2019-2020 MuBANY Director Candidates

30 Apr 2019 9:00 PM | Anonymous

Get to know the candidates running to serve as Directors by reading their candidate statements below. We have 8 candidates running for the 5 open positions. 

Please make sure your MuBANY membership is up-to-date. All members that are current in their dues will receive voting instructions.

Best of luck to all the candidates!

Amin Kassam - Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel at Bloomberg L.P. 

My name is Amin Kassam and I am currently the Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel at Bloomberg L.P. where I am responsible for the operations of the Legal and Compliance Department along with litigating and advising on issues relating to new media, technology, privacy, and intellectual property. I am also actively involved in Bloomberg’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and have made a concerted effort to raise awareness about issues facing Muslims at Bloomberg. For example, I led efforts that resulted in the Company signing onto a Supreme Court amicus brief challenging the Trump administration’s travel ban and hosted Bloomberg’s first ever panel discussion on Ramadan. I also concurrently serve on the Board of Directors of the New York Civil Liberties Union and was recently appointed to the transition team for New York Attorney General Letitia James.

It has been my privilege to serve on the MuBANY Board for the past two years and I hope to be given the opportunity to serve again. As a Muslim lawyer for over 18 years, I believe I bring a breadth of experience that is unique to the Board having spent much of my time practicing as one of the first or only Muslim lawyers at the law firms and federal clerkships where I started my career. Indeed, living through 9-11 without the support of a significant community of Muslim lawyers was lonely and challenging and it continues to drive my desire to help make MuBANY an even stronger, dynamic, and more influential bar association.

At a time when the rights of Muslims in the United States are under tremendous threat, I believe that it is critical that we build coalitions and draw upon allies in order to support our efforts to protect the civil rights of all Americans. As a result, in the past I have helped MuBANY to host a joint Eid celebration with the New York Civil Liberties Union, a moderated discussion with the Metropolitan Black Lawyers Association on Why Black Lives Matter to Muslims, a panel discussion on LGBT Asian lawyers and judges with the Asian American and LGBT Bar Associations, and an initiative with the City of New York to provide pro bono mediation services to Muslim communities. If elected, I hope to continue this work and create new programs that build bridges across communities, undertake initiatives to protect the rights of Muslims and other marginalized communities, and further enhance diversity and inclusion within MUBANY. Thank you for your consideration.

Faraz Rana - Chief Legal Officer of Bread

I'm the CLO of Bread, a regulated financial technology company. Having helped start the company some four years ago, I built out the legal and compliance functions. Bread now has over 100 employees and raised several rounds of funding.  Prior to embarking on the start-up scene, I worked in the M&A/private-equity group at Weil Gotshal for about six years.

A former MuBANY Board member (circa 2011), I took a brief sabbatical to search for the meaning of life, and return humbly to my MuBANY roots with no answers.  My overarching philosophy for the organization continues to be one of community engagement premised on moderation, professionalism, and discourse.

M. Shams Billah - Senior Associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP

Salaam, my name is Mushfique Shams Billah and I am a senior associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP. I have been involved with the Muslim Bar Association of New York (MuBANY) for 10 years since 2009 when I was a law student and Asim Rehman, one of the co-founders and then President of MuBANY, introduced me to the group. MuBANY has played a critical role in my career and I would welcome the opportunity to give back to MuBANY by serving on its board of directors. With my track record of service and my views for the future of MuBANY, I strongly believe I would be an ideal candidate to serve on the board.

My past service and future vision are built on the following three foundations: (i) diversity in the profession, (ii) interfaith allies and (iii) the strengthening of business relationships. On diversity, in the profession I strongly believe MuBANY is uniquely positioned to increase the pipeline of diverse Muslims students entering the practice of law. Not only am I a testament to that statement, but I am actively working hard to further that goal. With only one of two known practicing Muslims at my firm of around 300 attorneys, I was able to have the firm’s diversity committee sponsor the MuBANY Gala over the past two years. Because of that relationship and my involvement with my firm’s diversity committee, my firm is establishing a partnership with MuBANY to further diversity pipeline initiatives. In addition to the first MuBANY law student mixer hosted by my firm that I helped arrange earlier this year (rescheduled date to follow), we are also working with MuBANY’s student committee to host a panel discussion regarding on-campus recruiting this summer. I hope to continue this strategic partnership as a member of the board of MuBANY.

