Women in the Law

A profile of Helen Chong, of Manassas. Part of a special editorial series celebrating the achievements of Virginia’s women legal professionals.

Helen Chong

Criminal Defense Attorney, The Wilson Law Firm

As the American-born child of Korean immigrants, Chong grew up seeing the challenges    members of the immigrant community often faced in their lives due to language barriers. From a young age, then, she knew that she wanted to become an advocate for others, to “serve as some kind of voice” for people who needed that help. 

“For me it is important, if you are a strong individual, to help people who are vulnerable,” she says.

That desire to be an advocate led her to law school at George Mason University. Following graduation, she became involved with the Virginia State Bar association’s Young Lawyer’s Conference, where, as chair of the Children and the Law Commission, she advocated for the vulnerable through a statewide anti-bullying initiative that particularly focused on the area of cyberbullying. For that work, the state bar recognized her with its “Young Lawyer of the Year” award in 2015.  

Her interest in advocacy also brought her to her current practice in DUI and criminal defense. That might seem like work that could easily lead to a jaded perspective, but instead Chong sees it as an opportunity to help her clients get a second chance.

“When a person has gotten arrested,” she says, “life is not going well.” Often, her clients are dealing with other mental health, addiction or life issues. Chong sees her role as going beyond legal defense to showing her clients that “someone has faith in them,” and working with them to help address those underlying issues. Hers is a practice in which, she says, she truly hopes never to see any of her clients a second time.

Chong says that a “common theme” in her life is public service and giving help, a fact that she attributes to how much she herself has benefited from the support, mentoring and resources others have provided to her through her own life, from her family, friends and community, to her colleagues in the law and on the Young Lawyers Conference, where Chong continues to serve in a variety of roles focused on helping others. 

“One person and a kind act,” she says, “can really make a big difference.”

Editors’ note: Women were first admitted to the state bar in 1920, thus making it possible for them to practice law in the Commonwealth. Nearly a century later, women in the law throughout Virginia have risen into positions of leadership and responsibility in public and private practice, nonprofits, education, the judicial system and legal organizations. The editors of Virginia Living sought out some of these outstanding women for their perspectives on their work and the law, and insights from their careers. For more information, including a complete list of Virginia’s top-rated women lawyers, look for our August 2017 issue.

Read the rest of the profiles in our Women in the Law special series:

Jessica Childress, Northern Virginia
Sarah Francisco, Charlottesville
Patricia Roberts, Williamsburg
Lori Thompson, Roanoke
Pia Trigiani, Alexandria
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