Vanderbilt 1Ls attend conference focusing on South Asian lawyers and law students

More than 200 students of South Asian descent from law schools throughout the United States gathered at the Chicago-Kent School of Law on a cold February weekend for a conference centered on issues facing South Asian lawyers and law students. Themed "Embracing Our Roots," the conference hosted students from 44 schools along with 50 lawyers from six states.

Four Vanderbilt 1Ls – Deepa Subramanian, Sunita Shirodkar, Preeti Kundra and Ameena Ashfaq – attended the conference, held over President's Day weekend. "We wanted not only to network with other law students from around the country and Canada, but also to represent the growing South Asian population here at Vanderbilt," said Subramanian.

Here's Subramanian's report from the conference:

Keynote speaker Deepa Iyer, a lawyer and executive director of the South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow, discussed the issue of being South Asian in a field that was, until recently, considered a non-minority field of study. She encouraged South Asian students to confront the issues surrounding this "minority" status and to find creative ways to challenge and overcome certain stereotypes when it comes to being a minority of South Asian descent. "We cannot study or practice law in a vacuum anymore, with our eyes closed either to the legal history that each of us is part of in this country, or to the current and emerging moods of our community," she said.

The theme throughout the weekend encouraged students and visitors to realize the challenges faced by South Asian attorneys and embrace or change those views. Panels addressed such topics as "Getting the Job: What you need for the job you want" and "Civil Rights in the South Asian Community," which focused on racial discrimination amongst clients.

Attorney McCracken Poston, who practices in rural George, discussed the issues confronted by his South Asian clients accused of aiding the production of methamphetamines because they sold ingredients used to create meth in their gas stations. His discussion highlighted a number of challenging issues he deals with in his day-to-day work, including racial and cultural barriers, lack of knowledge of certain drugs and habits, and the targeting of a specific minority community.

Vanderbilt 1L Sunita Shirodkar was elected as the southeastern regional delegate and will serve as the liaison between the national SALSA board and law schools in the southeastern district, including the University of Georgia and Duke.

- Deepa Subramanian