Stephanie Chin: Paving the Way
Stephanie Chin, assistant general counsel of Wal-Mart, is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, and she is passionate about her commitment to diversity.
“I’ve made every effort to try to increase the diversity of the attorneys I hire,” said Chin, who oversees Wal-Mart’s real estate litigation.
Chin’s route to Arkansas began in San Francisco, where she was born to Chinese immigrants. Chin’s parents worked hard to help her reach the success she has today, and she is grateful to them. After graduating from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in business administration, she earned her law degree at the University of California Hastings College of Law, where she was editor of the Hastings Law Journal.
A summer clerkship in Hawaii led to a job at the law firm Torkildson Katz Fonseca Jaffe Moore & Hetherington, where she handled complex commercial litigation matters. She spent 10 years there, and also served as a court-appointed arbitrator for the First Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii.
Chin was happy with her career, and expected to remain in Hawaii after being made a partner of her firm. But after meeting her future husband, she relocated with him to California and found a position with a law firm in Newport Beach. Later, when her husband’s job relocated to Arkansas because of his company’s close association with Wal-Mart, serendipity struck.
“We were looking for houses,” she said, “and by accident met the director of Administration for Wal-Mart’s legal department.”
It turned out they were looking for attorneys with Chin’s experience in commercial litigation. Currently, Wal-Mart is opening over 300 new stores each year to add to their total of about 3,500 nationwide.
“We have a large team of transactional attorneys managing our real estate development projects,” she said, “I step in when we receive lawsuits that impact upon our real estate holdings or development projects.”
Sometimes such cases can take on a high profile and require the involvement of a team of Wal-Mart representatives, such as public relations associates and business development associates who are not attorneys.
Her position at Wal-Mart also allows Chin to contribute on a more personal level.
“One of the reasons I enjoy working for Wal-Mart is because it is extremely involved in community and charitable organizations,” she said.
According to Chin, everyone has a role in the company’s vision of serving the communities where it does business. “For example, I’m involved in fundraising activities for the American Heart Association, and our commercial litigation group adopted a needy family this past Christmas and furnished them with toys, clothing, groceries and money.”
In all, she said, Wal-Mart contributed more than $140 million to charity last year.
Chin is happy to have found a home with Wal-Mart, a company that cares about its local communities and works to maintain diversity.
“Life throws you curve balls sometimes, and I’ve learned to roll with them,” Chin said, “but I feel very fortunate to have a job I love,” she continued.
Tom Calarco is a freelance writer from Schenectady, N.Y. He is the Author of The Underground Railroad Conductor, which is available for purchase online at www.travelsthruhistory.com/books.htm. His next work-in-progress, The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region, is set for publication in the near future.
From the March/April 2004 issue of Diversity & The Bar®