AAPI Heritage Month: Savannah attorney shares how is upbringing shaped his career

Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 3:39 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. WTOC is celebrating and honoring the history and contributions of the AAPI community.

Sneh Patel is a Savannah attorney and served as Bloomindale’s first Indian American judge.

“I was born and raised in Germany. My parents had immigrated to Germany,” Patel said. “And then in second grade, I actually went to India for four years with my grandparents.”

Patel spent most of his childhood between Germany and India.

“Then we moved to the United States in ’92. We moved to Athens, Georgia. I am a Bulldog. I went to the University of Georgia there. I went to high school there, and my parents were running a business, a laundromat there,” he said.

Patel graduated from UGA, moving onto Southern Illinois University School of Law. A field, he says, most Indians don’t go into.

“Lawyers are not necessarily seen as a prestigious occupation in India,” he said.

But Patel followed his passion.

“I started off as a public defender in Hinesville,” Patel said.

Three years late, he applied to the district attorney’s office in Savannah.

Patel also served as a pro-tem judge in Bloomingdale. The first Indian American judge in the town.

“There’s a lot of pride. You know, to be the first of anything is always awesome,” he said.

Patel then started a family and decided to open his own law firm as a criminal defense attorney.

“Being able to just help people, like on their worst day of their life,” Patel said.

Empathy and selflessness. Two values, Patel says, are taught in most Asian families.

And as he flips through pages of his life, so far, Patel realizes his experiences have helped shape him into the lawyer he is today.

“I think it’s made me very adaptable to my environments and able to relate to a lot of different people,” he said.

A member of several professional law associations and a recipient of several awards.

“With Asians, especially, we sort of drill into our minds that you have to work hard to make it, and if you work hard, it will pay off,” Patel said.

For Patel, it is refreshing to see more Asian American and Pacific Islanders going into law and other career fields.

“There’s no reason for all of us to become doctors,” Patel said.

Encouraging others to use their experiences as part of the AAPI community yo follow their dreams.

“If you persevere, you can make it anywhere,” he said.

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