South Asian Bar
Association of Chicago


Serving Chicagoland's South Asian Community

2020 SABA Chicago Board

Aileen Bhandari, President

Aileen Bhandari is an Assistant State’s Attorney in Cook County.  Currently she is in the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Felony Trial Division.  She has been an Assistant State’s Attorney for over 17 years.  She has served the people of Cook County in numerous assignments including Child Support Enforcement, Domestic Violence and Sex Assault cases.  She has prosecuted hundreds of felony cases and conducted various jury trials. Aileen has served as Treasurer of the Indian American Bar Association and was a past Chair of the Judicial Evaluation Committee for the Indian Bar Association (SABA).  Aileen has also served as Honorary Board member of the Asian American Bar Association (AABA) and on the Board of Directors for the Filipino American Lawyers Association (FALA). Aileen has worked on the Asian American Coalition Lunar Celebration Dinner, was a Co-Chair for the Political Forum committee and was a committee member of the Asian American Festival planning committee. Aileen’s other community involvements include serving on the Asian American Advisory Council for State Treasurer, Judy Barr Topinka and Alexi Giannoulias for several years. She also served on the Asian Advisory Council for the Cook County State’s Attorney Office.  Aileen Bhandari earned her Law Degree in 2002 from the DePaul University College of Law where she also served as President of the Student Bar Association.


Saranya Raghavan, President Elect

Saranya Raghavan is an attorney in Winston & Strawn’s litigation group. She focuses her practice on intellectual property litigation, with an emphasis on patent litigation. She has experience representing clients in a wide variety of industries and technologies, including telecommunications, mobile devices, computer software, financial products and services, and consumer products. In addition to her litigation focus, Saranya has experience prosecuting dozens of utility patent applications in the electronic and computer arts directed to computer software, Internet-based applications, graphical user interfaces, financial products and services, insurance products and services, and business methods. Saranya also has experience preparing validity, freedom-to-operate, and patentability opinions.

Before transitioning to the legal industry, Saranya was a lead software engineer at Orbitz Worldwide where she designed and developed consumer-facing Java applications for booking travel packages online. Saranya earned a B.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Electrical & Computer Engineering from Purdue University, and a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law.


Shekar Jayaraman, Treasurer

Shekar Jayaraman is the founder of Jayaraman Law, LLC – with offices located in downtown Chicago and Oak Brook, IL. His practice focuses primarily on Estate Planning, Corporate Formation, Corporate Governance and Real Estate Law.

Prior to staring Jayaraman Law, Shekar was a Judicial Clerk for a United States Magistrate, focusing heavily on violent crimes.  He earned an LL.M. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in Business and Corporate Governance, and has served under the Ohio Secretary of State as a Regional Director,  handling Business Services and Elections. While
in law school, Shekar externed for a United States Magistrate for the summer after his first year, and was selected as a Fellow for the Janet D. Steiger Fellowship for the summer after his second year.

Outside of practicing law, Shekar enjoys spending time hiking, rock climbing, and teaching spin classes.


Heena Arora, Secretary

Heena Arora is an Assistant State’s Attorney at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Currently she is in the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau—Misdemeanor Division at Bridgeview. She has served in the Appeals division, where she responded to matters of jury waivers, ineffective assistance of counsel, extended sentencing, and reasonable doubt issues. Heena is on the board of the Chicago Bar Association-Young Lawyers Section as a special project coordinator, and a member the South Asian Bar Association of North America. Prior to joining the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Heena was an Assistant District Attorney for the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office in New York.

Heena received her J.D. from Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in New York and was President of the Federal Bar Association—Hofstra Law Division and a Research Editor for the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal. Heena received her B.A. in Political Science, magna cum laude, from Adelphi University. She is admitted to practice law in Illinois and New York.

Contact: heena,

Sarah Chowdhury, VP of Programming

Sarah Chowdhury is Legal Counsel for Susana Mendoza at the Illinois Office of Comptroller. Prior to joining the Comptroller's office, Sarah practiced disability law at a private law firm. She has personally taken cases ranging from political asylum to police brutality, and has worked on various political elections. She is a member of the Chicago Bar Association's Law and Debate Club and is an experienced National Speech and Debate Association Coach. Sarah currently serves on the Associate Board of Life Span, a nonprofit that provides services to women and children affected by domestic violence; and is a founding member of South Loop Mutual Aid.
Sarah graduated from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, where she served on the International and Comparative Law Review. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Indiana University in Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Sarah has served on the boards of various organizations throughout her formal education.
Sarah spends most of her free time reading, practicing yoga, and frequenting museums and galleries around the city.


Novaira Paul, VP Public Relations

Novaira Paul is an attorney at Banner & Witcoff. She focuses her practice on intellectual property litigation and trademark prosecution and counseling. She has experience representing clients in a wide variety of industries, including consumer products, telecommunications, and entertainment services. Prior to practicing as a lawyer, Novaira owned and operated a photography company, focusing on engagement portraits and family portraits. She also worked as a paralegal at a boutique medical malpractice law firm in San Diego before making the decision to go to law school.

