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February 16, 2022 Did You Know?

“When I Was a New Lawyer”

By Charles Yuen

What inspired you to become a lawyer? And what did you do prior to becoming a lawyer?

The possibility of doing work for the public interest. As an undergraduate I served in internships in government. The professionalism and work of the lawyers was inspiring. Before law school, I had obtained a generalist engineering degree. I enjoyed that curriculum, but I learned that I preferred working with words.

How did you become involved with the ABA?

Participation was liberally backed by a New York law firm I joined. In the mid-1980s, lawyers starting with my New York law firm customarily joined the ABA, the New York State Bar, and the Bar Association of the City of New York.

What is the benefit of a new lawyer becoming active with the ABA?

A perfect benefit is the benefit. The ABA is awesomely huge with many functional redundancies. It provides a smorgasbord of excellent professional opportunities that can be tasted, rejected, and re-selected, even beyond a new lawyer’s current interests and responsibilities. It suits every lawyer.

What early career practices led to your success?

Diligence and attention to detail for every law firm assignment. Hungrily accepting all assignments offered, and completing them.

What early career mistakes did you make and what did you learn from them?

Taking deserved credit for an idea that led to a great result after hard work was ironically just such a mistake. A junior associate’s role is to make other people look good. Selflessness is valued. A junior’s success comes from helping his or her many bosses (many partners and possibly senior associates) look better. This is the paradox.

What is your advice for dealing with difficult partners, colleagues, or counsel?

Assume motivations are positive, at least until proven otherwise. Difficult partners may be trying earnestly to teach. Tomorrow is another day, hopefully with pay. Act as maturely as possible.

What is your advice for a new lawyer seeking to acquire, retain, and nurture client relationships?

Think expansively but never underestimate present relationships for the future. Every present contact is potentially a client, or client source, ten years from now.

What gives you the most satisfaction?

Well-done legal work, accomplished efficiently and independently.

What are your future ambitions for the next five to ten years?

I wish to back a clear public service, while continuing to serve present and future private and public clients with my firm, Charles Allen Yuen LLC.

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By Charles Yuen

Charles Yuen is a member at Charles Allen Yuen LLC and the current Editor in Chief of the TIPS Law Journal.