An Ocean of Experience

Nevada's Miranda Du knows the value of education

Published in 2009 Mountain States Rising Stars — July 2009

Miranda Du has never questioned her decision to become a lawyer—but her parents did.

"They would have preferred I go to med school or get an engineering degree," says Du, now a partner at McDonald Carano Wilson in Reno, Nev. "They didn't trust the [Vietnamese] legal system."

Du's father was a member of the U.S.-supported Southern Vietnam Army during the Vietnam War, and in 1979, when Du was 9, her extended family—including aunts, uncles and cousins—fled the tumultuous country by boat. They sought refuge in Malaysia, but the country was already hosting thousands of refugees and turned them away. Du's family didn't give up. After hearing of an approaching storm, the adults made a difficult decision. "They knew they had to put a hole in the boat and sink it," says Du. "If we swam to shore, we couldn't be turned away." After nearly a year in Malaysian refugee camps, her family was able to get multiple sponsors and seek asylum in America because of her father's position in the army.

Once in America, all of the adults in Du's family sought educational opportunities, and some even earned associate degrees from community colleges. They wanted to make their own ways in America, rather than depend on outside assistance. "We knew our parents had been given a great opportunity," says Du. "And our parents always stressed education."

In high school, Du participated in Upward Bound, a program that placed her at University of California, Berkeley, for the summer to live in dorms and take classes to get the real college experience. After completing her undergrad at UC Davis, Du returned to UC Berkeley as a law student. She then joined McDonald Carano, where she's been ever since.

Du is now chair of the firm's employment department, which gives her a chance to take an active role in protecting statutes like Title VII, put in place to protect people like Du, and her family, from employment discrimination.

"Unfortunately, when employees who happen to be in the groups protected by Title VII file claims without a basis to do so, they undermine the rights of those who have legitimate claims," Du says, adding that she can be "passionate in defending against claims that are simply meritless."

But Du isn't afraid to tell the clients she defends when they are facing claims that have merit. "I will be honest with clients," Du says. "I don't want to see the statutes that protect all of us eroded."

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