For The Record

Looking back, Chris An, L’20, realizes he probably started practicing law sometime around fourth or fifth grade.

“It’s a typical trope for children of immigrants to play the role of an attorney, even at a young age,” An said. “I remember being 10 years old and trying to navigate this unfamiliar world for my parents — reading letters out loud to help them overcome language barriers and deciphering complex terms as we did their taxes.

“Lawyers are advocates for others. They serve as a bridge between ‘regular citizens’ and seemingly impenetrable legal institutions. If you grow up as an advocate, the natural progression is to become an attorney.”

One day I'm in Europe researching anti-corruption, and the next day I'm right back in the books.

A child of Cambodian refugees, An excelled in high school, becoming the first person in his immediate family to earn a diploma, and went on to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, his hometown. During a gap year to help his parents start a small business, he first heard about Richmond Law at a law conference in Washington, D.C.

“Dean [Michelle] Rahman [former dean of admission] gave a presentation that really resonated with me,” said An. “I approached her afterwards and asked if Richmond was a place where someone like me would feel comfortable — a bleeding heart who didn’t necessarily have the same background as everyone else. She said, ‘absolutely.’”

An thrived at Richmond Law. He joked that he had “worked every desk in the law library,” and described his three years as a “whirlwind of amazing experiences.”

“One day I’m in Europe researching anti-corruption, and the next day I’m right back in the books,” An said. He completed an internship at the U.S. Department of State, led the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, served as an editor of Richmond Public Interest Law Review, and played saxophone in the UR Wind Ensemble. An now works at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, where he served as a summer associate.

When his 3L classmates chose him as the class’s commencement speaker, An was perhaps the only person surprised.He will deliver his pandemic-postponed remarks at a ceremony celebrating the Class of 2020 that is now scheduled for May 1, 2021.

“First and foremost, my speech will be a thank-you note to my parents and two brothers,” he said. “This is their graduation as much as it is mine. Then to my peers and professors, who gave me a chance, and a law school where we all belong. It will be a discussion in gratitude.”