“You can grow up to be a doctor, lawyer, or a bum,” advised my second grade teacher as I prepared to start college.
I get squeamish looking at open wounds, I was not fond of the smell of formaldehyde, and the prospect of organic chemistry did not sound fun to me. So ixnay that choice. No Dr. Quinn, medicine woman here.
Lawyer? I didn’t know what lawyers do exactly.
And being a bum just plain didn’t appeal to me, then or now.
So lawyer it was.
I am so glad that by my completely limited and unscientific process, I made what was ultimately the right choice for me. I cannot imagine being anything else than a lawyer in spite of all the stereotypes and jokes. I wanted to be the lawyer that disproves these negative images.
Here are three ways that I’ve tried to disrupt the negative associations of my profession.
Public interest: My first job as a lawyer was with the Public Law Center (PLC), a nonprofit organization that provided free civil legal services to low income residents of Orange County. Public interest lawyers don’t give you much ammunition to use against us. We work extremely hard for very low pay. My starting salary at the PLC was less than what I was earning as a second year paralegal. In addition to staffing legal clinics and working on client matters, I presented workshops on evenings and weekends. I took on a second job at Ann Taylor to pay my bills.
I loved my job at the PLC. I served people in my community, especially the Spanish and Vietnamese-speaking communities, I worked directly with community organizations and leaders to provide much needed education on consumer issues. I was making a big impact on my clients’ lives. Unfortunately, when the PLC was forced to reduce its budget, my position was slashed.
Social enterprises: When I finally learned about social enterprises in the summer of 2014, a whole new world opened up to me. As committed as I was to my professional and community work, I never heard of Benefits Corporation or the social enterprises movement. I see this as a space wherein lawyers can make a huge difference. More and more, people want to do good while seeking a profit.
Legal changes can move at a glacial pace. Consider the abolition of slavery or women’s equality. It’s not hard to make the case that we still haven’t achieve either goals. Contrast this with the adoption of benefit corporation statutes. Maryland was the first state to do so in 2010. Five years later, 26 states and Washington, D.C.  have enacted laws to allow benefit corporations. This movement is anything but glacial.
Inn of Court: The purpose of the Inn of Court is to improve the skills, professionalism and ethics of the bench and bar. Members agree to abide by a professional creed to uphold the standards of the legal profession with dignity, civility, and courtesy. We pledge to value our integrity above all, that our word is our bond. I am lucky that Orange County is home to five Inns of Court. I’ve been a member of the William P. Gray Legion Lex Inn of Court since 2008. Once a month from September to June, attorneys, judges, law students, and their guests meet for dinner and an educational program.
Each day, I hope that I have done something or affected someone so that when they think of a lawyer, the thought is a good one.
 Why I was still talking to my second grade teacher at 17 will be explored in a future blog post.
 Pig Latin for nix
 If you were wondering how to pronounce Quyen, pretend that it’s spelled Quinn. Hence the passing reference.
 It was so nice to have a job that ended when your shift was over. Ann Taylor clothes were also very nice back then.
 If you are looking for proof that I don’t know everything, this is it.
 2010: MD; 2011: HI, NJ, VT, VA; 2012: CA, LA, MA, NY, SC; 2013: AR, DE, IL, PA, DC; 2014: AZ, CO, CT, FL, NE, NV, OR, RI, UT, WV; 2015: MN, NH