Editors’ Note: As part of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series Rose Lee, an associate in the firm’s Litigation Practice, discusses her Asian heritage and how it played a role in her career path, eventually leading her to call MoFo home.
My grandmother was born in Japanese Taiwan in 1925. She wasn’t able to finish school and became a housewife in her late teens. Despite—or perhaps, because of—her upbringing, she always stressed the importance of my education. With it, I could be an independent woman, free from the constraints of having to depend on someone else financially. She uprooted her life in the 1980s to come to the United States and help raise my sister and me while my parents worked long hours and attended night school to learn English.
She was so proud when I went to college. It didn’t matter what I studied. I ended up choosing chemical engineering—a major I could never quite explain to her, especially in Mandarin. In my third year of college, I took a lab course that also provided a writing credit. The professor lamented the fact that our engineering curriculum was so narrowly focused on only the engineering aspect. His mission was to make us better communicators—after all, what use would our engineering skills be if we couldn’t communicate them? It was the first time I was in a course that weighed the science portion and the quality of our writing equally, and from that experience, I realized I wanted to do something with more writing. A professor recommended patent law.
My grandmother was thrilled when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer—a profession she could actually articulate, and one that she had seen few women do. She cried when I passed the bar exam. When I started working at Morrison & Foerster, she was excited to see me go to work in an office building downtown. She worried about the long hours, but I would tell her about the smart and decent people I work with, the natural mentors who took me under their wings, and the lifelong friends I’ve made. I can think of no better place where I could have started my legal career.
I’ve thought about my grandmother a lot this past year. Though she’s no longer with us, I think about her every time I see an article about violence against the elderly in the AAPI community. I think about her sacrifices and about how she belonged in this country just as much as any other American. I think about how she would have wanted me to use my voice to stand up for our community. But most of all, I think about how much she is a part of my very being, and because of that, how proud I am to be Asian American.