In an interview with Attorney at Law Magazine, Catherine Jiang of Jiang Law Firm PLLC tells readers about her path to the law as well as her aspirations for the future.
AALM: What drew you to your career as an attorney?
Jiang: Born and raised in China, I wanted to become a scientist and Madam Curie was my ideal throughout my youth years. While studying physics in college, I was more and more drawn to social science and social justice. So later I studied economics in Britain, believing that a fair, just, and peaceful society is founded upon economic equality and mobility. I came to the United States 20 years ago with my husband, and after staying home for several years raising two children, I received my doctorate degree in economics. It was difficult to find a job as I was either over qualified or under qualified for most jobs. Naturally I thought about becoming a lawyer because the U.S. legal system was fascinating to me, meanwhile, I would be the one who gets to decide when to retire.
AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school? How do you apply that to your career today?
Jiang: Three years of law school was a challenge, but I immensely enjoyed. I often tell my lawyer friends that law school for me was worth every penny and every minute spent because I knew nothing about law before I entered law school. All cases defining U.S. legal system – Constitution, torts, contracts, criminal, immigration, estate and trust cases, that most students learned before attending law school, for me, were fresh and new. In comparison, the bar examination right after the three years of law school was relatively easy.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Jiang: Looking back at the years of practice, all my academic background and experience of having lived in four different countries, have been a great asset in practicing law. In many situations, I can establish rapport with clients from different background quite easily, and identify a client’s legal needs efficiently.
AALM: Why did you decide to start your own practice?
Jiang: While still in law school, as a nontraditional student in many ways, I realized I would not be employable. I started reading books like “Hanging Out a Shingle,” and explored websites for those encouraging stories and set up law practice right away.
AALM: What decisions have you made that shaped your practice?
Jiang: There have been three major decisions that I’ve made that have been the most important in my legal career. First one was being a summer intern in 1L. Rather than applying in the private sector or get a paid position, I chose to intern at Maricopa Superior Court. I had a great opportunity to observe full trail cases, which later helped me to understand court procedures. The second important decision was filling mentorship application on State Bar of Arizona website. Attorney and Judge Pro Tempore Debbie Weecks became my mentor. Ms. Weecks’ encouragement motivates me even today. She has been a forever mentor for me and I have always turned to her for difficult questions. The third one was joining Arizona Asian American Bar Association while attending law school and I have never left . I have been an AAABA board for last five years and I learnt tremendously from many AAABA members. AAABA is a very collegial and warm organization. We support each other professionally, attend National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Conference together, and some of us have become personal friends.
AALM: What are your plans for your practice?
Jiang: My law firm moved to Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe recently. I have also been appointed as a legal liaison for Arizona by Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles. With a more centrally located office, I hope there are more opportunities to grow my practice and to better cater Asian communities’ legal needs.
AALM: How has advancements in technology and an ever-global world affected your career?
Jiang: The advancement of technology has provided competitive edge for small and solo practitioners because the cost of accessing information and database critical for legal practice has become affordable. Especially for a lawyer like me who speaks Chinese and Korean, an ever-global world has created more opportunities for me to develop clientele.