President’s Message

NFALA President David Mesa

“He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”
— Jose Rizal

Our NFALA “Origins” story began a little over five years ago in Washington, D.C. at the 2012 NAPABA Convention. Twenty or so Filipino American attorneys met outside of a Starbucks at the NAPABA Convention hotel and committed to creating an all-inclusive attorney organization whose mission was to unite the Filipino American community, help its members succeed in the legal profession and their various industries, and advocate for Filipino American interests. This endeavor, spearheaded by Rudy Figueroa, was originally called “Project Momentum” and later renamed the organization we know today as the National Filipino American Lawyers Association. Many of NFALA’s very first executive committee, including myself, still serve on the Board today and we remain fully committed to accomplishing those goals.

While NFALA is only five years in the making, the spirit of NFALA began decades before that first infamous Starbucks meeting. Many of our NFALA affiliates, through their founders and past board members, have fought the struggle for decades to gain equality for Filipino Americans in the legal profession and seek justice for the Filipino American community at large. Their manongs reminded them of a time when Filipino Americans were denied access to basic rights and they, in turn, fought to make sure the days of anti-Filipino practices would never happen again. They created local Filipino bar associations to support, educate, encourage and empower their members to succeed. They worked hard to become trailblazers and serve as role models for the next generation of Filipino American attorneys at a time when there were very few Filipino Americans in the legal profession. Those affiliates now serve as a frame­work for NFALA and for that, we are grateful.

Today, across the nation, Filipino American attorneys hold a wide range of positions in the legal profession, including equity partners in top law firms, general counsel at publicly traded companies, leadership posi­tions in both federal and state governmental agencies, owners and principals of successful solo practices and small firms, and state trial and appellate judges. The Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is Filipino American. The Solicitor General of the United States, Noel Francisco, is Filipino American. Our 2017 NFALA Gala keynote speaker, the Honorable Lorna Schofield, is the first and only Filipino American to serve as an Article III federal judge. We have sure come a long way, but there is so much more work to be done.

As we enter NFALA’s sixth year, we will continue to work to further NFALA’s mission by promoting professional development, networking, advocacy, inclusion & diver­sity, and law student scholarships. Through our national network of committees and affiliates, we will continue to: (1) fight for equality and civil rights; (2) speak out against hate, anti-immigrant sentiment and discrimina­tory policies; (3) provide “know your rights” education to our immigrant community; (4) push for increased diver­sity of the federal and state judiciaries, and (5) promote the professional development and advancement of Filipino Americans in the legal profession.

On behalf of NFALA’s Board, we thank you for being an active member and supporter of our growing NFALA family. We thank you for being a part of our “Origins” story and a part of our history. We look forward to continue serving you this year and setting a solid foundation for this organization to stand on for decades to come.

With great pride,

David Mesa

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