Tina Matsuoka, executive director, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, answers questions from NAPABA member Michael Yim.
I went to law school because I wanted to be a civil rights and community advocate.
Why did you decide that you were more interested in nonprofit leadership than law practice?
When I was a young civil rights lawyer, I moved to a state where I didn’t know anyone, and I joined NAPABA’s local affiliate, where I found colleagues who were willing to share their wealth of knowledge and made friendships that have lasted to this day. I enjoyed working within an association framework as a volunteer to help lawyers advance their careers and to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession. I began to think about ways that I could pursue this work on a full-time basis, and when I had the opportunity to become executive director of NAPABA, I knew it was the perfect job for me.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met in your job?
During one of NAPABA’s Annual Conventions, I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Pearl Tang, the wife of the late Judge Thomas Tang, the first Chinese American to ever serve as a U.S. federal judge. He was a champion of individual rights, an advocate for lawyers of color, and an ardent supporter of NAPABA. I had not realized that Dr. Tang was a trailblazer in her own right as the first Asian Pacific American (APA) female doctor in Arizona and a tireless community advocate.
In law school, what did you imagine you would be doing in your career?
I went to law school because I wanted to be a civil rights and community advocate. In many ways, my position allows me to pursue those same passions. I work on policy issues that affect the APA community, and I have the privilege of helping young lawyers and law students navigate their paths through the legal profession.