Asian Heritage Month: Charlie Z.L. Shi

asian heritage month lawyer

May is Canadian Jewish Heritage Month and Asian Heritage Month. Throughout the month, we sat down with a few firm members to hear more about the stories that influenced who they are as professionals today.

Charlie Shi joined Alexander Holburn in 2021. He is a member of the Corporate/Commercial, Real Estate, Intellectual Property + Technology, and Banking + Lending practice groups. Prior to joining our firm, he founded two tech companies during his time at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

A New Life From Scratch in Canada

Born in Shenzhen, China, Charlie moved to Vancouver when he was seven years old with his parents.

“My family had to adapt to Canadian customs and cultures to start our new life from scratch,” said Charlie. “It was difficult for us. My parents separated about a year after we landed, and my father went back to China to manage his businesses.”

Raised by a single immigrant mother, Charlie holds a deep appreciation for all immigrant parents.

“They give up their previous lives to seek new opportunities in a new country for themselves and to provide a better quality of life for their children,” Charlie expressed. “Growing up with a single parent in Canada, my mother worked incredibly hard to help fund my development and education in a new country.”

Charlie gives credit to his mother for her instrumental support in helping him get to where he is today.

Being A Part of the Asian Legal Community

An entrepreneur, lawyer, and member of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL), Charlie is also a mentor at the First Generation Network and the Asian Pacific Law Club at UBC.

“I have had the privilege of meeting accomplished Asian legal professionals and mentoring fresh law students just entering law school,” said Charlie. “Through these networks and associations, I have learned many things about the history of the Asian legal community in British Columbia.”

The Honourable Judge Randall S. K. Wong is one of the key figures that Charlie mentioned. Judge Wong was the first-ever Chinese Canadian to be appointed to the federal court and the longest-serving judge in British Columbia. He also graduated from the Peter A. Allard School of Law, Charlie’s alma mater, in 1966.

“The Peter A. Allard School of Law only graduated one or two Chinese Canadians back in the 1960s. The progress the community has made in the past half-century to get to where we are today is something I’m grateful for,” said Charlie. “Through my community involvement, I have not only met other practitioners and professional connections, but also friends and colleagues with whom I can share my experiences and stories.”

Charlie’s Advice for Young Professionals

Charlie’s commitment to mentoring law students, paired with his own professional philosophy, carries on that legacy of progress.

“While the practice of law may not be regarded as much as a ‘noble’ profession as it was in days past, we need to remember that lawyering is a profession as well as a business. Being a part of legal practice is a privilege.  As we grow our business, it’s important to uphold our moral compass and preserve the sanctity of the law.”

“At the end of the day, we work in a service-oriented profession which aims to serve society,” Charlie explained.

Charlie also emphasizes the responsibility we have to ourselves. “Nothing in life is worth sacrificing your well-being for, not even a job. It’s important to check in once in a while and take care of yourself—and if you can, somebody else too.”

<< Back to Firm News