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Asian-American Law Symposium Focuses on Milestones and Challenges Ahead

November 10, 2009 - “Continuing the Legacy,” the first such symposium sponsored by the Asian Pacific Law Students Association, featured seven speakers during the Nov. 5 event – among them, Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii); Brian Kim, who became the second Asian Pacific American judge in Maryland in 2002; and Florence Pan, who became the first Asian Pacific American to serve as a judge in D.C. when the Senate confirmed her appointment last May. 

“We all can make a difference as minorities. First of all, you have to be at the table,” said Hirono.

She and the other speakers began their careers at a time when the legal profession was predominantly Caucasian and mostly male. They shared stories of inspiration and perseverance, but they also reminded students that biases remain a part of the professional experience.

Hirono (L’78) recalled leaving class at the Law Center campus at night and marveling at the site of the U.S. Capitol nearby, with little idea that she would later become the first Asian immigrant woman to be elected to Congress.

“As an immigrant … to have educational opportunities afforded by a wonderful school like Georgetown – and my law degree has really stood me in good stead in what I do in politics – to be able to give back in this way is a very humbling thing,” said Hirono, who was also lieutenant governor of Hawaii, 1994-2002.

Kim is a District Court judge in Maryland’s Montgomery County. He began practicing in the state at a time when few Koreans were in the legal profession. Before his judgeship, he recalled showing up one day to argue a case in court but the judge mistook him for a client instead.

Pan also experienced challenges, but said she hopes her judgeship will inspire future generations of Asian Pacific Americans.

“If my appointment can bring pride to other Asian Pacific Americans (APAs), if [it] can make achievement in the law by APAs something more of the norm…,” Pan said, “then I will have achieved more than I ever thought I would.”

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