Jay Huh is Counsel for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on ending suicide among LGBTQ young people. The Trevor Project operates several programs, including 24/7 free crisis services via a toll-free phone number, text, and chat where trained counselors give confidential assistance, research, advocacy, education, and peer support.
Why did you decide to join the team at The Trevor Project?
My decision to join The Trevor Project was driven by a desire to help young people, and timing. First, I would love to see a day when young people don’t have to struggle as much as I did. In my youth, I often felt despair and self-loathing and would have benefited from a resource like The Trevor Project during my journey of self-discovery and acceptance.
Second, timing. The attacks against the LGBTQ community have intensified. According to the ACLU, over 400 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in 2023, more than double what was introduced in all of 2022. Along with the proliferation of these anti-LGBTQ laws, I regularly read about verbal and physical attacks against the community. These external pressures create additional stress and anxiety for young people who are already under immense stress from their own internal and family pressures. Joining The Trevor Project provided me with an opportunity to help an organization that endeavors to uplift young people just like me. In my role, I can use the legal knowledge and skills I’ve learned over the years to build a stronger organization that can then provide better and more life-saving support and resources to LGBTQ young people.
In your career, you’ve worked at Sidley, in corporations, and now in the non-profit world. What skills have helped you transition successfully between these different workplaces?
Each sector is driven by different motivations and objectives, which are apparent when reading an organization’s mission statement, values, and goals, but can also be visible when speaking and working with colleagues. Being adaptable and staying curious can help one succeed in any organization. Adaptability includes adapting to different people, personalities, work styles, processes, and procedures, but it also includes adapting one’s mindset to align with the goals and culture of a new environment. If one is not able to adapt, it will be very difficult to understand and appreciate the unique dynamics and expectations of each workplace, thus making it harder to effectively contribute. Curiosity is critical when learning about new industries and markets, and when building relationships with new colleagues. Asking questions and seeking feedback builds relationships and trust, but it can also help in creating an environment where different ideas and perspectives are embraced which in turn can drive innovation.
Is there a piece of advice that you specifically took to heart and can give to others?
Be kind and be humble. The legal profession can be stressful, and burnout is a problem. I think kindness and humility can help combat that stress, and I have found both to be effective tools in my practice. Stern words and posturing in a negotiation are often necessary and appropriate but saying a kind word or admitting to a mistake can surprise a counterparty and make them want to help you in reaching a satisfactory compromise.
You joined our Palo Alto office shortly after it opened. What do you remember about that experience?
When I joined the Palo Alto office, I was the only junior associate, and I was warmly welcomed by the partners, senior associates, and staff. On the work front, I was readily pulled into matters, introduced to clients, and given responsibilities probably above my level of seniority. No matter how busy things became, my colleagues always took the time to answer questions, review work, and provide constructive feedback. On the social front, meal outings were a frequent occurrence, as were impromptu happy hours, but the quality of the office culture and relationship-building was driven primarily by the model set by the partners and senior associates rather than any organized events or programs. I was privileged to work with several partners who really took the time to care for me as a person and in my development as a lawyer. Those efforts really set the tone for the office.
Published May 2023
Read more articles in our Alumni Profiles series and learn more about our Alumni Network by clicking here.