Can a Diverse Background Make for a Better Professional?

Making the Lawyers of Color Inaugural Hot List for the Western and Southern region, which honors 100 early-to-mid-career minority attorneys under 40 who are excelling in the legal profession, Karen Chuang Kline applies her diverse perspective to the Intellectual Property Practice Group at Duane Morris LLP. She was also recently recognized as a rising star in the “Florida Trend” Legal Elite List. Now, as secretary for the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of South Florida, Kline uses her degree from George Washington University Law School, where she was a Thurgood Marshall Scholar and a managing editor of “The George Washington International Law Review,” to inject her diverse perspective in tackling complex legal issues.

As an attorney, what are the benefits of having a diverse array of perspectives?
A diversity of perspectives is an advantage because input from colleagues with different backgrounds and experiences can provide a fresh way to approach and analyze an issue or produce a creative resolution to a matter. In my practice group and within my office, we frequently use a team approach or seek out other attorneys’ perspectives on legal issues. Especially for junior and mid-level associates, this approach accelerates learning and makes us better-prepared and more well-rounded attorneys.

As a diverse lawyer, have you faced any challenges in your professional life?
As an Asian woman, my professional challenges have stemmed from general stereotypes about Asian women as timid or meek. However, I have been fortunate to work with partners who have taken an interest in my professional development and provided opportunities for me to take on prominent roles in the workplace. I have also worked with partners and senior associates who have encouraged and assisted me in seeking out leadership roles within not only the legal community, but also the local professional community.

What would be your advice for women overcoming similar workplace challenges?
Without visibility in the workplace, colleagues will not think of you when interesting matters come up. When faced with similar challenges, I would encourage women to seek out opportunities within the workplace to continually network with senior colleagues and inform them of your strengths and interests. Developing professional relationships with colleagues can lead to interesting and rewarding work, and [it] can also grow into mentorship or sponsorship within the firm or company.

Does having a diverse background make you a better lawyer? Why or why not?
I believe that having a diverse background can make someone a better professional. For example, as an intellectual property (IP) attorney, I regularly work with IP practitioners in countries all over the world and my diverse background has helped me relate to and interact with them. This has allowed me to develop lasting professional relationships.

Jessica DuBois-Maahs is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.