What Being Asian American Means to Me

  By Grace Minjeong Sur Smith

I got on my first airplane right before my 백일, 100th day birthday, which is historically a big day in Korea as it marks the survival of a baby in a country that endured brutal colonialism and an equally brutal civil war before catapulting to one of the largest economies in the world overnight. My father was a junior 직원 (loosely means “corporate subordinate”) of a Samsung subsidiary, and they tasked him to boost international sales based out of Los Angeles. Both my parents learned a bit of English in high school and university in Korea but as anyone who has learned a new language knows, speaking it or even trying to understand it amongst native speakers is a whole other ball game.  It is not only intimidating but can be deeply isolating and lonely.  Thankfully there was a well-established Korean community in and around L.A. and we made the trip to K-town every weekend. My mom found community at the local Korean church while my dad had to entertain clients, even on weekends.

My parents rarely talk about the difficulties they endured in a completely new world with no friends or family as young parents to my three year old sister and newborn me, but my siblings and I have picked up some clues along the way.  Particularly from our own moving around as kids.  My father’s international assignment ended when I was in the second grade and we moved to Seoul only to move back to L.A. the following year (a story for another time!)—we finally ended up in New Jersey, where you can still see the lone Samsung building in Fort Lee from the highway. Continue reading “What Being Asian American Means to Me”

What Being Asian American Means to Me

  By Robert Kum

What being Asian or Asian American means to me – When asked this question, people will commonly answer family which is of course not surprising.  However, when I use the term, I am not referring to the generic use of the term “family”, but am specifically referring to being a “Kum” (금).  Let me explain  First, let’s start with my last name.  The pronunciation gets butchered quite a lot, either intentionally or unintentionally.  Most people pronounce Kum, like it rhymes with Zoom.  It is subtle but my last name is more of a hard “K” with a Ummm.  As for my first name, my Korean name is actually Chong Seo.  My family is old school and so the first part of the name for all males designate the particular generational era they were born, in my case Chong.  So my four brothers and I all have this in our names (Chong Guk, Chong Hwa, Chong Myong and Chong Seo).  Since we are a patriarchal society, my sister does not get this honor and so she is just plain Nancy.

Next, when most Koreans are asked what specific area they are from, most usually say Seoul.  It is after all the largest city in Korea, roughly 17% of the population.  Some say Seoul out of convenience because it is the most well-known city (Summer Olympics, etc.).  When asked, I proudly say Okcheon.  It is a small town approx. 150 km south from Seoul.  For generations, my family lived there until my parents made the bold move to come to the U.S. in the 1960’s.   When I mean generations, the local archive contains our family tree which extends back over 1,000 years.  Being listed in this family book as being born there was so important that I later verified that my father could not bear to list my true birth place (Kingston, Ontario, Canada – That is a story for another day) but am instead listed as being born at the family homestead.  I am actually not bothered by the mistake. In another 1,000 years, someone will look at the book and try to unravel the mystery of who I was and wonder about my weird Canadian connection. Continue reading “What Being Asian American Means to Me”

What Being Asian American Means to Me

 Holly Engelmann, P.C.

A 2022 STAATUS Index survey was conducted of 5,235 Americans across varied racial/ethnic groups, demographic characteristics, and geographies in an effort to better understand how perceptions towards Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPIs) evolve over time. (https://staatus-index.s3.amazonaws.com/2023/STAATUS_Index_2023.pdf). There are a lot of really interesting key findings, but for purposes of this post, I want to briefly focus on visibility and acceptance from my personal perspective.

Visibility. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were about 24 million Asian residents in the United States in 2021, yet the STAATUS Index study reports that 26% of respondents were unable to name a famous Asian American. The next two most frequent responses after “I don’t know” over the past three years have been Jackie Chan, a 69 year old Hong Kong actor (not Asian American), and Bruce Lee (who died 50 years ago). This finding aligns with my personal experience. Throughout my life I have been told that I look like Kristi Yamaguchi (a 51 year old Japanese American former figure skater famous in the early 90s), Lucy Liu (a 54 year old Chinese American actor), and more recently, Dr. Pimple Popper (a 52 year old Chinese American dermatologist). I don’t look like any of these women, but it’s a reflection of how few famous Asian women (let alone Asian American women) there are for people to draw comparison. I get it – to many people, I look like a 50 year old Asian woman. Jokes aside, I do believe that visibility is important so that Asian Americans aren’t just portrayed in mainstream American culture and media as Kung Fu martial artists or geisha sex workers (see page 33 of the STAATUS Index study). The fact that we have over fifty-five Asian American attorneys at Duane Morris is a great step to being visible and seen as smart, witty, and business-minded people. Continue reading “What Being Asian American Means to Me”

How Being an Asian American Lawyer Has Impacted My Practice

  Shireen Y. Wetmore 

One of the great things about being Pakistani American is that I was blessed with the richness of growing up with many of my father’s cultural influences.  Some of those fit classic stereotypes.  For example, I love to bargain.  My passion for negotiation – in my father’s culture, both an art form and a sign of respect – serves my clients and my practice as we work together to resolve challenges and find creative solutions.  But as I reflect on my cultural upbringing, in a mixed household with parents sharing very different backgrounds and belief systems, I am learning more and more how much I have been influenced by the many ways my father did not fit the mold.  We may choose to challenge our culture in different ways, but every way we push is its own sign of respect for the continuity and evolution of these traditions and the ways in which we embrace shared values in changing times.  My dad took a chance to come to a new country, and make a new life in America, and I would not be here without that act of both defiance and sacrifice.  Nor would I be so fortunate to be a partner in a prestigious law firm without the push and the drive he instilled in me.  I can’t think about my Indian and Pakistani heritage without him.  And I would not want to think about my practice without the influences of that rich heritage.

