WBA celebrates Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by celebrating the AAPI members of our community.

Nina Ren is a Trial Attorney in the Office of Constitutional Torts at the U.S. Department of Justice. She handles vaccine cases before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Nina is currently preparing for her third career appellate court oral argument (her first was before the Fourth Circuit and her second was before the Federal Circuit). Nina says, “I work with an incredible team of people who are deeply passionate about promoting and protecting public health.”

Before joining the DOJ, Nina practiced employment law for about seven years at Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch, P.C.—a small and fierce woman-owned law firm— where she helped clients confront discrimination and whistleblowers deal with retaliation. She also handled security clearance appeals before intelligence and defense agencies.

Nina tells us: I love to travel. I went to Guatemala with a group of wonderful and inspirational women from the WBA, and it was such a highlight of my time with this association. I’m currently taking Spanish classes before heading down to Peru to hike the trail to Machu Picchu. When I’m home, I’m at the National Arboretum or Kenilworth Gardens with my now almost-two-year-old puppy.

Who inspired you to join the WBA?
Elaine Fitch. Elaine introduced me to the WBA when I was a brand-new attorney and showed me that the best way to join is to jump right into a committee!

How did your community growing up shape who you are now?
My childhood involved a lot of moving around: I was born in Beijing, China, but lived in Georgia, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey, with a couple years and summers in China sprinkled in, during those formative years. My community changed frequently, and sometimes quite drastically, and I often felt—like many immigrants, I’m sure!—a sense of not truly belonging anywhere. My experience made me value so much more the importance of creating my own community, of seeking common interests, and of nurturing relationships beyond geography.

What motivated you to enroll in law school?
I am the first (and currently only) lawyer in my family and extended family. I will say almost everyone told me going to law school would be a mistake – family members, mentors, teachers. I blame my then-undiagnosed ADHD. I knew, however, with absolute certainty what I wanted to do. I felt frustrated by how frequently my parents were taken advantage of or intimidated, simply because they didn’t know how to navigate our complicated legal and social systems. It inspired me to pursue a path involving advocacy.

What advice would you give to an Asian-American law student who aspires to be where you are now?
Sometimes, it helps to ignore well-meaning advice! (So, take mine with a grain of salt as well.) The basics are important, of course—take the practice of law seriously, take your reputation seriously. Hone those research, writing, and counseling skills. But there is no right path, and it helps to be curious. Learn from as many people with as many different life experiences as you can.

What does Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you personally, and why is it important to celebrate it?
As a trial attorney, if it’s not on my calendar, then it’s not on my mind! It’s important to carve out time to reflect, recognize, and honor your heritage. And there are so many different Asian cultures, each facing their own unique challenges here. Taking time to think critically about how we can support each other is a good beginning.

What progress or positive changes have you witnessed for the Asian-American Heritage community in recent years?
It’s tough to say. Asian-American is such a broad category (let’s not forget how large and diverse Asia is), and progress has been uneven. That said, it’s lovely to finally see increased recognition and representation in Hollywood and to have our first Black and Asian-American vice-president, Kamala Harris.

What are your hopes or aspirations for the future of the Asian-American legal community?
More equal representation on every level. More involvement in political discussions and in shaping policy so that there is more access to justice, in our own community but also, importantly, beyond.