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NASABA Announces 2012 Award Winners

June 22, 2012

San Francisco, June 22, 2012

NASABA Proudly announces its 2012 award winners. The following lawyers and entities have made outstanding contributions to the legal profession, the South Asian American community and Society At large.

 The awards will be presented at NASABA’s 9th annual convention in Philadelphia, June 28-30, 2012.



Neel Chatterjee


Neel Chatterjee a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.  Neel is a member of NASABA’s National Advisory Board and a Life Member of SABA-Northern California.  He co-chairs the firm’s Intellectual Property Group, leads Orrick’s Silicon Valley office, serves as the partner-in-charge of the office’s Pro Bono Committee and served as its Community Responsibility Committee and Diversity Committee partner-in-charge. Neel founded the Bay Area’s first ever Diversity Career Fair for second-year law students to encourage South Asian law students to join the legal profession and government.

Cornerstone award recipients are those individuals who best exemplify through their legal work the objectives of NASABA and local SABA chapters including: promoting the professional development of the South Asian legal community through networking, education advocacy and mentoring; ensuring the civil liberties of the South Asian community; serving the legal interests of the South Asian community and the community at large; encouraging greater participation by the South Asian community in the legal profession and the government.

 Neel concentrates his practice on complex litigation for technology companies. Neel is nationally recognized for his experience in patent litigation, Internet liability litigation, trade secrets litigation and technology transactions litigation. He has particular experience with Internet, software, computer networking and data storage technologies.

Harmeet Kaur Dhillon, Esq.

Harmeet Dhillon is a founding partner of Dhillon & Smith.  She is an experienced business trial lawyer, trusted boardroom advisor, and passionate advocate for individual, corporate and institutional clients across numerous industries and lifestyles. From an early interest in constitutional litigation, to a stint at the Department of Justice, to a decade of practice at prestigious international law firms, to founding Dhillon & Smith in 2006, Harmeet’s legal career has been marked by a passion for justice, a zeal for attacking legal challenges, and an intense sense of satisfaction in helping her clients realize creative and practical solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

Harmeet is a role model for participation by the community in the profession and government.  She is currently running for the California State Legislature and serves as Chairwoman of the Republican Party in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also served as NASABA’s Programming Committee Co-Chair for the 2011 NASABA Convention in Los Angeles. Harmeet continues to provide immediate and constant support for all that NASABA and SABANC do. Harmeet served as a Director for the SABA-NC from 2001-2004 and then as the Civil Rights Committee chair from 2007-2009.  She is also a Life Member of SABA-NC. 

Amar Shergill, Esq.



Amar Shergill is the founding partner of the Shergill Law Firm.  Amar is a trial attorney exclusively representing victims in injury and wrongful death cases. He was the founding President of SABA-Sacramento, a member of the Capitol Trial Lawyers Association and Consumer Attorneys of California. Amar led the efforts to protect the religious freedoms of all individuals by advocating for AB 1964 to permit reasonable accommodation in employment from discrimination.





The NASABA Law Firm Achievement Awards honors that law firm that has demonstrated undying commitment supporting the community and improving diversity in the legal market. Criteria to be considered for this Award include: the percentage of minority partnership and associates in the firm; the types of diversity programs and initiatives sponsored and/or implemented by the firm; the pro bono initiatives undertaken by the firm; legal work completed in South Asian countries and/or on a global basis; innovative initiatives related to client needs; a demonstrated commitment to the community intere

 st, including attention to legal ethics and corporate responsibility; and support of NASABA and/or any of the SABA chapters around the country.

Jones Day


Jones Day is a global institution that not only transcends national borders, but is unified by the commitment of their lawyers to the advancement of the rule of law and the universal principles of justice that underlie the law in all the jurisdictions in which it advise clients. Jones Day has offices in 18 countries. Its lawyers are citizens of 45 countries; they speak 61 languages. They have been trained in scores of law schools; they have served in the military, in government, in the judiciary, in academia, and in the corporate world. They truly reflect the entirety of the human face.

Jones Day also has a long history of and commitment to pro bono work, public service, and community involvement in all of its locations around the world.  While the legal issues advanced are varied, the Firm has made a particular effort to secure the rights of individuals to affordable and decent housing and to advance the rights of children with respect to education. It also provides critical services to nonprofit organizations worldwide that are committed to making a difference in areas such as economic development, women’s rights, health care, and the protection of children. In addition, the Firm has made a dedicated effort to advance the rule of law in countries around the world, most recently in Afghanistan. The Firm’s pro bono mission is simple – as its global reach extends further and deeper, it will look for new and creative ways to serve and improve all of the communities that have been instrumental in its success.


