On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the Georgetown University Law Center branch of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association hosted “Trailblazers: Charting Your Own Paths.” The event consisted of a panel of prominent Asian professionals working in the legal and policy-making fields, followed by a networking dinner event.
The panel featured four professionals who pursued a variety of career paths after completing law school and was moderated by Jeff Liu, the current president of APALSA. The panelists spoke about how their culture and identity as Asian-Americans impacted their decision to enter the legal field and their career decisions within it.
The keynote address was delivered by Harold Hongju Koh, a Sterling Professor of International Law at Yale Law School and one of the foremost authorities of public and private international law, national security law, and human rights. He worked as the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor between 1998-2001 and the Dean of Yale Law School between 2004-2009.
Koh gave a short keynote speech filled with stories about his childhood, immigration to the United States from Korea, and how and why he began his legal career, often eliciting laughs from the audience.
Along with Koh, there were three other panelists. Karen K. Narasaki, the head of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), one of the most prominent civil rights advocacy organization in the country. She was vice-chairwoman of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and chair of the Rights Working Group, an organization dedicated to arresting the erosion of liberties since the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Representing an alternative career choice was David Lat, founder and current managing editor of Above the Law. During his portion of the panel, Lat claims that he was unsure of what his end goal was when he began law school and after graduation, followed the traditional path of working at a large firm. He started a blog called underneaththeirrobes.blogs.com, as a humorous blog dedicated to the lives of federal judges outside the courtroom. He discovered a love of writing and blogging through this and left the firm to start blogging fulltime.
Besides answering broader questions about career choices and advice for current law students, more specific questions about the status of the legal market were directed at Lat, who responded with a positive note and reassured the students in the room that legal hiring was improving.
Judge Maribeth Raffinan, an Associate Judge for the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, who was nominated by President Barack Obama on July 28, 2010, was also present. Previously, she worked as a staff attorney for the Public Defenders Service for the District of Columbia for 11 years before her confirmation as judge.
The evening ended with a dinner where about a dozen practitioners working in the D.C. area were invited to share a meal and engage in conversation with current students. “It was great to hear from Asian American leaders in the field of law. I think it’s important to share in success and struggles, “ said Hannah Kim, 1L, who attended the event. “It was a great event, and I hope to attend more like it in the future.”
With contributions by Jeff Liu, 2L