Silicon Valley Executive Partner Bijal Vakil is profiled in the latest issue of Harvard Law School’s The Practice magazine. The article entitled A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law looks at the challenges faced by Asian lawyers in progressing their careers. The piece suggests that while Asian American lawyers are more likely than any other racial group to attend elite law school, they have the lowest ratio of partners to associates of any minority group because of a lack of mentors and stereotyping.
The purpose of the interview with Bijal – one of three portraits in the magazine – is to compare and contrast his personal experience against the data. The article explains that Bijal was the son of Indian immigrants who encouraged him toward a career in engineering or medicine. So why did he choose law?
“It was the opportunity to understand the legal system better,” he explains “It was an opportunity to have a voice in trying to change things so those that followed after me would have, hopefully, an easier time. And finally, it’s just an extremely interesting job.”
Reflecting on his own career – he joined White & Case in 2008 and became Executive Partner of our Silicon Valley office in 2010 – Bijal said he was fortunate to have mentors from the Asian American community, but that is not the norm. There is also a belief among members of the group that they will not be successful in private practice so they tend not to pursue this route.
He is using his position of influence in the Firm to change things: to represent the interests of Asian American lawyers, to give them a voice, to use his own career to highlight what can be achieved, and to help break down stereotypes.
Bijal says things are changing. Clients are demanding greater diversity in their teams and businesses see the value in having a team with the broadest range of experiences and perspectives. “It’s also the right thing to do,” he explains.