Rescued by an Ark
Published in 2010 Southern California Rising Stars magazine
on June 9, 2010
Updated on June 14, 2010
Life in Vietnam in the early 1970s had gotten so repressive that Lan Quach’s father knew he needed to get his family out. But he didn’t have the resources to buy a boat or pay their way. So he taught himself to build a boat. In secret he constructed a vessel that would be big enough to hold 150 people.
When the time came to escape in September 1981, Quach, her six siblings, parents and 17 others successfully made their way to the boat. The police had been tipped off and they started arresting other relatives and friends. The family, devasted to leave people behind, grasped at its last chance and spent 30 hours at sea before a German freighter rescued them.
After about 10 months in a Philippine refugee camp, their application for an immigrant visa was granted and the Quaches flew to California to meet up with Quach’s grandmother. When 5-year-old Quach and her family arrived, they spoke no English and had few possessions. But her parents instilled in Quach a craving for education and a deep love for America.
“The opportunities presented to us here, you don’t get that anywhere else. I knew that as long as I worked hard, I could do anything I wanted,” she says. “I got to go to college and law school—it’s amazing. I see why my dad risked everything so we could have that opportunity.”
After law school at UCLA, Quach worked in commercial litigation at a large firm. In 2007 she joined with a co-worker to start Proudfoot & Quach as a woman-/minority-owned business. Quach wanted to be her own boss, handle a varied caseload of litigation and appeals, and help others through pro bono work.
“I understand what it’s like to not have money, and in our legal system it’s important to have good representation,” she says. “We want to give back.”