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NASABA Convention ‘Raises Bar’ Once Again

August 2006
NASABA Convention ‘Raises Bar’ Once Again

The North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA), representing the interests of over several thousand South Asian attorneys, hosted close to 400 attendees from 22 different states in the U.S., as well as attendees from Canada and India, who gathered at its third annual convention to celebrate the community's accomplishments, learn from each other and commit to doing more for the world in which they live and work. IndusBar of Georgia hosted the Convention at the InterContinental Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 16 and 17. Convention level sponsorship was provided by CompuCredit Corporation.

Attendees took the theme, "Networking to Influence, Influencing the Network," as a call to action, and engaged each other and a slate of nearly 70 distinguished panelists over a wide variety of topics at the two-day convention. Topics presented in panels, keynote addresses and receptions included several issues relevant to the South Asian legal community, such as diversity, business development, the USA Patriot Act, racial profiling and pro bono work.

The convention gave the South Asian-American legal community opportunities to develop their professional lives and to educate themselves on issues affecting them and their community.

"Feedback from each panel's attendees was very high on average as we worked hard to have areas that appealed to law students, attorneys, legal business executives, general counsels and judges," stated convention co-chair Sonjui Kumar.

The opening keynote was provided 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 areas of legal services.

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. In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which Prof. Katyal argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this past March, Hamdan is challenging the constitutionality of military tribunals established by the U.S. to try him. Prof. Katyal follows his own dictum that "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 leveraging 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, India, to share her insights on the current state and future of business in South Asia and the possibilities available to 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.

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 to Atlanta-based CompuCredit Corporation and Monica Desai, a Bureau Chief at the FCC.

The glamorous and accomplished Suchita Vadlamani, co-anchor of Fox 5 Morning News and the Co-host of "Good Day Atlanta" brought her own style and grace to the final awards banquet on Saturday evening. Awards given out at a dinner attended by nearly 400 were - Excellence in Public Interest to Sakhi for South Asian Women (Purvi Shah), Outstanding Community Service by a Corporation to Cognizant Technology Solutions (Rajiv Narula), Outstanding Community Service by a Law Firm to Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, LLP (Ashish Prasad), Access to Justice Award to Shaarik Zafar, Senior Policy Adviser in the Office of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, and Outstanding Advocacy to Professor Neal Katyal.

NASABA's 2005-2006 President, Sabita Singh, summed up the purpose of the awards, which is "to acknowledge people and organizations making an impact on the South Asian legal landscape".

"The NASABA community is strengthened with every year that passes," mused NASABA Board of Directors member Kirtan Patel. NASABA started with 12 chapters in fall 2003. Less than three years later, it has 23 chapters.

Source: North American South Asian Bar Association

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