Click the headings below to read the spotlights of SABA GB's members.
Fourth in a series of spotlights of past SABA GB Presidents
Born in Missouri and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Natasha Varyani earned her undergraduate degree from Smith College before going on to earn both her MBA and JD from Suffolk University.
Natasha started her legal career in 2003 as a tax lawyer with the accounting firm Ernst & Young. She then transitioned to tax litigation, working at the law firms Holland & Knight LLP and McCarter & English LLP for several years. In 2012, she became a faculty fellow at New England Law | Boston. She also served as visiting assistant professor and associate director for academic enrichment at Boston University School of Law from 2015 to 2018. Currently she is Associate Professor of Law at New England Law |Boston, where she teaches courses in property, contracts, tax, and critical theory.
Professor Varyani ‘s most recent publications include:
She served as SABA Greater Boston’s president in 2010, the year Boston hosted the SABA North American annual conference, when she served as VP of Convention for NASABA
My family is Hindu Sindhi, but stayed in Pakistan after its partition from India. In my childhood, my mom focused on raising me and my sister. Coming to the United States, my dad was a young medical doctor who started his career in the Midwest as a resident at the Cleveland Clinic. He was an anesthesiologist specializing in pain management, but he was much more than just a physician. He started a number of outpatient ambulatory clinics to help patients recover from surgery. Pain management was a real passion for him. He was always looking for ways to innovate and learn.
My parents wanted me to be a doctor, especially my mother. My dad was more open to thinking outside the box. He loved reading, and instilled the same love of reading in me as a child. I remember one of my great childhood delights was browsing mall bookstores with my dad.
Like many South Asian immigrants, my parents really valued education. When it came time for my sister and I to start school, they naturally searched for the best they could find. It turned out, Cleveland, had two non-Catholic private schools which were excellent, both for girls, and my parents chose one of them. It was called Laurel School and it is the place that made me who I am.
At Smith, I initially was premed before becoming an English major focusing on postcolonial literature and South Asian writers in particular. (I did manage to take organic chemistry, which was not as bad as it’s reputed to be). I also became interested in public service and advocacy.
The first time I was ever in the classroom with men was in graduate school at Suffolk. I immediately noticed a different dynamic. Thankfully, I had already established my classroom and academic habits.
I graduated Smith in three years, and spent a year working on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. I learned two things from that experience: I love policy, and I hate politics.
My dad liked to joke that I went to law school to change the world, and ended up a tax lawyer. Though factually accurate, there’s more to it than that. My love for policy naturally drew me to tax law. Built into the tax code are certain priorities that are based on what society values and deems important. My tax law professors asked students, “why does the tax code prioritize some things over others?” In law school, I worked at the statehouse, specifically the appropriations, revenue, and ways and means committees, and quickly realized a “loophole” that allowed me to do good and valuable policy work while largely existing outside the realm of politics.
My first job out of law school was with Ernst & Young, which at the time employed more lawyers than any law firm because of its global footprint (where law firms are largely regional). After the Enron accounting debacle, Sarbanes-Oxley mandated accounting firms to do either tax planning or tax accounting, but not both. Many lawyers at Ernst & Young moved to law firms. I followed them and my practice began to focus on tax litigation. My former Ernst & Young colleagues were the source of a significant amount of referrals, which really made my life in big-law much easier.
While I was at McCarter & English, Navjeet Bal was appointed Massachusetts’ Commissioner of Revenue. While serving on the board of SABA GB, I planned for my firm to host a “Commissioner’s Reception” for both Commissioner Bal and Sunila Thomas-George, who was appointed to the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination. Although at the time I didn’t know Commissioner Bal very well, a lot of people assumed I did, and as a result I got a lot of referrals for new tax matters. As it happens, she is wonderful and she and I became great friends, and she still is a “gut check” person whom I will consult when I need advice.
I never thought I would become a law professor. I was very happy in private practice; it was a nice life. I was encouraged to apply for a position in academia by another friend and mentor with whom I worked at the Boston Bar Association on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee. When I applied to be a visiting fellow at New England Law, I figured I would teach only for a couple of years before returning to private practice. My husband and I were also starting a family so the timing seemed right. What surprised me is how much I loved the classroom. My students still inspire me, and their energy is contagious. They are engaged, focused, idealistic.
