July 5, 2022 – Leading international transactional law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP has made University of Houston Law Center alumna Alison Chen (’03) the managing partner in charge at the firm’s Houston office.
“We are so proud of Alison and her accomplishments,” UH Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes said. “She is an incredible ambassador for the Law Center.”
Chen is excited about this opportunity and recognizes that the number of women and minority leaders in the legal market is still not as high as it should be. “As I step into this role, I think about how I want to lead and how I will implement the firm’s overall diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to create opportunities for everybody,” Chen said.
Born in Taiwan, Chen moved to America at age 12 and grew up in Houston, always knowing that she wanted to practice law. After completing her undergraduate degree in government at The University of Texas at Austin, picking the Law Center just made sense.
“UH was a very easy decision for me,” said Chen. “There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that UH students have.”
Chen was a first-generation law student at UHLC and only pictured litigators when she thought of lawyers. After a judicial internship, 2L summer clerkships with a focus on litigation and a few moot court competitions, it didn’t feel right to her, and she shared this sentiment with then tax law Professor Ira Shepard who was a mentor to her throughout her time at the Law Center. He looked at the classes she was taking and saw that she was excelling in statutory interpretation and asked if she had ever considered tax law.
“Looking back, that was a turning point. No one ever told me that before,” said Chen. “In my third year of law school, I took a different direction and focused on the tax and corporate transaction classes he suggested. I probably owe this guy my whole career.”
Chen graduated from the Law Center in 2003 and went to New York University School of Law for an LL.M. degree in taxation. As soon as she graduated from NYU, she returned to Texas to practice at Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins, Crouch & Ungerman L.L.P in Dallas. She spent a year with Bracewell before moving on to transactional law focused at Hunton Andrews Kurth, where she spent over seven years and made partner in 2014. Chen joined Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP’s Houston office as a partner in 2015 and was promoted to the Houston office hiring partner for 2018 – 2020. She currently serves on the Akin Gump’s firmwide diversity council and partnership admission committee. In the community, Chen serves on the board of the University of Houston Law Alumni Association and the board of the Asian American Bar Association of Houston. Throughout her career, Chen is reminded of Professor Shepard’s way of mentoring and caring for his students.
“Mentoring is so important to me, and I do it by sharing my experiences and being available to younger lawyers because that’s what Professor Shepard did for me,” said Chen. “The Law Center teaches you all about contributing to your community and paying it forward.”
Chen attributes her success to being fair and open-minded. “Diversity is not something that’s talked to, it’s acted upon,” said Chen. “You must always encourage inclusiveness.”
Chen was recognized by the Houston Business Journal with a Women Who Mean Business Award focusing on career achievement, contribution to company and city success, community involvement and leadership. These attributes are the reason Akin Gump chairperson Kim Koopersmith is excited about Chen taking on this new role.
“Alison is an outstanding practitioner and partner who has been integral to the success of our Houston office,” said Koopersmith. “She has been a strong contributor to our firm’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. I am confident that she will be an extremely successful leader in our Houston office.”
As the new leader of Akin Gump’s Houston office, Chen is focused on three areas: retaining and growing their talent pipeline, continuing their premier client service and branding in the Texas legal market, and maintaining their inclusive and collaborative culture at Akin Gump. To do this, Chen will draw on everything she has learned over the years, including the foundation that the Law Center gave her.
“The school encourages you to take initiative, and teachers prompt you to take ownership and be mindful about the community,” said Chen. “What we do matters; I feel like that every day at Akin Gump.”
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