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Big Law, Law Departments Team Up Against Anti-Asian Hate (1)

April 15, 2021, 4:54 PM; Updated: April 15, 2021, 7:34 PM

A group of some 40 law firms, including Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and White & Case, and a group of large company law departments, are launching a national pro bono initiative to aid victims and help prevent acts of anti-Asian hate.

The Alliance for Asian American Justice will coordinate and deploy law firm pro bono resources to help victims obtain legal remedies such as filing a lawsuit for compensatory or other civil remedies.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a sharp uptick in incidents of violence against Asian-Americans in the U.S., including assaults and killings. According to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit that tracks such incidents, there were nearly 3,800 recorded between March 2020 and last month, a 150% increase over the previous year.

On March 16, six Asian women were murdered in a shooting spree in Atlanta, bringing increased attention to such violent acts.

The newly-formed Alliance aims to help victims overcome legal system access and other barriers that often have hindered them from obtaining legal assistance when they have been subject to hate crimes.

The new effort will be co-chaired by Gibson Dunn partner Debra Wong Yang and White & Case partner Tai Park.

“The backdrop is that Asian-Americans, especially the elderly, first-generation, or immigrants won’t speak out, and they become an easy target,” said Park. “Now we will have a coalition so those not able to speak English or navigate the system will have a major avenue to access justice.”

“As such events happen,” Yang added, “there will be top lawyers to look and see whether there are civil remedies so perpetrators will think twice before doing such things, and the victims will be encouraged to step forward.”

Yang, who, like Park, is a former federal prosecutor, said there are already 10 to 12 cases in the Alliance pipeline, ranging from people who have been physically or verbally attacked, to people whose neighbors are trying to force them out of their home because they are Asian.

She said other law firms which have signed on include Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Latham & Watkins, DLA Piper, Kirkland & Ellis, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

Several Big Law firms have issued statements supporting the Asian-American community in recent weeks.

But the newly launched alliance is a more concrete step to dealing with the growing problem, and notably includes in-house counsel like Don H. Liu, founding advisory board member of the alliance, and executive vice president and chief legal & risk officer of Target Corp.

The alliance will “allow the hundreds of prominent and accomplished lawyers of Asian descent in law firms and corporations (many of whom are former federal and state prosecutors) to leverage their expertise to advocate for and ensure justice on behalf of victims,” Liu said in a statement.

Initial case intake will be done by The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), and frontline legal and community organizations, before being referred to the Alliance.

In addition to Liu, Yang, and Park, the Alliance’s board of directors includes Wilson Chu, partner at McDermott Will & Emery, and Brian A. Sun, partner at Norton Rose Fulbright.

(Adds information from interview with Park and Yang in paragraphs seven through 10)

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com

To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com
Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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