Jean Lee – Catalyst Spotlight

What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I am currently an in-house lawyer with JPMorgan Chase & Co. Never in my wildest imagination did I think that I would become a corporate lawyer when I first aspired to become a lawyer. But, it was my dream to be in the legal profession since I was a child.  As a first generation Korean American immigrant, whose parents were not proficient in English, I struggled like many immigrants with English. My family and I also struggled because there were many financial and legal challenges without any resources and support. Back then, there were very few lawyers of Korean American descent and even less so who were doing public interest work to help those in the community. Naturally, I wanted to help and make a difference in the lives of immigrants and especially for anyone who does not have a voice. It is what gets me up every morning even today. I love my profession and the countless ways I can use my skills to help others.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?
I think being a lawyer can be very challenging for a lot of different reasons no matter what your practice area or setting. But for me, the biggest challenge of being a lawyer is setting boundaries especially in an era where 24 hour accessibility is readily available.

What is your proudest achievement?
My proudest professional achievement is in two parts: (i) being a lawyer for JPMorgan Chase & Co.; and (ii) winning several
Daubert motions against very senior partners when I was a mid-level associate. They are my proudest moments because it was so unexpected and unlikely.

What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
There are so many whom I admire. One person whom I met recently and had the most powerful impact on me is Vernon Jordan. His advice and stories during my first meeting with him were priceless. Vernon’s experiences inspire you to embrace all challenges with a positive outlook but, without denying the truth of those challenges. I admire the way he achieved success without blaming or pointing fingers at a time when he could have easily done so. The one important lesson  during my 2 hour meeting was: don’t let other people define you.

Another leader I admire is my mentor, Don Liu, General Counsel of Xerox. I admire Don’s commitment to the Asian American legal community and how he devotes countless hours to change the landscape of the legal profession especially at the c-suite level.

Debra Wong Yang, Senior Partner at Gibson Dunn, makes me proud to be an Asian American woman lawyer. How many women do you know who have been on the cover of Time as a lawyer and still can flawlessly glide from the corporate world to making jokes to a group of junior associates to talking about everyday life but doesn’t have a PR agent crafting her enviable brand? Each time I meet with Debra, I am in awe of how she thinks about work, clients and everyday issues about family.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In 10 years, I see myself as a c-suite executive of a F500 company with a best-selling book (haven’t decided if it will be a memoir or a fiction).

What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
If you want to make an impact, take risks and trust your instincts. And if you fail, embrace each failure and use them as building blocks to your ultimate success. Always remember that the more detractors you have, the more you are closer to achieving success!

Did you have a mentor or do you mentor someone else? How has that experience changed you?
I didn’t have a mentor until a few years ago when I started at JPMorgan Chase. But, I am very proud to say that I mentor countless students and young lawyers. I am a huge believer in mentoring and that the benefits of mentoring are invaluable. For me, it has been invaluable to becoming a better lawyer, understanding the unspoken rules of the profession, and how to manage difficult situations.