On interfaith allies, I am a strong believer in protecting the practice of faith in the workplace and providing safe places for the expression of that faith. With these values in mind, I established the Interfaith Attorney Affinity Group at my law firm and am working with the current leadership of MuBANY to espouse that concept amongst other law firms and legal organizations throughout New York. I am doing that by assisting the current MuBANY board in updating the annual letter and Legal Employer’s Guide to Islam in the Workplace to facilitate the practice of our faith in the hostile environment that we currently live in. Interfaith groups and allies can help displace some of that fear and I hope to continue working with MuBANY to create stronger allies with sister bar associations and other legal and non-profit organizations.

On business relationships, I am a proponent of strengthening the relationships between the growing number of Muslim in-house counsel and their counterparts that are external counsel. That is why in 2016 I co-founded MuBANY’s In-House subcommittee along with Tania Ali, Deputy General Counsel at Travelex and a client of my firm. Developing and fostering such relationships will only help strengthen the Muslim legal community and I hope to offer events and opportunities to expand such relationships as a member of the MuBANY board.

I would appreciate your support and would welcome your assistance in helping me see these goals to fruition. Together, we can continue creating and fostering a resilient and robust Muslim legal community.

Maimoona Zia Associate General Counsel at McKinsey & Company

My name is Maimoona Zia, and I am an Associate General Counsel at McKinsey & Company, where I focus on technology transactions and related intellectual property and data privacy matters. I have been honored to serve MuBANY in an official capacity for the past two years: as a Director on MuBANY's Board of Directors for the current 2018-2019 term and as Membership Chair for the term prior to that. I am now requesting your vote for Director for this upcoming 2019-2020 term.

As Director for the current term, I have been delighted to contribute to MuBANY's work. For example, I serve as MuBANY's representative to the New York City Bar Association's diversity award selection committee, where I helped the committee select, interview, and award lawyers who have made remarkable efforts towards increasing diversity in the legal profession. Further, I helped co-organize an informal networking event for MuBANY members to discuss the successes and challenges of being a Muslim woman in the legal field, and separately, am co-leading an effort on behalf of MuBANY to explore partnership opportunities with a non-profit organization that is focused on raising sexual violence awareness in Muslim communities.

In my previous role as Chair, I also initiated innovative programming. For example, I led and managed MuBANY's participation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where two MuBANY members observed international legal and policy debates first-hand and had the opportunity to liaise with diplomats, subject matter experts, and other non-governmental organizations to explore issues relevant to MuBANY's membership, such as women's legal rights, and provide reports to MuBANY on their observances. Similarly, during my time as Chair, I served as MuBANY's representative to a select leadership development event, where I gained insight into developing professional opportunities for MuBANY's membership.

If elected as a director for the 2019-2020 term, I will continue to (1) explore innovative and interesting opportunities that may be of benefit to our membership, like the networking, partnering, and professional development programs I noted above, and (2) help MuBANY strengthen its position as a significant professional association in the wider NY legal and Muslim community. I hope you will give me such an opportunity again.

Saima Sheikh Employment Litigation Associate at Baker Hostetler

My name is Saima Sheikh. I am the current co-chair of MuBANY’s Women’s Committee and am seeking a directorship position for the 2019-2020 term. I practice employment law as an associate at Baker Hostetler. As a Director, I would continue to strive for the goals I have sought as Co-Chair of the Women’s Committee (relevant programming for our members and social networking opportunities), but I would also seek to achieve broader versions of those goals in order to spread the benefits to all our members. This past fall, I organized a panel discussion for diverse female attorneys at my firm that served as a platform to share obstacles we have faced in our careers as well as pathways for success. The event drew a large audience and sparked a lively discussion. This spring, I hosted a networking mixer for our female Muslim attorneys at the Chai Spot, which connected some of our junior members with more senior members, promoting mentorship possibilities and strengthening ties between our members.

