IndyBar: Small But Mighty (and Growing): 2021 Spotlight on Indiana’s Asian Legal Community

Haroon Anwar

Haroon Anwar, President of APABA-IN

Have you heard of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Indiana? We’re an affinity bar association that’s striving to become a household name, but it can only happen with your help! So what is APABA-IN’s purpose? Our mission is to promote, foster, and build relationships among Asian Pacific American (APA) law students, lawyers and judges in the state of Indiana, to promote the advancement of APAs in the legal profession and to assist in voicing the concerns of the growing APA community in Indiana.

APABA-IN is an affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), which is a national affinity bar association and the voice for 50,000 APA attorneys, judges, law professors and law students and represents the interests of nearly 90 national, state and local APA bar associations. APABA-IN was formed in 2014 with only 10 members at the time, the minimum number required to form a NAPABA affiliate. Since then, APABA-IN has grown and continues to grow, and we now engage with nearly 100 APA lawyers across Indiana.

Broadly defined, an APA is a person with origins or a connection to any part of Asia, including East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, or the Pacific Islands. However, APABA-IN is an all-inclusive organization, and we welcome APA and non-APA legal professionals alike to become members and attend our events. Minorities and Asian Pacific American practitioners in law represent a small percentage of the Indiana Bar, and increasing diversity in the practice is a challenge that APABA-IN is dedicated to addressing. (Fun fact: APAs comprise about 1.8 percent of the population in Indiana and are the fastest growing minority group in the legal profession nationwide).

Even though the pandemic limited our ability to hold in-person events this past year, we have continued to find ways to engage with APA lawyers and the larger Indiana legal community. In February 2021, we held our annual Lunar New Year CLE to celebrate the Chinese New Year and did so for the first time virtually! This year’s 2021 “Year of the Ox” CLE included panel discussions on important topics such as recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on the use of race in college admissions decisions and legal developments under the Biden Administration.

Likewise, APABA-IN is a sponsor and supporter of the Indiana State Bar Association’s Open Conversation CLEs – monthly programming which is aimed at bringing candid dialogue about race and culture in the legal landscape. The ISBA’s May 2021 Open Conversation CLE celebrated APA Heritage Month and included as panelists two APABA-IN members that are accomplished APA lawyers in Indianapolis. The ISBA’s Open Conversations CLEs have been excellent and are worthwhile discussions that all Indiana lawyers should consider attending. Thank you to Justice David, Angka Hinshaw and the entire ISBA for their leadership in facilitating such important discussions.

APABA-IN is also working to engage with our other great bar associations in Indiana. We now have representation on the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Board of Directors (thank you IndyBar!), and have used the opportunity to collaborate with IndyBar in multiple ways. In May, IndyBar and APABA-IN worked together to spotlight and celebrate the accomplishments of local APA lawyers in honor of APA Heritage Month. At the gracious invitation of IndyBar, we also participated in IndyBar’s annual Bench Bar Conference by having our leadership attend and holding an APABA-IN meetup at the conference! IndyBar’s Bench Bar Conference was fantastic and is an event that all Indianapolis lawyers should consider attending annually. Thank you to IndyBar for engaging with and including APABA-IN in the many great things that you’re doing.

APABA-IN further remains committed to promoting the professional development and advancement of APA law students, lawyers, and legal professionals in Indiana. That includes doing our part to engage with our state’s leaders on the importance of diversity, particularly in the judiciary and justice system. We will continue to work to identify and support all qualified minority candidates for the bench to ensure our judiciary reflects the richness and diversity of our great state.

We look forward to holding in-person events again soon, so be on the lookout Notably, Indianapolis has been selected to host the 2023 NAPABA National Convention. Because well over 1,000 attendees attend the National Convention, only a limited number of cities have venues that can accommodate a conference of this size. We are honored and cannot wait to show the national APA legal community all that Indianapolis has to offer.

We would love for you to get involved with APABA-IN or simply check out one of our events. For more information and to become a member, please visit APABA-IN’s website at apaba-in.org/. THANK YOU!•

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