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Interestingly enough, a study on this topic was just released in July. Here’s a link to an article describing the study: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/18/there-are-94-united-states-attorneys-only-three-of-them-are-asian-american/?utm_term=.998acf1fd593.
And here is a recent Op-Ed on the same subject by a Justice on the California Supreme Court: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-liu-asian-american-lawyers-20170723-story.html.
The study indicates that Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the legal field, and that they are overrepresented at top law schools and major law firms. For example, Asian Americans make up 10 percent of graduates from the country’s top law schools. That’s the good news.
The not-so-good news is that Asian Americans are underrepresented at the very top of the legal professions – federal and state judges, U.S. attorneys, partners in major law firms, and deans in law schools.
Does that suggest that there is a glass ceiling for Asian-Americans in the legal field? It’s hard to say yet. On the one hand, we can’t discount the possibility that there may be implicit biases that prevent Asian Americans from ascending to the highest rung of the legal profession. On the other hand, significant Asian American penetration of the legal profession is still a relatively new phenomenon. When I went to the law school in the late 1980s, the population of Asian American law students was much smaller and the number of Asian Americans in leadership positions in the legal profession was tiny.
What’s the bottom line? There has been an explosion of participation of Asian Americans in all areas the legal profession — private practice, corporate, government, and academia. While it may take more time and effort for Asian Americans to reach the very top of the legal profession, there certainly does not appear to be many barriers preventing Asian Americans from having successful and satisfying careers in the legal field. Certainly, in the 25 years since I left law school, Asian Americans have greatly increased both their numbers and presence in the law.
The AAPAAN has a number of lawyers in its membership. If you have more questions, please consider reaching out to one of our members for guidance and advice. This is one of the great values of this network.