Welcome to the fall issue of the Diversity Committee newsletter. It is our first issue of the new ABA year and, as always, this issue promises not to disappoint. I am very excited to take over as Diversity Officer, taking the helm from Sara Sanford (who is now the Secretary/Operations Officer of the Section of International Law), who so aptly lead the committee last year. Thank you, Sara! We have many exciting things happening in the committee, many of which stem from the highly successful Diversity Workshop held at the SIL Leadership Retreat in Toronto. We are looking forward to getting started!
One significant change you will notice is that the committee now has three Vice Chairs leading the committee. Cheryl Nichols has accepted the role as the Vice Chair for Research, while Sandra Yamate will continue her leadership in the committee as the Vice Chair for Publications. Last, but certainly not least, Jennifer Hilsabeck, who many of you already know, will be leading the way in terms of developing committee program…yup, as you guessed, as the Vice Chair for Programs. I am so pleased that each of these women has stepped into a formal leadership role. Thank you and welcome, ladies!
The Section’s Fall Meeting in Dublin was, as always, informative and fun. A number of the issues raised in this newsletter were discussed at the meeting. The Diversity Committee sponsored a successful program titled “Lessons from Europe: Dealing with Diversity Directives in a Global Environment.” Sara Sandford has written a piece describing the program and its outcomes—be sure to check it out!
This issue of the newsletter is full of information about diversity issues as they relate to the practice of law. First, we have a piece originally run in the National Jurist, which details the University of Florida’s decision to name one of its buildings after Immediate Past ABA President, Steve Zack. You can then find out what Section leaders think about the Section’s current diversity initiatives by reading the article describing the Section’s first every diversity workshop held in August 2011. Next, you find out “Attorney Spotlight” and read about longtime SIL leader, Mo Syed and his new venture. Finally, you will find links to the Mother Pelican, a journal of sustainable human development.
As this new ABA year ramps up, we encourage all of you to get involved with the Diversity Committee and begin to consider how diversity impacts your practice. We hope this newsletter spark your interest and gives you a forum in which you can feel free to discuss what can sometimes be sensitive topics. The Diversity Committee is about you, the members, and the issues of diversity that are important to you! We welcome any of your publication or programming ideas (and now you know who to contact directly). Don’t forget—proposals for the 2012 Fall Meeting are due on December 16, 2011! Contact Jennifer Hilsabeck if you have an idea—she’s happy to work with you!
Gretchen C. Bellamy
Diversity Planning in Action: Reflections and Outcomes from the First ABA-SIL Diversity Workshop
On August 4, 2011, the Diversity Committee held the first ever “Diversity Workshop” at the Section Leadership Retreat in Toronto. The objective of the workshop was to explore how Section leaders could better help realize the Section’s diversity objectives and Diversity Plan. Embracing its view that diverse perspectives can bring about better ideas, the Diversity Committee sought to engage the diverse membership reflected in our Section’s leaders to help discover new ideas and approaches to the challenges presented as it seeks to implement a Diversity Plan with members worldwide. Retreat attendees were asked to break into smaller groups led by a facilitator at each table addressing the following seven topics:
Overall, the program was a great success—Participation was excellent and Section leaders began to think strategically about how diversity affects many aspects of Section business and offered a variety of ideas on how to better pursue our diversity directives. The Diversity Committee will be using the points from the workshop to guide its business plan for the next year. One of the important outcomes of the workshop was the ideas generated from each group regarding their assigned topic. Below each topic is listed with its main outcomes/“to dos.”
Increasing diversity in leadership
The group members discussed how the leadership, through assistance from the committee leaders, can identify and subsequently mentor up-and-coming potential leaders who would meet the Section’s diversity objectives. In addition, this group talked about how it may be possible to remove obstacles related to such identification. The Section needs to strengthen outreach initiatives—getting people to join not only the ABA, but the SIL specifically. Also, the Section needs to make sure that committee leaders are encouraged to provide input during the nominations process, as well as sending direct invitations to candidates to join leadership. The group mentioned that the cost of attending meetings can sometimes be a barrier, so perhaps the SIL leadership could look into alternative membership rates and partial fee payment for speakers’ participation. Another suggestion regarding how to potentially increase diversity in the Section leadership was to bolster the role of the Section liaisons to minority bar associations. There was also discussion of creating city chapters which would introduce the Section to firms around the world, without necessitating the same degree of travel. Finally, another great suggestion was to have seasoned members mentor newcomers to the Section. A mentoring program is already in the works.
