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May/June 2021


Colleague Corner: Meet Phong Luong

‘Most of my career has involved helping the injured worker’

 

Phong-LuongPHONG LUONG is a litigation attorney at Meuser, Yackley & Rowland, a firm specializing in workers’ compensation, PERA/MSRS benefits, and personal injury with a focus on representing police officers, firefighters, and first responders. He has been practicing law for over 25 years with a broad scope of experience ranging from representing injured workers and Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustees to conducting employment investigations for educational institutions and corporations. 


What’s your most vivid memory of law school?

There are so many fond (and a few not so fond) memories of law school. However, the intense feelings I had on my first day at William Mitchell College of Law will always be permanently etched in my memory bank. I was overwhelmed with anxiety, nerves, and uncertainty. I questioned why I was there and whether I could even succeed, especially with so many smart and accomplished classmates. Fast forward 30 years, and now it’s me who is trying to comfort my kids having similar feelings as they embark on their college experience. 

What kind of law did you initially want to practice, and why?

I always thought I would be an international law attorney. In fact, I spent one semester during my third year in law school studying in Japan through Temple University’s international law program and I loved it. I was enamored with the notion of representing international corporate clients and I wanted to see the world as part of my job. Those aspirations pivoted during my last semester when I started clerking at a firm that focused on representing railroad workers throughout the country. The clerkship soon turned into a job offer, and there went my international law practice.

How were you drawn into the workers’ compensation, workplace investigations, and personal injury work you do now?

Most of my career has involved helping the injured worker in some capacity. That includes fighting for that railroad worker injured due to someone’s negligence under the Federal Employers Liability Act, or the aggrieved employee who is harassed or discriminated against because of her gender in violation of Title VII, or the police officer who suffers from PTSD as a result of his repeated exposure to traumatic incidents throughout the course of his career. 

Growing up, I experienced firsthand the devastating effects of what a work-related injury can do to a family, economically and physically. My mother worked in a factory for over 25 years until she retired, and during that time, she sustained a work injury that required surgery. Being a low-wage earner who was raising eight kids, she could not afford to miss a paycheck. So the injury and resulting wage loss had a significant impact on her and our family. Already challenged by the language barrier and fearful that she would lose her job, my mother was even more overwhelmed by the complex claims process that ensued. 

Now, when I represent clients in similar situations, I often reflect back on my mother’s experience and try to understand what they may be going through as I help them navigate the legal process. Perhaps that’s why I tend to root for the underdogs.

Tells us a little about how you like to spend your time when you aren’t working. We understand you’re a longtime volleyball coach, yes?

Yes, I was the head varsity volleyball coach at Benilde-St. Margaret’s School for eight seasons, while still practicing law. Go Red Knights! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get into coaching, especially at that competitive level. But an opportunity came up that offered me a chance to share my knowledge and love of the game with some awesome student-athletes, including my two daughters—who I got to coach before they graduated! It was a great experience and one I’ll always cherish. I’ve recently stepped down from that coaching position due to work demands, so now I get to enjoy just being a spectator at my daughter’s games. I also enjoy traveling with my family and trying out new foods. In addition, I have a love-hate relationship with golf.

What’s the best personal or professional advice you ever received?

I am a refugee boat person who fled from war-torn Vietnam in 1975. When our family immigrated to this country, we literally had no resources other than each other and the generous sponsoring families. Despite this, my parents repeatedly reminded us that we were living in a country full of abundance and opportunities, but what we decided to do with it was up to us. Their advice was to always use education to create the opportunities to better myself and once I reached a level of success, to share my blessings with those less fortunate. This advice guides me every day. 

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