Candidates for 2017-18 Board of Governors

Personal Statements and Bios

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Candidate for President-Elect

Eric C. de los Santos

Personal Statement

Unity. Our greatest strength as Filipino American attorneys is our ability to come together at a moment’s notice without question or doubt. Although we come from a land of more than 7,000 islands and where over 180 languages are spoken, we develop an instant bond when we learn that we each are Filipino American attorneys. Why is that? What binds us so quickly and powerfully together?

Is it because we look into each other’s eyes and instantly recognize that we had to endure at least seven or more years of schooling and the bar exam? Is it because we had parents who told us, “Get an education. It is the only thing that cannot be taken away.” Or is it because we know that despite all that life throws our way, there is nothing more wonderful than pork adobo on a bed of hot steaming rice with patis and freshly sliced tomatoes?! Whatever it is, I wish we could bottle this bonding elixir and distribute it to the world.

If I am fortunate to lead NFALA, I will do all that I can to keep us together and unified as we seek to accomplish all that we can as a national organization. We can and we will better the lives of our fellow Filipino American attorneys and the communities we serve.

My greatest strength is my ability to lead and get results. My personality ensures that I will make it worthwhile and fun for all those involved. As NFALA’s VP of Membership, I helped to grow the organization, co-authored the Affiliate Toolkit and oversaw the publication of our inaugural newsletter. As NFALA’s VP of Programs, I led the team responsible for the Mid-Year Leadership Summit, and am currently working to develop a national mentorship program. I am a founding member of NFALA and I know what it takes to lead at this very important stage of our young organization’s history. Over the years, I have developed many relationships with bar leaders on a national and local level and would be an effective advocate and spokesperson for NFALA.

I also fundamentally understand that our success depends on the success of all our affiliates. I particularly am in tune with challenges of a fledgling affiliate organization, having co-founded the Filipino Lawyers of Washington (FLOW) and serving as its second president. I also know how these issues have been addressed by more established affiliate organizations after having travelled to many parts of the country to visit with affiliate leaders. Many of our challenges are similar: membership, fundraising, engagement and professional development. I want to bring us together, learn from one another, and create partnerships to make ALL our AFFILIATES AMAZING! If you rock, then NFALA rocks!

Like many of you, I derive my strength from thinking about those who have sacrificed for me to be in the position that I am today and about how, if they had the voice, what they would say and do. I feel so blessed and am grateful to know many of you and recognize deeply that our common struggles unify us. This is our strength, our power.

NFALA is poised to do great things, and I hope that you will consider me in helping to lead us on this journey. Salamat po!

Candidate Bio

Eric C. de los Santos is Associate General Counsel and Senior Director of Employment Law for TrueBlue, Inc., a leading provider of specialized workforce solutions. TrueBlue connects as many as 800,000 people to work each year. He leads a team that responds to all employment law issues domestically and internationally. He is also the company’s Equal Employment Opportunity Officer. He chairs TrueBlue’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and works directly with the CEO to advance the company’s D&I strategy to achieve goals focused on improved employee retention, increased client engagement and innovation.

He is a frequent speaker on employment and labor, and diversity and inclusion issues at the national and local levels. Last year, the Washington Diversity Council presented Eric with the Leadership Excellence Award. In 2015, the Association of Corporate Counsel presented him with the Matthew J. Whitehead, II Diversity Award, which is the highest award given to an in-house attorney for improving the employment, retention, advancement and career path opportunities for lawyers of diverse constituencies.

He is a co-founder and Past President of the Filipino Lawyers of Washington (FLOW). He is also a founding member of the National Filipino American Lawyers Association (NFALA) and currently serves as VP of Programs and Operations.

Mr. de los Santos was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and received his degree in Public Policy from Brown University and his J.D. from the University Of Washington School Of Law.

