Personal Lives

Told to go back to his own country, BigLaw partner says lawyers need to stand up and be heard

  • Print.

The second-to-last time WilmerHale intellectual property litigator William Lee heard such a biased comment reflecting hostility to immigrants was 40 years ago.

The last time was this August, and Lee believes the incident in which he was told to return to his country reflects an anti-immigrant political environment, the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) reports.

Lee, whose parents are Chinese immigrants, is the former co-managing partner of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. “If this can happen to the managing partner of an Am Law 200 firm,” Lee told the Am Law Daily, “what’s happening to the rest of the country?”

Lee tells the Am Law Daily the incident occurred when he was filling up his Mercedes-Benz SUV at a gas station near his home outside Boston in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A man wearing a “Wellesley Hockey Parent” shirt walked up to Lee and asked him, “Where does a guy like you get a car like that?”

Trying to defuse the situation, Lee named a local car dealer. “Why don’t you go back to your own country?” the man told Lee.

Lee replied that he didn’t understand the man, and the man replied, “You mean, you don’t understand English.”

“I don’t understand ignorance,” Lee replied.

Lee got in his car and drove away. The man followed in his own car until Lee pulled into a police station.

Lee tells the Am Law Daily that the incident reflects views held by some in the country, whether they are expressed or not. “It’s something we have to address as a country and as lawyers,” Lee said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? Maybe it will be better than we hope. If not, it’s important for lawyers to be heard and stand up.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.