We sat down with CABA President Jeff Koh for a series of questions about our organization. Below is Part 1 of our series, Q&A with CABA President.
Tell us about CABA’s legal, educational, leadership, and professional development programs and events. What are some of the programs’ objectives, strategies, tactics, and results?
Internally, serving on CABA’s board presents a great educational, leadership and professional development opportunity for APA lawyers to gain experience and connections within the legal, APA, Chinese, Chinatown and Little Saigon communities.
This year, as part of our organizational revamp, we brought in 7 new board members, and instituted a new advisory board of 8 members. Between our current general and advisory boards, we have 26 individuals hailing from various big, mid-sized, and small law firms, government agencies, non-profits and academia.
This year we had our first board leadership retreat, and are seeking to put on further internal board development events. We are constantly spotting talent and contributors from APA communities to include them in CABA’s membership and leadership, and to build out CABA’s organizational pipeline for the future.
Externally, we believe that every CABA event presents a legal, educational and professional development opportunity, and for “cool people to get to know each other in order to do cool things together.”
Other than our general networking events, we co-host several, big targeted professional development events with other APA organizations in the city every year. These include the Minority Law Student Forum (where different APA lawyer organizations come together to coach law students with their resumes and interviewing), and the Minority Bar CLE (where we put together panels on CLEs together with minority bar organizations at a two-full-day event).
What networking functions does CABA participate in or put on itself?
CABA puts together the following networking events on its own: our big-ticket signature events, including our annual installation gala, our end-of-year holiday party, our lunar new year party, our standing monthly happy hour, and monthly volunteering whereby CABA board directors and members provide pro bono legal services to the community at the Chinatown pro bono legal clinic on a monthly basis. There are also other one-off events as they arise.
Tell us about the relationships you have with Asian Pacific American professional organizations in Chicago.
We co-host and cross-advertise with the other 4 NAPABA affiliates in Chicago, and partner with business (Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Hong Kong Business Association of the Midwest etc.), community (Asian American Bar Foundation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Chinese American Service League, Chinese Mutual Aid Association, etc.), and cultural organizations (Chinese-American Museum, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, various theaters, etc.) in the city.
CABA Board members serve on their Boards and vice-versa, and we subscribe to each other’s mailings. In particular, one of the tenets of CABA’s platform for our 30th bar year is to “bring the Loop (Chicago-downtown) to Cermak (Chicago-Chinatown)”, and given the unique geographic nexuses of Chinatown and Little Saigon, we have sought to expand our partnerships with APA organizations in Chicago.
Tell us about how CABA interacts with local APA law student and/or college groups. Any mentoring activities? Joint programming?
This year, with the help of the presidents and social chairs of all 9 Chicago-area law schools (Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola, Depaul, Chicago-Kent, John Marshall, Notre Dame, Illinois, Indiana), we paired 60+ law students from all 9 law schools with CABA members in mentor-mentee pairs and host ongoing events for them to gather. They are subscribed to our organizational mailing list. We have also launched a CABA student board.
We see the mentor-mentee pairings and student board as a good pipeline for new CABA members and a good way to get law students involved early and often in APA bar organizations and build professional connections.