Profiles in Diversity Journal Second Quarter 2022

Page 40

2022

Co-Managing Partner–San Francisco, Chair of Asian American Litigation and Finance Practice

ASIAN

LEADERS Worth Watching

TM

INTERNATIONAL

There Is Always Room for an Entrepreneurial Self-Starter

Education: LL.M. (Master of Laws), Thomas Jefferson School of Law; LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), Zhejiang University Company Name: Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP Industry: Law Company CEO: David Sanford Company Headquarters Location: Washington, DC Number of Employees: 100 Your Location (if different from above): San Francisco, California Words you live by: Lively boldly, and make every day count. Who is your personal hero? My grandfathers What book are you reading? Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini What was your first job: Associate attorney at a boutique firm Favorite charity: YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley Interests: Traveling and exploring, singing, and emceeing conferences and community events Family: My husband, my best friend and partner in crime; my mother, the most kindhearted and resilient person I know; and my 20-month-old daughter, the cutest cutie pie and sunshine of my life.

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2022 Second Quarter

My legal career path is uncommon. I obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree from a top university in China and a Master of Laws degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Soon after I entered the employment-law field, I noticed that segments of the Asian American community had a significant gap in their understanding of how the law works to protect workers’ rights. I also observed a scarcity of bilingual employment lawyers to meet the large demand for legal representation. That’s when I decided to launch a novel type of practice. I created a business plan and put my ideas into action. I quickly got myself up to speed on employment law and litigation. Then, I began promoting my practice by providing educational presentations tailored to the needs of various worker groups. I conducted workshops for lowwage workers on basic wage-and-hour laws, and gave presentations to professionals on various types of discrimination and retaliation issues. I also wrote bilingual blog posts on matters specific to Chinese American workers, and provided expert commentaries on emerging legal issues to local and international media outlets. My initiatives were met with overwhelming support and achieved great success. The community benefited tremendously from an employment-rights education, while at the same time I built a brand for myself and my firm. I brought in my first case within three months of joining the firm, and managed to build a solid client base and referral network within the first year. I have become the Chinese media’s go-to person on employment-law issues. In 2019, I became the first U.S. litigator to speak at the Yale Law School Paul Tsai China Center’s annual workshops, designed to facilitate legal reform on anti-discrimination and harassment issues in China. Building upon the success of my business model, I continued to expand my practice. Leveraging my language skills and background in business, I started representing whistleblowers in complex qui tam matters. Victims of sexual assault and harassment with limited English proficiency reached out to me for legal representation. I also represented Tiger Brokers in becoming one of the first Chinese financial institutions to obtain a securities broker-dealer license in the U.S. In 2019, four years after I created this practice model, Sanford Heisler Sharp officially established the Asian American Litigation and Finance Practice Group and named me chair. The legal profession is highly competitive; however, reflecting on my career path, I would say that there is always a seat at the table for a self-starter with an entrepreneurial spirit: always think creatively, focus on leveraging your strengths, lead with actions, and follow through and deliver.

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Qiaojing Ella Zheng