September 2022 Bar Bulletin
The summer of 2022 feels like it should be one for the books. My daughters’ summer camp schedules complicated my personal, work, and family calendars. However, thanks to my amazing husband’s support, I managed to attend not one but three national conferences for three separate bar associations. I’m so fortunate to have been able to go because they provided me with endless inspiration.
My first in-person national conference was in New York for the American Immigration Lawyers Association where I presented on non-immigrant visas for people to come to the US for training purposes. I loved seeing my immigration lawyer friends and colleagues — people I’d spoken to over the phone or in Zoom meetings but could finally see in person. They are constantly fighting the good fight and are some of the biggest cheerleaders for each other.
AILA celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. The conference felt extra special because of the celebration but was also the first one in over two years. Us immigration lawyers do love our conferences, not only because there’s always so much change that affects our practices but also because we are the most collegial bunch you’ll find! One of my articles was selected for the special edition of the AILA Journal.1 That was exciting, too. Some of the highlights were seeing my friends and colleagues, staying on top of the current immigration issues, and hearing from some of the top officials of the Department of Homeland Security including the Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ur Jaddou. If you follow my columns in Above the Law,2 you will know I share insights into current immigration issues and problems. Therefore, it was good to hear from the director about the work that USCIS is doing to solve chronic systemic problems.
Next, I attended the South Asian Bar Association of North America where I presented on the state of immigration for Afghan nationals. It was my first time attending this conference. Held in San Francisco, it was an eye opener for me to see the incredible leadership roles South Asian lawyers are playing around the country in every industry and government. I was delighted to see some of our Washington chapter members there, including Aneesh Mehta, in-house counsel at Microsoft who served as the president of SABA North America during the pandemic.
And lastly, I attended the National Conference of Bar Presidents held in Chicago, which runs concurrently with the American Bar Association annual meeting. It was my first time attending the NCBP where I represented KCBA. It was an honor to represent KCBA and be selected as a Diversity Scholar. There, I was delighted to see several of our local legal leaders including our KCBA ABA Delegate Kathleen Hopkins, KCBA member and newly-appointed King County Superior Court Judge Jaime Hawk, Michael Pellicciotti, Washington State Treasurer, former Washington State Bar Association presidents Rajeev Majumdar, now a Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, and Patrick Palace, Secretary of the NCBP.
The NCBP conference was inspirational. The bar leaders I met from across the country are all brilliant lawyers committed to serving the legal community with passion and integrity. From the plenary sessions, workshops, and networking events I attended, I want to share some of what I learned to see what we can implement for our KCBA members.
In the words of Mike Freed, immediate past president of NCBA, not only have we been missing human contact, but we have also been suffering from ‘swag withdrawal!’ I happily brought back lots of swag that may likely go unused, but I was happy to have them!
From each of the three national bar association conferences, it was clear that as humans, we are better together, in person, and fully engaged. People were happy to be back in sessions, panels, galas, dinners, and more. It was so energizing. And hopefully, moving forward, we won’t take that experience for granted.
There was discussion about diversity and that it has never been more important. The keynote speaker for the SABA conference was Gurbir Grewal, director of the Enforcement Division of the Securities and Exchange Commission. He served as Attorney General of New Jersey from 2018 to 2021. He emphasized the importance of diversity in the legal community so that we can serve our communities better and inspire the next generation. I was moved by his determination to ensure he never misses an opportunity to speak at schools so that the young generation can see people like him, with a beard and turban, and know they too can reach those heights.
One of the highlights from the NCBP was hearing from the newly-elected ABA President, Deborah Enix-Ross. She started her speech with a promise that in her term she will focus on “bringing civility back.” She expressed concerns about the state of discourse in America and how lawyers can help bring civil discussions back as incivility is aggravating our differences. She delivered an impassioned speech about how lawyers are leaders and can make a difference in our society. It resonated deeply.
NCBP Diversity Scholars 2022
My top three takeaways include:
First, bar leaders around the country are dealing with many of the same challenges we are, including how to make membership services more engaging in a post-pandemic era. Most bar associations have seen a decline in membership, as we have. It was interesting to hear about the kind of creativity these challenges have inspired in some bar associations. For example, some created wellness committees to explore new ways to address the stress their members are facing as well as organize outdoor social events. One association created a hugely successful book club that is conducted via Zoom. Some talked about creating mentorship programs. The ideas were flowing.
Second, collaboration is a key to success. A panel at the NCBP included past presidents of the National Hispanic Bar Association, American Bar Association, National Bar Association, National Asian Pacific Bar Association, and National Native American Bar Association. They all talked about the importance of collaboration between bar associations and how they collectively created a bar leadership program that started with one simple idea — to grow more bar leaders, especially from diverse backgrounds. The panelists shared important and interesting insights and stories of how that leadership program created so many notable leaders we know today. The conversation validated my own belief in collaboration — collaboration with bar associations, community organizations, and members.
Each conference emphasized the ongoing important role of lawyers, especially in the current climate where the rule of law and democracy are at risk. Lawyers can do much to help including leading in advocacy, education, voter protection, and more.
We are leaders in our communities. Let’s own it and make a difference. I’m all ears for ideas if you have thoughts too.