Member Profile: Margaret Ling
Margaret T. Ling has been a real estate attorney since 1986. Prior to practicing as a real estate attorney, Margaret was a Deputy Court Clerk for Chief Judge Constance Baker Motley of the United States District Court –Southern District of New York. Following her clerkship, Margaret focused on the area of immigration law before transitioning into real estate law.
Currently, Margaret is in the role of business development and counsel for the New York State Agency Division of Amtrust Title Insurance Company.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I was an Asian child and was raised to do what your parents want you to do, which was a career in medicine. When I couldn’t get through biology, I dropped the idea of going to medical school. My father said, ‘Ok you can go to law school and change the world in a different way.’ My desire was to go to journalism school but that was a “no-no” in the eyes of my parents.
Why did you choose real estate law?
In the 1980s I had every intention to become an immigration attorney. I entered immigration law but quickly became frustrated by the corruption in the immigration system at the time.
My father was a physician practicing in Chinatown where his patients kept asking me if I did closings. So, I pivoted to real estate and worked for 10 years in solo practice helping lots of immigrants and first-time home buyers. Later, I was approached by title companies to work in-house; I have been doing that for that last 25 years.
Can you share an experience dealing with racism and sexism in your professional life?
Early in my career, I would walk into court with my suit and my Coach briefcase, and someone would ask me “where is the lawyer?” Judges would call me up to the bench in front of a hundred people and start grilling me with questions. I couldn’t get over it. Now I listen to women with similar experiences. That was 1980. We are in 2022 and it’s still going on. Now I mentor young lawyers because there was no one there to help me. I tell them that you have to speak up for your work and fight to be recognized for it.
How is the profession doing in the area of diversity, equity, inclusion and what barriers remain?
There is still a lack of diversity in white shoe law firms, government, and corporate law. In real estate law I have been the first and the only – the first Asian, the first woman.
Women and people of color are not making partner and leaving prestigious firms after 20 years of service to go to smaller firms, go solo or become in house counsel. It’s a waste. Those attorneys are not getting the opportunity to fulfill their potential. The DEI committee at NYSBA is reaching out and working with all the sections. Diversity isn’t just our issue in our committee – it’s an issue that every committee should care about.
What advice would you give young lawyers or those new to the profession?
Be open and humble. Be willing to learn – you are always learning. Don’t forget why you are really a lawyer – to uphold the rule of law. I encourage law students that I mentor to join NYSBA early and use its resources. It builds your resume and shows employers that you sincerely embrace the law.
Finish this statement: You should join the New York State Bar Association because …
One of the benefits of membership is that you get access to ton of help and networking. I see it on the Real Property Law Section community all the time. Someone has a question and 50 people answer it to help them out. NYSBA helps you find a job, build confidence, and hone your craft. It’s a safe place to test drive all your skills without running the risk of failure. You can’t pilot this career alone.