In a sign that Atlanta's Korean-American legal community is gaining critical mass, a group of lawyers of Korean descent has launched the Korean-American Bar Association of Georgia.
One impetus for forming the new bar association is to mentor younger lawyers, said Jeong-Hwa Lee "June" Towery, a partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, who helped organize the group.
"For a few years I have been wanting to put the Korean-descent attorneys together for mutual support, information exchange and networking," said Towery, who is KABA Georgia's president.
"The main thing is the mentoring," she added. "Typically these are the first attorneys from their families and they don't have the exposure to lawyers. They can have a hard time adjusting to the big firm environment."
Towery said about 45 lawyers and law students came to KABA Georgia's first meeting in late August. About half the lawyers who attended were small practitioners serving Korean individuals, she said, and the other half work for corporate firms.
"The response was incredible," she said, noting that a lot of law students attended, including some who had driven to Atlanta from the University of Georgia in Athens.
Towery estimated that there are more than 100 lawyers and law students of Korean descent in the Atlanta area, with about 50 Korean lawyers in Gwinnett, where there is a large Koreatown, and another 30 or more in corporate Atlanta firms.
"There is a general feeling of trying to help people out," said Han Choi, a partner at Ballard Spahr, who is the new group's vice president. "We're trying to make sure younger Korean-American lawyers get some opportunities to meet people."
He and Towery said major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Chicago already have KABAs.
In Atlanta, the Georgia Asian-Pacific American Bar Association has been around since 1992, but until now there has been no bar association specifically focused on the growing Korean legal community.