My father passed away about four years ago. Part of managing his estate involves disposing of his ownership interests in the medical businesses that he started. That responsibility fell to me. Dealing with other stakeholders and all the tax, accounting, and business consequences of my father’s death has been an enormous undertaking. My legal and finance training and knowledge has proven indispensable. Despite being uniquely qualified for the job of administering his estate, the process has also been a stark reminder of the power dynamics and biases that exist in the legal and South Asian communities.
It’s also opened my eyes to the importance for immigrant communities to properly manage the intergenerational transfer of businesses, wealth, and property. This is not something that can be done easily or intuitively by people without the proper professional training. Many people and immigrant communities have a great need for sound professional advice on these matters, without which there is a real risk of mismanagement and even exploitation. What they don’t know can be damaging. I also observed this when, as a SABA board member, we were starting the “Know Your Rights” program to educate laypersons in the South Asian community about legal topics.
Third in a series of spotlights of past SABA GB presidents
Born in Washington, D.C., Sa’adiyah Masoud grew up in Burlington, North Carolina, in the shadow of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill research triangle. She attended the Burlington public schools, earned her undergraduate degree from Duke, and her law degree from Boston University.
After clerking for the Massachusetts Superior Court, she joined the law firm Donovan Hatem LLP, where she represented clients in design and construction litigation. Following a stint at Wilson Elser LLP, she landed at Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, which was founded by Supreme Court Justice Lewis Brandeis in 1879. At Nutter, Sa’adiyah is a member of the firm’s business litigation, product liability, and construction litigation practice groups. She is an advocate and counselor to clients from many industries including financial services, biotechnology, construction, healthcare and banking. Among her recent publications is a chapter on “Litigation against Design Professionals” in Massachusetts Construction Law and Litigation (MCLE 2020). She has also authored several client alerts on the California Consumer Privacy Act.
Sa’adiyah was honored as an Ad Club’s Rosoff Mentor Award finalist in 2010-2011, awarded to companies and individuals who are successfully changing the face of Boston through diversity and inclusion. In 2013, Boston University School of Law honored her with the Young Lawyer’s Chair, which recognizes alumni who in 10 years or less since graduation reflect great credit upon BU Law, and also as Outstanding 1L Mentor in 2015.
My father is a cardiologist. As you can imagine, my parents very strongly wanted me and my siblings to become doctors. In fact, my mother was probably more insistent than my father. I started out college doing premed, but I was drawn more to the liberal arts and humanities and decided medicine wasn’t for me. I majored in Women’s Studies and English. For a time, I seriously considered pursing a PhD and becoming an English professor – you can imagine how that went over with my parents! I bet they were getting pretty desperate when none of their first three children chose medicine as a career. But the fourth time was a charm: my youngest sister became a medical doctor.
It was really a combination of things. I was always drawn to language and writing. The right words in the right moment can definitely be very powerful. A couple of classes I took at Duke were taught by law professors and introduced me to legal issues. I liked the close and detailed examination of language involved in legal reasoning. I also attended a couple of conferences where I listened to activists, politicians, and lawyers. The politicians and activists spoke about ideals and policies, which are important. But the lawyers particularly impressed me with their practical and realistic approach to implementing policies in a concrete way.
I still remember the first person at BU who spoke to me. When I first visited the school, I came with my father. We encountered the late Professor Mark Pettit. I had no idea at the time that he was one of the most beloved and engaging teachers at the law school. He spoke to me and my father for almost 15 minutes in a way that made me feel so welcome that, if before I had any doubt about where to go to law school, after I had none. My dad and I were just so impressed with the professors. I developed great admiration for a number of my professors and also went on to form close professional relationships with some of them.
My career has exposed me to a pretty nice slice of the law firm life. All my jobs have been challenging. I have learned and grown in different ways in all of them, and I am very fortunate to be a part of my current firm.
That said, there are hurdles facing minorities and people of color in a law firm. Most people are well-intentioned, despite occasional micro-aggressions or insensitivities which are harmful. But the statistics and turnover of people and color in law firms are telling. The reasons for this are complex and there are no simple, easy solutions.
A firm may be fascinated by what makes you unique or diverse. You may end up being a spokesperson for your heritage or group. Ironically, even if it is well-intentioned, this type of attention can put extra stress on you and even be somewhat isolating. Also, the burden of nonbillable work often gets thrown on lawyers of color. Working on recruiting committees, pro bono work, etc. will cut into your billable time. Perhaps one solution is for firms to give more credit for nonbillable work.
