Not the Token Asian

Alan K. Tse is Global General Counsel and Head of Corporate Strategy for Jones Lang LaSalle. He is by no means the Token Asian. Speaking at last month’s London Conference organised by the Institute for Inclusion of Legal Professionals, Alan Tse comes across as a hard-hitting, direct and brilliant lawyer.

On what to do, when you feel like the Token Asian, Alan says:

“Even if you are window dressing, take the opportunity. If you come into the room and don’t say anything; you’re no better than a pot plant.”

The FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies are teeming with lawyers, yet it is rare for the most senior lawyer in any of these organisations to be an ethnic minority. Alan is one of the success stories. JLL is a leading professional service firm, specialising in real estate and investment management. Fortune Magazine named JLL as one of the world’s most admired companies for its ethics, corporate citizenship and being an employer of choice.

The Society of Asian Lawyers participated in the London Conference discussing the role of professional organisations in supporting career success for lawyers of Asian ancestry.

Chamali Fernando, from the SAL Committee wants to see more ethnic minorities excel and then sponsor other individuals from diverse backgrounds, driving the agenda on social justice. It is important to help the placement of Asians in the upper echelons on the legal eco-system. “Talking and awareness are important, but we must deliver for future generations, throw jealousy aside, unite and work together.”

Chamali highlighted two of our key events ‘Becoming a QC’ and ‘Diversity in the Judiciary’. Whilst we are an organisation focused on helping all strands and levels of legal professionals, we are at a stage where there is a high proportion of candidates from BAME backgrounds starting in the profession but at the top tier we remain heavily under-represented; this is something SAL is keen to redress.

Fatima Choudhury, Association D&I Strategic Operations and EMEA Regional Lead at Baker McKenzie emphasised social mobility is key from the perspective of Diversity and Inclusion as well as Corporate Social Responsibility.

Jinal Shah, Partner, Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe said we each have a responsibility to reflect on our own careers, “be strategic, review and assess your career regularly” so that you continue to push boundaries.

Alan shared his career path, the lessons he learnt, advice for other lawyers and his ambitions for other lawyers of Asian ancestry. Many Asians do not look their age, he says it is ok to casually drop your age into conversation in an interview because even though there is legislation against age discrimination, you want to ensure the panel do not think you are up for an extremely senior role ahead of your time.

Asians should strive to reach the top of the legal profession. Events like this organised by IILP not only demonstrate the diversity of talent among Asians, what they can achieve, but provide an opportunity for organisations to collaborate in the interests of their members.

Chamali Fernando is a barrister and committee member of the Society of Asian Lawyers and represented SAL at the IILP London Conference.

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