When Amy Cheng, a partner at Nelson Mullins, was a fledgling lawyer, someone she considered a mentor told her: “I’m not sure you have what it takes to be a lawyer.” This rattled Cheng and made her realize just how important it is to have dedicated support. The experience sent her on a journey that led to her becoming the Atlanta Bar Association’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) president.
Cheng, who immigrated from China to Charleston as a child, studied pre-medicine as an undergraduate before realizing she wanted to become a lawyer. She graduated from Emory University School of Law and became a litigator at Nelson Mullins. “It’s an emotional feeling because I never would’ve imagined myself being at this point,” she reflects.
Her vision for the Atlanta Bar Association’s future is one of inclusion. Cheng’s hope is to bring the bar’s affiliate organizations, such as the Georgia Black Women Bar Association and the Georgia Asian Pacific Bar Association, more into the fold. “I would like to be more intentional about including them in leadership opportunity events at the Atlanta Bar so that the bar is inclusive of everyone.”
And now Cheng, who credits her village for her success, prioritizes mentorship, too. Her involvement with the Atlanta Bar started with a mentor encouraging her to continue showing up to the meetings. Going to a breakfast at Ansley Country Club with Atlanta’s legal superstars in attendance was intimidating—but he urged her to go anyway. Today, she pays it forward to other lawyers who are finding their footing. “What I aim for in mentorship with the younger associates is really to be a safe space a and to be a voice of light the way that others have been for me,” says Cheng.
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She is mentoring the next generation of lawyers and advocating for inclusivity in law.
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