Better addressing diversity issues in publications (our Committee newsletter and elsewhere)
This issue was particularly interesting given the number of non-U.S. lawyers who are members of the SIL. One of the points brought forth by the group was that the Section needs to be careful not to force its publications to reflect only the “voice” of American lawyers. An additional suggestion was to provide a level of mentorship for “English as a second (or third!) language” members where those members would be provided with editing feedback as well as in-depth direction about how the process of publishing with the ABA/SIL works. (Note: Editors now perform this function, so it seems that the most important part of this suggestion that the Diversity Committee should work on implementing is to make sure non-native English speakers know of that possibility.) Another consideration is to reach out to non-SIL members to find additional potential authors, including students. Newsletters within our committees are very important. We should be sure that we make our committee leaders aware of all of the newsletters. Additionally, we should reach out to smaller firms to ensure that their voices are heard.
How to make things work more smoothly for increased diversity in programs
This group tackled a diversity issue related to the SIL’s lifeblood—programs. One of the group’s suggestions was to revise the program proposal form. It was suggested that there be a section on the form explaining the Section’s diversity policy as well as a box asking the person making the proposal to explain how (i.e., not just a “check the box”) the proposed speakers meet the policy. Additionally, it was suggested to add a contact person if the proposer is having difficulty locating speakers to meet the policy initiative. It was also suggested that the Section use the minority bar association liaisons more effectively, via proposed co-sponsorship of panels/programs, as well as working with local bar associations to expand program diversity. The group also suggested that perhaps each committee could create a new “Diversity Vice Chair” who would identify and encourage diverse members to get involved and empower them so they feel comfortable participating more within the committees. There was also a discussion about the creation of a speakers’ bureau. The final suggestion was to reach out to public interest and government lawyers more.
Outreach to students to increase diversity
The group addressing this topic had several suggestions regarding law student diversity. One suggestion involved reaching out to the directors of law student summer study abroad programs to find international law students and invite them to join. Another suggestion was to have Section leaders go to the national meetings of minority law student associations such as the Black Law Students Association or the Hispanic Law Students Association. Section leaders could also reach out to and work with student liaisons. It was also suggested that the committee consider creating internship programs (see Africa Committee for example) within each committee and use those students to edit newsletters/create proposals/create online buzz. There are many ministerial acts that students can help with, even if they are still learning substantive law. Finally, it was suggested that the each committee prepare an annual report of its activities and plans.
Outreach within the ABA on diversity issues
This group tackled the definition of diversity and suggested that it include non-U.S. liaisons. (Note: The Distinguished Guests program may be where this idea could be developed a bit more.) In addition, the group suggested that the Section leaders ask current liaisons to begin looking at groups who can join the Section as leaders. The group also discussed leadership development and identification. As with other groups, this group suggested the Section, though its committees and leaders, reach out to law students and young lawyers. Finally, the group brought up the “Red Book,” which lists all of the ABA leaders. Deborah Enix-Ross currently sits on the nominating committee for presidential appointment. The Section could have input into the nomination of leaders by identify those who should be appointed. The group pointed out that it is important that the Section help the ABA understand that diversity also includes where one is from and/or lives and practices.
Outreach to other organizations on diversity issues (including bar associations representing different diverse segments of the bar)
This group discussed diversity as it relates to religion, class, firm, organization size, and ethnicity. It discussed outreach to law students as well as, for example, Fulbright Scholars. Reaching out to law faculty members was also a suggestion by this group. The group suggested that the Section consider subsidizing members of other bars, as well as serving as hosts to welcome other bar leaders. (Note: This last suggestion is part of the current Distinguished Guests program, which therefore may be the best place to further develop this idea.) Finally, the group talked about “host” cities where Section leaders can reach out to other bar associations, organizations, and other international sections. It was suggested that these people would be allowed to use the member rate when attending a meeting. The group also listed a number of things that should be happening including allowing attendees from other countries to be eligible for CLE credit and increasing the number of CLE programs that are capable of credit transfer. Finally, the group would like to see an increase in the number of memoranda of understanding to which the Section is a party.
