In celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month we are excited to feature Ali Dhanani, Houston-based partner in the firm’s Intellectual Property group and Chair of the firm's Asian Pacific American Affinity Group. Read our Q&A with Ali below to learn more about his work at Baker Botts:
What is your role at Baker Botts and why did you choose to join the firm?
I am a partner in the patent group at Baker Botts and I focus on the Media and Telecommunication industries. I chose to work for Baker Botts for many reasons. First, I found the people here to be very welcoming. I also found the IP group at Baker Botts to be more diverse than other firms at that time. I joined the firm as a summer associate in 2005 and rotated through the firm’s Corporate and IP departments. I eventually joined the firm as a full-time associate in IP. I was always drawn to IP work having majored in computer science in college. I also liked that you got to touch on almost every aspect of legal work such as litigation and prosecution and so on. The reputation of the firm was also a big draw – many people I knew in and outside of the legal community knew about Baker Botts.
What do you find most exciting about your role/practice?
What I find most exciting about my role in the day to day interaction with people to help them solve their problems. What I also enjoy is looking at how a particular case I’m working on fits into the overall company’s strategy. For example, if I’m working with a startup company, I help them figure out how to structure their agreements to maximize what their return would be on their capital. Or, I could be advising a company why they shouldn’t spend money on patents. The work I do goes beyond solving a certain problem. I’m helping companies with their overall business strategy.
How has your heritage influenced who are you and/or the work you do today?
My heritage has certainly influenced who I am and what I do. Growing up, there was a strong sense of community and I wanted that in my workplace. At Baker Botts I’ve always felt part of a family – it is a place you enjoy being at. It’s common to find people who have been with the firm for a very long time which seems to be a very unique aspect of Baker Botts compared to other places.
What advice would you give others to achieve the kind of success you have?
We’re all familiar with the advice to work hard, but I would press on to say you also should find a place that makes you feel comfortable. Also, don’t be afraid to seek out mentors that can guide you. It may be easy to keep our heads down, but connections are critical – it is through these connections that you grow, and they may determine where your next opportunity/case will come from. Also, get out of your comfort zone, because that is where serendipity happens. For example, when I first started with the firm, I decided to attend a 5K event even though I was not a runner. There happened to be a lot of partners at the event. Afterwards, one of the partners asked if I would be interested in serving on a firm committee – something I hadn’t even considered as a young associate.
What (or who) inspires you?
My parents inspire me. I admire how hard they work. Dealing with the transition of moving and resettling to a new country, with children, must have been so difficult. My parents had to make that move at a time that is very different than today. Secondly, being in a position to give back to the next generation continues to inspire me. When I look at my friends, I see so many of us that grew up in similar environments that have accomplished so much. That inspires me to work even harder and give back whenever I can. Mentoring others, for instance, is one of the ways I give back.
Is there a fun fact about you and your life that you’d like to share?
Dance is big in my culture. Bollywood dance, for instance, is a popular Indian dance that is centered around talent shows, weddings, and other festivities. Many people do not know that I used to do a lot of these types of dances for weddings and parties.
What does Asian Pacific American Heritage Month mean to you?
It is a month where we recognize how far we’ve come. The struggles that exist today are not where they were 10 to 15 years ago. Figuring out how to give back to the next generation will continue to be my responsibility as an Asian American.
Any final words of encouragement, an inspiring quote, or phrase you’d like to share with others navigating these challenging times?
There is no substitute for hard work, but recognize that you have to make time for family and community. Some of my best memories from my career have been when I have taken time out to attend social events or travelled to conferences.
ABOUT BAKER BOTTS L.L.P.
Baker Botts is an international law firm of approximately 725 lawyers practicing throughout a network of 13 offices around the globe. Based on our experience and knowledge of our clients' industries, we are recognized as a leading firm in the energy and technology sectors. Since 1840, we have provided creative and effective legal solutions for our clients while demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to excellence. For more information, please visit bakerbotts.com.