Throughout Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month this May, we'll be talking to the leaders of our Asian and Middle Eastern American Resource Group about their experiences in the law, their lives and interests outside of work, and what all of us can do to advance diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace. Today, we're talking to Resource Group associate chair Aya Hoffman.
Where did you grow up? If you live and work somewhere different now, what drew you there?
I grew up splitting time between West Chester, Pennsylvania and Yokohama, Japan. I first came to upstate New York for college and fell in love with the area (and my husband, a Syracuse native). After spending a few years in Seattle, we realized that we wanted to be closer to family and returned to New York. In addition to the benefit of being close to many of our friends and family, Rochester has the perks of city living, including great restaurants, music and museums, and is just minutes away from beautiful natural spaces.
What is something (other than the law) you are great at doing?
“Great” is overstating it, but I’m certainly an enthusiastic pub quiz player. While having Google at my fingertips is convenient, it’s nice to have the opportunity to give my brain a little workout and squabble over the right answers with friends. It’s probably one of the things I’ve missed most during the past year – virtual trivia nights are just not the same!
What is one piece of advice you would give to a rising Asian American attorney?
Don’t feel like you have to go it alone! The insight of mentors has been instrumental in my professional development, and connected me to opportunities that I didn’t know were available. Also, ask for the resources you need or for support to establish them. I think the old advice from law school applies here, too – don’t be shy about asking for what you need, because if you have a question or issue, you’re probably not the only one.
What is one thing people in our industry can do to be supportive of efforts to increase the number of Asian American attorneys advancing in the law?
Recognizing and addressing implicit bias and stereotypes is key to the advancement of Asian Americans in the legal profession. Historically, Asian Americans have been the largest minority group among associates in law firms, but we also have the highest rates of attrition and lowest ratio of partners. Resisting our unconscious prejudices is a life-long process, which starts with being mindful of the existence of these biases and taking the time to connect with our colleagues on a personal level.