The Shoulders of Giants: Brian Yin

New York Litigation associate Brian Yin came to the law with a background in public policy and education. He speaks candidly about striking a balance between his work and personal life, and being appreciative of those who came before him.

Photo credit: Thomas Donley, New York

Growing up, I had no idea I would end up being a lawyer. In high school, I was focused on math and science. I didn’t know any lawyers and never thought about the law as a career path.

In college, I took some public policy classes and became interested in education. After graduation, I worked as a teacher and later joined an organization focused on education policy. It was only then that I began to see how much power there is in understanding the law. My colleagues often talked about how they wished they had legal training or that there was a lawyer around for them to consult. I went to law school so I could become that resource. Instead, I ended up falling in love with the law.

Work-life balance is not about finding time for work and time for “life.” Being a lawyer is a core part of my identity. It is hard work and can involve long hours and lots of stress, but it is also very fulfilling. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t enjoy it. At the same time, it is important to me to be a man of faith and to spend time with the people I love. These things make me a better lawyer. I don’t see these aspects of my life as separate; for me, work-life balance is about integrating them.

I recall a project I worked on around Easter that had very tight deadlines – early mornings and all-nighters. It was important to me to celebrate the holiday at church, and my teammates encouraged me to do so. I worked until I had to leave for church and then came back to the office afterwards. I was touched that my colleagues understood what this meant to me, and it motivated me to work even harder.

Our people are really what makes working here special. Everyone I have worked with has genuinely focused on teaching and mentorship. Whenever a partner or senior associate gives me an assignment, they take the time to explain how it fits into the bigger picture. As junior lawyers, we want to have an impact – to know that the work we do is important. This culture gives us confidence that we are part of the firm’s mission and overall strategy. It inspires me to be a better lawyer, to be a fierce and effective advocate for our clients.

One of the most important concepts in the law is building on precedent – we stand on the shoulders of giants. I am where I am now because of the people who came before me. My goal is to be a giant for those who come after.