Sixteen years ago, I had just graduated from law school and was entering the legal work force in one of the most competitive cities in the world, Los Angeles. I was vying for the same jobs as thousands of other law school graduates, each one willing to do almost anything to land their next big client. Although I had excelled at Southwestern Law School and I was passionate about my work, I had one significant challenge: I’m an Asian-American woman who was born in Taiwan.
After I passed the bar, I found it challenging to be taken seriously by major firms, virtually all of which were (and still are) led by men. It was difficult to be a woman in law, let alone a female immigrant. Despite the odds being stacked against me, I landed my first position as an attorney in the Department of Child Support Services in Los Angeles.
After dealing with my parents’ divorce as a child, I had a strong desire to help children affected by separation and difficult circumstances. At the Department of Child Support Services, I observed first-hand the pain that children can experience during family law disputes, and I became their advocate. I helped families find the best legal solutions for their children, and I ensured that my clients worked with therapists who helped their children navigate the emotions, questions, and concerns that arise during divorce. My first job solidified my passion for practicing family law—an area of the law I still focus on today.
After moving on from the Department of Child Support Services, I spent five years working as an associate at various firms. I worked hard to prove myself as a professional, even if it meant that I had to work twice as hard as my male colleagues. I knew that I deserved respect, and I never took “no” for an answer.
However, after a time, I realized that working under other lawyers was, frankly, boring. I wanted to be at a firm where I could cultivate my own ideas and help clients in a way I knew only I could. I recognized that I would never meet these goals at someone else’s firm—I had to create my own.
In April 2006, I founded Ideal Legal Group (ILG) for those exact reasons. I wanted to challenge myself to build a law firm from the ground up. I knew that every client’s story was unique and that each client deserved thoughtful, compassionate representation. I wanted my firm to be a place of healing for families, and that ambition was what drove me to make ILG a success.
However, opening my own firm didn’t mean that my struggles disappeared; I just had a new set of challenges I had to deal with. As a small, boutique firm, it was difficult to find clients at first, and it took many years of dedication to build the client list that I have today. Those early years taught me to treat each client like gold and fight for them with everything I have.
I also quickly learned that I needed to find my specialty. There are thousands of family law attorneys, so I had to determine what I did better than anyone else. Over the last 11 years, I’ve carved a niche in the areas of international surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, and the freezing of eggs and embryos—complex practice areas that few other attorneys specialize in.
I believe my success is due in part to my personal investment in my clients. As a career-driven woman who spent my 20s focused on building my resume, I connect with my clients who are trying to take control of their fertility and balance their careers and families. I also relate to women who travel to the U.S. to undergo the surrogacy process, because they have limited fertility options in their home countries. I know what it’s like to navigate cultural differences in a new country, and I went through surrogacy process myself in 2014, which has made me even more empathetic toward my clients. I’m proud to say that I help women find solutions in what can be very difficult, complex and sometimes emotional situations.
To this day, I still have the same passion for law that I had when I started. I love the challenge of litigation. Over the years, many people have called me a firecracker, and I take that as a compliment. I never would have succeeded in an industry dominated by men or had the drive to open my own firm without being a little feisty. The career obstacles I faced were difficult to overcome, but they also forced me to forge my own path—and for that, I’m grateful.
Evie Jeang, managing partner of Ideal Legal Group, Inc., is a Los Angeles-based litigator practicing family law with a focus on divorce and surrogacy. She can be reached at email@example.com or 626-569-1882.