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Candidate for President-Elect

Philip Nulud

Personal Statement

My friends, my name is Philip Nulud and I am running for President-Elect of NFALA. If elected, I plan on helping to bring NFALA to the forefront nationally, by growing it and providing it with the increased exposure it needs in order to allow it to make a significant impact on the community and have its voice be heard. I envision NFALA being the voice of the Filipino-American community that will help showcase how great our community is and help cultivate the growth and awareness of our community so that we can be proud of our heritage and the accomplishments of other Fil-Ams in the legal field, and in doing so, also help each other grow. I believe that I have the skills and experience to do so.

I come to you as the current President of the Philippine American Bar Association (PABA). We draw from a membership of over six hundred attorneys, law students and friends in Southern California and have been around for over thirty years. We have made a strong impact not only in the legal community, but also the community at large. We hold a sizeable number of well-attended events throughout the year and have a very close-knit and supportive Board of Governors. I have had the pleasure of serving on that board for seven years. During that time, we have seen our presence within the legal community grow, our events grow larger and larger in that they are routinely covered by local and Filipino television and attended by celebrities and dignitaries—not just from the United States but also the Philippines. I have seen and helped our own board members become appointed to the judiciary—during my seven years on the board, we have seen three of our own become judges. We have made our voice heard in not only judicial appointments in Southern California, but also the rest of the nation. We are active politically, in making statements and signing onto amicus briefs to help advocate for the Fil-Am community. We provide a voice to our community.

As President of PABA, I have been able to grow our organization. We have increased our reach, increased our fundraising, increased our events, increased our mentorship to students, increased our social media presence, increased our scope and have built bridges with our organizations across the nation as well as the Philippines. Furthermore, during my term, we increased the amount of scholarships that we have provided to deserving law students and have even donated a scholarship to NFALA. Through many discussions with sponsors, donors and friends, we plan on offering more scholarships very soon. Lastly, during my term, we have built bridges with our other sister organizations and will be working with the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California (FBANC) in hosting the Pinay Powerhouse II conference in Los Angeles next year.

With that being said about PABA, I can say that I firmly believe that I have learned, through my service with PABA and from my experience within the PABA board, how to run a large organization, particularly one comprised of Filipino-Americans. In addition to my experience, I have the knowledge of years of experience from PABA of what works, what doesn’t, who to call on, how to raise money and sponsorships, and just how to get things done. I can be and have been a resource for other Fil-Am bar organizations. I have the support of many Fil-Am attorneys and judges not only in Southern California, but nationally, and I know I can count on them to help NFALA’s cause.

I know I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of meeting you all. However, the ones that have met me can attest to my personal integrity, trust, speaking, advocacy and public relations skills. I have had the pleasure of serving on the Board of Governors for the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles. I serve on the Executive Advisory Council of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. I have served on the Board of Governors for the Alumni Association of Loyola Law School and am currently its treasurer. I am also involved in the formation of an association that will represent the interests of Asian Pacific American Bar organizations in California to help promote justice and equality and am slated to serve on its executive board.

I have a proven track record of leadership and I believe that I could effectively apply my experience in serving as NFALA’s President-Elect and help grow NFALA and bring it to the forefront nationally. I hope that you’ll provide me with this opportunity and help us undertake this significant task.

Candidate Bio

Philip Nulud is an intellectual property attorney at Buchalter, a full-service corporate firm that has been very supportive of the Fil-Am as well as other Asian Pacific American communities and can be called on to support NFALA. His practice focuses on counseling clients in the apparel and textile, and technology industries in developing, protecting and licensing their valuable ideas. He has extensive experience in international enforcement and prosecution and has assisted many companies in obtaining their trademarks overseas. Philip also provides pro bono services to local law enforcement agencies as well as non-profit organizations that seek to help the homeless.

He  earned his J.D. at Loyola Law School and his B.S. in Biomedical Engineering, with a minor in Political Science (concentrating in Law and Public Policy) from the University of Southern California.  Philip also previously clerked for the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office: Consumer Protection Division.


Candidate for Vice President for Programs and Operations

Garylene “Gage” Javier

Personal Statement

NFALA is poised for tremendous growth. The organization is at a point where it can engage the 1000+ members consisting of lawyers, judges, law students, and community leaders in an effort to foster the education, advocacy, and leadership of legal issues and legislative affairs impacting the Filipino community.

