Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 18

FEATURE
academically, graduating at
the top of my high school
class. Mrs. Herbert's attention
and care cut away some
of the roughness.
UNLOCKING
THE POTENTIAL OF
DIVERSE
TALENT
By Esther H. Lim
I
love hunting for diamonds in the rough. They
are everywhere. But only if you look, and often, in
unlikely places.
" Unlikely " sums up the odds of me becoming a lawyer. Growing up in
Korea, one of my earliest childhood memories is that of hunger. My father's
life dedicated to serving others in struggling grassroots churches
meant scarcity of the most basic provisions. My mother was rarely home,
working long hours with my grandmother at a roadside stand most of
the week. While my three siblings and I were blessed with love, faith, and
a roof over our heads, we were always hungry. Hungry for food. Hungry
for school supplies. Hungry for shoes without holes.
" Dream big " was not in my vocabulary. In my world of no running water,
no indoor plumbing, and no car, there was no room and no time for
dreams. Life was rough.
When we came to America, the pathway to security and stability remained
murky. Starting seventh grade as a 12-year-old immigrant without
speaking a word of English filled me with fear and hopelessness.
Deemed " unteachable, " I moved through the day in school unseen. I felt
ashamed and inadequate. I didn't realize then that I simply lacked verbal
fluency, not intellectual capacity.
I could not imagine a path forward or a way out of poverty. Everyone
wrote me off. All except one middle school teacher, Mrs. Jean Herbert.
She saw me. Then she chose to teach me - and my family - English
without a penny in return. She gave us the starting blocks of our American
life. With her teaching, mentoring, and encouragement that first
summer - and many summers after - I not only survived but thrived
18 WASHINGTON LAWYER
* MARCH/APRIL 2024
BRIDGING THE GAP
Opportunities and the people
who took a chance on
me made all the difference.
At every critical juncture of
my zigzag road, teachers,
mentors, and random
strangers put me on the
path to success. Scholarship
nominations by a caring
high school counselor; a serendipitous
mention of " intellectual
property law " by a
college professor; an unexpected
recommendation by
a law school alum for a job
interview at Finnegan, Henderson,
Farabow, Garrett &
Dunner, LLP; generous introductions
to judges by former
law clerks for a judicial
clerkship ... the list goes on. They believed in me, and they empowered
me to dare to dream. Each person helped reveal a new facet of potential.
Today, in my " unlikely " position as a Finnegan partner and the firm's first
chief diversity and inclusion officer, I'm privileged to draw on my personal
journey to help unlock the potential of a new generation of future IP
lawyers and to create opportunities for them to shine.
The practice of law can be exacting, and the system often does not afford
the time and space for finding and polishing hidden diamonds.
Thus, diversity is woefully lacking in the legal profession. In 2023 Black
lawyers constitute nearly 5 percent of the profession, a figure that barely
increased by a percentage point in the past 10 years. That drops precipitously
to 1.7 percent in intellectual property law practice. These bleak
numbers do not reflect an absence of talent but a lack of opportunity.
My lived experiences have informed my thinking and approach to advancing
diversity, equity, and inclusion in the law. Whether working with
first-generation lawyers at Finnegan or teaching first-generation law students
at Howard University School of Law, I understand that they've
overcome many barriers to be where they are. I recognize their remarkable
courage and strength. I see the inner sparkle.
Growing up poor with a lack of exposure to a world beyond my limited
circumstances, I often felt alone and questioned whether I belonged.
I was the only Asian student in my middle school, the only woman in
many of my college STEM classes as a double major in computer science
and math, the first lawyer in my family, and the only female Asian associate
when I joined a large D.C. law firm nearly 30 years ago. I was at odds
ABOVE: Finnegan's Esther H. Lim mentors IP Summit attendee Sabrina Heavey
of Southern University Law Center.

Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024

Notice to Members
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Defending Diversity: Rise of DEI-Focused Practices
Will Law Firms Stay the Course on Improving Diversity?
Unlocking the Potential of Diverse Talent
We Belong: Black Students in the IP Talent Pipeline
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Legacy Lives on Through Us
Get to Know The Appellate Project
Speaking Up for Lawyers With Invisible Disability
Special Section: 25 Years of the Youth Law Fair
Taking the Stand
Worth Reading
Member Spotlight
On Further Review
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 4
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Notice to Members
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Defending Diversity: Rise of DEI-Focused Practices
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 12
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Will Law Firms Stay the Course on Improving Diversity?
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 16
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Unlocking the Potential of Diverse Talent
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - We Belong: Black Students in the IP Talent Pipeline
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 22
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Her Legacy Lives on Through Us
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Get to Know The Appellate Project
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Speaking Up for Lawyers With Invisible Disability
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 30
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Special Section: 25 Years of the Youth Law Fair
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 33
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 36
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 39
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 43
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2024 - Cover4
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