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2021 Unsung Legal Heroes: Bao Chau Espenson

As daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who came to the U.S.  in the mid-1970s, Bao Chau Espenson was a natural fit for her current role as program manager in strategic initiatives, for the U.S. Bank Law Division’s legal operations team, a newly developed position.

Espenson graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in human resources management, which led to a career working for Twin Cities law firms, starting with Robins Kaplan. At her next firm, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath, she started working in diversity, equity and inclusion.

In 2019, she joined U.S. Bank. In this role, Espenson works with all Law Division programs (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Equity & Racial Justice; Pro Bono; Recognition & Team Building; and usbWell), and is a key member of the communications and learning and development teams.

Since Espenson began her HR management career in 2003, she has seen a gradual increase in diversity in the legal profession, with more representation among people of color, women and LGBT people.

Growing up in the Twin Cities Asian community, Espenson says, she knew a number of Asians with leadership roles in business and health care, but it wasn’t until her first job after college that she met an Asian attorney.

“There are a lot of different ways to look at the law and legal issues, so we need to have diverse perspectives.”

Within U.S. Bank’s Law Division, Espenson works with “some great initiatives, making sure that everything we do is viewed through a lens of inclusion and equity.” She has led all aspects of cultural competency programming off ered through U.S. Bank’s DEI Council.

Espenson also serves as a board member of U.S. Bank’s Asian Heritage Business Resource Group.

Espenson enjoys being involved in some of the firm’s pro bono work. One such effort is the University of Minnesota’s “Mapping Prejudice” project, a study of racial covenants within cities that historically reserved land for the exclusive use of white people.

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