May marks the month-long celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. As a nation, we take this time to recognize the achievements of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the United States. At Sidley, we are also proud to honor the extraordinary efforts of our own Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders who have positively shaped the firm, the legal profession and the communities in which we live and work. These partners represent the very best of Sidley’s culture and its commitment to diversity and inclusion. We invite you to learn more about their stories below.
Eileen Liu On the Importance of Representation and Building a Support Network
“Diversity and inclusion needs to be integrated into the law firm structure. Since almost 50% of our associates are women and about one-third of them are diverse, the committee that evaluates them should be appropriately representative.”
You are a role model for many at the firm. Do you think your professional experience has been different as an Asian American woman lawyer?
One of the obstacles to the success of any diverse lawyer, not just Asian Americans, is the lack of role models that are “like you.” For Asian Americans, this can be further complicated by the diversity within the category we refer to as ‘Asian American Pacific Islander,’ which encompasses a lot of different cultures, traditions and heritages. My own professional experience was shaped from having to piece together a role model using the traits I admired most in the people around me, none of whom looked like me.
Ayaz Shaikh On His Mission as a First-Generation Immigrant and the AALDEF
“As a first-generation immigrant, I have made confronting cultural ignorance, false stereotypes and outright racism an ongoing mission during my entire tenure with AALDEF.”
Can you tell us a little about the legal work undertaken by the AALDEF? I understand it was the first nonprofit on the East Coast to engage specifically in defending the civil rights of Asian Americans.
AALDEF was formed in 1974 by a group of lawyers and activists who wanted to bring the spirit of the civil rights movement to address issues confronting the Asian American community, locally in New York City and nationally. AALDEF’s founders had faith in the rule of law and a belief in the critical role of lawyers in shaping society.
In its 46-year history, the organization has successfully defended and advanced the rights and interests of Asian Americans across the nation through its core tools: litigation, advocacy, education and community organization. We’ve litigated causes from precedent-setting actions to smaller suits for individual immigrants, workers and political asylum seekers, as well as submitted amicus briefs for Supreme Court cases. AALDEF has also organized campaigns to address hate crimes and racially motivated violence, defended South Asian and Arab Muslim-Americans victimized by unlawful profiling or hate groups in the aftermath of 9/11 and held community clinics on topics such as immigration, voting and housing rights.
Read Ayaz’s complete profile here.
Jack Yeh Discusses Advancing Justice-LA & the Significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
“I view mentoring as a core responsibility of every single lawyer, particularly Asian lawyers. We stand on the shoulders of so many others and it is our obligation to make sure others can stand on ours.”
How has Advancing Justice-LA responded to the wave of negative acts against Asian American’s in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
As many have seen in recent news coverage, Asian Americans are facing a wave of xenophobic harassment and discrimination related to the COVID-19 pandemic. At Advancing Justice-LA, we have responded to the crisis with targeted initiatives and projects.
For example, to fight anti-discrimination against Asian Americans based on the misconception that COVID-19 is a “Chinese virus,” we have participated and facilitated dozens of virtual town halls throughout Southern California. These programs build upon what Advancing Justice has been doing on a national level, including the documentation of hate crimes and hate incidents since 2017 and partnering with other non-profits to launch anti-harassment campaigns such as hosting free online Bystander Intervention training courses.
Read Jack’s complete profile here.