You currently serve as the Chicago office chair on the Committee on Retention and Promotion of Women (CRPW). How has the role allowed you to shape and support the professional advancement of women lawyers and diverse women lawyers at Sidley?
When I reflect on what has allowed my own professional advancement at Sidley, what stands out to me the most is the people who supported me. I’m fortunate to have an amazing network of mentors, mentees and friends — both male and female — at the firm. I was also able to develop that network due to the many initiatives, both formal and informal, to retain and promote women lawyers undertaken by the CRPW and supported by the firm’s management.
Therefore, in my role as Chicago’s office chair, I focus on initiatives that help our women lawyers build internal and external personal connections and relationships because I believe they are the keys to one’s success at Sidley. But no one single initiative works for everyone, so the challenge is to make sure that we are offering initiatives that speak to women in various stages of life and career and with varying perspectives of what success means to them.
You are a role model for many at the firm. Do you think your professional experience has been different as an Asian American woman lawyer?
One of the obstacles to the success of any diverse lawyer, not just Asian Americans, is the lack of role models that are “like you.” For Asian Americans, this can be further complicated by the diversity within the category we refer to as ‘Asian American Pacific Islander,’ which encompasses a lot of different cultures, traditions and heritages. My own professional experience was shaped from having to piece together a role model using the traits I admired most in the people around me, none of whom looked like me. My advice for other Asian American women lawyers, which also applies to all diverse lawyers, is not to let the lack of people who look like you be an obstacle to identifying a role model or models. Everyone has some traits or strengths that we admire and can aspire to have. I advise casting your net broadly and you will find role models everywhere.
Given your involvement in the CRPW, you obviously play a key role in the firm’s mentoring initiatives. Do you have any best practices for establishing successful and fruitful mentor/mentee relationships?
The most successful mentor/mentee relationships that I have had — as both mentor and as mentee —are ones in which both parties have made a personal investment, as well as a professional one. The best way to do that is to get to know each other. I tell people to take advantage of opportunities to spend time with people socially, both Sidley lawyers and contacts outside of the firm. Spend that time getting to know that person and let that person get to know you. The more people get to know you, the more they will like you; and the more people like you, the more they will invest in you.
You are also one of the co-chairs of the firm’s Associate Compensation Committee in Chicago. Why do you think it’s important to have both women and diverse partners represented on this committee?
There are several reasons. Diversity and inclusion needs to be integrated into the law firm structure. Since almost 50% of our associates are women and about one-third of them are diverse, the committee that evaluates them should be appropriately representative. It’s also important to the committee’s work because it allows the committee to draw upon a range of experiences in understanding the opportunities provided to women and diverse associates, as well as the challenges they may have.