Best ways to measure our success
This group had a difficult topic to address. The group suggested that Section leaders target areas of the Section that are not diverse. Additionally, when surveying members (e.g., for Goal III), the group pointed out that the Section must carefully explain how the information is protected. As with other groups, this group suggested that the Section focus on outreach and partner with other organizations and bars to ensure diversity. Finally, the group suggested an internal “Diversity Promoter” award.
The workshop closed with groups sharing their ideas and the Diversity Committee’s commitment to sharing them with the entire SIL leadership, so that Section leaders can consider ways in which they can help implement the ideas over the coming year.
Mother Pelican September Issue
The September 2011 issue of Mother Pelican has been posted:
Energy balance is a non-negotiable requirement for a sustainable economy. Likewise, gender equality is crucial for a civilized transition to sustainability. That humanity must transition from fossil fuels to clean energy (and, more generally, from consumerism to sustainability) is no longer in doubt. The question now is whether the transition will be violent or peaceful - or at least civilized. It is argued that fostering gender balance in all roles of responsibility and authority is the best way to foster a civilized transition. Gender imbalance, with only (or even mostly) men making all key policy decisions, is biologically and psychologically bound to perpetuate the violence-prone patriarchal mentality of control and domination.
Most secular institutions worldwide already know by experience that gender balance mitigates violence and enhances capabilities for human development. Religious institutions that remain attached to theologically baseless patriarchal practices are doing a disservice to humanity by reinforcing resistance to gender equality and balance. The joint and fair resolution of gender balance and energy balance issues, which not insignificantly are emerging simultaneously at this point in human history, offers the best hope for a civilized transition to a sustainable world animated by solidarity, peace, and justice. It also offers the best hope for continuing progress in integral human development.
The outline for this issue is as follows:
Page 1. Editorial Essay ~ The Confluence of Gender Balance and Energy Balance
This issue also includes the following supplements:
Supplement 1: Advances in Sustainable Development
Women’s Interest Group International Law Update
The following report of international legal developments having the potential to impact women was prepared by Cate McClure.
In the meantime, women remain second class citizens in the country, which practices a segregation of the sexes similar to that imposed throughout the United States against African Americans through its Jim Crow laws. Where they are allowed in at all, women must sit in separate places in restaurants, banks and other public establishments. Most importantly, they remain without the right to drive, a right essential to any kind of practical independence in a country with little public transportation. Women must obtain the permission of a male sponsor to travel and be chauffeured on trips away from home. This severely limits their ability to run a business or engage in the kind of commercial activity that would allow for some independence.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the human rights treaty for women which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, has been adopted by 186 state parties but remains stalled in a U.S. Senate Committee. The Convention is monitored by the CEDAW Committee which operates out of the United Nations in New York. The U.S. remains the only western country and one of only a very small handful who have not ratified it.
Foreign-Born Attorney to U.S. Practitioner: One Lawyer's Journey
Mohammad A. Syed is the founding member and managing principal of the Syed Law Firm, PLLC, which has offices in Nashville, TN, Washington, DC, and New York City. Mo’s areas of practice are commercial dispute resolution, business law, and immigration, and he specializes in assisting foreign companies and individuals in their legal and business needs in the United States. Additionally, he thrives as the “go-to guy” for U.S. companies and individuals interested in overseas markets, particularly in South Asia, the Middle East, and Central and Latin America.