In order to secure the reach and impact of our efforts, my focus as the Vice President of Programs & Operations is to: 1) ensure the organization’s infrastructure is well-designed, and 2) pursue the development of NFALA programming that provide value to the community and an opportunity to establish NFALA’s brand as the preeminent legal organization to engage with the Filipino community. By ensuring the organization’s infrastructure is well-designed, we can easily identify inefficiencies and new problems quickly as the organization grows. Furthermore, it permits the formal paths of communication to flow freely and strategically, allowing NFALA to identify real-time issues affecting the Filipino community and implement immediate responses and advocacy campaigns. By implementing programs that educate the community on complex legal issues and engaging in national campaigns that advocate for important issues impacting the Filipino community, we present NFALA as a knowledgeable resource and a strong ally in the effort to represent the needs of the people we serve.

My current and past experiences have prepared me for this role. Currently, I serve as the Southeast Regional Governor and am the co-founder and the 2017-2018 President-Elect of the NFALA affiliate, the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Washington, DC. For the past nine months, I have worked closely with my fellow co-chair to spearhead the preparations for the 2017 NFALA@NAPABA Conference and heavily publicize the event in order to achieve maximum success. Earlier this year, I was named the NFALA delegate to the National Federation of Filipino American Associations Forum and joined nine other national representatives at the Forum discussing a variety of issues impacting the Filipino community. I believe in the mission of NFALA and established a scholarship through the organization to benefit the academic development of rising Filipino law students.

Prior to NFALA, I was the ABA Law Student Division 4th Circuit Governor, overseeing ABA programming and operations across all law schools in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. I’ve held additional operational and programming responsibilities in my role as an assistant program manager for law enforcement training programs in the Middle East and served as an assistant training director for a search and rescue organization in California where I developed training programs for new and current members. I also bring to the table strong communication and public speaking skills, having won numerous Toastmasters International public speaking competitions.

I look forward to the opportunity to serve you as NFALA’s 2017-2018 Vice President of Programs & Operations. Thank you for your consideration.

Candidate Bio

Garylene D. Javier is an attorney in the Washington, DC office of Buckley Sandler LLP where she assists financial services clients in a variety of federal and state regulatory compliance matters.

Prior to joining Buckley Sandler, Ms. Javier provided litigation support in private practice and managed commercial and government contracts. During law school, she served as a law clerk in the Office of General Counsel for INTERPOL Washington as well as in the Civil Litigation Division of the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. Ms. Javier maintains an active pro bono portfolio, providing legal counsel related to economic development, small business initiatives, and domestic violence. She is also the President-Elect of the Filipino American Lawyers Association of the District of Columbia and is the Co-chair of the D.C. Women’s Bar Association's Career Development Committee.

Ms. Javier received her M.B.A. from Cornell University, her LL.M. in Law and Government with dual concentrations in Intellectual Property and Criminal Law (computer crime) from American University, her J.D. from the Appalachian School of Law, and her B.S. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Candidate for Vice President for Membership

Jeri Gonzales Abrams

Personal Statement

I am honored to be considered for NFALA’s Vice-President of Membership for the 2018 Board of Governors. I was present at the first general NFALA meeting at the NAPABA Convention in Kansas City. I still remember the overwhelming sense of pride I felt to be in that room filled with such enthusiastic, bright, caring, and charming Filipino lawyers. I have since been involved with NFALA at the subsequent NAPABA Conventions in Scottsdale, New Orleans, San Diego, and at the 2016 and 2017 NFALA Mid-Year Conferences. I sincerely value and cherish my time and involvement with NFALA. I have been so impressed with how NFALA has grown since that first meeting in Kansas City—both in the number of members involved, but perhaps more importantly, in the strength of relationships amongst the NFALA family.

