Spotlight on the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association
By Josiah J. Puder
Josiah J. Puder is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and Vice- President and General Counsel of Melt, Inc., a public company headquartered in Southern California. .
The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) is a national legal organization comprised of attorneys, judges, law professors, and law students. With a membership of over 40,000 attorneys and in conjunction with approximately fifty-five local Asian Pacific American (APA) bar associations, NAPABA has become the leading voice for the APA community since its founding in the 1980s. The ABA has played a significant role in helping NAPABA grow as a result of its goal to increase minority lawyer membership and as an outgrowth of the ABA’s Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Legal Profession.
Not unlike the ABA YLD’s affiliate structure, NAPABA has a diverse membership, which encompasses a unique roster of state and local representative organizations. From the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers and the Korean American Bar Association of San Diego to the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay, NAPABA reaches a wide and important audience across the country.
NAPABA also has a vibrant and active Young Lawyer’s Committee (YLC), which consists of young lawyers under the age of thirty-five or who have been practicing law for less than five years. The YLC meets annually at the NAPABA Convention where the focus is on networking and education. The last NAPABA Convention was in Las Vegas, where ABA YLD Chair Justin Goldstein offered NAPABA the ABA’s continuing support and emphasized the need for cooperation between NAPABA and the ABA YLD.
Eileen Sullivan, NAPABA’s National Representative to the ABA YLD and co-chair of its YLC has been involved with NAPABA since 2001. In addition to her national bar involvement, she has been a member of Arizona’s delegation to the ABA YLD. After working as a government lawyer for several years, Sullivan moved to the private sector and currently practices criminal law in central Phoenix. Sullivan’s involvement with NAPABA has led her to meeting “great attorneys from all over the country.” She also emphasizes the importance of bringing back ideas from bar association conferences and annual meetings into the legal communities in which lawyers are a part. “Young lawyers are basically looking for the same things: relief from law school debts, career guidance and networking opportunities, in addition to the fun factor,” says Sullivan.
NAPABA is always looking for fresh and exciting programs that will motivate young attorneys to get involved in bar activities. For example, NAPABA has found its speed networking programs and award structure for the “Best Lawyers Under Forty” to be particularly useful and effective. “Best Lawyers” was created to recognize talented individuals in the APA legal community under forty who have achieved prominence and distinction in their fields of endeavor and have demonstrated a commitment to civic or community affairs. Speed Networking, which is face-to-face networking, is a quick and efficient way for young lawyers to make business contacts. NAPABA also has a Law Student Association, which focuses on recruiting APA attorneys into NAPABA at an early stage in their careers.
As the APA community in the United States continues to grow, NAPABA continues to advance the goals and aspirations of the APA community. Notably, on December 13, 2007, attorney Amul R. Thapar was confirmed as a district court judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Thapar, a former Judge of the Thomas Tang Moot Court competition at the 2007 NAPABA Convention, will be the first South Asian American Article III judge in the history of the United States and only the seventh Asian Pacific American Article III judge currently active. In addition, he will be only the second Asian Pacific American Article III judge outside of California and Hawaii. In addition, attorney James C. Ho was recently appointed as the next Solicitor General of Texas, which constitutes the highest appointment of an Asian Pacific American in Texas government to date. Ho, the current co-chair of NAPABA’s Judiciary Committee, was named a “Best Lawyer Under Forty” in 2006.
NAPABA is committed to working with the ABA YLD to promote and strengthen its new diversity initiatives by encouraging APA attorneys to become involved with the ABA. NAPABA’s YLC Community Service Project, the 2006 ABA Katrina Legal Clinic in conjunction with Boat People SOS, exemplifies such cooperation.