Name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader. Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
My mother and two sisters have had a significant impact on my life personally and professionally. Looking back, being raised by a single mother taught us about strength, perseverance, and hard work. My mother emigrated to the U.S. from South Korea in the early 1960s. She didn't speak English and worked tirelessly to put each of us through college. My mother started working in a sewing factory and eventually owned her own business in Philadelphia for 30 years. She is now retired.
Growing up as first-generation Korean-American women, my sisters and I learned quickly not to expect an easy life, but to have the strength to endure a difficult one. We banded together to overcome racism and gender bias. As the middle child, I chose law to balance the scales of inequity. My older sister elected to dedicate herself to health care as a heart transplant coordinator. And our little sister chose broadcast television to share her message by reporting stories intelligently, fairly, and accurately with heart.
The qualities that have best served me in my career include my strong work ethic, loyalty, being an expert in my field, meticulous attention to detail, and passion for client service. All these attributes I learned growing up with my sisters. We were taught not to wait for someone else to make us a happy life. We each made our own path.
Professionally, I learned so much from Maron Marvel's founder, Jim Maron, and I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to lead the firm. I was and continue to be mentored by Maron Marvel's Bob Anderson, who keeps me thinking strategically at 30,000 feet. When I started as a new lawyer, I was trained by one of the best and toughest environmental trial lawyers in the country: Joe McGovern at Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel.
What is the biggest challenge facing law firms today?
In this market, so many law firms compete in the same space. More than ever before, I see increasing pressure in the legal industry to deliver and win. Today, mid-sized law firms are probably facing their most challenging time because they compete with mega-conglomerate firms. The firms of a similar size to Maron Marvel usually have a niche. You have to separate yourself and be best-in-show in your core practice areas. Client expectations, especially with technology, are at an all-time high.
My vision for Maron Marvel is to take our founder Jim Maron's legacy to the next level of technology and litigation risk management to deliver predictable and favorable outcomes for our clients while lowering defense and indemnity dollars year after year.
What does the legal profession need to do to improve opportunities for diverse lawyers?
As a first-generation Korean-American, I know firsthand the road to success for minorities and women is a journey that is typically hard-fought. During my life, I experienced a lot of inequities personally and professionally. I learned early on that I had to work harder and smarter than everyone else. When I began my legal career 30 years ago, I did not see people who looked like me in leadership positions. Like many other minority women, I worked harder to be the best lawyer and subject matter expert I could be. Today, while much has improved, there is much more work that the legal profession can do to advance opportunities for diverse lawyers.
I would like to see more people of color and women in the legal profession and in all industries take on more leadership roles. Firms need to live up to their DEI commitments, not just use them as window dressing in marketing materials.
I am very proud of Maron Marvel's workforce, views, work, and priorities relating to DEI. To start, we elevated our DEI director, Antoinette Hubbard, to our membership and leadership team. She leads the firm's DEI Committee. She is involved in the hiring process for all attorneys. In addition, we've created two affinity groups (Women Attorney Affinity Group and Racial Minority Attorney Affinity Group). We're also pursuing partnership opportunities with local educational institutions to sponsor legal scholarships, mentoring, and internships to spark and support the interest of underrepresented groups in the legal profession.
Opportunity is the only thing separating women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups in our profession. Firms need to work together to build a diverse pipeline of talent for the legal profession. At Maron Marvel, we partner with our clients to engage in DEI initiatives, and the firm actively supports minority job fairs and summer law camps for youths from underprivileged communities. Every firm can contribute in some way to help build more opportunities for underrepresented groups. If every law firm added just one more thing to their DEI efforts, it would have a big impact.
What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?
“If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll
Every leader should have the confidence to be authentic and empower their teams to do the same. We can be a catalyst for change by just being ourselves. Empowering your workforce to embrace the unique cultures, backgrounds, hardships, and successes people bring to work each day makes it easy to do diversity work in our everyday lives.
Further, I believe we all can and should always be our authentic selves. No one should have to put on a proverbial mask when they show up for work. That doesn't mean we are not professional. It means we accept and respect each other's differences. It makes for a happier and more productive workforce.