Tradition is a funny thing. It can be tempting to dismiss it as something static and fixed, when in fact, it is a dynamic and ever-evolving creature. It is a tradition’s inheritors who determine what to maintain, adapt and carry on; traditions are an amalgamation of both the present and the past. It is through this reiterative process that traditions grow strong enough to stand the test of time.
Every fall, law firms across the United States determine what parts of their traditions and culture to instill in the next generation of attorneys joining their ranks as first-year associates. New hire orientations can set the tone not only for the future of a firm, but for the shape of associates’ entire careers. Proskauer passes on a tradition of public service through its first-year associate pro bono program, which gives each new member of the Firm a pro bono matter as their first assignment.
Because the corporate social responsibility and pro bono presentation is the very first session of Proskauer’s orientation program, new associates learn about this assignment within hours of starting at the Firm, even before we are inducted into our respective practice groups.
As a corporate associate, I would never have guessed that my very first matter at Proskauer would be an asylum case with Immigration Equality, a non-profit that helps LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants find the safety and freedom in the U.S. that they were denied in their home countries. But as a first generation American, I could not have asked for a better matter to start my career.
Growing up, the past and the present were always closely tied, as I navigated between the traditions I inherited from the land my parents left behind, and those of the land they chose to make their own. When my parents came to the U.S., they adopted fireworks on the Fourth of July and the red, white and blue. They also adopted a tradition carried on by generations of Americans, inspired by the founders’ determination to create a nation that enshrined freedom and equality. That tradition is perhaps best stated in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense: “Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. . . O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.”
By working with Immigration Equality on my first assignment out of law school, I have been able to honor my parents’ journey as I set out on the next leg of my own. Wherever this journey takes me, whatever traditions I may adopt along the way, I will always carry with me the tradition of public service with which we begin our careers at Proskauer.