Local Hero: Karin Wang

Karin Wang

"What drives me is a sense of justice, a desire to help people who have been wronged in some way and to have their voices heard."

Karin Wang is Vice-President of Programs at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), the nation's largest legal and civil rights organization serving Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Before assuming her current position, Karin directed APALC's immigrant rights project and was instrumental in filing a landmark civil rights complaint against Los Angeles County on behalf of limited-English-speaking welfare recipients. Her organization's efforts led to major reforms in regard to the department's services to immigrants, as well as a payment of $1.7 million in back benefits. Karin also ran the first Los Angeles field office of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office for Civil Rights, enforcing federal civil rights laws across the Southwest.

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Karin dedicates her advocacy efforts to serve those in her community whose voices and concerns are rarely heard, shifting their understanding of justice in this country by illustrating how so many of their struggles are linked to larger issues. In addition to her role as President of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association, Karin continues to be a leader in both state and national bar associations to this end. She was the former chair of the California State Bar's Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services and serves on the State Bar's Justice Gap Task Force, which educates law professionals and solicits personal contributions to close the gap between the legal needs of poverty-stricken families with the federal and state funds that they are afforded. She has also previously served as the co-chair of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association's Pro Bono & Community Service Committee and is an active member of the Executive Committee for the NAPABA 2010 Convention in Los Angeles.

For the past five years, Karin has been deeply dedicated to the legal struggle for marriage equality in California. Through advocacy and community education, she strived to broaden the views of various interest groups by presenting a cogent and persuasive counterpoint to protests against gay marriage in Asian Pacific American communities, illustrating that the interests of each group involved are connected, making them indicative of even greater civil rights issues in immigrant communities. She is a founding committee member of API Equality-LA and she helped to file several amicus briefs in the California Supreme Court in support of marriage equality, including a brief on behalf of 63 Asian American organizations in the original marriage case. For her advocacy, Lambda Legal honored Karin with their organization's "Liberty Award," and the NAPABA named her as one of its "Best Lawyers Under 40."

Karin is a graduate of UC-Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Asian Law Journal. Following graduation, she was an associate at Morrison & Foerster LLP in San Francisco.

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