The biggest goals I see for NFALA are to grow membership, to help establish new NFALA affiliates, to help all NFALA affiliates and members to feel involved and invested in NFALA’s mission and goals, and to help NFALA navigate through the inevitable growing pains of a new organization with so much potential. As Vice-President of Membership, I will be able to support these goals by working closely with the President, Officers, Board, and committees to identify, develop, and help NFALA to provide additional membership benefits. I can also work on promoting NFALA to other regions where there are Fil-Am attorneys but not a Fil-Am bar association yet, and inviting those current or prospective members to see what NFALA has to offer. Further, I can also work on soliciting feedback from the NFALA affiliates to enhance the affiliate experience and assess the quality and types of benefits that NFALA provides.

I believe that I would be a strong NFALA Officer based on the valuable leadership experience I have gained through my involvement with NFALA, where I am currently serving as the 2017 Secretary. I have also served as the 2016 Northwest Regional Governor. I am part of NFALA’s Awards & Endorsements Committee; I served on NFALA’s Ad Hoc Committee Re: Executive Director; and I served on NFALA’s 2016 Ad Hoc NFALA Mid-Year Steering Committee. I am also a founding NFALA Sponsor through my family’s Immigration law firm, and my family’s firm has been a sponsor of every NFALA@NAPABA Gala so far.

I also believe that I would be a strong NFALA officer based on valuable leadership experience I have gained through my involvement with the NFALA affiliate, Filipino Lawyers of Washington (FLOW). I am a Founding Member of FLOW. I served as Treasurer for 2 years. And I was President of FLOW in 2014, which involved serving as President-Elect in 2013 and Immediate Past-President in 2015. While I was President-Elect, I had the honor of being the Chair of FLOW’s Barrio Fiesta, which is our annual scholarship dinner. FLOW’s Barrio Fiesta is unique in that the FLOW Board and Members put their blood, sweat, and tears into organizing and putting on the event for the Washington legal community and the Filipino Community of Seattle. What is even more unique is that at nearly every Barrio Fiesta, the FLOW Board members have performed either a traditional Filipino folk dance or a Michael Jackson “Thriller” rendition when the Barrio was a Halloween-themed Boorio Fiesta. I am proud to say that I have danced with the Board for every year we have performed at the Barrio Fiesta, with a special shout-out to performing the Tinikling with my dance partner (and NFALA President-Elect Candidate) Eric de los Santos in 2014.

One of the things I am most proud of, and that I believe I help foster, is that FLOW feels like a family. It is not an organization people join to simply put on their résumé. Rather, it is an organization that you are more than willing to dedicate your free time to be involved in because it is an opportunity to participate in meaningful activities, events, and discussions, while spending time with family. I feel the similar sense of camaraderie, commitment, and friendship with NFALA, which is a beautiful thing. I look forward to NFALA growing and flourishing, and to the opportunity to continue serving NFALA in the capacity of Vice-President of Membership in 2018 if I am elected. Thank you so much for your consideration.

Candidate Bio

Jeri Gonzales Abrams is a Partner for her family’s Immigration law firm, Gonzales, Gonzales & Gonzales Immigration Law Offices. Her father, Jeffrey, began as a solo practitioner over 35 years ago. Her older brother, JJ, practiced in Miami, FL for a number of years before joining their father’s practice in 2009. Jeri joined the practice in 2012; and since then, the Firm has grown to 17 attorneys with offices in Portland, OR and Seattle, WA. The Firm practices exclusively Immigration law, with a primary focus on Family-based Immigration and Deportation Defense. Prior to joining her family’s Immigration law firm, Jeri was an associate for a large Pacific Northwest law firm, and also practiced as an in-house attorney for a Seattle-area healthcare organization. Jeri received her undergraduate degree from Rice University, cum laude, where she attended on a tennis scholarship. She received her J.D. from University of Washington School of Law, where she was a member of the Moot Court Honor Board, the Tribal Court Criminal Defense Clinic, and served as Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. Jeri is a Founding Member, Past President, and current Board Member of the Filipino Lawyers of Washington, and she is the current Secretary, former Regional Governor, and Founding Sponsor for NFALA. In her spare time, Jeri enjoys spending time with her family (even though she works for the family business), particularly with her husband and their 2 years old and 5 months old sons.

