Nowland C. Hong–Son of the First Chinese Lawyer to Pass the California Bar
Son of the First Chinese lawyer to Pass the California Bar
Despite bias against Chinese-Americans that persists to this day, Nowland C. Hong's father, You Chung Hong, became the first lawyer of Chinese descent to pass the California bar in 1923.
You Chung Hong's successes did not come without sacrifice, however. The sole supporter of his family, You Chung Hong worked days as a translator for the United States Immigration Service while attending law school at night. Because he could not afford to buy books, he relied on his photographic memory and the consideration of classmates who allowed him to borrow their books. Later, he succeeded in earning not one but two law degrees.
You Chung Hong's work to repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, his testimony before the United States Senate Hearing Committee on Immigration Laws, and his role in the construction of New Chinatown in 1938in terms of legal advice and personal investments earned You Chung Hong a reputation as the country's foremost Chinese attorney.
Growing up with that legacy, Nowland Hong was inspired to follow the path his father blazed. He received his J.D. from the University of Southern California Law School, his father's alma mater. "It didn't take shows like L.A. Law or The Practice to spark my interest in the law. My father made the everyday practice of law seem just as challenging," the younger Hong said.
Nowland Hong's 40-year passion for the law has earned him second-generation recognition in the Asian-American community. He was one of the founding members and president for two unprecedented terms of the Southern California Chinese Lawyers Association, which gave rise to and assisted in the founding of numerous other ethnic bar associations throughout the state. Nowland Hong was also past grand president of the Chinese American Citizen's Alliance, the oldest Chinese American civil rights group in the country.
In reflecting on his professional career, Hong notes that having a distinct ethnic background has been highly advantageous. "At a time when it was unusual for a person of oriental extraction to be handling matters of substantial magnitude, I stood out as being reliable and capable of handling complex litigation. Judges and clients therefore remembered me."
He is also known to put out fires. Legal ones, that is. And, is probably best known for his precedent-setting work on the 1980 MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas fire case. He successfully negotiated a settlement on behalf of a major contractor of the hotel with the Plaintiffs' Committee, who represented practically all of the 700-plus injured plaintiffs and family members of the 85 deceased victims of the fire.
Presently, Nowland Hong is a shareholder with the Los Angeles downtown law firm of Brown, Winfield, and Canzoneri. He specializes in class-action litigation and large complex matters in the areas of municipal law, general business, trusts, insurance, construction and eminent domain litigation for clients in both the private and governmental sectors.
From the December 2001 issue of Diversity & The Bar®