Tonkon Torp partner Parna Mehrbani is a founding board member of Oregon’s newest affinity bar association, the Oregon Arab Iranian Bar Association (OAIBA). The OAIBA will offer professional and social networking for attorneys, legal professionals, and students. Affinity bar associations play a vital function in the legal world. Regardless of which cultural background or common interest an affinity bar association might focus on, they share a mission to create space and community for those who have similar lived experiences, and all are welcome to join regardless of background.
“Research conducted by Portland-based Partners in Diversity found that having a community is one of the driving factors that will keep diverse professionals here,” explained Parna. “As a newcomer to a city, it can be hard to connect with Arab or Iranian individuals in the legal industry. If your practice area is different or you attend a different law school, your paths just may not cross. Affinity bar associations serve as a shortcut to building community.”
The founding board members of OAIBA are: President Alee Soleimanpour, Vice President Parna Mehrbani (Tonkon Torp), Treasurer Hala Gores (Hala Gores Injury Law Center), Secretary Nadia Dahab (Sugerman Dahab), and Board Member Rima Ghandour (Ghandour Law).
As the organizing attorneys honed the mission and goals for the OAIBA, which will hold 501(c)(6) status, they agreed that a key focus of the group will be mentoring law students and supporting young professionals coming to Oregon without a community. To that end, OAIBA hopes to facilitate participation of its future members in mentorship programs at University of Oregon, Lewis & Clark College, and Willamette University.
The OAIBA welcome and kickoff event held in October 2022 was well-attended and the board is now completing work on a membership listserv, offering sign-ups for members, and scheduling events for 2023. The OAIBA board is also considering other future activities, such as offering legal education to Arab and Iranian communities throughout Oregon.
“Being able to share similar family stories, restaurant recommendations, and holiday traditions is comforting and grounding,” said Parna. “These more casual exchanges can be hard to find in Oregon for those with Arab and Iranian backgrounds, so being with others of the same background feels like home.”
Everyone is welcome to join OAIBA regardless of whether they self-identify as Iranian or Arab. Annual dues are $50 for lawyers, $25 for legal professionals, and no cost for law students.