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Candidate for Vice President for Communications

Mark Calaguas

Personal Statement

Thank you to the members of NFALA for the privilege of serving as Vice President for Communications over the last year. At this time, I again submit for your consideration the opportunity to continue in this role for another term.

My desire to stay on can be attributed to the momentum that has been building on the communications front during the past few months. Now that NFALA has invested in an administrative assistant and a graphic designer, for example, the Communications Committee can unlock the potential of these resources to take our membership services to the next level. This includes the recent redesign of NFALA’s newsletter, which involved updating the previous layout into a more streamlined, eye-catching format. As a national bar, we face the constant challenge of presenting a wealth of information about our individual members and affiliate organizations on a regular basis. The upcoming months will be devoted to working more closely with NFALA’s regional governors and affiliate leaders to make this information sharing process as quick and efficient as possible.

Another initiative for the new term will be to produce original content on our online platforms. As we finish shoring up the back end of the NFALA member database, the Communications Committee will start to expand on the offerings on the public facing side of the NFALA website. This will open up opportunities for NFALA members to share their expertise by publishing on topics of legal and public policy interest. This content can then be cross-posted across NFALA’s social media accounts, garnering an even wider audience for our contributors and providing added value to their membership in our organization.

I am grateful for the time I have served with NFALA thus far and the excellent working relationships that have blossomed with my fellow board members. As an officer of FALA Chicago, I also bring insights from being a leader of a local affiliate to our discussions of national level bar governance. Furthermore, I am an active contributor to our umbrella organization, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). Over the past year, I attended both the 2016 NAPABA Convention in San Diego and NAPABA Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. Additionally, I was a member of my firm’s pro bono legal team which drafted NAPABA’s amicus brief supporting the constitutional challenge to the President’s travel ban in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii last March.

Candidate Bio

Mark J. Calaguas is a staff attorney at McDermott Will & Emery LLP, where he is a member of the firm’s Discovery practice group, which leverages technology to improve legal services in litigation, investigations, due diligence, compliance audits, government second requests, and other projects involving the preservation, review, and production of electronic data. In addition to his experience as an e-discovery attorney, Mark has also advised local tech entrepreneurs on privacy law and data protection matters.

Mark was a founding board member of NFALA and currently serves as Vice President for Communications. Mark is also Communications Officer for the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago (FALA Chicago) and a board member of the Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment (AFIRE). Additionally, Mark sits on the associate board of HealthConnect One, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes maternal and early childhood health, and is a Young Professionals Program Ambassador at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Mark is a 2016 alumnus of the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO), a public-private partnership that connects outstanding Filipino Americans to government officials, business executives, cultural experts, social entrepreneurs, and other innovators in the Philippines via an annual immersion trip sponsored by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Ayala Foundation, Inc.

Mark received a B.A. with Highest Honors from the University of Michigan and a J.D. with Certificate in International Law and Practice from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where he was president of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association.

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Candidate for Treasurer

Mark Punzalan


Personal Statement

I respectfully submit my candidacy for the position of Treasurer for the 2017-2018 term. Currently, I serve as NFALA’s first elected Treasurer, and I am a member of NFALA’s first executive team. As NFALA’s first Treasurer, my primary goal would be to provide a sound financial structure and existence for NFALA so that it can continue to grow and thrive as a bar organization. Moreover, as the Principal Attorney of a boutique law firm, I deal firsthand with the financial issues of running a law corporation, and I believe my experiences running a sound business have given me to the skills to properly manage NFALA’s finances in a sound manner.

Additionally, I served as President of the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California in 2011 and 2012, showing my commitment to the Filipino-American legal community. Although I still serve on FBANC’s Advisory Board, I continue to serve in leadership capacities for other API bar organizations, including the Asian American Bar Association (AABA), where I have served on the Judiciary Committee, and the Asian Pacific America Bar Association of Silicon Valley (APABA-SV), where I currently serve as External Vice President and as Co-Chair of both the Partners and Solo and Small Firm Committees.

