Bank of America Women’s Leadership SeriesVIEW EVENT DETAILS
Asian American Women in Law
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Thursday, February 2, 2023
6 p.m. Network Reception (Hors d'oeuvres & Drinks)
7 p.m. Program
The number of Asian Americans in law school has quadrupled, now comprising nearly 7 percent of total enrollment — the largest increase of any racial or ethnic group.
While Asian Americans represent 12 percent of all associates, they remain significantly underrepresented in the leadership ranks of law firms, government, and academia, with Asian American women facing additional challenges. In 2019, the National Association of Women Lawyers reported that only 21 percent of equity partners were women, and, according to the 2020 National Association Law Placement Report on Diversity, only 4 percent of all partners were Asian American.
Join us as four distinguished Asian American women share their personal stories in the legal profession, explore shared identities and history, and discuss professional development and mentorship while highlighting the need to build community for this generation and the next.
About the Speakers
Theresa W. Chang is an attorney in Houston, and serves as special commissioner of the eminent domain administrative hearing. She previously served as Judge of Harris County Civil Court. Theresa has tried many bench and jury trials during her legal career. She served on the Commission for Lawyer Discipline of State Bar of Texas, as well as the Board of Directors of both the State Bar of Texas and the Asian American Bar Association.
Theresa obtained her Master of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the Texas A&M University System, and was a registered Professional Engineer, prior to earning her law degree from the South Texas College of Law. She was inducted to the Hall of Fame of the College of Engineering at Texas A&M Kingsville in 2019. Prior to being elected as the Judge of Harris County Civil Court, Theresa served as Associate Municipal Judge of City of Houston, Harris County District Clerk, and Division Chief of Harris County Attorney’s Office.
Currently, Theresa is a Commissioner on the Texas Commission on the Arts, Board Chair of the Chinese Community Center, a member of the Board of Directors of the South Texas College of Law Houston, and a member of the Board of Trustees of Houston Grand Opera. She has served leadership in roles for many organizations, including serving as President of Texas Executive Women and Asian Chamber of Commerce. She has served on the Board of the YMCA, American Leadership Forum, Strake Foundation, Houston Area Urban League and Texas Governor’s Commission for Women. Because of Theresa’s professionalism and contributions to the community, she has been honored as 2021 St. Jude Gold Women of Philanthropy, 2020 Women of Distinction by ABC Channel 13, the George Bush Award from the Asian Pacific American Heritage Association in 2016, Impact Award from the Asian American Bar Association in 2012, Distinguished Alumni from the Texas A&M Kingsville in 2011, 50 Most Influential Women in Houston by Women Magazine in 2010, and Women on the Move by Texas Executive Women in 2005.
The Honorable Yvonne Ho serves as a United States Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Texas, a position that she has held since March 2022. Before her appointment to the bench, Judge Ho was a partner at Bracewell LLP who practiced civil appellate law. Judge Ho enjoyed a prior career as a classical pianist, obtaining a Bachelor of Music degree in 1993 from Rice University and a Master of Music degree in 1995 from the University of Southern California. She later decided to attend the University of Houston Law Center and ultimately graduated in 2006, summa cum laude and as valedictorian of her class. After law school, she served as a law clerk for both the Honorable Ewing Werlein, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and for the Honorable Thomas M. Reavley of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Judge Ho serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Houston Law Alumni Association and is a past-member of the Boards of Directors for the Houston Bar Association, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, and the Houston Law Review. Her contributions to the legal community have led to numerous recognitions, including as a recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Service in 2019 from the Houston Bar Association and the Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2019 from the University of Houston Law Alumni Association. Most recently, Judge Ho was recognized by the Asian American Bar Association of Houston with the 2022 Impact Award.
Zahra Jivani Fenelon is an Assistant United States Attorney with the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Texas. Zahra has been a prosecutor for sixteen years and has tried approximately 70 cases. Zahra is currently in the Fraud Division and the Elder Fraud Coordinator. Zahra prosecutes a myriad of fraud cases, including cybercrime, wire fraud, healthcare fraud, and tax fraud. Zahra was previously in the Human Rights/ Organized Crime division where she prosecuted domestic and transnational sex trafficking of adults and minors and sexual exploitation of minors.
Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Zahra was an Assistant District Attorney with Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office. As an A.D.A, Zahra litigated murders, robberies and aggravated assaults, sexual assaults of children (obtaining the first conviction and life sentence under the newly enacted continuous sexual abuse of a child statute) and domestic violence. Zahra graduated cum laude from Houston Baptist University, double majoring in biology and psychology. She obtained her juris doctorate from South Texas College of Law, where she was the Vice Magistrate of the academic law fraternity Phi Delta Phi, and a member of Currents Law Review and co-published multiple articles.
Nishi Kothari is a partner at the Brasher Law Firm, and heads up the Houston office. She is the former president of the South Asian Bar Association (Houston chapter) and current the VP of Advocacy for the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA North America). SABA North America seeks to strengthen the rapidly growing South Asian legal community with a recognized and trusted forum for professional growth and development and promotes civil rights and access to justice for the South Asian community. SABA North America is considered to be the voice of the South Asian legal community in North America.
Nishi has consistently been recognized for her achievements in court. She has been consistently rated as a Super Lawyer, which selects the top 5% of attorneys in each state to the Super Lawyers list each year. In 2021, she was recognized as a Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyer, which selects the top 500 plaintiff consumer lawyers in the country. She also is a graduate of the Keenan Trial Institute. A native of Houston, Nishi and her husband enjoy finding new restaurants and cuisines in and around the greater Houston area.
About the Moderator
ABC’s award-winning journalist Melanie Lawson currently serves as co-anchor of Live at 5, and Channel 13's midday show, Eyewitness News at 11am. Melanie has covered virtually every city, state, and national election during her career. She has traveled to Cuba, Panama, and Africa, among other places. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including an Emmy for her coverage of President Clinton's visit to South Africa, the only local reporter in the nation to make that trip. Melanie has interviewed a wide range of notables, including three U.S. Presidents, Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, poet Maya Angelou, Grammy Award winners Destiny's Child, and former heavyweight champion boxer George Foreman, among many others. She received her undergraduate degree in Politics from Princeton University, and a joint degree in Law and Journalism from Columbia University. She is admitted to both the Texas and New York State Bars.
Asia Society hosts today's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect Asia Society views.
About the Women's Leadership Series
The Women's Leadership Series (WLS) celebrates influential, diverse women making a substantive impact in both the business and culture arenas, locally and globally.
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The Women's Leadership Series Steering committee is co-chaired by Theresa Chang and Niloufar Molavi. Members include Dr. Dina Alsowayel, Dr. Anne Chao, Kathy Goossen, Dr. Ellen Gritz, Richa Himani, Brigitte Kalai, Mandy Kao, Shirley Kwan, Sultana Mangalji, Vani Rao, Sue Sim, Y. Ping Sun, and Rita Touma.
Anne and Albert Chao
Nancy C. Allen
The Honorable Theresa W. Chang and Dr. Peter Chang
Kathy and Marty Goossen
Mandy and William Kao
Dr. Peter and Shirley Kwan
Sue and Randy Sim
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Sahana and Kishore Sundararajan
About Asia Society Texas
Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diverse perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating the vibrant diversity of Asia, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Spanning the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community — trusting in the power of art, dialogue, and ideas to combat bias and build a more inclusive society.
1370 Southmore Blvd.
Houston, Texas 77004