Tania Shah Narang: Working for Lawyers in Every Community
Tania Shah Narang learned learned firsthand of the legal struggles faced by immigrants.
“My parents were first-generation immigrants from India,” she said, “and there was a lot of unfamiliarity with the laws here, and I thought by becoming an attorney, it would be a way to serve my community.”
As executive director of the San Francisco-based California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP), Narang’s community now encompasses every segment of America that is underserved by the legal profession. Founded in 1989 by Drucilla Stender Ramey, executive director of the Bar Association of San Francisco, and Guy Rounsaville Jr., general counsel of Visa International and former Wells Fargo Bank General Counsel, CMCP addresses the dramatic under-representation of attorneys of color at every level of the legal profession, and consists of corporations, majority-owned firms, minority-owned firms, public agencies, and sponsoring bar associations.
“We provide avenues for minority attorneys,” Narang said. “They usually don’t have a huge network of mentors because they’re usually the first attorneys in their families or neighborhood. We try to provide as many networks for attorneys as possible.”
These avenues are crucial in the drive to place more minorities in the legal profession and on the staffs of the nation’s law firms, especially in an era when affirmative action is being reworked.
Narang’s work for social justice started early, during her undergraduate work at the University of California, Berkeley. While pursing her degree in social welfare, she became involved in the South Asian domestic violence hotline, which provided legal aid to immigrants. Very few of the lawyers who offered their services had an understanding of South Asian customs, and the experience reinforced her desire to become a lawyer.
Narang earned her J.D. at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. Prior to joining CMCP, Narang practiced corporate securities law in the Palo Alto office of Morrison & Foerster LLP. It gave her the experience she needed to understand the nuts and bolts of the legal profession, but it was only a step along the way to her real goal – serving communities and helping others.
At CMCP, Narang started an internship program for college and law students, introduced a newsletter, and initiated a relationship with a recruiting firm. Attendance at the CMCP’s annual business development conference, its biggest networking and marketing event, has grown from 250 to more than 400 in the two years since she has been executive director.
Narang also encourages attorneys to do pro-bono work, and donates her time to Charity Focus in Santa Clara, which provides assistance in website building and technical infrastructure for small non-profits.
Narang’s efforts and the success of CMCP have not gone unnoticed. In 2003, the State Bar of California and the Black Students’ Association of the University of West Los Angeles acknowledged CMCP for its diversity efforts and contributions to the legal profession, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business selected Narang as one of fifty international non-profit leaders for its Center for Social Innovation Fellowship.
But more important, Narang says, is that CMCP’s budget deficit, which she inherited, has been turned around.
“Without funding, we can’t provide the necessary services to our members,” she said.
With all her accomplishments, it’s hard to believe that Narang has yet to celebrate her 30th birthday. Clearly, her current success is a foundation for even bigger successes to come.
Tom Calarco is a freelance writer from Schenectady, N.Y. He is the Author of The Underground Railroad Conductor, which is available for purchase online at www.travelsthruhistory.com/books.htm. His next work-in-progress, The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region, is set for publication in the near future.
From the January/February 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®