Eugene Huang tears himself away from ESPN to advocate for Asian lawyers (and his daughter)
Published in 2008 New Jersey Rising Stars magazine
on June 14, 2008
Updated on April 18, 2009
Eugene Huang never used to think much about his racial identity, or his role in the community, for that matter. For most of his career, the partner at Wiley, Malehorn, Sirota & Raynes in Morristown was perfectly content to go to work, do his job, keep his head down, come home and watch SportsCenter.
Then five years ago his daughter Madeline was born.
“It’s one thing for me to be plugging away in my office, that’s great,” says the 37-year-old business transaction and estate planning lawyer. “But it’s another thing to see the things out there that affect my daughter but shouldn’t.”
So he joined New Jersey’s Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association (APALA). He was appointed president in 2006 and spent the next year traveling the state. He spoke to groups of law students and recent grads and loved seeing the excitement on the faces of his young audiences. He would tell them, “You guys have an obligation to be an example to the next generation, to say, ‘Hey, you can do it.'”
He worked up the ladder, networking with Asian-American partners in firms, telling them they should accept judgeship opportunities when they came along, even though the hours and pay wouldn’t be great. He talked to legislators about the need for more diversity in the judiciary. He collaborated with leaders of other minority lawyers associations on outreach programs, knowing that change would come more quickly if they worked together.
He hopes that one day, maybe even by the time his daughter is old enough to take the bar, the progress of Asian-American lawyers will no longer need to be measured in milestones. He’d love it if organizations like APALA weren’t even necessary.
Until then, he’ll keep working.
“[Activism] is something that gives people energy, rather than makes them feel like they have another commitment,” he says. “And that’s what people on the couch don’t realize.”