NASABA Convention ‘Raises Bar’ Once Again and Appeals to International Audience as Close to 400 Attorneys from U.S., Canada and India Converge on Atlanta.
Organization grows from 12 to 23 chapters as presence and power of South Asian attorneys grows across North America and beyond
(ATLANTA-GEORGIA) The North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA), representing the interests of several thousand South Asian attorneys, hosted close to 400 attendees from 22 states, as well as Canada and India, at its third annual convention. They celebrated the community’s accomplishments, learned from each other and committed to doing more for the world in which they live and work. IndusBar of Georgia hosted the convention at the InterContinental Hotel here June 16 and 17, with support from the CompuCredit Corporation.
Attendees took the theme, “Networking to Influence, Influencing the Network,” as a call to action, and engaged each other and nearly 70 distinguished panelists on a wide variety of topics at the two-day convention. Topics presented in panels, keynote addresses and receptions included such issues as diversity, business development, the USA Patriot Act, racial profiling and pro bono work. The convention gave the South Asian-American legal community opportunities for professional development and to learn issues that affect them and their community.
“Feedback from each panel’s attendees was very positive because we worked hard to have subjects that appealed to law students, attorneys, legal business executives, general counsels and judges,” stated Convention Co-Chair Sonjui Kumar.
Underscoring the influence wielded by South Asian attorneys was keynote speaker Neal Katyal. The Georgetown University Law Center professor, who received NASABA’s Outstanding Advocacy Award, is lead counsel for detainees at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which Prof. Katyal argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in March, challenges the constitutionality of military tribunals established by the U.S. Prof. Katyal follows his own dictum, “Our duty as lawyers is to make the world a better place. Whatever your talents – corporate law, litigation, real estate, tax – all of you have talents you can deploy to better society,” by using his own expertise in constitutional law to advocate for a cause in which he believes strongly.
Showing South Asians’ impact in another way was luncheon keynote speaker Madhu Khatri, General Counsel of Wipro Technologies, the India-based information technology services giant. Ms. Khatri, whose company employs over 50,000, came from Bangalore to share her insights on the current state and future of business in South Asia and the possibilities for American lawyers of South Asian descent. Her challenge to the attendees was to remain in the forefront of these developments and to ensure the continued strength of South Asians throughout the world.
Both speakers exemplified one of the convention’s most notable, but unplanned features – youth. A vast majority of the attendees have been practicing for less than 20 years and a majority of them for less than 10 years. Not long ago, there was only a handful of South Asian attorneys in the United States and Canada. Today, that group is growing by leaps and bounds, with an increasing number of South Asians choosing law school every year.
The opening keynote was given by Judge Stanley Birch, of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, who is most well known for his decision in the Schiavo case. Judge Birch stressed the need for judicial independence. Other notable speakers included general counsels Teri McClure of UPS, Joaquin Carbonell of Cingular, and Javade Chaudhri of Sempra Energy, who spoke to a packed audience on the diversity practices of their companies, especially in the area of legal services.
Like Prof. Katyal and Ms. Khatri, other South Asian attorneys are clearly “influencing the network.” Hoping to extend that influence into the public arena is Shyam Reddy, a corporate lawyer at Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, who is a candidate for Georgia Secretary of State; Neera Walsh, an attorney in the Cook County, Illinois, State Attorneys office; Rohit Kirpalani, general counsel at Atlanta-based CompuCredit Corporation; and Monica Desai, a bureau chief at the Federal Communications Commission.
The glamorous and accomplished Suchita Vadlamani, co-anchor of Fox 5 Morning News and co-host of “Good Day Atlanta,” brought her own style and grace to the awards banquet on Saturday evening.
“The NASABA community is strengthened with every year that passes,” noted NASABA board member Kirtan Patel. Sponsorship of the event eclipsed 2005 figures, thanks to the support of companies like CompuCredit and many others.
NASABA started with 12 chapters in the fall of 2003. Less than three years later, it has 23 chapters. This enormous growth fuels the belief of Inderpreet Sawhney, NASABA Executive Committee member and Vice President of the 2007 convention, that next year’s convention in San Francisco will draw over 500. Already in the planning stages, the 2007 convention will be held in Union Square and will capitalize on the Bay Area’s activist roots as well as the entrepreneurial contributions of South Asians in that area. The theme of the 2007 NASABA Convention is “Bridging Borders.”
NASABA is currently accepting speaker and panel ideas for 2007. Interested speakers can e-mail email@example.com.
NASABA advocates for the South Asian community in North America; provides a networking forum for all South Asian attorneys; supports those who value diversity in the legal profession; helps law students and others interested in the law develop contacts with practitioners; provides information to members on careers and the legal market; and educates and disseminates information to the South Asian community about the law, legal access, and relevant legal issues. (www.na-saba.org)
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