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May 15, 2024 - MoFo Diversity, MoFo Women

Faces of MoFo: Joyce Li

faces of mofo joyce li

Editors’ Note: Read about Joyce Li, a San Francisco associate in the firm’s Litigation Department, in the latest installment of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series.

In my first year as an associate, someone told me that to succeed in this job you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Wise words. But I’ve also come to see that discomfort doesn’t necessarily mean being without guidance. In fact, when I think about the experiences that have led me to find joy in this job, they’ve all had elements of both discomfort and support. 

Much (perhaps too much) of my character was shaped by sports—specifically, gymnastics. Gymnastics is an odd sport in that it is undeniably physical, yet obsessed with aesthetics. The result is that the average person only sees the shiny parts—the few minutes spent performing. In reality, the sport is mostly about falling—literally thousands of times—and getting back up. Somewhere in the endless cycle of falling, I came to believe that failure is only permanent if you don’t try again. But I could have never been motivated to get back up so many times without the support of my teammates and coaches, who always expected more of me than I did of myself. 

The same can be said for my experiences in litigation. I’ve been fortunate to have mentors who are not only phenomenal lawyers but also wonderful humans. They’ve encouraged me to take on uncomfortable experiences and provided support while allowing me to struggle—and that’s when I’ve grown the most. For example, in my first year of practice, I worked on a pro bono trial involving novel issues related to the unauthorized practice of law. We started the case with four associates, but by the time we got to trial, it was just me and one other. We split the opening and closing presentations and witnesses. I had no idea what I was doing! Or so I thought. With the support of our team—partner advisors and seasoned staff—we were able to secure a full victory for our client. And even more remarkably, we put on a trial, which is something I didn’t know I was capable of doing until I had done it. 

I hope to be able to pay it forward.