Mo was born in the seaport town of Karachi, Pakistan in 1974. Like many other Indian Muslims, Mo’s parents migrated from India to the newly created state of Pakistan, after the partition of British India in 1947. Both of Mo’s grandfathers were teachers in north India before they left their homeland and continued in the same profession in their newly adopted country. Because of the British system of education, they both spoke English fluently. While the Indian Muslims had done great things in the past, such as building the fabled Taj Mahal, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Muslim community in India had fallen into decay and suffered from lack of education. Some went as far as rejecting British-style education claiming it was an imperialist plot against Indians and rejected outright any notions of studying the English language. Luckily Mo’s grandfathers were progressive and chose to pursue higher education and to study English. They both attended the Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, India, which was at the forefront of a movement aimed at educating young Indian Muslims and making leaders out of them.
Mo’s father and mother both started their careers as teachers. His dad later joined the government of Pakistan as a civil servant, while his mom gave up her career to raise Mo and his two sisters as well as keep up with the many transfers and postings that his father’s career involved. As a child, Mo recalls his family moving around quite a bit within Pakistan—and then onto another great adventure which included two years in Provo, Utah, where his father pursued a master’s degree in public administration at Brigham Young University. It is from this experience that Mo’s love affair with the outdoors and travel began.
Education and Professional Experience
It is not a very well known fact, but many of the best elementary, middle, and high schools in Pakistan are run by Christian churches, which have been carried over from the colonial times. Mo was fortunate to attend several of these schools and remembers very fondly being taught singing and piano by nuns dressed in white. During his teenage years, he developed an interest in computer programming. He taught himself how to program on the IBM compatible PCs of the day and became so good at it that he won a national computer programming competition for children under 16 years of age. His photo was published in the local newspapers, and for a moment, he was a celebrity! His interest in computers and faith in his expertise grew more during a summer internship at IBM’s Karachi office where he was part of a team whose job it was to conduct training courses for clients.
After completing his “O and A’ Levels” from Karachi (this is the British equivalent of the American high school diploma) in 1993, he arrived in the United States to pursue higher education.
It was customary each year for his high school to send at least half of its graduating class of approximately 100 students to study in the United Kingdom and the U.S., with the majority of the students choosing the U.S. because of better access to jobs and generous financial assistance programs. Mo was one of four of his Karachi classmates to attend the University of Rochester in upstate New York. While he started out as a computer science major, he finished cum laude with a double major in Economics and Political Science and a minor in legal studies. His interest in a legal career started when he took a course in Constitutional Politics. The teacher was a Harvard-trained lawyer, who used the Socratic Method; and Mo was spellbound. In the development of the U.S. Constitution, on issues of civil rights, power sharing between states, church/state separation, he saw parallels that could be applied to developing countries, and his mind swirled with excitement and curiosity.
Mo had always wanted to figure out ways to solve Pakistan’s problems of poor governance, internal tensions that stood in the way of real economic progress and stability, and sour relations with India, a country where his ancestors lived for generations and where half of his family still lives. With these ideas in the back of his mind, he graduated from George Washington University Law School in 2000. He was very pleased when he received an A+ in his International Law class with the former International Court of Justice judge Buergenthal. During law school, Mo developed an interest in litigation while working for the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office (formerly known as the Office of Corporation Counsel) in the summer after his first year in its special litigation branch.
During the summer after his second year Mo clerked for a large plaintiff side civil litigation firm, Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP in Washington, DC. It was there that he met some very fine lawyers who were at the cutting edge of complex civil litigation practice. They liked Mo’s work and made him an offer to join them upon finishing law school and the bar exam, which he did.
For Mo, Ashcraft & Gerel was a wonderful place to work. He was in the firm’s pharmaceutical product liability group and occasionally also assisted the other lawyers in the firm who did qui tam, false claims act, medical negligence, slip and fall, and workers compensation, among other areas. The majority of his clients were persons who had been injured by a defective pharmaceutical product or medical device. Mo quickly learned what was needed to move hundreds of cases from the initial client screening interview to the advanced stages of litigation and ultimate settlement. One of the most inspiring lawyers Mo worked with at Ashcraft & Gerel was the head of the firm’s pharmaceutical team, a brilliant and incredibly kind-hearted lawyer named Michelle Parfitt. Michelle deeply impacted Mo and his law practice. Her sense of fairness and competence is without parallel, he has never met anyone like her; she was someone who worked so hard and cared so much about her clients. She taught Mo many of the skills that I now posses. Her way of working with people within the firm, of networking with potential referral sources, experts and family members of injured clients made a major impression on him. From her he learned that the most important quality of a lawyer is dogged persistence. Michelle was someone who would leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of her client’s rights. From her, Mo gained confidence in his skills as a lawyer and faith in the rewards of hard work.