Moreover, as an attorney, I have worked tirelessly to build a stellar reputation in the Bay Area Legal Community. In 2016 and 2017, I was selected as a Super Lawyer in Super Lawyers Magazine, and I received the “Northern California Rising Star” designation in 2015. Moreover, I also currently serve as Chair of the Legal Advisory Group for the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, a Bay Area nonprofit that promotes entrepreneurship and business development among women and men who traditional lack access to business resources. Finally, as a litigator, I have developed strong speaking and advocacy skills in aggressively representing my clients, skills, which will benefit me greatly as an NFALA Officer.

In sum, I would be honored to continue serving as NFALA’s Treasurer. Thank you for your consideration.

Candidate Bio

Mark Punzalan is the Principal Attorney of Punzalan Law, P.C., a Silicon Valley boutique firm with a focus on Intellectual Property and Commercial Litigation. Mark primarily advises companies and individuals in the areas of trade secret disputes, trademark matters, and complex business disputes. Mark was selected as a "Super Lawyer" in 2016 and 2017 and as a "Rising Star" in 2015 in the Northern California Super Lawyers magazine. Mark currently serves as the Internal Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley and formerly served as President of the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California.

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Candidate for Secretary

Kristy Michelle Gonowon

Personal Statement

For the position of Secretary, accurate note taking is essential for the successful implementation of the group’s vision. Because the board meetings involve extensive discussion on a multitude of topics amongst a larger group of people, it is important that a detailed record is kept not only of “who said what” but, more importantly, why since many times, opinions and ideas can change or be forgotten over time. Memorializing minute details that may have brand impact, financial consequences, or “message” appeal will ensure that ownership, responsibility, and success can be attributed to the appropriate officer or board member. That being said, as Secretary, I would like to see NFALA grow, not only in numbers, but in clarity of vision as we move forward as an organization. As such, I will strive to attend 100% of the board meetings so there is continuity within this year’s board meeting minutes and accountability for the officers and board. This way, we can successfully track our progress, highlight our achievements, and pinpoint where we need to improve.

I have only been aware of NFALA’s presence for the past two (2) years. In that time, I have been active within NFALA’s IHC/Partners Affinity Network, specifically by moderating this year’s “How Did You Get Here” panel presentation, been a part of the “local ground team” for the Chicago Mid-Year in 2016 with then Central RG Jasmine Hernandez, become the current Central RG, been part of the planning committee for the Nashville Mid-Year in 2017, helped organize and present the affiliate workgroup training and work-life balance sessions during the Nashville Mid-Year meeting, and am a member of the ad hoc mentorship sub-committee. And I got Billy Chan to volunteer for the strategic planning/national media campaign sub-committee during the Nashville Mid-Year. Additionally, being a former plaintiff trial attorney, I have no problem speaking in front of groups or strangers, as I find the challenge of convincing others rather exciting. I have no qualms about being the minority voice or vote and will speak my mind when germane to the discussion.

Candidate Bio

Kristy Michelle Gonowon is in-house counsel at Allstate Insurance in the Claim Litigation Department within the Law & Regulation division. Her current practice focuses primarily on providing oversight and approval of legal matters concerning bad faith, extra-contractual liability, excess verdict, and coverage issues. She also provides legal opinions on pending legislation for the Southern region (Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana) and for the New York region. Kristy is also the department’s subject matter expert on the topics of diminished value claims by leasing companies and Medicare issues. Within the Allstate community, Ms. Gonowon is a member of the women’s and Asian-American employee resource groups.

Prior to becoming in-house counsel in Allstate’s corporate offices, Ms. Gonowon was a litigator handling both insurance defense and the recovery aspect of subrogation matters on behalf of Allstate in the Chicago staff counsel office for two years. Prior to that, she was a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney for 10 years with the boutique law firm of Gonsky, Baum & Whittaker in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

Ms. Gonowon currently serves as NFALA’s Central Regional Governor and is an active member of NFALA’s In-House Counsel/Partner affinity networks. Alongside her role as Central Regional Governor for NFALA, Ms. Gonowon also serves as Secretary for the Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago (FALA Chicago), an affiliate of NFALA. Ms. Gonowon was recently installed as a Board Director of the Asian-American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (AABA Chicago).

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