Justice Patricia Thompson Lee was the first black woman to make partner at her firm, and now she's the first black and Asian American woman to serve on the Nevada Supreme Court.
The achievement marks a groundbreaking milestone for young women to look up to. The significance of her appointment is not lost on Justice Lee, who shares that it's been both "humbling" and "overwhelming." Still, the "fact that we're still having these firsts is a little disconcerting," she says.
"I know that this appointment is a lot bigger than me," she tells Sonia Baghdady of Advocate Now. "I was thrilled to be able to have this opportunity after we had our first African-American male justice of the Supreme Court, Michael Douglas, who cracked the door open and held it open for me. And I intend to do the same for those who come after me. ... It's not anything I take lightly. And I certainly hope that I can do this position justice."
Justice Lee | Advocate Now
After Justice Lee finished her undergraduate degree and was working at a museum, she got the "final nudge" of confidence to apply to law school — from none other than Rosa Parks herself.
"I always thought that I might go, but wasn't sure if I was smart enough or good enough," Justice Lee shares. "People like me don't usually go to law school. And [Rosa Parks] just quashed all that noise right out of the gate and said, 'You go to law school.' And so, of course, when Rosa Parks tells you to go to law school, you go to law school."
To Justice Lee, there's "so much power in representation," and she's proud to be a figure her teenage daughter can look up to. While it was a "long journey to the bench," she says "that's something that you can overcome."
As someone who was born in South Korea, whose parents did not speak much English, navigating the legal system was hard for Justice Lee and her family when they first moved to America. She says that she had to become familiar with the barriers facing her at a young age, and learn to use them instead.
"There's a system in place and it can work in your favor or it can work against you. And you just have to understand what the rules of the system are," she explains, adding, "The great thing about America is, is that you can, no matter where you come from and how you start the race, you dictate how your journey is going to be."
For more interviews like this, watch Advocate Now on The Advocate Channel.
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