Monday, December 18, 2017

Betty Hung ’97

I'm Betty Hung. I am a 1997 graduate of the Yale Law School. I live in Los Angeles, and am a social justice lawyer working on issues such as racial justice, immigrant rights, education equity, worker's rights, and really trying to promote social justice and a more inclusive, equitable democracy for all.

So when I was a third year at Yale, I was very fortunate to receive two fellowships. The first was an Echoing Green, and the second was a public interest fellowship right here at the Yale Law School. And that really enabled me, it opened the doors to my so far 20-year career in social justice.

I was able to work at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles with one of my mentors, Julie Su on the El Monte Thai-Latino garment worker case, which was one of the very first trafficking cases in the country, and where I was able to learn what it really means to be a social justice lawyer on the ground. And that was possible really because of the fellowships I received, the Echoing Green and another public interest fellowship here at Yale.

I decided after my fellowships ended to become a grassroots organizer. And I went to work in Long Beach, California with Cambodian high school girls on a gender justice campaign to counter sexual harassment in their high schools. It was an amazing experience, and I realized that, just as being a lawyer demands rigor and discipline, being strategic, analytical, as well as having a lot of foresight and vision to develop a strategy, being a grassroots organizer also involves-- entails all of that, as well as really being grounded and centered, and supporting the leadership of people who are directly impacted. I think it's ethical, moral, and ultimately most effective when people who are directly impacted are the ones who lead the movement for this kind of social change that we need in this country.

But during my stint at O'Melveny, I learned so much about what it means to be an ethical lawyer in a corporate law firm, that it is possible to still adhere to our values, and to engage in a lot of pro bono work. I worked on pro bono cases. And I also worked with a special master who was overseeing a landmark Title VI case involving the Bus Riders Union and the MTA in LA that many leading civil rights firms were working on.

So people sometimes ask me what is it like being an Asian-American woman lawyer. And when I was at Yale, to be honest, there weren't many of us. The reason why I even decided to come to Yale Law School in the first place was because I visited one day and I saw Professors Jean Koh Peters and Harold Koh teaching. And I thought, wow, there are Asian-American professors here at Yale. I'm definitely coming here.

And so I think it's incredibly important that we promote diversity and equity, and that we're mindful of the strength that diverse perspectives bring. You know, there are studies, but I know from firsthand lived experience that being in an educational setting with diverse people of all different backgrounds is incredibly important.

Betty Hung discusses her career as a social justice lawyer. Part of the Many Paths Initiative.

Fall 2018