Mo had clients all over the U.S. and matters filed in state and federal courts across several different cities. This provided him with wonderful opportunities to travel and meet very interesting people. During this time he also developed an interest in Spanish language and had the chance to make some very close friends from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The horrible events of September 11, 2001, had some unforeseen and unplanned effects on Mo’s legal career. At that point in his career, he was working on an H1B work-visa and had applied for permanent residence in the U.S. His usual practice was to visit his parents in Pakistan once a year. Because of the horror stories related to heightened security for nationals of certain countries coming into the U.S., including those from Pakistan, Mo decided not to visit his parents in Pakistan for several years after 9/11. He was concerned that he might get stuck in Pakistan and delays in renewing his visa could derail his career in the U.S. At the same time, Mo had just settled a major litigation and was ready to take some time off and visit his parents. So, he discussed this with Michelle and his other superiors, and they were very supportive. They told him not to worry and go ahead and take some time off to return to Pakistan.
The visa renewal ended up taking eight months! During this time, Mo took up a job in Karachi with the law firm of Rizvi, Isa, Afridi, and Angell. The managing partner of that firm, Mr. Ahsan Rizvi, is known as one of the top corporate lawyers in the country and his firm represents most of the multinational corporations operating in Pakistan. During this time, Mo got admitted to practice before Pakistan courts. The process was easy for him since Pakistan permits holders of law degrees from common law countries with a minimum of two years of work experience to enter law practice on motion and an interview with a judge. Law practice in Karachi, a city of 18 million people and a major commercial center, was very interesting for Mo. It was more like general practice, and he got a taste for areas of law outside of the tort work that he was mostly doing in DC. Among the memorable experiences Mo had during those eight months was a visit from the dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (Pakistan’s ISI) which was investigating a foreign client of the firm in the oil and gas exploration industry. The ISI showed up at the office without notice and demanded copies of all client files. Mo told them that they should give him a list of their requests in writing and he would send them a reply. They initially would not agree to this, wanting his to have all files copied immediately. This request contrasted sharply with his experience in dealing with such requests in the U.S. However, his training as a trial lawyer in Washington, DC, combined with his knowledge of Pakistan’s culture permitted him to handle the situation, and the ISI agreed to give him a written request and come back at a later date!
Mo retuned back to Ashcraft & Gerel in November 2004. In 2007, after seven years of civil litigation practice, he was interested in making a transition to commercial work. However, he found that having worked for seven years as a plaintiff’s lawyer in Washington, DC presented a challenge to migrate to doing defense work. However, he persevered and found a great match at the firm of King & Ballow in Nashville, Tennessee in their commercial litigation and antitrust practice. Alan Marx and Steve Douse of this firm were both former Washington, DC based antitrust lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice who offered Mo the opportunity to join their team and learn a new area of law, antitrust, and continue to develop his existing litigation skills in a commercial setting. Alan Marx and Steve Douse, both lawyers of exceptionally high caliber and professionalism were also very involved in community activities and helped Mo to settle in to his newly adopted home. They both also enjoyed travelling internationally and encouraged Mo to develop his international experience. Among other things this included training Indian lawyers in competition law during a skype video presentation by Alan, Steve and Mo. Mo also created and moderated a CLE presentation on representing Japanese clients in the US, where the Consul General of Japan in Nashville was a featured speaker with other King & Ballow attorneys. Further, Mo played key roles in projects involving representation of Asian and European clients in both litigation and transactional matters.
King & Ballow mostly represented clients in the media industry on a nationwide basis. Though the office was located in Nashville its major clients were out of state. Mo quickly began to enjoy the new challenges of representing corporate clients. Many of his projects involved complex electronic discovery projects in federal court litigation and government investigations. His knowledge of technology, the rules of evidence and civil procedure, and ability to manage data collection and review from multiple corporate custodians served him well. He enjoyed being the responsible attorney on these projects and received praise for independently handling Department of Justice Civil Investigative Demands for his media clients.
