LOS ANGELES (Feb. 11, 2013) — The Asian Pacific American (“APA”) legal community held a reception last Wednesday evening, February 6, 2013, to celebrate the appointments of five new APA law professors to local law schools.
Despite a rising number of APA law students, Asian Americans have been significantly underrepresented amongst law school faculty throughout the country. This past year, however, five Southern California law schools made great strides in diversifying their faculty with the appointments of Professor Stewart Chang (Whittier Law School), Professor Priya Gupta (Southwestern Law School), Professor Alex Lee (USC Gould School of Law), Professor Jason Oh (UCLA School of Law), and Professor David Min (UCI School of Law).
The reception, which was jointly-sponsored by multiple APA Bar Associations, was attended by approximately 140 law students, attorneys, and APA law professors, including Professor Chang, Professor Gupta, Professor Lee, Professor Oh, Professor Gowri Ramachandran (Southwestern Law School), Professor Danielle Hart (Southwestern Law School), Professor Jerry Kang (UCLA School of Law), and Professor Sung Hui Kim (UCLA School of Law).
Professor Lee was a key appointment this year for USC’s law school. Although USC Law has had several APA adjunct professors throughout the years, Professor Lee was the first APA law professor on the tenure track for nearly a decade. Dean Robert Rasmussen (USC Gould School of Law) attended the reception in support of newly-appointed Professor Lee. “It’s great to have Professor Lee as a member of the faculty; he is one of the most promising law professors in the country,” stated Dean Rasmussen. He continued, “Security Regulations Law was one of our needs, but we were just trying to hire the best. We were thrilled when Professor Lee accepted the position.”
Recent USC Law alumni, Jane Tanimura and Annette Wong, spoke to those in attendance about the student effort to bring an APA law professor to USC Law.
“USC has such a diverse student body, with APA law students comprising 16% of the student body, but we had no APA law professor for 10 years,” explained Ms. Tanimura.
Their student efforts included raising the issue at the Town Hall meetings with Dean Rasmussen, talking to faculty about the appointment process, hosting an Asian Americans in the Law Speaker Series, taping up posters regarding faculty diversity statistics, and compiling a list of qualified APA law professors to recommend to the law school.
Ms. Tanimura, Ms. Wong, and fellow USC Law alumni Helen Tran jointly published a note regarding the student movement in the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, entitled Comment: The Case for an Asian American Law Professor: An Epistolary Among Three Asian American Student Activists at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law (21 S. Cal. Rev. L. & Social Justice 469) (Spring 2012).
Professor Lee stated “I am proud of the USC Student Body and feel incredibly privileged to be hired by USC Law. I can tell you that USC’s faculty members are very committed to diversity and I believe they would have hired an APA professor even without the student movement; however, I consider it all the more symbolic that my hiring coincided with the student movement.”
Professor Lee, together with his wife and daughter, took a leap of faith in deciding to move from Virginia to the West Coast. He saw entering legal academia as a calling, and when he learned that his appointment was preceded by a student movement, Professor Lee said he felt reaffirmed of his decision.
In his remarks, Professor Lee recognized his mentor while at Yale Law School, Professor Kenji Yoshino, and the importance of having role models and the encouragement from APA faculty members. Prior to his appointment, Professor Lee worked at the SEC as an economist and a lawyer on agency rulemaking, and served as a law clerk to Hon. Thomas B. Griffith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. His decision to go into teaching depended largely on recognizing the impact legal scholarship can have on improving society.
“I realized that being a law professor is not about adding value to legal scholarship as such, but rather it is about making sure that legal scholarship can add value to the society we live in,” stated Lee, who teaches Securities Regulation, Regulated Industries, and Administrative Law.
Professor Stewart Chang teaches Immigration Law at Whittier Law School. Prior to his appointment, Professor Chang practiced law for 10 years at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles, where he specialized in domestic violence, immigration, and family law.
Professor Priya Gupta is the newly-appointed professor at Southwestern Law School. Professor Gupta previously taught at Jindal Global Law School in Sonipat, India. Professor Gupta teaches Property and Law & Development.
Professor Jason Oh is a professor of Tax Law at UCLA School of Law. Prior to joining UCLA, Professor Oh served as an Acting Assistant Professor of Tax Law at NYU School of Law.
Professor David Min is the newly-appointed professor at UCI School of Law, where he teaches Banking Law and Policy. Professor Min is a nationally recognized expert on financial markets regulation.
Professor Jerry Kang, who has taught at the UCLA School of Law since 1995, spoke to the attendees about the importance of diversity in the legal profession.
“Life is not a tournament of merit. The real world is not the same as a blindly graded bluebook exam,” Kang said. “People are affected by factors like appearance, connections and money.”
Professor Kang opined that having an APA professor is important whether to serve as a role model to a minority student or to provide a “de-biasing” effect. APA students will look to these persons of color and will decide to be professors or build a book of business or be a judge. “Diversity changes what you do,” concluded Professor Kang.
The reception was co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County, Korean American Bar Association, Japanese American Bar Association, Philippine American Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association, and Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association.