Keerthi Sugumaran: Promoting Civil Rights and Serving Undeserved Greater Boston Neighborhoods

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Keerthi Sugumaran

BOSTON– Attorney Keerthi Sugumaran champions the cause of legal and political rights and scholarships among South Asian community as the President of the South Asian Bar Association-Greater Boston, and also serves underserved Greater Boston neighborhoods through X-Cel Education, a local non-profit.

Ms. Sugumaran, an Associate in the Boston office of Jackson Lewis P.C., is president of the Board of Directors for X-Cel Education, which improves economic opportunity in underserved Greater Boston neighborhoods through accessible, individualized, and free high school equivalency education, post-secondary preparation, and career readiness development.

Her legal practice at Jackson Lewis focuses on representing and defending employers in workplace legal issues, including preventive advice and counsel. She also serves as the President of the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston, an organization that (1) serves as the regional voice for the concerns and opinions of South Asians in the community; (2) provides a forum for professional networking and development, legal scholarship, advocacy, and education; (3) promotes the advancement of attorneys and law students of South Asian heritage; and (4) supports the provision of legal services to the South Asian community.

As president of SABA, she works with other affinity bar organizations, governmental agencies, and community groups to ensure greater involvement of the South Asian community and inclusion of South Asian attorneys.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. Sugumaran.

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Keerthi Sugumaran: I’m currently juggling a few different roles. First, I’m an attorney at Jackson Lewis, P.C., a management-side employment law firm.  In this capacity, I work with companies on a variety of issues from crafting inclusive policies, providing training to managers and employees, and advising on day-to-day employment issues.

I also represent employers in front of various governmental agencies, as well as state and federal courts.  I love this work for a number of reasons.  I am constantly learning about different businesses and industries.  I think on my feet every day and enjoy advocating for my clients.  And, most importantly, I am grateful for the relationships I have formed with my colleagues and clients.  Each day is different, but rewarding.

In addition to my “day” job, I serve as the President of the Board of Directors for two local organizations: (1) the South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston (“SABA GB”) and (2) X-Cel Education.  Last, but not least, I am a new mom to my son, Aiden Beebe. It feels like a lot somedays, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

INE: To what charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

KS: As I mentioned above, I work with SABA GB, an organization that is dedicated to advancing the development and careers of South Asian law students and attorneys, as well as serving as a voice for the greater South Asian community.

The mission is critical. There are many studies highlighting the disappointing statistics of the legal industry’s diversity, including the numbers for South Asian attorneys.  For that reason, I think professional organizations like SABA GB are necessary to provide a support system and development opportunities for South Asian attorneys to flourish.  I, myself, have benefitted deeply from the friendships I have forged through SABA GB and hope to give back as much as I can.  To that end, in addition to continuing SABA GB’s existing programming, this year I am creating programming for South Asian women attorneys, who often face unique challenges in the legal industry.

Additionally, I am involved with X-Cel Education, a local non-profit that improves economic opportunity in underserved Greater Boston neighborhoods through accessible, individualized, and free high school equivalency education, post-secondary preparation, and career readiness development.  I love the mission of this organization; X-Cel empowers individuals seeking a second chance to improve their lives.

Our students are diverse and include individuals who were unable to complete the public education system, individuals who came to this country looking for better opportunities, and individuals seeking to reform their lives due to past criminal conduct.  X-Cel’s positive contributions to the community are important and wouldn’t be possible without its dedicated staff and tireless volunteers.

Keerthi Sugumaran

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

KS: I love to travel, experience new cultures, and try new foods.  You can frequently find me researching destinations, activities, and adventures for my family and friends.  One of my most memorable trips was to Vietnam; my husband and I went with four other friends.  We explored Hanoi, hiked in Sapa, and relaxed in Bai Tu Long Bay.  The Vietnamese are incredible; from their kindness, to their vibrant culture, and their amazing food. We could not have had a better time.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community or your company/organization and professional field?

KS: My work with SABA GB is particularly rewarding, but the reality is that the organization and its members have influenced me.  By way of example, last year, I had the privilege of planning a reception to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of six of our members, who broke the proverbial “glass ceiling” in each of their respective legal practices and paved the way for younger attorneys to succeed.

While I often dwell on how we can improve the number of South Asian attorneys and the opportunities for development, this evening served as an important reminder that South Asians have achieved significant success in the legal industry.  My take-a-way from this event is that we need to continue celebrating and highlighting the success and accomplishments of our talented members.

INE: What is the most pressing issue that you believe women are facing today?

KS: Pay equity.

INE: What is your rare talent that people don’t know about?

KS: I love to cook, but that is probably not a rare talent.  I really just love hosting my family and friends for a good meal.

INE: What are your favorite books?

KS: I love mysteries/crime thrillers.

INE: Who is the one person you would like to meet and why?

KS: Michelle Obama.  She has achieved significant personal and professional success.  She is an eloquent speaker and a passionate advocate. And, on top of all of this, she is a loving wife and mother.  I’d love to ask her: how do you do it all?

INE: What are your core values that you try to live by?

KS: I try to show compassion and empathy for others.  Those values have served me well both personally and professionally.

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