However, getting used to the billable hour system took some time, but he learned that with discipline and smart use of technology it was not so bad. Mo got thrown into antitrust litigation and counseling, labor litigation, copyright litigation, general business law and contract, and he also was given a good amount of encouragement to develop business in other areas.
The challenge for Mo was that the newspaper industry that comprised the majority of the firm’s clients has been particularly hard hit by the recession and the flow of work slowed down. So after about three and a half years of working with them, Mo decided it was time to pursue his true passion and focus his efforts on building up his own practice. Therefore, a few months ago he launched the Syed Law Firm, PLLC.
The American Bar Association’s Section of International Law
One of the best decisions Mo has made has becoming a member of ABA-SIL. He has been able to make friends with lawyers from all around the world in many different areas of practice. These persons are employed by law firms, universities, corporations, non-profit entities, government, and international organizations, to name a few. Mo has found that he and his new friends/colleagues share a common dedication to the service of their clients and to the betterment of the profession and the world in which we live. Through his membership with the ABA-SIL, he has lead several efforts to promote the interests of developing countries and the human rights community. Several of the ABA members were active in the movement for the restoration of the Chief Justice in Pakistan in 2008 after he was fired by the military general then in power. Mo lead several ABA projects related to rule of law in Pakistan and other developing countries.
Due to his contributions and high profile Mo was nominated by the ABA President Bill Robinson to serve as a member of the prestigious ABA Rule of Law Initiative Asia Council, where he works on promoting judicial and legal profession development, anti-corruption, and citizens' rights advocacy aimed at increasing access to justice. Previously he served as vice-chair and then co-chair of the Asia-Pacific Committee of the International Section. He lead the effort to develop a web based resource for committee members linking legal and business resources on a map of Asia known as the Asia-Pacific Links Project. His successful implementation of this project won his committee the Section award for the best committee website. He is a member of the ABA Books Board (previously Publications Committee”) where he is responsible for the creation of publications on legal and business topics relevant to international lawyers. One of the roles he enjoys most is as Deputy Programs Officer for the Section working closely with Programs Officer Adam Farlow. In this role he is responsible for managing the creation and execution of teleconference programs. He loves managing conversations between very talented lawyers, executives, government officials and academics from all over the world that is required for successful execution of these teleconferences. Recently, Mo was honored to be appointed one of the youngest Division Chairs in the Section. He serves as Chair of the Public International Law II (Treaty) Division in the International Section where he coordinates the activities of International Anti-Corruption, International Anti-Money Laundering, Corporate Social Responsibility, International Human Rights, International Refugee Law Committees.
Mo’s unique skill set was particularly useful to him in working closely with former Section Chair Aaron Schildhaus to develop an ABA perspective relating to Outsourcing of Legal Services. He facilitated a trip to Pakistan by former Section Chair Glenn Hendrix for an International Finance Corporation/World Bank sponsored project relating to mediation training in that country. These and other activities continue to help him contribute to goals that he truly cares about and also to build his professional network. He has enjoyed mentoring younger members of the “fraternity” and also has benefitted tremendously from the mentoring of some very able and talented lawyers from across the world.
Mo also serves on the boards of several non-profit groups. Most recently he was elected to be President of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). TIRRC is a statewide, immigrant and refugee-led collaboration whose mission is to empower immigrants and refugees throughout Tennessee to develop a unified voice, defend their rights, and create an atmosphere in which they are recognized as positive contributors to the state. It is a rarely known fact that middle-Tennessee is home to the largest community of Kurdish people outside of Kurdistan. There are large Egyptian, Somali, Iraqi, Haitian, Laotian and Latino populations as well. He also contributes as a member of the Advisory Board of the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce, TN. He is also active in several other groups such as the board of Tennessee Asian Pacific American Bar Association (TAPABA), National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP-Nashville), member of United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, Volunteer Review Team, board of Nashville Opportunities Industrialization Center, 2008-2011, and a member of Young Leaders Council, Nashville, Spring 2011, Class No. 56. He is also an active member of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, International Business Council, whose activities involve promoting Tennessee as a destination for investment from foreign businesses and also to assist businesses in Tennessee in operating abroad.
