Nancy Chung is a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, head of Sidley’s Litigation practice area in the New York office, and co-head of its international Investment Funds Litigation practice area. Her experience as a “go-to” litigator for her clients has earned her recognition by Crain’s as one of the “Notable Women in Law” and by Minority Corporate Counsel Association as a “Rainmaker.”
“…being at a law firm like Sidley allows us to tap into an infinite amount of expertise and resources, collaborating as a team to help our clients solve their legal challenges around the world.”
What attracted you to the practice of law and what aspect of your practice do you enjoy the most?
My father graduated from the best law school in South Korea at Seoul National University but never got to practice law after we immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. I knew I wanted to continue that legacy by becoming a lawyer; I’m grateful I followed in his footsteps, and my niece who is in law school is following in mine. I absolutely love the multidisciplinary nature of our clients’ disputes and risk issues, and being at a law firm like Sidley allows us to tap into an infinite amount of expertise and resources, collaborating as a team to help our clients solve their legal challenges around the world.
Tell us about a professional goal you are proud of achieving, and what (or who) inspired you to go for it.
My parents knew that they could offer better opportunities for my sister and me in the U.S., which motivated them to move from Seoul to New York when they were in their 30s and barely spoke the language. Like many immigrant stories, that decision took enormous courage. Their story, which is also part of my story, has always inspired me to aim higher at every stage of my career and develop an inner drive to never settle for less.
What is the most memorable matter you led and what made it so memorable?
The most memorable matters are the crises where you are the “first (outside) call” the client makes on a highly confidential and sensitive matter. I can always remember where I am, the time of day, and who the call comes from—which is typically on my cell phone because it’s late and from the general counsel or someone else from the senior team. While I can’t talk about the details, in some cases we can help the client resolve its issues without any known litigation event or headline exposure (while preparing in case litigation should arise), which is among the best possible results we could achieve. And in cases where we have to engage in a public battle, nothing strengthens a relationship more than knitting together the client teams and other outside advisors to develop a cohesive legal strategy and a plan to be many steps ahead.
On a personal note, what has been your go-to self-care activity in this remote work environment?
Cooking, with intensity, which I enjoy. My Korean mother taught me that every good cook and host must fill the table with multiple dishes no matter the circumstances. You would think I would tire after 300+ days of cooking dinner, but it has turned into a nightly ritual when I’m not checking my phone, returning emails, reading briefs or on calls (most of the time) and can concentrate fully on preparing the meal at hand. My family is very social and liked to eat out and entertain large groups often, so I’ve funneled that energy into preparing many meals at home instead. My twin teenage sons and husband are the main beneficiaries, and sitting down for dinner as a family every night during quarantine has been a gift and blessing.
Can you share with us a saying or quote that gives you inspiration or helps you stay centered?
Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s a humbling mantra but profound in its simplicity no matter who you are, what you have achieved, or what culture you are from. It keeps me grounded on how I relate to people every day whether they be my team members, other colleagues within or outside Sidley, or my family and friends.