In honor of May as Asian Pacific Heritage Month, the Diversity Committee hosted a dialogue and lunch reception last week with Peggy Kuo, General Counsel for the City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, and Alan Chang, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Legal Affairs for the New York Yankees.
Mr. Chang, who grew up in Queens, began his legal career as a litigator in Los Angeles before joining cable sports giant ESPN. A longtime Yankees fan, he recalled telling his wife that ESPN was his “number two dream job,” with the Yankees occupying the top spot. Two years into his role at ESPN, Mr. Chang learned that the Yankees were seeking an attorney with cable sports news experience. He had just bought a home and was feeling settled, but the job was an opportunity he felt he couldn’t pass up.
“And 13 years later, they can’t trade me,” he joked. “I feel like I found my dream job.” When he joined the team, Mr. Chang was one of just four Asian-American attorneys in Major League Baseball (one of whom worked for the Mets). He has done significant work on a Yankees cable television venture and the team’s new Bronx stadium. “It’s never boring,” he said.
Ms. Kuo cited the importance of her City roots. Her father, an immigrant from Taiwan in the 1960s, worked for the Department of Environmental Protection for 44 years, where he designed sewers for the City, and Ms. Kuo was a product of the City’s public school system. Unlike her father, however, she was eager to explore many different careers.
“I have a curious mind, a restless spirit, and no aversion to risk taking,” she said. “Opportunities come up, and you have to be ready to take them.”
Following law school, she pursued trial work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “It’s a job I would have done for free,” she said. Years later, she was getting settled into Washington, D.C. and about to buy a home, when she learned of the chance to prosecute crimes stemming from the war in Yugoslavia. Ms. Kuo journeyed to The Hague, where she prosecuted the only mass-rape case in Bosnia, as well as a torture and murder case against a camp commander.
Her return to New York four years later felt like a homecoming. “I always think of the City like a family,” she said. After work in private practice and with the New York Stock Exchange, she took her present role at OATH (which involved an interview with the Corp. Counsel.)
During the Q&A, Mr. Chang and Ms. Kuo were asked what qualities they feel their cultural and ethnic backgrounds contribute to their respective legal careers.
Mr. Chang said that he felt his background lent him an increased sense of cultural sensitivity and understanding that could be applied to the Yankees’ diverse fanbase.
Ms. Kuo noted, “I can see things from more than one viewpoint. My mom struggles with English, and when I was making arguments to the jury, I’d, in my mind, be making those arguments to my mom. I’d say, ‘Would my mom understand this?’”
Editor’s Note: The discussion was complemented by two tables of delicious food. Thanks to the Asian American Bar Association of New York, the South Asian Bar Association of New York, and the Korean American Bar Association of Greater New York, which graciously provided the refreshments.
Thanks also to Andrea Chan, William Ng, Tanisha Byron, Stuart Smith, Michael Wasser, and Raju Sundaran of the Diversity Committee – and Lisa Forrester-Campos, Stephen Kim, Keith Miloscia, Connie Pankratz, Madhu Parthasarathy, Liza Sohn, Peter Tsai, and Gloria Yi.
-NYC Law Department, HEARSAY
– reprinted with permission from NYC Law Dept