Khoa Do, Partner at Jones Day
Khoa Do, Partner at Jones Day

Meet Khoa Do, Partner at Jones Day, the 3rd largest law firm in the world. Khoa came from humble beginnings as an immigrant living in the south side of Chicago. Losing his dad at an early age, Khoa had to learn how to fend for himself. Khoa is passionate about providing mentorship that many immigrant youths do not have access to. Khoa serves on the OneVietnam board and has been an invaluable source of motivation and wisdom.

The Fact Sheet

Hometown in Vietnam:  Saigon

Current Location:  Palo Alto, California, U.S.A.

Current Job(s): Partner, Jones Day; Board Member, OneVietnam Network; Advisory Board Member, Asian Law Alliance

Education: J.D., Northwestern University School of Law; B.A. (Economics and Finance), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Three little known facts:  I was a nightclub D.J. in Chicago; my favorite television reality show is “Dancing with the Stars”; Coca-Cola is my beverage of choice

Previous Jobs:  Partner, DLA Piper LLP (US); Partner, Greenberg Traurig LLP; Associate, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Awards / Recognitions: “40 under 40” dealmakers and innovators in Silicon Valley; Northern California Super Lawyer

The Interview

1. What was your first paying job?

My first “paying” job was one from which I earned no money. From the third through tenth grades, I bartered my services as a cleaner at a Chicago martial arts school for free lessons. For seven years, my Sifu trained me without charge until I advanced to black belt and became an assistant instructor. Finally, cleaning duty was replaced by teaching. During my sophomore year in high school, I moonlighted as a busboy for minimum wage.

2. Complete the sentence: The key to success is…

The key to success is avoiding shortcuts. Otherwise, you will head in the wrong direction, get lost, and fail to reach the destination. There is absolutely no substitute for hard work, putting in the time, and paying your dues. Regardless of one’s focus in life, substance will always carry the day. Only a fool says, “fake it until you make it.”

3. One lesson on what not to do.

Credibility is your most valuable asset. Whether in a personal or professional context, never lose your credibility. When your audience doesn’t believe you, failure is inevitable.

4. How has your immigrant background influenced your work?

I have taken nothing for granted. Every opportunity was carefully identified, involved intense preparation, and pursued to execution. No aspect of my work has been handed to me. I believe that anyone who takes their work seriously should endeavor to master his/her craft. Perfection is not the goal. Instead, constant tuning, refinement, and improvement should be one’s life task.

5. You’re known as the “deal-maker” in the industry. What was the most exciting deal you’ve done?

I’ve been fortunate to practice law with the world’s top mergers & acquisitions firm and in the global Mecca of technology. While negotiating multi-billion dollar transactions for publicly-traded technology companies dominates my job description, the most exciting deal I’ve done is an unlikely one – for a Silicon Valley tech M&A lawyer. In March 2011, I executed the UFC’s acquisition of Strikeforce. The UFC is the world’s leading mixed martial arts (“MMA”) promotion company. This transaction was considered 2011’s most high profile sports/entertainment M&A deal. I proudly refer to it as MMA M&A!

6. How would you spend $1 million to change the world?

I would make a $1 million “impact investment” in an emerging economy. Impact investing assesses not only the financial return on an investment, but also the social and environmental impacts resulting from the operations of the invested business and the consumption of the product or service created by such business. Currently, I have the privilege of serving as legal counsel to a private equity firm that is making an impact investment in Vietnam.

7. What’s your favorite Vietnamese dish?

Although sounding cliché, my favorite Vietnamese dish really is Phở Bò Đặc Biệt. I like it with all the bells and whistles along with extra beef on the side. Bánh Cuốn is a close second.