The Challenges of the New Practice
One of the main reasons Mo started his own firm was to develop a broader and more challenging practice and to help his clients meet their legal and business objective. With almost eleven years of legal experience in a variety of areas of law and industries, he is confident of his ability to guide and represent clients in the toughest of challenges. His vast global network of legal and business professionals is a key asset to him in delivering quality results for his clients.
Mo believes his skills and experience give him an added edge in three areas:
The recession has created many difficulties for law firms. Many clients are not comfortable paying some of the costs associated with large law firms. As such, there is an opportunity for practitioners who are able to provide top quality legal services at competitive rates, and who can also offer creative billing structures. The Syed Law Firm, PLLC is able to customize teams of top legal and paralegal professionals to provide the best possible solutions to any given client need. It does this through project partnering and the use of state of the art technology to provide competent, responsive, and cost-effective services.
When meeting his clients, Mo usually follows these three steps: (1) assess the legal issues and scope of project; (2) provide a staffing plan, and (3) provide a budget. Budgets can be difficult to prepare because making predictions in this area is not an exact science. Particularly in litigation or investigations, it is not always possible to determine in advance how many hours of work it will take to complete the matter. However, the main goal is to provide some solid guideposts to the client so that there are no surprises as the matter progresses.
While the flexibility of making his own schedule and managing his own work flow is enjoyable, being his own boss has its own challenges. Generating referrals and new clients requires a lot of work and strategy. Having several years of native life experience overseas, and being able to speak Urdu, Hindi, and Spanish, Mo has an advantage in marketing to clients to whom the language familiarity and the cultural affinity is important.
Mo is delighted to provide pro bono counsel to groups of clients that are not able to afford legal fees, particularly in the immigrant and refugee community. Due to his strong connections in these communities he is truly the go-to guy for a variety of legal matters.
You can find Mo’s full bio at the following address: http://www.syedfirm.com/syed-bio.html
Florida Names Building After Zack, Establishes Endowment
Stephen Zack, the immediate past president of the American Bar Association, has donated $800,000 to his alma mater — The University of Florida Levin College of Law. In return, the law school has named a previously unnamed building after him.
With the funds, the law school is establishing the Stephen N. Zack Law Endowment, which will provide funds to enhance academic programs that advance student knowledge of legal ethics and professionalism as well as increasing diversity, two of Zack’s priorities while ABA president.
Florida's Trust Fund for Major Gifts will match 70 percent of Zack's donation, bringing the total to about $1.3 million for the endowment.
Zack received both his undergraduate and law degree at Florida.
“I owe so much to the University of Florida Levin College of Law for my professional life that I have always wanted to do something to express my gratitude which would also promote diversity,” Zack said.
Zack has dedicated his career to the advancement of the legal profession and championing the cause of increasing diversity. As ABA president, he also tackled key issues such as the underfunding of the courts, disaster preparedness and civic education. One of his accomplishments was the establishment of the Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities.
Zack was born in Detroit, but lived in Cuba until his family fled when he 14. He has had many successes in the legal profession, including serving as a trial attorney for Vice President Al Gore during the historic case, Bush v. Gore. In 2010 he became the first Hispanic president of the ABA. Zack was also the first Hispanic and youngest president of the Florida Bar, and one of the first members of the Cuban-American Bar Association.
Diversity Directives – Lessons Were Learned in Dublin
The Diversity Committee cosponsored a program at the Section of International Fall meeting on October 13, 2011, with the Seasoned Lawyers Interest Network and the Young Lawyer’s Interest Network called, “Lessons from Europe: Dealing with Diversity Directives in a Global Environment.” The audience enjoyed three great speakers: Doris Speer (Deputy General Counsel, Business Transactions, of Alstom), Orla Muldoon (Chief Counsel at Kelloggs Europe) and Barry Walsh (Partner at A&L Goodbody). Sandra Yamate (CEO of Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession) served as moderator.
