their spring break working on pro bono projects.
AABANY encourages its members to participate in the New York State Attorney Emeritus Program (AEP), a New York State Court system initiative through which senior attorneys offer pro bono civil legal service. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Yorkers are in urgent need of legal assistance. Our membership is acutely aware that COVID-19 has not only severely exacerbated anti-Asian hate but also highlighted the reluctance to prosecute anti-Asian hate crimes; more broadly, COVID-19 has widened and drawn attention to the civil justice gap in New York State. Volunteering through AEP could be life-altering for New Yorkers in need, whether they are struggling with housing, consumer debt and bankruptcy, access to unemployment and subsistence benefits, end-of-life planning, and domestic matters, among other issues. AEP, helmed by former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and endorsed by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, presents a substantive opportunity for AABANY members to give back and look out for its New York community.
To volunteer, AEP seeks lawyers aged fifty-five or older, retired or still in practice, in good standing, and with ten years experience. Attorney Emeritus volunteers commit to performing 60 hours of pro bono work with an approved legal services organization or court program over the two-year attorney registration period.
Attorney Emeritus volunteers also receive benefits including up to 15 CLE credits and special recognition from Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives Edwina G. Mendelson.