I spent about 2 years as a law clerk to the justices of the superior court in Suffolk, Middlesex, and Worcester counties. On a day-to-day level, my job was what you’d typically expect – researching and drafting decisions for the judges, sometimes attending court proceedings. Among the justices I had the privilege working for were Geraldine Hines and the late Ralph Gants – both of whom were eventually elevated to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Justice Gants was particularly memorable because of his connection to SABA. I recruited him to be a speaker in SABA Greater Boston’s award-winning “Know Your Rights” (KYR) program which offers classes on legal topics to the local South Asian community. For a couple of years he became a regular and enthusiastic KYR speaker who publicly encouraged other organizations to emulate it.
In 2010, the SABA North America conference was held in Boston and I was the conference chair that included being in charge of all programming. It was a LOT of work, sometimes hundreds of emails per day. We worked on the preparations on and off for a whole year. It was a great conference and we had some important firsts that year. We did a reenactment of the oral argument in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, 261 U.S. 204 (1923), in which the Supreme Court decided that an Indian Sikh man was ineligible for naturalized citizenship because he was not a "white person." It was also the first time we put together the Supreme Court review, which originally was my idea. I couldn’t have foreseen it, but it is very gratifying to see that the Supreme Court review has become a staple of the annual conference and one of its most popular programs.
The benefits of serving on the board are real. It provides valuable leadership experience. It gives you a broader exposure to the legal community and other bar organizations, all of which is good for one’s career.
That said, even though the board is purely a volunteer organization, it is a serious commitment. For busy people with demanding full-time jobs, not to mention family and other commitments, it can be challenging. It’s important to try and balance the work of the board with some fun as well.
Overall, my experience with SABA has been very positive. I went on to serve on the executive committee of SABA North America, where I was vice president of chapter outreach/membership. I also served on the board of the SABA Foundation (SABANA’s 501(c)(3) charitable arm). Currently, I am on the Executive Committee of the SABA Foundation and serve as the Awards Chair for SABANA.
Second in a series of spotlights of past SABA GB presidents
Saraa Basaria graduated from the University of Florida before earning her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. She practiced criminal defense with the Committee for Public Counsel Services for three and a half years. She then joined the Boston office of Gordon & Rees, where her practice focused on general and construction-related litigation.
Since 2017, Saraa has been an associate at Todd & Weld LLP in Boston where she concentrates on employment counseling and litigation, commercial litigation, and criminal defense.
I decided to move to Boston in 2009 to attend Northeastern University School of Law. I was drawn to NUSL because of their co-op program and focus in public interest. While at NUSL, I had the opportunity to intern at the Committee for Public Counsel Services. I stayed in Boston because I built a strong professional and personal network here.
The key to any career transition is having a strong network. When I decided to move into private practice, I reached out to my network to learn from their experiences and get their advice.
For other lawyers looking to make a similar transition, I would suggest figuring out if you have anyone in your network who has made a similar change and asking them for 15-30 minutes of their time. In my experience, people are happy to help by offering their advice and experiences.
My involvement in bar associations has been invaluable. Through bar associations like SABA GB, I have expanded my network and fostered deep professional and personal connections in the Massachusetts legal community. This has led to professional opportunities, mentorship and, in many cases, wonderful friendships.
Most importantly, bar associations afford the opportunity to serve and uplift the community. I am grateful for that opportunity.
The first few months as a new lawyer can be overwhelming in many ways. As new lawyers cope with the transition from law school to the practice of law, and perhaps begin to second-guess themselves, it is important to be mindful about taking moments to stop and reflect on their achievements. If a new lawyer is worrying whether they will succeed as a lawyer, it means they have already conquered college, law school, and the bar exam. I encourage new lawyers to remember that and trust in their own abilities. They will undoubtedly surprise themselves.
It is also important to remember to not be afraid to ask a question. When I first began practicing law, I was timid about asking questions. However, I quickly learned that I often regret not asking a question, but rarely regret asking a question, regardless of the answer.
I love cooking – it is such a fun and relaxing creative outlet. I also enjoy reading and spending as much time outside as possible while it is still warm.
I recently turned my cooking hobby into a cooking blog on Instagram called Buttermilk and Boards!
Lalitha R. Gunturi grew up in Dallas, Texas and earned her undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She earned her law degree from Boston University School of Law in 2005. From 2005 to 2009, she was an associate at Goodwin Procter LLP. Currently, she is Director, Legal Counsel at RSA Security.
In June, she was a recipient of the SABA North America Rising Star Award. The award recognizes a lawyer who is under 40 years old or has been practicing for less than 10 years and who exemplifies a broad range of high achievement in his or her practice area, as well as innovation, leadership, legal and community service and commitment to diversity.
