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Keerthi Sugumaran, President of SABA Greater Boston 2019

Saturday, July 04, 2020 3:10 PM | Zaheer Samee (Administrator)

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.

  • When and how did you decide you wanted to become a lawyer?

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.

  • In your career so far, what are you most proud of?

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.   

With respect to my work with these organizations, there is one moment that stands out among the rest.  When I was on the Board of SABA GB, I helped plan an event to honor the outstanding achievements of several SABA GB trail blazers, including the first South Asian judge on the Court of Appeals, the first South Asian elected public official in MA, the highest-ranking South Asian political appointee in Massachusetts, etc.  It was an inspiring event and I hope that it encouraged at least a few young South Asians to consider pursuing a career in the legal profession. 
  • You served on the SABA board in 2018 and 2019. The first year you received the Board Member of the Year Award. The second year you were president. Now you are working with SABA North America. Why should anyone get involved with SABA?

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. 

  • Any advice to law students or new lawyers? What ,if anything, would you do differently if you could do it again?

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.

  • Your husband is a lawyer too. What is that like? Easier to understand each other sometimes? Do you ever talk shop?

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.

  • Not only were you working, but you were also on the board and president while you had a young child at home. How did you manage that? Any advice for other lawyers juggling career and family commitments like you did?

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. 

  • Any hobbies, extra curricular activities, pastimes you enjoy when you were not working?

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!

 

 

South Asian Bar Association of Greater Boston, 16 Beacon Street, Boston MA 02108 | SABA GB is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization

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