Minami Tamaki LLP today announced that Partner Minette A. Kwok will retire from the firm and that Managing Partner Donald K. Tamaki will transition into a Senior Counsel position, both effective on January 1, 2021.
Minette has led Minami Tamaki LLP’s immigration law practice for more than two decades, growing it into an award-winning and successful practice nationally recognized and ranked by U.S. News and World Report.
“Minette developed a solid team of stellar, hardworking professionals and nurtured a firm culture promoting collegiality, collaboration, and mutual respect,” said Don Tamaki who worked with Minette since she joined the firm in 1990 as the first woman Partner. “She built an immigration law practice with superb clients, including numerous technology leaders, and dedicated countless hours to the nation’s immigration bar and to community organizations. Minette is an inspiration to all attorneys.”
Minette’s achievements during her 30-year career include recognized leadership in AILA, numerous awards and recognition for legal excellence, and years of service on nonprofit boards and pro bono work.
She served on the national Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council and on the national Board of Governors for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). She was also Chair of AILA’s Northern California Chapter. Minette was a Commissioner with the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization, Immigration and Nationality Law section, and was a liaison to the Department of Labor, Region IX, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – San Francisco District Office. She also chaired the Immigration Committee of the Bar Association of San Francisco and sat on BASF’s Barristers Club board as a director.
Under Minette, Minami Tamaki LLP’s immigration practice achieved a national ranking on the 2020 and 2021 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list and a Tier 1 ranking for the Bay Area metro region for six consecutive years. She was named one of the Top 50 Female Northern California Super Lawyers from 2007-2008 and was recognized on the Northern California Super Lawyers list for 16 consecutive years, from 2004 to present. She has been recognized by Law Business Research Ltd. as one of California’s leading practitioners in its Who’s Who Legal publication and has been awarded an AV rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating for competence and ethics reserved for attorneys designated as outstanding in their field.
In 2018, San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee recognized Minette Kwok as an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honoree for her leadership advocating for immigrant families and mentoring the next generation of Asian American leaders. She served on the board of Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach for 10 years and on the advisory board for the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, UC Hastings, for 20 years. In 2014, she co-founded the Minami Tamaki Yamauchi Kwok & Lee (MTYKL) Foundation, which supports a wide array of programs and initiatives furthering social justice and civic engagement. The MTYKL Foundation to date has provided grants totaling more than $725,000.
Minette joined the firm then known as Minami, Lew & Tamaki LLP in 1990 after graduating from the University of San Francisco School of Law. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley.
Partner Donald K. Tamaki to Transition into Senior Counsel position
After serving 12 years as Managing Partner of Minami Tamaki LLP, Donald K. Tamaki will transition into a Senior Counsel role effective January 1, 2021. Don will continue to guide Minami Tamaki LLP’s involvement in social justice causes, work on business development, be available for Partner consultation as needed, and advise attorneys on cases.
“I am extremely grateful to founder Dale Minami who envisioned a law partnership that would do great work for clients—and fight for justice too,” said Don, reflecting upon the firm’s 40-year commitment to civil rights and community service.
For four decades, Don specialized in providing legal counsel to entrepreneurs, privately-held companies, and nonprofit corporations. He also developed extensive experience negotiating talent agreements and endorsement deals, representing Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi and numerous broadcast journalists.
Don received the ABA Spirit of Excellence Award and the Asian American Bar Association (AABA) Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy in 2020. In 2018, he shared with Dale Minami and Karen Korematsu the National Asian Pacific Bar Association (NAPABA) President’s Award. Don also received a NAPABA Trailblazer Award in 2003 and the State Bar of California Loren Miller Award in 1987. For 17 years straight since 2004, Don has been named to the Northern California Super Lawyers list.
Don served on the legal team that in the 1980s reopened the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court case of Fred Korematsu, overturning his criminal conviction for defying the removal and unjust incarceration of almost 120,000 Japanese Americans.
In 2017, Don helped create the StopRepeatingHistory.org public awareness campaign dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of unbridled presidential overreach. The campaign connected the dots between the hostility to Muslims, Arabs, and immigrants to the past discrimination against Chinese and Japanese Americans to help warn this country about the dangers demonizing marginalized groups presents to our democracy. The Stop Repeating History campaign is a project of the Minami Tamaki Yamauchi Kwok & Lee (MTYKL) Foundation, which Don co-founded in 2014. In 2020 alone, the MTYKL Foundation issued grants in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to nonprofits providing voter education, engaging in get-out-the-vote efforts, and combatting conspiracy theories and voter misinformation.
Don has also represented numerous clients in cases with social justice impact such as helping to lead the legal efforts to return the iconic Julia Morgan designed building which housed the Japantown YWCA back to the Japanese American community and supporting atomic bomb survivors known as “hibakusha” living currently living in the U.S. whose mission has been to call attention to the horrors of nuclear warfare. Don notably served on the legal team representing the State Bar of California in its petition to the Supreme Court to admit undocumented immigrant Sergio Garcia to the state bar. Their successful effort resulted in the court admitting Mr. Garcia and the implications rippled far beyond California, encouraging other states to follow the decision.
Don served as co-counsel to Patrick Hayashi in Popov v. Hayashi, the historic case involving the dispute over Barry Bonds’ record-breaking 73rd home run ball. The case drew national attention and is now taught to first-year law students in property law classes around the country.
Don serves on the Board of Directors of the Glide Legacy Fund and since 2006 has served as Board President of the San Francisco Japantown Foundation, which has provided nearly $800,000 in grants to nonprofits serving Japantown and the Japanese American community.
As a result of Don’s extensive experience in the law and in social justice issues, he has appeared in numerous media outlets and in documentaries, most recently in the 2020 film “The Soul of America” on HBO, based on the Jon Meacham book.
Don received both his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from law school, he practiced poverty and civil rights law in San Jose and co-founded the Asian Law Alliance, a public interest law firm. He served as the Executive Director of the Asian Law Caucus, the nation’s first public interest law firm representing Asian Americans in civil rights and poverty law cases, and then was a solo practitioner before joining the firm then known as Minami, Lew & Tamaki LLP as a Partner in 1988.
Changes Represent Next Phase of Firm Strategic Transition Plan
Minette’s retirement and Don’s transition to Senior Counsel are part of the firm’s strategic leadership plan, which in the past six years has led to B. Mark Fong, Sean Tamura-Sato, Olivia Serene Lee, and Suhi Koizumi joining the partnership and firm co-founder Dale Minami transitioning to a Senior Counsel role.
As of January 1, 2021, Sean will be the firm’s Managing Partner and Suhi will manage the Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group. Olivia will oversee immigration practice operations and continue to serve as a national leader within the immigration bar. Mark will continue to lead the Personal Injury Practice Group.