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Andrew Vu

Posted By CMCP, Friday, June 28, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 27, 2015
Untitled Document
Andrew Vu, Senior Associate General Counsel | Walmart Global eCommerce
by David Tsai, Perkins Coie LLP

In celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we feature Andrew Vu, who is Senior Associate General Counsel at Walmart Global eCommerce (headquartered in San Bruno, California, just south of San Francisco). Andrew presently manages intellectual property matters, including patent litigation and patent prosecution, and the general legal support for the Engineering and Mobile Departments.

Born in Saigon during the Vietnam War, Andrew was fortunate enough to flee Vietnam days before the fall of Saigon in 1975. His family found a home in Seattle, where local churches sponsored his refugee family. His family eventually settled down in the Silicon Valley, where Andrew’s parents sweated over assembly lines to support their family of five boys.

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Andrew saw how hard his parents worked and made sure he did the same. Andrew received a B.A. from UCLA and a J.D. from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Andrew then began his legal career with the San Jose City Attorney’s Office, where he defended the city in wrongful termination suits, civil rights suits, and general civil litigation. He then went on to serve as an Assistant District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, where he prosecuted and tried serious and violent felonies. In 2000, Andrew left the public sector and began his corporate law career -- first, as Corporate Counsel to Sony PlayStation, then as an Assistant General Counsel at SAP, one of the world’s largest and leading business software companies. In 2012, Andrew joined Walmart.

Andrew has been described as the "Batman for diversity.” He has spent and continues to spend countless hours behind the scenes helping minorities and increasing diversity in the legal profession. In particular, Andrew is passionate about empowering the Asian-American and LGBT communities. Andrew is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Silicon Valley and has served on the Board of Directors for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). He also co-founded the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California and its Law Foundation’s annual public interest fellowship, the APABA-SV In-House Committee (a professional network of over 200 Silicon Valley Asian American In-House lawyers), and the Asian Pacific Islander Justice Coalition (a coalition of more than 20 Asian American non-profit focused organizations that seek to unite, empower, and advocate for social justice within the Asian American community).

Andrew is currently serving a second term on the Board of Directors of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom (BALIF), the nation’s oldest and largest LGBT bar association. During his first term on BALIF’s board, Andrew co-lead BALIF’s "It Gets Better” video project and served as the Vice Chair on the California State Bar Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination. He has also served as the Chair of the Santa Clara County Bar Association’s LGBT Committee. In 2011, Andrew formed the LGBT In House Attorneys group on LinkedIn, an informal group of LGBT attorneys working in legal departments of companies and corporations in the U.S.

Andrew is the recipient of the 2006 Asian American Heroes Award Honoree, awarded by Santa Clara County Board Supervisor Liz Kniss, the Vietnamese American Bar Association of Northern California’s 2009 Trail Blazer Award, 2009 and 2012 Certificates of Congressional Recognition from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and Congressman Mike Honda, the 2012 SF Business Times and Silicon Valley Business Journal Corporate Counsel’s Community Champion Award, the 2012 Santa Clara University School of Law Social Justice and Human Rights Award, the 2012 Bay Area for Individual Freedom Corporate Counsel Diversity Award, and the 2013 National LGBT Bar Association’s Out and Proud Corporate Counsel Award.

In 2008, Andrew married the love of his life and his partner of sixteen years, Thanh Ngo, during the brief window after California Supreme Court invalidated the prohibition against same sex marriage and prior to the passage of Proposition 8. Andrew and his husband recently moved to San Francisco from San Jose.

What does diversity mean to you?

To me, diversity must be meaningful. This means acceptance and respect for individual differences -- along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and religious and political beliefs. On a broad level, I believe that each of us in the legal profession must work to diversify our profession so it ultimately reflects the demographics of the larger community. This means ensuring full and equal opportunity for all individuals, and that we must be cognizant of diversity with respect to hiring, retention, and advancement. Put differently, we should strive to hire diverse individuals and work to retain them, so they can ultimately be in a position of power to make decisions that affect positive change.

Why does diversity matter?

Diversity is better for everyone. In the private sector, for example, it ensures innovation because diverse individuals inject fresh ideas into otherwise stagnant environments. Diversity also ensures that decisions are better made because diverse perspectives help individuals tackle problems from different angles.

What do you feel are your three major accomplishments as an attorney?

I am proud of having a very diverse career. If I had to name three things, I would say that I’m proud of having implemented a global open source compliance program for a global software company, and having implemented a patent program for Walmart’s Global eCommerce division. But mostly, I am proud of the individuals I have mentored along the way.

What do you feel was one of your biggest setbacks?

I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve met a lot of mentors who have helped me along the way so that I don’t encounter major setbacks. However, I do know that it has been a challenge trying to establish myself in the corporate sector as an openly gay man. There were times earlier in my career where I felt like I had to be closeted to be successful, and that was always difficult because I’m a social person and I believe I have to fully be myself to be successful. But, fortunately, in the last decade, I’ve found workplaces that are welcoming and that have allowed me to be myself. I’ve learned from that experience that I must strive to create inclusive work environments for all those around me.

What makes you happy outside of work?

I enjoy meeting and working with others on diversity issues, and on issues relating to community empowerment. I also enjoy meeting up with friends and having a nice meal with the love of my life, and my husband, Thanh Ngo (he is a long-time prosecutor who just recently left to start his own criminal defense practice). We were legally married in California in 2008. I hope everyone will soon have the chance to get married.

What was your childhood like?

I have had an interesting and colorful childhood. I was born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up during the Vietnam War. Days before the fall of Saigon, in April 1975, my family fled Vietnam via US military evacuation. I was 8 years old at the time. We arrived in Seattle, where local churches sponsored our family. We were very fortunate to have all the help we did in those early days. We eventually settled in the Silicon Valley where my parents found work in the high tech industry as assembly workers, which enabled them to support me and my four brothers. From 6th grade through high school, I lived in East San Jose and attended public schools. I am proud of my upbringing and my parents because I learned from both that with vision, hard work, and perseverance anything is possible.

What is something most people don’t know about you and you are proud of?

Most people don’t know that I was a former prosecutor who has tried 20 cases to verdict.

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