The NASABA Public Service Achievement Award honors that organization which has made an impact on the community through its public service efforts. It will be awarded to an organization which through its outstanding efforts has greatly benefited the legal field by: promoting awareness of contemporary legal issues and current laws; advocating changes in the law or public policy, i.e., writing amicus curiae briefs; lobbying politically and/or socially for the benefit of the legal profession or the legal community; encouraging attorneys to engage in pro bono programs by recruiting attorneys, providing training, matching attorneys with pro bono opportunities and/or organizing legal assistance clinics; providing seminars and/or lectures to educate the general public as to their legal rights; funding scholarships and or other financial assistance programs to increase diversity in the legal profession; raising funds to provide quality legal representation to underprivileged people; and campaigning for greater representation of all groups in the Judiciary or other elected or appointed legal positions.

International Justice Mission


IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression.  IJM was founded in 1997 by Gary Haugen, formerly a lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice and the United Nations Investigator in Charge in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.  Based in Washington, DC, IJM has 14 field offices around the world, including multiple offices in South Asia.

Through individual casework, IJM confronts aggressive human violence: violence that strips widows and orphans of their property and livelihoods, violence that steals dignity and health from children trafficked into forced prostitution, violence that denies freedom and security to families trapped in slavery. IJM has made significant progress in its fight against oppression and injustice and continues to build networks with aftercare and other social service and government providers to ensure long-term care of clients.  The organization is committed to continuing to secure prosecutions of perpetrators and contribute to positive structural change through on-the-ground involvement with casework, courts and people of local justice systems around the world. 


The NASABA Corporate Counsel Achievement Award is given to that individual who demonstrates extraordinary leadership and innovation in his or her in‐house practice. Criteria for evaluation include: career accomplishments including demonstrated success over the years, growth of the legal department in numbers, expansion of responsibility and role within the corporate legal department, significant and/or noteworthy contributions made to the company, dedication to corporate responsibility, advocacy for the legal profession; and the commitment to diversity including demonstrated diversity leadership, involvement in organizations dedicated to improving diversity in the legal field, promoting diverse hiring both within the corporate legal department and of outside counsel, demonstrated success in the nominee’s legal organization on the issue of diversity, and participation in company diversity programs and initiatives.

Thomas L. Sagar

 Thomas Sager

Thomas L. Sager is senior vice president and general counsel, DuPont Legal. Tom received his J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1976.

Tom Sager’s name is synonymous with diversity in the legal profession. In fact, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association gives the Thomas L. Sager Award to law firms that have demonstrated sustained commitment to advance the hiring, retention and promotion of diverse attorneys. 

 He has been called a “Champion of Diversity” and an “Agent of Change” with good reason.  Tom Sager played a major role in the establishment of the DuPont Legal Network (a convergence program that reduced the number of law firms and service providers resulting not only in savings to DuPont but also providing a way for firms to invest in each other’s success) as well as the  Dupont Legal Minority Counsel Network (a body of attorneys of color who work for DuPont or DuPont’s primary law firms who are dedicated to creating opportunities for minorities).  Tom also established programs for the professional advancement of women lawyers, encourages the use of minority-owned law firms and supports pipeline programs for inner-city students.


The NASABA Public Interest Awards honors that attorney who shows undying commitment to public service of the South Asian community and community at large. Criteria include: interesting and innovative models of practice and representation; contributions to the public interest legal field; representation of individuals or organizations relating to issues affecting the South Asian community and/or the community at large; and advocacy for underprivileged, disenfranchised and under‐represented minority groups.

Kalpana V. Peddibhotla

Kalpana V. Peddibhotla practices immigration and nationality law exclusively. Her practice areas include employment and family-based petitions, naturalization and appeals. Prior to launching her own law practice, Kalpana represented individuals and companies in complex business disputes for two prominent Silicon Valley law firms, while maintaining a substantial pro bono practice on the side.

Kalpana continues to maintain her community and local involvement through various pro bono projects and activities. She also established the India Community Center’s volunteer program as its first Volunteer Services Director.

Pioneers are individuals who venture into unknown or unclaimed territory or who open new areas of thought. The NASABA Pioneer Award is given to the individual who has demonstrated professional excellence and true innovation in the practice of law. A candidate for this award must be an Pioneer in his or her legal field or industry and must have demonstrated dedication and service towards the profession or to NASABA’s goals and objectives which include: promoting the professional development of the South Asian legal community through networking, education advocacy and mentoring; ensuring the civil liberties of the South Asian community; serving the legal interests of the South Asian community and the community at large; encouraging greater participation by the South Asian community in the legal profession and the government.

