On October 17, AABANY, along with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, hosted the Honorable Goodwin Liu, Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court, to discuss the finding of the recently published report A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law which was released by Yale Law School and NAPABA. It reflects, through the numbers, the state of Asian Americans in the legal profession.

Justice Liu spoke about the declining number of Asian Americans enrolling in law school since 2008, the high attrition rates and low partner-to-associate ratio for Asian Americans at major law firms, and the small number of Asian Americans working in the public sector. He cited a need for more research to identify the reasons driving these findings and impressed upon the audience the dramatic rate at which Asian American participation in the law has grown over the past generation. Finally, he proposed that some of these results may be due to a perceived lack of ‘soft skills’ and fewer opportunities for mentorship.

Following Justice Liu’s presentation of the report’s findings, attendees heard from esteemed panelists Sandra Leung, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the Honorable Kiyo A. Matsumoto, US District Judge in the Eastern District of New York, Petal N. Modeste, Esq., Associate Dean of Student Affairs Administration at Columbia Law School, and Lawrence P. Tu, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer at CBS Corporation. The panel, moderated by former AABANY President Susan Shin, a Partner at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, discussed reactions to the research. The panelists responded by sharing advice for and personal experiences with learning ‘soft skills,’ the role of employers and law schools in better addressing these statistics, and the importance of developing  situational- and self-awareness. In closing, before the cocktail reception that followed, Justice Liu offered a final takeaway: as an Asian American in the law, you must be a “very careful student of human nature, your audience, and yourself.”

Thank you to Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer for hosting and co-sponsoring the event, and to Justice Liu and our panelists for their time and insight. Find the complete Portrait Project report here.