On September 24, 2009, the Korean American Bar Association of Chicago (“KABA”) hosted its Annual Banquet at the James Hotel, featuring keynote speaker Honorable Howard Lee Halm of the Los Angeles Superior Court, with Jonathan Choe from the Chicago Tribune’s CLTV Network as Master of Ceremonies. “It was a milestone event for the Korean American community and the legal community at large,” said KABA President, Hellin Jang. “We anticipate another exciting year of service promoting KABA’s values of civic-mindedness, professional development and community activism.”
KABA has undergone tremendous growth and change since it first began in 1993, comprised of a visionary group of attorneys who held the association’s inaugural meeting at a north-side Korean restaurant. Initially founded to enable its members to pursue cultural solidarity and to collaborate on common goals for the Korean-American community, in the last 17 years KABA has expanded its mission to include service to the greater Chicago community, bridging the gap with other diverse communities, provision of legal recruitment tips and training for law students, and offering continuing legal education events for attorneys.
KABA’s membership is comprised of partners in large firms, prominent in-house counsel, government attorneys and young lawyers. Accordingly, its members can access abundant resources for professional and personal development. As the majority of KABA’s membership include second-generation or “1.5”-generation Korean Americans, many of the members also share common cultural experiences. “We are close enough to our parents’ generation to understand our culture and values; at the same time we are integrated into contemporary American society and feel comfortable speaking in any environment,” according to Michael H. Cho, the Global Head of Anti-Money Laundering Compliance at Northern Trust Company and a KABA Advisory Board member.
Indeed, a description of KABA would be incomplete without a short explanation of the Korean American culture which Mr. Cho mentions. With Korean culture rooted in Confucianism, common values within Korean American culture include self-creation, filial piety, relationships, moral virtue and benevolence. This cultural ethos acts as both a catalyst for and beneficiary of the creativity and broad-based civic involvement which KABA seeks to foster. “The days of networking exclusively within one industry are over. There are many mutually beneficial partnerships that can be built across diverse professions: medicine, law, politics, community service, real estate, financial services -- all are fields that at some level can share common interests,” according to Mr. Cho.
In just the past year, KABA has reached across industry boundaries to facilitate service to the bar and the community within and outside Chicago. For example, KABA provides a pro bono legal clinic in conjunction with Korean American Community Services, and works alongside other organizations including Korean American Women in Need, the Asian American Bar Association, and the Chicago Committee on Minorities in Large Law Firms. In addition, members of KABA have addressed patent, bankruptcy and commercial law topics at the Korean Scientists and Engineers Conference in February 2009 in Oakbrook Terrace and also at the Association of Korean-American Professionals in the Automotive Industry’s 30th Anniversary Business and Technology Conference during the 2009 North American Auto Show in Detroit. KABA also hosts a multitude of social networking activities for its own members throughout the year. These opportunities allow KABA members to develop, refine and achieve their professional and personal goals as attorneys.
Important principles which underlie these goals were emphasized during the Annual Banquet. Honorable Judge Halm delivered a keynote address focusing on the five “Cs” that comprise the motto of the Los Angeles Superior Court: civility, candor, compassion, competence and courage, and their application to the practice of law. These points resonated with KABA and honored guests, including Kihong Jung, Consul of the Republic of Korea in Chicago, and the Honorable Young B. Kim, United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of Illinois, who is the first Asian American federal judge in Illinois and a KABA Advisory Board member. During the evening, KABA presented scholarship awards sponsored by Mayer Brown LLP to Laurie Monahan, of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and Grace Pyun, of the DePaul University College of Law. The Banquet also featured a silent auction and raffle prizes. Following a spectacular dinner catered by the chefs of the David Burke’s Primehouse, the evening drew to a close. Overall, the KABA Annual Banquet was a perfect occasion to celebrate KABA’s achievements in 2009 and to re-focus KABA’s pursuit of shared goals of diverse bar associations throughout the state of Illinois.
In 2010, KABA is well-positioned to act upon the five Cs of success on an international scale. Chicago was recently entrusted with the honor of hosting the 2010 International Association of Korean Lawyers (“IAKL”) conference, which is held every other year outside of Korea. Chicago Host Committee Co-chairs Sang-yul Lee, Shareholder at Polsinelli Shughart PC, and Bill Yu, Partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, led a group of partners from Baker & McKenzie LLP, Mayer Brown LLP, Winston & Strawn LLP, Neal Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, and Johnson Westra Broecker Whittaker & Newitt PC to Seoul last fall to successfully compete for the 2010 conference bid. Accordingly, KABA members are now collaborating with IAKL leadership to facilitate this tremendous logistical and professional endeavor. This September 2010, KABA will host over 300 lawyers of Korean heritage from six continents for the IAKL conference in Chicago. ■