When Leah Wong and Dennis Fan first met at a happy hour at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Convention in Austin, Texas, in November 2019, there was a spark. And it was purely professional.
“I remember texting my friend, being like, ‘I met this guy that I have a professional crush on,’” Ms. Wong, 31, said.
At the time, she was an associate at Latham & Watkins, and the law firm was hosting a happy hour for employees. Mr. Fan, who was then an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, crashed the event for free drinks (with the blessing of a friend who worked at the firm).
When Ms. Wong discovered that Mr. Fan wasn’t a lawyer for the firm and actually worked in government, she told him that it was her dream to work in public service law. But she was waiting until she earned enough money to pay off student loans and help her family. He gave her advice, essentially saying: “If you want to do it, you’ve got to do it.”
“I would say it almost felt like a challenge,” Ms. Wong said.
The pair talked for more than an hour and discovered they were both born in the United States and spent years of early childhood living with their grandparents in China. They spoke of their love for their parents and how their families’ sacrifices motivated them to do work that had an impact beyond their own lives. She was inspired by his passion, and he was struck by her curiosity.
“Leah goes at like a hundred miles per hour at all times, and I just remember thinking that she was one of the most charming people I had met,” Mr. Fan, 34, said. They exchanged phone numbers to keep in touch professionally.