Pathway to Partnership Program

The National Association for Law Placement’s (“NALP”) 2017 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms reports that in 2017, only 3.31% of partners at law firms were Asian American. The percentage is even smaller for Asian American women partners, at 1.23%. While the percentages have risen slowly since 2009, those rates are still lagging far behind the rates of Asian American associates at law firms, which are 11.4% for all associates, and 6.52% for Asian American women associates. While making partner at a law firm is a difficult challenge for any associate, the numbers confirm what many of us know is a reality: it’s harder for minority associates, including Asian Americans, to get there.

In its report, NALP describes the “very slow, incremental progress in increasing the presence of women and minorities in the partner ranks.” A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law, a study led by Justice Goodwin Liu, reports that Asian American attorneys face the largest drop-off in the percentage of associates vs. partners among all minority attorneys, and also disproportionately high attrition rates at law firms.

AABA is pleased to announce it is continuing its highly successful Pathway to Partnership, a mentorship program specifically designed to help talented senior Asian American associates at Bay Area law firms develop a strategy to achieve their goal of becoming a partner.  AABA President Michelle Park Chiu developed this program to provide Asian American senior associates with specific mentorship and guidance about developing a strategy to make partner at a law firm.  Pathway to Partnership will match senior associates who are in the “zone” of partnership with law firm partner mentors from different firms, as well as in-house counsel mentors, and will assist senior associates in developing a strong business plan, identifying potential obstacles and challenges, and build strategies for the goal of partnership.  This is AABA’s second Pathway to Partnership class, after its inaugural year saw three senior associates achieve elevation to partner.

Pathway to Partnership will kick-off with a meeting of all senior associate participants and mentors in the Spring of 2021. Pathway to Partnership will encourage each senior associate to meet one-on-one with their mentors. and provide specific tasks for each senior associate to accomplish, with the guidance and input of their mentors. These tasks will include: (1) development of a business plan, (2) identification of key decision makers at the law firm, (3) identification of key sponsors, both at the law firm and outside, and (4) action items. Pathway to Partnership will also plan joint events to supplement one-on-one meetings.

Senior associates are invited to apply to Pathways to Partnership by February 12, 2021. Application requirements are:

  • Current résumé.
  • Statement of interest describing why you should be selected for Pathway to Partnership (no more than 500 words in length).
  • Short statement from a partner/shareholder at your current firm stating that you are in the “zone” of partnership.
  • Email all materials in one pdf file to no later than 11:59 PM Pacific on February 12, 2021.
  • Please email any questions to Kelly Matayoshi (, Angel Garrett (, and Michelle Park Chiu (

Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area

P.O. Box 387 San Francisco, CA 94104

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