It is truly amazing to think that 42 years ago, minority bar associations were largely just an idea, rather than a reality, and Chinese-American lawyers were few and far between. Indeed, it was just 42 years ago that Governor Pat Brown appointed the Honorable Delbert Wong to the bench, making him the first Chinese-American judge in the continental United States.
Today, SCCLA is not only one of the oldest and largest minority bar associations in the country, but it is also one of at least a dozen minority bar associations in the Southern California area alone. There are now over 100 Asian-American judges and justices sitting on the bench in California courts, and three of the 20 federal district judges for the Central District of California are Chinese-American.
Clearly, the last 42 years have witnessed a tremendous amount of change in the legal profession. Nevertheless, SCCLA’s original mission – to advance the professional growth and interests of APA lawyers, to improve the access of the APA community to legal services, and to promote the interests of the APA community – still applies today.
This year, we honor four individuals who have been stalwart leaders in the APA community:
Judge Ruth Kwan has been a jurist for 22 years, mentoring countless students and young lawyers along the way, and is one of the founding members of the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (“CAUSE”), a nonpartisan APA organization dedicated solely to APA civic and political participation.
Phil Lam, a true trailblazer, not only founded the first governmental intellectual property law practice in North America, but somehow finds the time to counsel and guide numerous young students and lawyers every year, while also taking on leadership roles in SCCLA, the LGBT Bar of Los Angeles and, most recently, the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Janet Yang has made tremendous strides in bridging the divide between the United States and China, brokering the first sale of Hollywood movies to China after a lengthy hiatus, and running the first distribution company to market Chinese films in North America – all while also producing award-winning films such as The People v. Larry Flynt.
Bill Tan, a former SCCLA president, was instrumental in raising SCCLA’s profile at the organization’s inception; he was not only a member of what was then known as the Minority Bar Association, but he was also the first SCCLA member to be a LACBA trustee.
Please join me in congratulating these amazing individuals for their contributions to the legal profession and the APA community. As we enter this next chapter in SCCLA’s history, let us be inspired by the advances of the last 42 years, but let us not forget that there is always more work to be done.
Diana M. Kwok