Novaira previously served on the SABA Chicago Executive Board as a General Director (2019). She received her J.D. from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and her B.A. in International Business from San Diego State University. She is admitted to practice law in Illinois and California.


Preetha Jayakumar, General Director

Lawyer photo

Preetha Jayakumar is an Associate in the Chicago office of Gordon & Rees and is a member of the Insurance practice group. Ms. Jayakumar routinely advises clients and litigates cases involving insurance coverage, cyber security, professional liability, fidelity & surety, and bank litigation.

Prior to joining Gordon & Rees, Ms. Jayakumar defended large corporations, municipal entities and small businesses in state and federal courts. Ms. Jayakumar further assisted clients on wide-ranging statutory and regulatory compliance issues.

Ms. Jayakumar has extensive experience preparing cases for trial and handling all aspects of pre-trial procedure. She has also successfully briefed appeals in the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.



Sapna Khatri, General Director

Sapna Khatri is a Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Sapna is a member of the ACLU’s Women’s and Reproductive Rights Project, and is involved in all aspects of the Project’s litigation, policy advocacy, public outreach and education. She has worked on a variety of issues within the Project, such as religious refusals, maternal mortality, telemedicine, access to reproductive care, employment discrimination, and HB-40 implementation.

Prior to joining the ACLU, Sapna was a litigation associate at Armstrong Teasdale in St. Louis, where she worked on data privacy, cybersecurity, advertising law, and a variety of commercial litigation matters. She received a J.D. from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and was managing editor of their Global Studies Law Review. Sapna was recognized as Public Service Student of the Year upon graduating from law school and is currently a Fellow at the ACLU of Illinois. Sapna received a B.A. in International Studies, cum laude, and B.J. in Journalism, magna cum laude, from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is admitted to practice law in Missouri.


Piya Mukherjee, General Director

Neha Nigam, General Director

Neha Nigam is a litigation associate at Winston & Strawn LLP. She focuses her practice on complex commercial litigation in state and federal courts, regulatory and internal investigations, and SEC enforcement actions. She has represented individuals and corporations in matters involving business torts, securities litigation, government investigations, and product liability.

Aside from the SABA Chicago Executive Board, Neha is on the Junior Leadership Board of the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Field Associates (an auxiliary board of the Field Museum). Neha received a B.S. in Political Science and History from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.


Bharathi Pillai, General Director

Bharathi Pillai is a Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. Bharathi works on a variety of civil liberties issues including free speech, LGBT rights, voting rights, criminal justice, and immigrants’ rights. She has also worked on institutional reform cases involving efforts to increase police oversight and accountability and challenging the discriminatory deployment of police officers.

Prior to joining the ACLU, Bharathi served as a law clerk for U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel in the Northern District of Illinois. She was previously an Arthur Helton Global Human Rights Fellow at People’s Watch, a grassroots human rights organization, in Madurai, India and a litigation associate at the law firm of Ropes & Gray in New York. She received a J.D. from the New York University School of Law and was an editor on the NYU Environmental Law Journal. She received a B.S. summa cum laude in Psychology and Finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is admitted to practice law in Illinois and New York.


Mita Shewakramani, General Director

Mita Nirmal Shewakramani graduated from the Pennsylvania State University's Dickenson School of Law and was sworn into the Illinois Bar Association in October of 2013. Since opening her solo practice in 2015, Regal Law Group LLC, Mita has assisted clients in numerous areas of the law, including real estate, commercial transactions, estate planning, and breach of contract. In addition to practicing law, Mita is a managing real estate broker. Her brokerage firm primarily focuses on commercial and residential leasing and investment sales. Mita is also actively involved in her family businesses Regal Jewels and Sari Sapne located in the heart of the South Asian community: Devon Avenue. As a showroom manager passionate about clothing and jewelry sales, Mita enjoys the bustle and hustle of retail, and being a part of the important celebrations South Asians love commemorating in gold. Having trained with the Gemologist Institute of America, Mita is certified to appraise diamonds, as well as her personal favorite gem-pearls! Some personal hobbies include scuba diving, archery, training for the next big race, and enjoying nature walks with her labradoodle Tony.


Akash Vyas, General Director

Akash Vyas is Assistant State’s Attorney for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He has been a prosecutor for over 12 years. He is currently assigned to the Special Prosecutions Bureau where he works with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on long term investigations to disrupt and dismantle drug and firearm trafficking organizations. Akash has has previously served in a number of assignments including criminal appeals, felony review, and the felony trial division. He received his J.D. from The John Marshall Law School and his B.S. in Management from Purdue University.



Sheetal Parikh, IAC Clinic Co-Director


Sheetal has been an active member of SABA Chicago for over 5 years, including serving as the VP of Pro bono from 2011 to 2013.

She has been an in house attorney for the wealth management business of a large financial services firm for over 5 years.  Prior to that, Sheetal was an associate at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg.  She attended the University of Chicago for her undergraduate studies and obtained her law degree from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Sameen Zia, IAC Clinic Co-Director


Sameen Zia earned her law degree from New England Law Boston in 2010.  She is a founding shareholder of Zia Ilic Ltd. and focuses her practice on litigation matters involving family law including divorces, child support, child custody, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, and orders of protection.