What's keeping Asian-American lawyers from ascending the legal ranks?

    By: Clair Fuller on Aug 07, 2017

    Kat Chow writes, "In 1872, 13-year-old Hong Yen Chang came to the U.S. to be groomed as a diplomat. He earned degrees from Yale University and Columbia University’s law school, and passed the bar exam.

    He became the first Chinese-American lawyer in the U.S. in 1888, when he was admitted to the New York bar. But not all states were as welcoming. When Chang applied for a California law license in 1892, the state’s Supreme Court denied his application citing bar association rules, which precluded noncitizens from joining. Chang was unable to become a citizen because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

    More than a century later, Chang’s descendants petitioned for their relative to be granted posthumous bar admission and brought the case before the California Supreme Court.

    In 2015, the California Supreme Court reversed the ruling. 'Even if we cannot undo history, we can acknowledge it and, in doing so, accord a full measure of recognition to Chang’s path-breaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States,' the judges wrote in their decision.

    'That case got me thinking about the fact that Asian-Americans have been formally excluded from the legal profession as Chang was, and of course, [with] all the informal barriers,' says California Supreme Court justice Goodwin Liu, who reviewed the case. He said he realized he hadn’t seen a comprehensive study of how Asian-Americans came into the legal profession — so he took it upon himself to lead one.

    In the study, Liu shows that though Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the legal field, there’s still a stark lack of Asian-American lawyers in top positions in this country."

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    Released: August 7, 2017, 9:18 am
    Keywords: NAWL News


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