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The Bike Ride

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

  • By: Angel Nguyen
  • Organization: American Express Company
  • Source: National

Pro Bono Net is partnering with Martindale-Hubbell Connected to promote pro bono April 16-30. Below is the fifth in a series of guest blog posts on Pro Bono Net's Connected group, contributed by Angel Nguyen, Director of Investigations at American Express Company.  Join Connected to read the rest of the series in coming days.

 After spending six and a half years at the Manhattan DA's office, I was ready to jump into a new career and encounter new experiences, and join the world of corporate America. I went through all of the necessary motions to change my career path - I prepped my cases to be transferred, I started collecting contact information of beloved colleagues, I even started to purchase a new wardrobe. The one thing I waited until the very last minute to do, was pack up my office. Once I began that journey, I went through the countless red wells filled with paperwork, pictures, evidence, motions, phone numbers, addresses, Grand Jury scripts, transcripts of old trials, faces of witnesses and victims...and a lot of memories. I had somehow managed to keep myself so busy with everything else, I did not take the time to truly reflect on my experiences, both professionally and personally, that led up to that day. I realized that I was fortunate enough to actually work in a place that allowed me to serve the public -- and not only that, but to serve the public in one of the most genuine ways I could. I suddenly became completely heartbroken that I was leaving. How was I going to adjust?

It wasn't long after I started working in my new position that I felt the void of working to help the public. I quickly searched for an outlet. What could an attorney who practiced at the Manhattan DA's Office possibly have to offer? For so long, I worked in criminal law, and did not have any experience with the other concerns that society deals with-- incorporating businesses, financial literacy, reviewing contracts, immigration, human rights, divorce, non-profit documentation, and the list goes on. I felt like a fish out of water. There could be no other area of law more different from all of these areas than criminal law. There were so many things I wanted to help with, but that I knew very little about. I slowly got involved with the Pro Bono Committee, and familiarized myself with the types of matters where help was needed. I worked with other people. I asked a lot of questions.

Soon enough, I realized that learning the actual subject matter was the easy part. What surprised me the most was the challenging proposition of getting the many people who wanted to help overcome their hesitation to work on something different. It should not have surprised me since I, too, was one of those people. I found myself saying over and over again- If I can do it, anyone can! Most people have the basic skill set. All you have to do is get up on the bike and start pedaling. Everything else will fall into place and before you know it, you will be riding with the wind. And at some point, you sit back and realize that the giving goes both ways.

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