Beyond my contributions as Women’s Committee Co-Chair, I have also drawn upon my employment law practice at a large law firm to benefit MuBANY’s members. I helped revise MuBANY’s Islam in the Workplace Guide —a guidance document that advises employers on providing religious accommodations for Muslim attorneys. As a law firm associate, I am able to offer the resources and support of my firm, which has hosted MuBANY events and meetings, including a Women’s Committee event, a Board meeting, and also the upcoming Annual Meeting and Iftar dinner. I can bring to the table the perspective of a mid-level attorney in private practice and have connections to leaders of other minority bar associations, including the current president of AABANY, a partner at my law firm. I see tremendous value in working with other minority bar associations to advance our common interests.

I hope to have the opportunity to guide MuBANY in its next term and serve you, its members, in providing events and programs of interest to you.

Saira KhanDeputy General Counsel of Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners

My name is Saira Khan and I am the Deputy General Counsel of Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on infrastructure investing. Prior to that I was a member of the in-house legal team at GSO Capital Partners, the credit platform of The Blackstone Group, and before that I was an associate in the Energy, Infrastructure, and Project Finance Group at White & Case. Outside of work (and through work to the extent I am able), I am committed to supporting initiatives that focus on increasing diversity and encouraging community building in New York city. I am also passionate about promoting both education and the arts and am involved with a number of non-profit organizations that further these causes and have been key to their fundraising efforts.

I have been a MuBANY member for the last two years and wanted to become more involved, so this year I co-chaired the MuBANY Annual Gala with Sania Khan. The experience was one where we put in an incredible amount of time and effort over the past few months to help ensure the event's success (we raised a record breaking amount of money, and there was an increase in firm sponsorship and judiciary attendance), but more importantly I was able to work closely with members of MuBANY and see firsthand how critical the organization is to creating a space in New York for Muslims - both lawyers and the community at large - and to bringing attention to necessary initiatives. I am inspired by all of the gala committee members and board members I had the privilege to work with and hope to continue to give back to the organization.

As a MuBANY director, I want to increase the support of the organization by law firms and private sector companies who could benefit MuBANY not just financially but through their existing networks in the city. I also want to leverage the existing relationships I have at these firms and with their affinity / diversity organizations to help create programming for law students and recent graduates who are interested in working at firms or as in-house counsel. I hope to help increase partnerships with other minority bar organizations to further elevate MuBANY's presence in the legal community and hope to support MuBANY's plans to to increase engagement with New York's political leadership and judiciary. Finally, I hope to support efforts to increase and further diversify MuBANY's membership and outreach through planning smaller networking events ahead of next year's Annual Gala.

Thank you for your consideration, and I would be happy to discuss any of the above in further detail if you have any questions.

Sania KhanAssistant Attorney General at the New York State Attorney General’s Office

I am an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau at the New York State Attorney General’s Office, where my practice is focused on anti-Trump litigation in the civil rights context, and separately on tech & civil rights.

I have served as a Director with MuBANY for the last two terms, and in this past term - I served as Co-Chair of MuBANY's 2019 Gala. In those capacities, I assisted with MuBANY's public service programming, 2018 and 2019 galas, amicus sign-on efforts, and overall streamlining of operations. This past year especially, Saira Khan (co-chair) and I focused a great deal of effort on ensuring that the gala was successful. We raised a record-breaking amount of sponsorships, and were able to have many members of the judiciary attend - diversifying MuBANY's exposure and membership. I hope to build on that momentum this next term. My thoughts on what MuBANY can do next, include the following:

  • Create a Judiciary Committee and appoint a judicial liaison - this will ensure that we highlight any pipeline program opportunities to our membership and that we are in continued conversation with members of the judiciary, as MuBANY can be a resource where needed. 
  • Assemble experts in the civil rights and media spaces to hold a program dealing with the regulation of hate speech on social media platforms, or the internet generally. 
  • Identify avenues and ways to better connect with our sponsor firms - including collaborating with any affinity groups that may exist at those firms for social and professional programming.

Thank you for your consideration of my candidacy!

Waleed Abbasi - Associate at Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford

I am a second year associate at Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford. My practice revolves primarily around litigating labor and employment, construction, products liability and financial services matters.

As a MuBANY Director, I would work towards ensuring that the organization's vision is clear and that progress is made towards achieving that vision. This vision would entail further involvement in assisting law students in developing and navigating their careers, increased networking opportunities for practicing attorneys, and enhanced visibility for Muslim attorneys.

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