Diana Chao (JD ’10) is the incumbent president of the Orange County Coalition for Diversity in the Law (OCCDL), a partner in her firm, Everett Dorey LLC, and the matriarch of a young family. We caught up with her to discuss life since graduation, her continuing involvement in the Fowler School of Law alumni and student community, and how she seems to keep all of these metaphorical balls whizzing through the air so effortlessly.
From the outset, Diana’s journey into a professional law career was aimed squarely at litigation. “I always loved the idea of appearing before a judge,” she says, and explains how her job research prior to graduating focused only on litigation firms. She found a boutique law firm in nearby Costa Mesa focusing on insurance coverage litigation that offered her a chance to get her professional feet wet and all the litigation experience she wanted. Although this opportunity was a great one for any law school graduate, the appeal began to wane after a few years. Diana explains that although initially promising, the work became too familiar too quickly and–for Diana, what started out as an amazing experiential groove quickly became something of an unwelcome rut–she simply needed more. Diana found herself looking around for alternatives and even questioning her initial assumptions that litigation was the perfect path for her.
Seeking more diverse practice areas Diana started to look further afield, into what other firms could offer her new career, and decided to take a leap of faith in a new job and firm–a move she describes in one word, “Terrifying.” Understandably, a job switch can be tricky at the best of times, because “the devil you know” somehow always feels safer than the one you don’t, and Diana found the choice to change firms fraught and anxiety-provoking. Her choice, as it would happen, was not a poor one–her new role at Everett Dorey checks several boxes for her, specifically diversity in her team, a strongly collaborative corporate climate and, as she describes it, a “really progressive mindset.” At Everett Dorey She found that she rose quickly through the ranks and, in less than two years, was appointed partner and has served Everett Dorey in that capacity for the last three years. “I did well at Everett Dorey because of the support of my colleagues,” she adds, “it really was a perfect fit for me and the work I was doing. I was worried about my career move initially, but the environment here was so supportive; it’s a great culture.”
Diana now manages a burgeoning portfolio of cases for large corporate clients and appears in court regularly in general liability matters ranging from catastrophic injury cases to habitability litigation. “I’m very lucky,” she acknowledges. “I’m passionate about my work and enjoy working with the people at my firm, plus I love my clients.”
It was Samantha Dorey (’11) who first suggested that Diana find a vehicle for her (then) personal interest in promoting diversity in the law. After a little investigation, she found the OCCDL and became Everett Dorey’s representative with them. The OCCDL prides itself on being a collective of Orange County-based law professionals, firms and community partners who are focused on ensuring cultural diversity and acceptance in the recruitment and retention of law students and attorneys–the perfect place for Diana to begin the next leg of her established career.
Diana added value to the OCCDL, initially recognized by her appointment as vice president and, more recently, as president of the organization in 2022. She is immensely proud of the work the OCCDL is currently doing. Diana talks of how the profile of the organization has been elevated in the last year, with OCCDL having welcomed a number of new member firms and online outreach efforts having grown by 300%, an impressive trend she is working hard to continue.
Although she only has the broad strokes outlined at present, Diana talks earnestly about creating scholarships through the OCCDL, as well as a series of social justice impact discussions and workshops to highlight the issue of diversity and inclusion that affect students and practicing attorneys of the law and provide tools to meet those challenges.
Diana notes how grateful she is for the opportunity to be involved in more community-minded projects like the OCCDL, the sort of project that had to take a back seat in the early stages of her career development while she was learning the ropes of professional practice. She adds that the same passion she has for litigation has come to bear in her work with the OCCDL. “It just feels right,” she comments, noting that the OCCDL’s mission really resonates with her personal values. Values that insist she brings the spotlight to bear on things that don’t always outlast the 24-hour news media cycle, issues like discrimination, antisemitism, Asian hate, and mass shootings, to name a few. Candidly, Diana adds how devastated she currently feels about the recent spate of shootings in California and how she is already thinking of ways that the OCCDL can be supportive. Are there tough days? Of course there are, but Diana insists that much of her success has come because of the supportive environment and colleagues around her, and her good fortune in finding these spaces for herself within the broader legal community.
Diana Chao makes regular appearances on Career Services Office sessions and panels at the Fowler School of Law and is enthusiastic about working with students in assisting them in coming to grips with professional practice and career development.