“When I first passed the bar in 1996, I never imagined I would be where I am now,” says Polly Chong, attorney and counselor at law, certified mediator and the sole attorney in her law practice.
After attending Christopher Newport University, Old Dominion University, completing the three-year law reading program and passing the bar, Chong spent a couple of years working for a law firm that dealt mostly in personal injuries. After 3 ½ years, she decided to strike out on her own and has now been practicing law for more than 21 years.
Chong first decided to set up her own practice after talking to her pastor about the idea. Uon deciding to it, the church even had an office warming party, bringing office supplies to her new building. “You can’t always see where your career is going,” Chong reflects, “At the time, you’re just trying to eat. But the building is now paid and the practice is good.”
In addition to her practice, Chong was appointed as a substitute judge in October 2016, and she has sat in five jurisdictions in the Hampton Roads area. Chong says, “I really enjoy being in court. I like the courtroom setting and I like serving. I think that hopefully everybody has the same aspirations for giving back to the community.”
Chong serves on several state and local committees. She is currently vice president of I’Anson-Hoffman Inn of Court, whose purpose is to promote the goals of excellence, civility, professionalism and ethics in the legal profession. She was listed among the 2012 class of Influential Women of Virginia, a significant honor and recognition of her contributions to her field.
Within her practice, Chong does a lot of guardian work for children and incapacitated adults. She is also a certified mediator and says, “People come in here to try and solve their disputes instead of going to court. We try to create a memorandum of agreement to memorialize whatever their agreement is, and so I try to help them come to an agreement and if we are successful, that’s great.”
When asked when she first wanted to become a lawyer, Chong recalls, “I was very much impressed with my dad’s attorney. My dad’s lawyer was Buddy David, of David Kamp & Frank. He used to come to the restaurant and sit with my dad. I was just a child at the time and thought he was cool and impressive and had a nice car, so I think I was a teenager when I told my dad I wanted to be an attorney.”
Growing up, Chong’s father owned a Chinese restaurant, and the family spoke Cantonese in the house. Her mother is first generation, and her maternal grandparents came through Ellis Island, with that side of the family still living in Mainland China.
Despite the strong family ties, Chong has never visited China. “I’m a really local girl,” she explains, “I was born and raised in this area, I live in Newport News, my practice is in Newport News—I mean I don’t feel that connection.”
Before the family moved to Hampton Roads, Chong’s parents lived in New York, and that’s where a lot of her mother’s extended family still lives. Chong reminisces, “Being from New York, my mother was big on deli food, so her idea on Christmas Eve was to buy these huge deli platters, and we would all wait until midnight and then we would eat sandwiches and open our presents ’cause it would technically be Christmas Day after midnight, right? That’s the only time they didn’t mind us staying up late.”
Although two of Chong’s three older siblings still live in the area, her parents passed away when Chong had been practicing for about five years.
“There are a lot of days that I look back and wish my parents were still here. I think you want to see your children and grandchildren take advantage of the American dream—to come here and be successful and have their own business and be able to do well. I think that’s what every parent wants to see their child doing—to succeed them.”
Now, Chong starts every day by getting up to exercise at 4 a.m.—yoga, tai chi and Pilates—and slips out of town for mini vacations whenever she can. A big proponent of spa treatments, Chong believes that you have to be able to pamper yourself a little bit.
“I’m very grateful to my parents and grandparents—everyone who worked hard to get me where I am,” Chong says. “I look forward to better and greater things in the future.”