Don Liu was looking forward to the 2006 conference of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association. He’d been going to NAPABA’s annual meeting for years, and he always enjoyed reconnecting with friends in the group. Plus, that year the conference was being held in Liu’s home town of Philadelphia, where he was then working as general counsel at home builder Toll Brothers Inc.

But one thing bothered Liu: Asian and Pacific American (APA) attorneys had hit a bottleneck in the legal profession. They’d made some progress. At top law schools, for example, they were nailing about 10 percent of the spots, double their percentage in the total U.S. population. And they were quickly moving into law departments and firms. That’s where they seemed to stall, though. They had the most minority associates at top New York firms, but the worst conversion rate to partner. And they had only five general counsel in the Fortune 500.