What it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally?

Michael R. Futterman  By Michael R. Futterman

I don’t know if I am a good ally or if I am making a difference. And I know I still have a lot of work to do. But, I can tell you what I believe being a good ally is – it means being one in all aspects of your life, professionally and personally, all year long, not when it’s convenient and not only in June, during Pride month.

As a management side employment lawyer, it means making sure my clients are aware not only of their legal obligations concerning their LGBTQ+ employees, but also the benefits of having an open and welcoming organization where inclusivity and diversity are promoted. It means ensuring that LGBTQ+ issues are incorporated into employee training and development; that sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are included in anti-discrimination policies; that clients large and small consider diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives, employee resource groups and support networks; and that my clients explore effective ways to recruit, retain and promote LGBTQ+ employees. It means ensuring that employer’s health benefits allow for same-sex and domestic partner coverage; that parental leave policies include equal benefits for parents of any gender; and that dress codes are gender-neutral. It means trying to create a workplace culture for LGBTQ+ employees where they feel safe, welcome and appreciated. Continue reading “What it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally?”

Pride To Me

Jeanette M. Berberich By Jeanette M. Berberich 

To me, Pride Month is a time for reflection. It is a time to remember LGBTQIA+ history and to honor those who fought—and continue to fight—tirelessly for equality in the face of hate and intolerance. In 2022 alone, lawmakers have introduced more than 300 anti-LGBT bills at the state level and nationwide, largely targeting transgender youth. Our community owes a debt to our queer BIPOC- and trans- communities that laid the groundwork, created Pride, and made it a riot at Stonewall in 1969. Since then courageous LGBTQIA+ folx have continued to fight for our right to exist. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Not only do we face legal battles, but we also cannot forget individuals who face social and environmental battles every day.

We must also take time to celebrate what makes our community special—our diversity, vibrancy, acceptance, and love—and the progress we have made as a movement. Pride Month presents a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves of all we have to celebrate and as a reminder to continue to fight for the diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives that are so important to our community. Continue reading “Pride To Me”

Bring Your Whole Self

Edward Cramp By Edward Cramp

Clients of the Duane Morris law firm deserve the very best legal representation.  It does not matter what kind of client they are.  We have clients of all shapes and sizes.  Some are publicly traded companies with large internal legal departments.  Others are family businesses that have served their communities for generations.  And, some are pro bono clients who need our advice to do good in the world.

Regardless of who the client is, they deserve the best.  Our lawyers and staff can only give their best if they feel supported and accepted at work for who they are and who they love.  Only then will they bring their whole self to the profession. Continue reading “Bring Your Whole Self”

Tiny Protests: Living Pride Every Day

  By Ryan Wesley Brown

Planning a wedding is stressful, especially in our semi-post-COVID world, where the specter of another surge of illness still looms over any large event. But a new anxiety now hangs over my own wedding planning: legal impossibility. The Supreme Court majority is methodically laying the groundwork to unravel decades of hard-won civil rights battles, stare decisis be damned.

Public opinion on LGBTQ rights has shifted during recent years. For example, a 2021 Gallup Poll shows that 70% of Americans believe that same-sex couples should be entitled to legally protected marriage rights. National brands, including retailers, banks, and tech companies, have embraced Pride month as part of the annual cycle of holidays and marketing campaigns. Slotting neatly between the tent pole summer holidays of Memorial Day and Independence Day, one might be tempted to believe that queer America has achieved some sort of immutable victory in the fight for equality. Continue reading “Tiny Protests: Living Pride Every Day”

Is Legislative Intervention Required to Build an Ethnically Diverse Workforce in the UK?

John M. BenjaminTanya ChadhaBy John M. Benjamin and Tanya Chadha



Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is a hot topic for the vast majority of employers.  The benefits of a diverse workforce in today’s society are undeniable both in terms of financial performance and a more integrated workforce.

In the UK, there are no legislative requirements for employing a diverse workforce but many organisations have D&I high on their agendas nonetheless.  D&I is no longer a talking point reserved exclusively for “behind closed door” human resources discussions.  Whether this change has been driven by a moral obligation to “do the right thing” or the ever increasing socio-economic inequalities within diverse communities, the fact remains that employers and employees alike are now actively talking about D&I in the workplace. That is of course good news, but is talking about it enough? Continue reading “Is Legislative Intervention Required to Build an Ethnically Diverse Workforce in the UK?”

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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