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Confessions of an Asian Male Adoptee

     "Care to explain what you were doing with Blankety's wife in that restaurant the other night?"

     "Having dinner." I had been caught off guard, but had enough sense to know that the managing partner wouldn't believe me if I told him that I hadn't known to whom Claudia was married. You don't become a respected tax attorney by being gullible.
     My cavalier response made the flinty little man narrow his magnified eyes, but he kept his cool. "Do you even care that your career at the firm and in the profession is hanging by a thread?"

     I shrugged. I was beyond caring what he thought, just mildly curious how he would go about trying to dispose of me. I had already made up my mind to leave the firm as soon as I was ready. I had no intention of going out of my way to make it any easier for him to bully me.

     The managing partner seemed to boil over with repressed anger, if not hatred. "You'll hear from us real soon. Meanwhile you are not to see that woman again. Understood?"

     I got up and left without responding. The next two weeks were a blur. I had a scene with Claudia about having kept me in the dark. A few days later she resigned from her firm and went to stay at her parents' house. Claudia's husband took a sudden leave of absence. I entered into a work-for-office-space-and-referrals arrangement with a small plaintiff's firm and gave my old firm two weeks notice. Then I went home to break the news to my parents.

     My father was deeply worried. "If you want to play with the big boys, you have to play by their rules."

     "They have two sets of rules, Dad, one for themselves and one for me. I just can't live like that."

     My father didn't say anything for a long time. I know that he and my mother wanted to ask whether it had anything to do with my race. I am glad they didn't, because my answer would have made them unhappy.

     "I just hope you know what you're doing," my father said at last.

     "You raised me to be my own man. I can take care of myself."


     My mother gave me a smile. She knew I was as tough as nails. It was something she had always bragged about to everyone. She also knew I was more sensitive than I let on to anyone but her. The three of us shared a long hug before I went up to bed.

     My new life as a solo practitioner was liberating and eye-opening. I came to see that there was a big, red-blooded world outside of the cold narrow corridors to which big-firm lawyers are confined. There were life-and-death conflicts involving real people in real distress -- a far cry from dry, antiseptic litigation involving giant corporations trying to cover their gargantuan, overrepresented asses.

     Many of my new clients were minorities and struggling immigrants leading hazardous lives in which injury and abuse were commonplace. My own experiences as a minority helped me feel their plight. My experiences as a white boy and a big-firm lawyer helped me to be effective against the big firms on the other side. I especially treasured cases involving Asian immigrants, people who faced the same racial prejudice I had experienced and continued to experience as a plaintiff's lawyer pitted against the establishment.

     Ironically, it was only after leaving the secure bosom of the white establishment and struggling daily against the deep currents of racism in our society that I could appreciate the love and devotion of my parents in adopting and raising an Asian orphan as their own. They had shut out the harsh realities of the world, giving me time and space in which to grow and ultimately find my identity as an Asian American man.

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"My experiences as a white boy and a big-firm lawyer helped me to be effective against the big firms on the other side."