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February 1, 2016

Partner at 31; Worcester advocate since childhood

AiVi Nguyen specializes in business and employment litigation at Bowditch & Dewey.
AiVi Nguyen believes one of the greatest strengths Worcester is that young professionals can rise to positions of influence and contribute in major ways to the city and the business community.

AiVi Nguyen first arrived in Worcester when she was just one month old – the only child of Vietnamese refugees who spoke little English – and grew up in the city's public housing.

Today, the 31 year old is the youngest partner in the 102-year history of Worcester law firm Bowditch & Dewey.

“Coming to Worcester is actually a smart life decision, and I don't think people think of Worcester in that way,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen always had an emotional connection to Worcester – having grown up in the city and with her parents still living here – but it was the professional opportunity that brought her back after she graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania undergrad and obtained her law degree from Boston College Law School.

She could have gone anywhere after college, Nguyen said, but Worcester represented an ideal, medium-sized city where she felt she could practice law and have a great impact on the community while maintaining a level of sanity that eluded her friends who moved onto hectic lives in Boston and New York City.

A young leader

In addition to becoming the youngest Bowditch partner – practicing law in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut – Nguyen is a member of the City of Worcester's Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, on the board of trustees at Quinsigamond Community College, on the advisory board of Worcester high-school-to-college-preparatory nonprofit Bottom Line and on the attorney advisory committee for the Boston Lawyers Group.

“Indeed, AiVi is a highly accomplished trial attorney who has worked to earn the trust of clients and respect of her colleagues in the bar. We are proud of her dedication to the goals of diversity - at our firm and in the larger community,” said Bowditch managing partner James D. Hanrahan, when he announced her promotion to partner.

Nguyen said her promotion to partner not only was this a huge achievement for herself personally, but a signal of the progressive nature of her law firm.

It is this kind of willingness to accept and incorporate young employees ready to commit to their employers that Worcester businesses have an opportunity to benefit from, Nguyen said.

“When there was discussions of my partnership … it was never, 'She's too young, and that's a definite no.' That's red tape. That's arbitrary,” Nguyen said. “(In Worcester) you take your turn when you're ready for it.”

Although she strived to ensure her personal life did not suffer, hard work and long hours laid the foundation for her success at Bowditch & Dewey, Nguyen said. This is one of the widest disconnects between the younger generation that can do work anywhere but values a rich personal life and an older generation that values time at the office. Just because you're not at your desk doesn't mean you're not working, she said.

Millennial spokeswoman

Because of her young success, community involvement and outspoken nature, Nguyen has quickly become an adviser for how the Central Massachusetts business community can engage young professionals like her and get them to stay and thrive in the area.

“The idea is you hire people who could be your partner some day,” Nguyen said. “If everyone did that with their employees, their young employees would feel loyalty to that business, company and mentor. That's the strongest tool in helping businesses survive and retaining talent.”

While a great amount of the focus has been on how to retain college students, Nguyen feels the area is ripe to attract young millennial families, pulling them away from Boston and MetroWest with the natural strengths of the region.

Want to avoid a horrid commute? Worcester. Want to be able to afford more than a broom closet as your first home? Worcester. Want to be able to really get to know other professionals and feel you can have an impact on the greater community? Worcester. Worcester has everything it needs to attract young workers – it just needs to highlight those strengths, she said.

Diversity advocacy

Moving forward as a business isn't just about recognizing and harnessing the power of young professionals, Nguyen said, it is also about embracing diversity.

As an Asian woman, Nguyen said she stands out a bit from the stereotypical Worcester business crowd. This is part of the reason she joined the city's Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee. In that role, she felt she could lend a business perspective to the decisions being driven by the city.

Businesses simply cannot afford to be different than the communities they serve, she said.

Having diverse backgrounds and a diverse team can help ensure that someone will be able to connect with and understand the concerns of these different types of clients.

“We have plenty of clients who are diverse business owners … it's a real question that we are asked by clients, 'What is the female-to male ratio here?' 'What is your ethnic diversity?'” Nguyen said. “I like clients like that because they push us to change because we want their business.”

A graduate from Holy Name Central Catholic High School before heading to college, Nguyen advocates for her hometown, feeling it is imperative for businesses to shift with the times in order to continue to be successful.

“AiVi is a rising star in the Worcester region, committed to giving back in numerous ways to the community where she grew up,” Hanrahan said.

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