Preeta Bansal

Preeta Bansal is synonymous with the word “pioneer”.  Preeta was the first female South Asian to argue before the Supreme Court. The first South Asian to serve as the General Counsel and Senior Policy Advisor in the Executive Office of the President, Vice-Chair of the Administrative Conference of the U.S., and partner and chair of the appellate litigation practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. Preeta is also the former Solicitor General of the State of New York, where she helped supervise 600 lawyers in the New York Attorney General’s office.

She is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard-Radcliffe College and of Harvard Law School, where she was Supervising Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Following law school, she served as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and to then-Chief Judge James L. Oakes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The New York Times in a profile called her a “legal superstar” and a “nimble, unorthodox thinker,” and the New York Law Journal referred to her as “one of the most gifted lawyers of her generation, who combines a brilliant analytical mind with solid, mature judgment.”


The NASABA Outstanding Chapter Award will be given to that local SABA Chapter which has shown the greatest improvement and development over the past year. Criteria to be considered will include: the growth in membership of the chapter; the rise in prominence of the Chapter in the local community; the fundraising efforts of the chapter; the diversity of programming offered by the chapter; the community service and public interest efforts of the chapter and the chapter’s support of NASABA.



From its inaugural event in 2007 featuring Neal Katyal through its 5th anniversary year in 2012, SABA-DE has established a reputation of excellence through its diverse programming and demonstrated its ability to raise funds for same. Recognizing the responsibility that comes with being the first minority bar organization in the State of Delaware, SABA-DE has particularly sought to host events that highlight the contributions of South Asians in the legal profession, bringing in speakers who ordinarily would not come to Delaware, and promoting the professional development of its members. SABA-DE’s events are well attended by members of the judiciary, the local majority bar and interested members in the community. Additionally, SABA-DE was the host of the 2010 NASABA Leadership Retreat and supports local law students with consistent participation in mentoring, networking and fundraising programs.

In the past year, SABA-DE co-hosted the “Modern-Day Slavery: Human Trafficking and Bonded Labor” event with the South Asian Law Student Association (SALSA) of Widener University School of Law (WUSL) with speaker Saju Mathew, Esq., the Director of Operations, South Asia, International Justice Mission, who had been recently featured on the CNN Freedom Project.  The program received the “Best Community Service Event of the Year” Award from WUSL  In addition,  SABA-DE hosted a career-building event to help junior to mid-level associates focus on attaining their career goals.  SABA-DE invited Werten Bellamy, Esq., President of Stakeholders Inc. and national speaker on diversity and advancing one’s legal career, to present “The Path to Indispensable: What Top Performers Do to Drive Their Legal Careers”.  SABA-DE will continue its Speaker Series with “An Evening with Kannon Shanmugam: An Insider’s View on the Supreme Court” on August 8th.


The NASABA Program of the Year will be awarded to that committee, section or chapter who has created either a stand alone or series of programs which best exemplify NASABAʹs mission, which includes promoting the professional development of the South Asian legal community through networking, education, advocacy and mentoring; ensuring the civil liberties of the South Asian community; serving the legal interests of the South Asian community and the community at large; encouraging greater participation by the South Asian community in the legal profession and government. Criteria to be considered include: SABA and non‐SABA member participation, substance, theme, innovation, message and impact.

SABA-Washington Scholarship Program

The Scholarship Program of the South Asian Bar Association of Washington (“SABAW”) is focused on helping South Asian law students and practitioners achieve their dreams and serves as a conduit for the greater legal community to support the activities of SABAW’s members. The rising cost of legal education along with the continued struggle to increase the representation of South Asians in the legal profession led SABAW to establish its Scholarship Program in 2006. The program focuses on providing monetary support to South Asian lawyers and law students with the aim of serving the South Asian community while increasing opportunities for individual success.

The Scholarship Program awards three categories of scholarships: (a) Student Stipends; (b) Public Interest Scholarships; and (c) Scholarships to attend the NASABA Annual Convention. Student Stipends are awarded to South Asian law students at the University of Washington School of Law, Seattle University School of Law, and/or Gonzaga University School of Law to help offset the cost of their education or bar exam costs. The Public Interest Scholarships are given to law students or practitioners working on discrete public interest projects or doing summer public interest internships that provide access to justice to the South Asian community (whether in Washington state or elsewhere). Finally, the third category of scholarships defrays the cost of attending the NASABA Annual Conference for a law student and practitioner based in Washington State. Additionally, SABAW has provided grants to non-profits serving the South Asian community (e.g., API/Chaya to improve access to justice.

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