Lalitha and her husband live in Bedford, Massachusetts with their two young boys, Nikhil (8) and Nishanth (5).
When I was deciding on where to go for law school, my final two choices were staying at the University of Texas at Austin, where I did my undergrad, or come to Boston University. I had never even been to Boston before, but after a quick visit, I decided on BU, because I wanted to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone for a few years. I never thought I would end up staying in Boston after graduation, let alone 18 years and counting! It was a bit of a shock initially to move so far away from home and leave my family and friends. Adjusting to the weather was definitely a challenge. I had no clue how to tie a scarf, or how to buy some basic necessities, like a serious pair of boots and a winter coat. It was a steep learning curve. I had a lot of fun as a summer associate in Boston, and the city grew on me. When I got an offer from Goodwin after graduating, and I met my now-husband around the same time, my decision was made to stay.
My paternal grandfather in India was a lawyer. My father earned an LLB in India but never practiced. So the practice of law ran in my family. Parents will sometimes tell kids who argue a lot they should or could be a lawyer when they grow up. Well, I used to argue a fair amount as a kid so I heard that advice often growing up. Heading to college, I actually wanted to be a journalist. I had even served as the managing editor for my high school newspaper. As you can imagine, it wasn’t so well-received by my parents. So as a compromise, I studied electrical engineering, because I was very interested in technology as well. As it turned out, it’s been really a huge help to my legal career. The fact that I have an engineering degree allowed me to go into IP when I first graduated from law school. Even as an in-house counsel it helps me understand the technical side of things. Often I have found it gives me instant credibility when speaking with engineers and technically- minded people at my company.
My first job was as an IP associate at Goodwin, where I represented global tech and life science companies mainly on patent and trademark prosecution as well as general licensing and other IP matters. I worked there for three-and-a-half years.
My first in-house positions were at software or hi-tech companies where I focused mostly on IP matters and on overseeing the company’s patent and trademark portfolios as well as licensing matters.
After a few years of practice, I realized I was interested not only in IP law, but in other areas of law as well. When I decided to make the move to be Associate General Counsel at Arbor Networks, it was a purposeful decision to become more of a generalist as opposed to continuing on my path as an IP attorney. At Arbor, I was hired to manage a team advising on global commercial agreements. In addition, I was tasked with providing legal advice to the management team and other business leaders on a wide variety of legal matters. On any given day, I could be advising the company about matters relating to employment issues, revenue questions, or sales contracts.
Last year, I joined RSA Security, which is currently a part of Dell Technologies. But shortly after I joined, we found out that RSA was to be divested, and bought out by outside private equity investors. These past few months, we have been working on transition plans to become our own stand-alone company later this year. It’s an exciting time for RSA, and in some ways, it feels like a startup. Although it’s not the job I originally signed up for, which was working for a large, stable company like Dell, it has been fulfilling in its own way, and I am so grateful to be part of this journey.
Every time I have taken on a new position, it’s been with a goal – either to get new experience, more responsibility, or advance in some other way. For example, at smaller companies, I acquired knowledge and experience, but sometimes there was no next step up on the so-called “corporate ladder." So I sometimes had to take the initiative and find my next role elsewhere in order to advance my career.
I served as President for the South Asian American Law Students Association (SAALSA) at BU, so it was natural for me to continue to be involved with SABA when I became a lawyer. I was on the SABA GB board from 2006 to 2010, and served as VP in 2011. Then, my husband and I had our first child and I needed some time to recalibrate between work, a baby, and my sanity!
In 2013, I joined the SABA North America Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of SABA North America, because it allowed me to do a lot of work remotely from home or the office, given that everyone on the Foundation board was scattered across the country. I served as President of the Foundation from 2015-2016 and have remained active since, as a Foundation Champion. I also served as SABA NA’s VP for Affiliate Relations in 2017-2018.
The best part about being involved with SABA over these years is not only the leadership experience it has given me, but also a wide network of colleagues and deep friendships, not only locally in Boston, but also nationally.
My husband and I moved to Bedford in 2013. After I got over the initial shock of moving from city life to suburban life, I decided to get more involved in my local community. Like many minorities, South Asians may not always see diversity being represented in their local communities, and particularly in leadership positions. But that doesn’t mean we should not participate. We have to overcome any initial discomfort and try to connect with the larger communities, so that we can be in the room where things happen. Otherwise, we are partly to blame if our voices are not heard.
