Reimagining Law: How Lawyers Can Combat Discriminatory Behavior

In this episode of Reimagining Law, we hear from Patrick Dankwa John, a Chicago area attorney and president of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, and Gary Zhao, a partner at SmithAmundsen LLC and past president at the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago. Patrick and Gary discuss the purpose of their respective bar associations, a legal professional’s role in combatting discriminatory behavior, and how their bar associations have remained relevant.

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  • 0:46 – What is the purpose of your respective affinity bar associations?
  • 2:30 – Patrick, you are the first Black non-Jewish president of the Decalogue Society, why did you pursue leadership in that bar association?
  • 3:15 – There has been an uptick of anti-Asian conduct and rhetoric lately. What is the role of lawyers and/or judges in combatting discrimination and discriminatory language in society?
  • 5:00 – How can people report hate crimes against Asians?
  • 5:58 – Membership in bar associations generally is down. Is that the case in your respective bar associations? How do your bar associations remain relevant?
  • 8:55 – How do you build bridges between bar associations and how do you combat the criticism that you’re creating silos in isolated communities?

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Patrick Dankwa John

Patrick (Pat) Dankwa John is a Chicago area lawyer practicing in family law and the president of the Decalogue Society of Lawyers, the nation’s oldest Jewish bar association. In June 2020, Pat became the first Black and first Christian president of the Society.

Several of Pat’s articles condemning bigotry have been published in the Times of Israel (linked above). Additionally, Pat volunteers with the Simon Wiesenthal Center whose mission is to eradicate bigotry and intolerance through public education programs. In January 2020, Pat wrote a screenplay called “Jesus: The Black Jewish Messiah.” The screenplay is intended to provoke thought and discussion about how religion has been used to justify discrimination against Blacks and Jews.

Pat is originally from Guyana, South America. He completed his undergrad at the City College Of New York in Harlem, where he majored in Urban Legal Studies and minored in Black Studies. Pat went on to earn a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Prior to law school, Pat served as an officer in the US Coast Guard, where one of his duties was that of civil rights officer. As a civil rights officer, he conducted training on civil rights and investigated complaints of discrimination.

Connect with Patrick
Decalogue Society of Lawyers:

Gary Zhao

Gary represents clients in high-stakes and complex business litigation matters nationwide. A partner in SmithAmundsen LLC’s commercial litigation group, Gary has secured victories through both trial and arbitration for his clients in cases involving breach of contract, intellectual property, false advertising, unfair competition, business fraud and other disputes. Gary is also fully engaged in his law firm’s diversity activities. From 2013 to 2015, Gary served as a co-chair of his firm’s diversity committee.

Most recently, until the end of June 2020, Gary was entrusted with leading the Asian American Bar Association of Chicago, as its president. For the past two years, Gary has served as National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA)’s Treasurer and a member of NAPABA’s Executive Committee.

From 2011 to 2016, Gary served as the co-chair of the NAPABA national litigation committee, an active committee with over 200 members. Gary was recognized by NAPABA as one of the Best Lawyers Under 40 in 2015. He was recognized as one of 40 Illinois Attorneys Under 40 to Watch by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin in 2011. In 2018, Gary received the Chicago Bar Association’s Vanguard Award, which honors lawyers that have made the law and the legal professional more accessible to and reflective of the community it serves.

Connect with Gary

About Reimagining Law

The Reimagining Law video series explores how legal and judicial professionals are adapting the delivery of services to meet the unique needs of today’s consumers. Reimagining Law is produced by the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism.

This video was recorded on May 14, 2021.

Check out more episodes of Reimagining Law here.

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3 thoughts on “Reimagining Law: How Lawyers Can Combat Discriminatory Behavior

  1. This content of this video is disappointing based on its title. But that is not surprising. Any minority attorney who has been practicing for any length of time has been subject to micro and macro aggressions based on the color of their skin. Where is the discussion on responding to those? The answer is not “more affinity groups.” (Because when the racially charged attacks come, they don’t come in a bar association meeting.) Rather, the answer *has to be* in (i) teaching attorneys not to commit micro and macro aggressions, (ii) teaching those who are subject to micro and macro aggressions to respond in the moment in so they don’t have to deal with them in therapy later on, and (iii) training attorneys who make micro aggressive and macro aggressive comments not to double down when challenged on them. If the Commission On Professionalism could do this, it would really have something.

    1. Hi Jerry,

      Thank you for reaching out. We agree that micro and macro aggressions are a significant challenge in the legal profession and beyond. We have been talking to Illinois lawyers about strategies for recognizing and confronting these aggressions in a CLE we created on navigating difficult conversations, and are working on additional educational content that will benefit lawyers who are experiencing and demonstrating this behavior.

      Thanks again for your feedback. It’s extremely valuable!

      Laura Bagby
      Communications Director

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