“Raising the Bar”–The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers 6th Annual Conference 2012

On Saturday November 10, 2012, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers held the 6th Annual Conference and banquet in Toronto.

Networking Event “Networking: Too Much Net, Too Little working” featuring Kathy Conway, Advisor for Talent Development at McCarthy Tétrault.

The keynote speaker is Don Liu, who is the General Counsel and Vice President of Xerox, Inc. He was born in Seoul, Korea, immigrated to the U.S. in 1972, received his B.A. from Harverford College and J.D. from Columbia University School of Law. Mr. Liu titled his speech as “Confessional Ode of A Pussycat Father” in comparison to the image of “Tiger Mother” presented by Amy Chua, who is a Yale Law School professor. Mr. Liu raised the question whether Asian parents in North America fail to get kids to learn the people skills necessary to succeed.

Mr. Don Liu, General Counsel and Vice President of Xerox Inc., and the keynote speak for the conference

The Honourable Justice Harry Laforme posed a question to Mr. Liu about how do lawyers from minority communities make their voice heard by those in power.

Among the top 200 law firms in the U.S., only one of six Asians make partner compare to one out of four for non-minorities, one out of five for Blacks and one out of three for Hispanics. Ten years later, while the rate stays the same for other groups, only one of eight Asians make partner.  The situation is equally disappointing for Asians outside the legal profession in the U.S.

“The practice of law is an issue of reputation.–Don Liu”

Based on empirical data, the educational background of CEOs of Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 companies shows no correlation between getting into the Ivy Leagues and reaching the top of the corporate world. Mr. Liu rallied the audience to cultivate their people and leadership skills through opportunities such as networking, public speaking and mentoring.

The lunch is a buffet, “Taste of Little India”, catered by Oliver & Bonacini.

The afternoon conference held three panels for each hour ranging from history of the Asian Canadian legal profession to Disclosure issue related to Facebook IPO. One of the panels, “Breaking the Barriers: Pioneering Asian-Canadian in Law”, discussed the history and future of Asian Canadian lawyers since the early 1900s. Allison Kirk-Montgomery from the Law Society of Upper Canada spoke about her project, “Diversifying the Bar: Lawyers Make History”. The project is composed of 300 biographies and interviews recognizing “path-breakers” from more than 40 communities.

From Left to Right: Jason Tam (Moderator), Gary Yee (Chair, License Appeal Tribunal), Honourable Madam Justice Maryka Omatsu, and Allison Kirk-Montgomery (Law Society of Upper Canada)

As the first Asian woman appointed to the bench, the Honourable Madam Justice Maryka Omatsu discussed the history of Asian Canadians in the legal profession from the perspective of changes in the legislation and judiciary. Justice Omatsu graduated from Osgoode Hall law school and practised law in Toronto for 16 years before her appointment to the bench. She now retired after over 19 years on the bench but remains active in the community.

Gary Yee addressed the barriers of Asian Canadian Lawyers from a personal angle. The last names, the racial stereotypes and the accents all represent the difficulties that Asians face in the Canadian legal market. For example, in 2011, the Global & Mail publishes a study, which finds that resumes with English last names receive 30-40% higher calls for interviews than the same resumes with minority last names. Mr. Yee says, “The nature quest of belonging is the psyche of immigrants”. Comparing his experience in law and in advocacy, Mr. Yee suggested that law could provide tools to overcome the barriers.

For full program of the conference, please access the link here: FACL-TIMETABLE-for-registration-2012-conference-Nov-10-2012

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