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Detail image of Jackson Hwu

May 19, 2022

AAPI Heritage Month: Q&A With Jackson Hwu

Co-Chair of Nelson Mullins’ Latin America Practice and Partner in Emerging Companies and Venture Capital Practice

1. Please tell us about your practice at Nelson Mullins.

I lead the emerging companies and venture capital practice of the firm in South Florida, based in Miami. I work with start-ups, emerging growth companies, venture capital funds and investors and focus on representing clients from Latin America as well as U.S. and European clients in the fintech and blockchain sectors. Lately my practice has been heavily focused on blockchain regulatory and transactional work as Miami consolidates as the blockchain capital of the World.

2. What brought your family to Brazil? What brought you to the U.S.?

I actually moved to the U.S. to pursue my legal education and to build a family. I moved here in 1999 to attend Northwestern University where I received a joint degree at the Pritzker School of Law (LL.M) and the Kellogg School of Management (C.B.A.). I ended up obtaining my Juris Doctor from Northwestern a couple years later when I decided to stay in the U.S. permanently.

I was already an attorney in Brazil, and I practiced in capital markets as in-house counsel working closely with U.S. and U.K. law firms. I always enjoyed doing cross-border work, so I made plans to study in the U.S. early in my career.

3. Did you do anything before law school that led you on the path that brings you here today?

I enjoyed studying abroad since I was 13 years old. I loved learning foreign languages. I studied English as a second language since I was 7, and I put a lot of effort into becoming fluent so that I could have opportunities to live in the U.S. I studied in the U.K. for several months on multiple occasions while in junior high and high school. After I started college (law school in Brazil), I lived in France at different times, once in Paris and another in the South of France studying French. I would say these experiences allowed me to easily adapt to different cultures and played a significant role in why I enjoy doing cross-border legal work at Nelson Mullins today.

4. Did something in your youth or upbringing inspire you to become a lawyer?

Growing up in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I saw a lot of inequality and injustice. I also experienced racism being Asian in predominantly white catholic society. I am a first-generation descendent of Taiwanese immigrants and it was not a walk in the park to find my place. I believe these were reasons that helped inspire me to be a lawyer — empowered to defend people of similar backgrounds.

5. Is there something from your background or upbringing that gives you a competitive advantage in your practice?

As a Brazilian, I learned to be resourceful. Growing up in an immigrant Taiwanese family, I learned discipline and perseverance in my studies and my career. My language skills provide me a competitive edge, as I’m fluent in five languages. Many of my clients want to speak to me in their native tongue and they appreciate my ability to advise them on U.S. legal issues without the language barrier. I am a proud member of our firm’s affinity groups promoting diversity in the Asian-American, Latino, and LGBTQ+ communities.

6. How has your heritage shaped who you are today?

Definitely the Asian family pressure in exceling at school made me a hard worker. I also feel a stronger connection to my Asian heritage now and seek opportunities to learn more.

7. Please describe a mentorship experience in your career that had a powerful impact on the attorney you’ve become.

I had a great mentor when I started working in New York at a Weil Gotshal & Manges. The partner who hired me took a big leap of faith bringing the first Brazilian foreign attorney into the firm’s M&A practice. He always demonstrated the ability to be fair and reasonable while balancing the pressures of managing multiple deals, so I think of this every time I am working with junior lawyers in my team. He also took time to teach me about the business side of the legal practice, and I believe this shaped me into a more practical advisor.

8. What advice would you offer to a younger attorney trying to build a strong practice?

Start business development early, join organizations and causes that you are passionate about, and use your time wisely but don’t expect immediate results. Develop meaningful relationships with people in your legal and business community. Build a reputation for being a good person and a smart and reliable lawyer. Clients prefer to do business with people they like and trust. Be responsive, and don’t leave clients or partners you are working with in the dark.

9. What do you find unique about Nelson Mullins that differs from the other companies where you’ve worked?

Nelson Mullins is very entrepreneurial and is also at a pivotal time in its growth trajectory. I think the fact that we are not a firm with a handful of major institutional clients makes for a more collaborative and diverse firm. I also find our lawyers to be humble, approachable, and authentic.

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