We sat down with Dallas Asian American Bar Association (DAABA) 2018 President Shruti Krishnan to discuss the association, the organization’s mission, as well as her goals as a leader.
AALM: Is there an interesting story behind the founding of your association?
Krishnan: The Dallas Asian American Bar Association (DAABA) was founded in 1988 by 15 attorneys who wanted to foster a sense of camaraderie amongst Asian and Pacific American (APA) attorneys in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and advocate for the interests of APA attorneys. DAABA works closely with the Asian Pacific Interest Section (APIS) of the State Bar of Texas, and is the local chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). DAABA is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year as one of the fastest-growing and most dynamic legal associations in Texas. It now boasts almost 400 members.
AALM: What is the association’s main focus this year?
Krishnan: DAABA’s focus this year has been on professional development and advancement of our members in the legal profession. We started this year with an In-House Counsel/Partners Dinner, where APA attorneys at firms who were partners or senior associates invited their in-house counsel contacts or clients to a dinner for cross-networking opportunities. An executive recruiter was present to discuss opportunities for advancement for the in-house counsels in attendance.
We also hosted a panel titled “Strategies from Recruiters for Navigating the Legal Profession” comprised of three different recruiters: one who recruits for in-house legal departments, one who is responsible for lateral placement, and one who places attorneys and paralegals in document review and substantive contract roles. This program provided key insights to our members on how to increase their marketability depending on the type of opportunity they are looking for and how to work with recruiters.
Finally, we recently piloted our official Prospective Partners Program, a local spin-off a program implemented by NAPABA. The purpose of this program is to increase the number of APA partners at major law firms through introduction, mentorship, and relationship building. Senior associates or of counsel from major law firms who are “on-deck” for partnership are introduced to a panel of senior in-house counsel and are given the opportunity to introduce themselves and their practices during a pitch session. Prior to the pitch session, the prospective partners are matched up with partner mentors from different law firms who provide feedback on their presentations. After the pitch session, the prospective partners, in-house counsel panelists, and partner mentors are invited to a reception to continue building professional relationships in an informal social setting.
AALM: How would you encourage a young lawyer to become involved in their legal community?
Krishnan: When I graduated from law school, I did not have any connections to the Dallas legal community aside from my classmates. Through joining DAABA I have met so many people, some of whom have become good friends and mentors I can turn to while navigating my career. I would encourage young lawyers to take advantage of the opportunity to become involved in a bar association because it allows them to meet other like-minded individuals and develop instrumental relationships with senior members and leaders of the legal community. Not only will they make connections that could help them with their career in the future, but the friendships they form and the contributions they make to the community at large would be invaluable.
AALM: Does the association offer any mentorship opportunities?
Krishnan: DAABA has a mentorship program for law students from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, UNT Dallas College of Law, and Texas A&M University School of Law. Law students are matched with DAABA members who are practicing attorneys and the mentors and mentees are encouraged to communicate with each other on a regular basis and are given suggested discussion points. The mentorship program hosts regular happy hours to provide an opportunity for all participants to network with each other and meet other DAABA members.
AALM: Do you partner with any other associations in the local community?
Krishnan: We have relationships with several organizations in the D/ FW area, including the Organization of Chinese Americans DFW Chapter (OCA-DFW), the Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce (GDAACC), the DFW Asian-American Citizens Council (DFW-AACC), and the Marco Polo World Foundation. DAABA sponsors OCA-DFW’s annual Lunar New Year banquet and DFW-AACC’s Annual Banquet, and those organizations are reciprocal sponsors of DAABA’s annual Awards Night. DAABA and GDAACC have jointly held a Summer Rooftop Mixer for several years to encourage our members to network with and refer business to each other. Finally, DAABA participates every year in the Dragon boat races in the Marco Polo World Foundation’s Annual DFW Dragon Boat, Kite and Lantern Festival. DAABA’s team, the Legal Lions, even came in second place in 2017! In addition to these organizations, DAABA has collaborated with the Dallas Bar Association and the other sister bar organizations for sister bar social events, community service events, and back to school socials for law students.
AALM: If someone wanted to move into a leadership role, what is your first word of advice?
Krishnan: I would encourage them to become active in the organization if they were not already. We have several different committees that members can join, and members are also offered an opportunity to chair those committees. I’d suggest that in their role on a committee or chairing it, members prove themselves and meet or exceed the board’s expectations for that committee. There is no better way to move into a leadership role and seek sponsors than to prove that you can set a goal and achieve it.
AALM: Are there any changes in the legal community that the association is involved with?
Krishnan: DAABA would like to see increased numbers of Asian and Pacific Americans in all areas of the law, including at law firms, in-house legal departments, and the judiciary. DAABA is trying to increase the number and advancement of APA attorneys within in-house legal departments through its In-House Counsel/ Partners Dinner initiative, and is working toward increased diversity at law firms and more specifically, an increase in the number of APA partners at major law firms through its Prospective Partners Program, as I described previously.
Finally, this year was historic for DAABA as two of our long-standing prominent members were confirmed to the federal bench as Article III judges this year – The Honorable Karen Gren Scholer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and The Honorable James C. Ho of the Unites States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. DAABA wrote letters of support for their nominations and subsequently supported them once they were confirmed. Their significant achievements have shined a spotlight on DAABA and put us on the national stage.