The panelists offered an array of perspectives on how multinational companies deal with U.S. style diversity directives in a European context. First Doris Speer introduced Alstom, speaking about its organization and its business lines. She described Alstom as a world leader in transport infrastructure and power generation and transmission, with 91,000 employees worldwide and €19 billion in orders, €21 billion in revenues and €1.6 billion in income from operations for fiscal year ended October 31, 2011. She also spoke of its recent, concerted efforts to explore diversity within the corporation, from the perspective of a French company, where diversity really means gender diversity and non-French versus French diversity -- not the various aspects of diversity tracked and considered in a U.S. context. She pointed out that it would be discriminatory and unlawful to track all the information U.S. companies do about their employees and she described the historical basis for such laws in France.
She described how Alstom has a code of ethics which includes a policy of nondiscrimination and then she compared what that means outside of the U.S. in comparison to within the U.S. operations of the company: Outside the U.S. it means applying the corporate policy and complying with local laws. In the U.S., Alstom has an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action policy to be more inclusive of minorities, women, individuals with disabilities and veterans. As a governmental, state and municipal contractor, Alstom must have affirmative action compliance plans. She noted that the only focus on the diversity of suppliers or other service providers is when that is required by law; it is not due to any specific objectives set by Alstom. She also commented on recent initiatives under way in Europe to expand women participation on boards of European companies, offering examples from France, Norway, Spain, Belgium and the United Kingdom, as well as discussion about proposed EU-wide legislation on the topic.
Next, Orla Muldoon spoke about Kelloggs. Since most people know Kelloggs from its products, she spent less time on introducing the company, but noted its long-time involvement in international markets starting in the early 1900s and its presence in over 180 countries, worldwide. She focused on Kelloggs’ commitment to diversity and how the company considers expanding diversity within Kelloggs as vital to its efforts to align its workforce with its customer base. How can Kelloggs know its customers if people like its customers are not part of its team? She described how that reality has driven Kellogg’s efforts to push forward diversity directives globally, including in Europe. She noted that this view of the social and economic importance of the issue has caused Kelloggs to become a leader in diversity initiatives. She confirmed that Kelloggs factors diversity into selection of suppliers and legal counsel alike, and has been surprised when potential service or product providers disregard the issue, given how open Kelloggs has been about the importance of this issue to the company.
Next, Barry Walsh spoke on the challenges of helping corporate clients implement U.S. style diversity policies in Europe, when often he is asked only to make the policies conform to local law, rather than really offering his views on how to make them policies that are coherent and fitting within the local cultural context. He noted that it is rather rare when a company has the same affirmative commitment to diversity that Ms. Muldoon mentioned exists at Kelloggs. Rather, it is more common to see that corporations will do what is needed to comply with the law and to avoid a negative perception on the issue. That is to say, he has not seen many companies that see diversity as important to the corporation’s success. Ms. Speers commented that, given the industries and customers with which Alstom dealt, customers have not pushed on the issues of diversity at all. To the contrary, the market has probably encouraged lack of diversity in its business.
Mr. Walsh also agreed with Ms. Speers’ view about reverse discrimination being a concern in the E.U. Tracking diversity information on individuals is prohibited, with only very specific exceptions. He described the personal data collection privacy limitations with which corporations must comply. He mentioned that he has not seen much interest in having his law firm address its own diversity when responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs). Still, the firm has worked hard to increase gender diversity and aims to be inclusive when making presentations for potential work – seeking to match up qualities that client representatives have with those on the firm’s proposed team.
The audience also participated with a variety of questions and experiences of their own. Panelists were asked whether they thought that the European definition of diversity and the legal limits on tracking data were serious impediments to successful implementation of diversity directives in Europe. Ms. Muldoon thought not. She noted that inclusiveness is really more than just numbers, with the attitude at the top of a corporation being most vital. That is why she believes they have had such great success at Kelloggs; leaders have created a vision about why it is important to the company and how committed they are to it. That affects the attitude of personnel throughout the organization, on a day to day basis and diversity and inclusiveness can be achieved.
Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Justice: A Comparative Law Casebook
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