So, I want to be involved because this is the community where we decided to raise our family and where my kids go to school. I realized that if I want to make an impact on this community we now call home, I should also invest some of my time and energy in serving on various local boards.
It was so rewarding when my son came home from school excited to tell me about a new math game that a teacher was introducing in his 1st grade class. As it turns out, I served on the Grant Committee of the Bedford Education Foundation which raises money for our schools and teachers. My son’s new math game was something that we funded.
I’ve also had the honor of joining the board of the Bedford Citizen, an online news source established for educating the public about the local issues and events that affect the understanding and engagement of Bedford residents. Whenever something that affects the Bedford community happens, the Citizen is at the forefront of the conversation.
Lalitha met her husband, Anil Ranganath (also a lawyer), at a SABA Greater Boston networking event! She says she owes a lot to SABA GB, both on the professional and personal front!
First in a series of spotlights of past SABA GB presidents
Keerthi grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, attended Bowdoin College in Maine, and earned her law degree summa cum laude from Suffolk University Law School in 2011. In law school she was a member of the Suffolk Journal of Trial and Appellate Advocacy. She was also the Chief Competition Director of the Moot Court Honor Board, a semifinalist in the Thomas C. Clark appellate advocacy competition, and quarter-finalist and second speaker at the Foreign Direct Investment International Moot Court Competition.
She is currently an associate in the Boston, Massachusetts office of Jackson Lewis, P.C., a national labor and employment law firm with more than 950 lawyers. Her practice focuses on employment litigation, as well as providing employers with preventive advice and counsel.
I knew I wanted to become a lawyer in high school. I was an active member of the high school debate team and really enjoyed oral advocacy. In college, I majored in Government & Legal Studies, which solidified my interest in pursuing a legal career. After college, I was an immigration paralegal for two years. Although I ultimately did not pursue an immigration career, the experience was extremely helpful because I had direct access and contact with clients on a day-to-day basis. As a result, I learned valuable client development and management skills very early on in my career.
Volunteering with SABA GB and SABA NA, of course! Growing up, I was surrounded by scientists, doctors, and engineers, but I did not know many attorneys. My leap into the legal profession felt like a big one. For this reason, working with SABA GB and SABA NA has been a highlight of my career. I’ve created a valued support system and network, met several mentors, and made lasting friendships.
As I noted above, working with SABA GB and SABA NA has been an invaluable experience for me. I have put a lot of work into both organizations, but I have also made countless friends across the United States and Canada and expanded my professional network exponentially. I have also had several opportunities as a panelist or speaker, which has only served to elevate my career. For anyone thinking about joining, take the plunge! You won’t regret it.
I’ve been asked this question several times and my answer is always the same: do not be afraid to deviate from your original law school career goals. This was a hard lesson for me because I am a planner and I hate to deviate from my plans. Over time, however, my interests, values, and obligations changed. Allowing myself the flexibility to change and adapt was critical.
My husband, Peter Beebe (Northeastern ’13), is a probate attorney. We talk about our work daily, sharing interesting stories or challenging cases with one another. For me, it is helpful to share my work with him and get his perspective on my litigation work. I wish I could say I am as helpful to him as he is to me. Sadly, I understand very little about his probate practice.
One thing that is particularly helpful is that we each understand the demands of a client service industry. If I need to take time on a weekend or during vacation to attend to client, Peter is extremely understanding and supportive. Likewise, if he needs to work late or switch up the drop off/pick up schedule for our son, I try to accommodate him as much as possible.
During my first year on the Board, I was on parental leave from April to October. Obviously, my primary focus was watching my newborn, but I also planned a few events for SABA GB and prepared our pitch to host the SABA NA Conference in 2022! I knew it would be hard to completely stop working, so working with SABA GB was the perfect balance. The Board was extremely accommodating and supportive. In fact, I brought my son to a Board meeting or two!
When I became President and returned to work, the real juggle began. I was trying to balance my obligations to my family, to work, and to SABA GB. I probably worked late or attended events 3-4 nights a week. Luckily, my husband and my parents encouraged me to push through and helped wherever and whenever they could. It was an exhausting year, but the rewards were well worth it and I am proud of all that the Board was able to accomplish that year.
My husband and I love to travel. Although Covid-19 limits our travel plans this year, we are making the most of local hiking trails and beaches. The best part is watching our two-year old son keep up on the trails!
SABA GB is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.
South Asian Bar Association of Greater Bostonc/o Boston Bar Association16 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108