Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Spotlight: Jay H. Min

Featured: Jay H. Min

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May 4, 2022 9:00am

 

How do you celebrate or keep your AAPI roots alive in your daily life?

I was born and raised in New York City, but my parents have practiced our old customs and sharing family stories here for nearly four decades. Being a part of my family’s 33rd generation and with my dad being family patriarch, we continue to hold ceremonies for certain ancestors several times a year. Despite holding them at midnight, even on a work night, for us this is a critical part of keeping our family history alive. I grew up hearing glory and tragedy stories from the Korean War. I learned how my parents grew up in a poor and industrializing Korea during the 1950s – mid-1970s, where everyone worked towards national strength and independence, often at great personal risk. I learned about each of my parents’ military service as officers during Vietnam. As I grew up working next to them in the grocery store and electrical supply warehouse, I watched and helped them build a life using the same work ethic they learned back in war-torn South Korea. More than Kimchi, colorful clothes, K-dramas, or international pop songs, these shared experiences instilled in me a well of strength and skill to face what life and legal practice brings. In my daily life, I try to build on the skills and experience I have been given by nature and nurture. The lessons of the past help me build on the foundation set by my parents, grandparents, and ancestors. My goal is to accomplish more in my lifetime while passing on what I have been blessed with to my rambunctious three year old. The food is also an equally important and daily celebration.

 

In what ways has your heritage positively guided your decision to pursue a career in the legal field?

I became an attorney out of frustration and anger watching my family unable to fully flex their rights in an unfamiliar system. A working command of the English language did not help them understand legal documents or court proceedings, and they lacked the personal network to help make sense of it all. This is, of course, not unique to immigrants. Still, even after generations of Korean migration into the U.S., families like mine still lacked descriptive and accessible representation.

Then and now, many of my AAPI colleagues struggle against stereotypes including the model minority (i.e., quiet and diligent worker drones who are forever confined to back offices). This meant my path to law was a darker and unfamiliar one. Early in my career, my foot in the door was doing work as a case assistant in an international firm. I went to law school to build my own career. I had to ask questions constantly, buying lunches and coffee so I could bug anyone who would give me time. I worked longer hours, studied samples during my spare time, and endured abuses along the way. But, I have also been blessed with helpful mentors and colleagues. Now, I try to practice being mindful of my clients’ cultural backgrounds, language barriers, and unfamiliarity with legal terminology or procedure. I try to pass along the help and guidance I received whenever I can, regardless of heritage, background, or job title. On a related note, I watched as my brother took the stage alone during his White Coat ceremony while his peers had close family members to welcome them to the medical profession. Now, if our own kids choose a path in medicine or law, we are here to welcome and invite them to step up.

 

What AAPI mentors have inspired or influenced you and in what ways?  

Many people from the Asian-American bar associations (including KALAGNY, AABANY, APALA-NJ, FALANY, and NAPABA) have helped and guided me on my path. Each provided valuable advice or support in their own ways but there are too many to name here. What I can offer are key lessons which I try to practice daily. Michael M. Yi, Esq. taught me to strive for perfection in my work. Lawyers work in a service industry, and our value is measured in the quality of our work product and in client communication. Andy Hahn, Esq. taught me it is not enough to simply work hard. Stellar work is a prerequisite, a baseline, the minimum. To get ahead, we have to become our own powerful advocate. Presidents and Board Members of the Korean American Lawyers Association of Greater New York with whom I served (including Karen Kim, Esq., Chul Pak, Esq., James Cho, Esq., James Lee, Esq., and so many more) epitomized “grace under pressure” and demonstrated how someone can be a great attorney and leader while always keeping cool and calm.

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