Is Partner Track Based on a True Story or a Book?

Image Credit: Vanessa Clifton/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘Partner Track’ is a legal drama that follows Ingrid, a young lawyer whose years of hard work and dedication have finally paved the path for her to become a partner in her prestigious law firm. However, she struggles to be seen, let alone be taken seriously at every turn, due to being a woman and a person of color on top of that. Created by Georgia Lee, the show focuses on Ingrid’s struggle, sacrificing her personal life for her work while juggling a love triangle that further complicates things.

Keeping aside its romantic entanglements, the series throws light on the sexist and racist practices in corporate workplaces and how easily they are sidelined in favor of the “bigger picture” for the companies. The realistic portrayal of such issues in ‘Partner Track’ makes one wonder if the story itself is based on reality. If you’re wondering the same thing, we’ve got your back.

Is Partner Track a True Story?

No, ‘Partner Track’ is not based on a true story. The Netflix series is an adaptation of the 2013 book, ‘The Partner Track: A Novel’ by Helen Wan. While the novel is a work of fiction, Wan used her personal experience in the field of law to give more weight to the character’s career and the problems she has to face in her life. “The book is decidedly fiction. But I do have some things in common with Ingrid,” the author said. In the show, Ingrid Yun is a young Korean American working for Parsons Valentine, but in the book, Ingrid Yung is a Chinese-American, much like Wan.

Image Credit: Vanessa Clifton/Netflix

Nonetheless, the racism and sexism that Ingrid in the book and show have to face in their line of work remain the same. Despite her own experiences, Wan had to do a lot of research to try to paint a more accurate picture of how things work in law. “Unlike Ingrid, I left before two years; I did not stay for the partnership decision. So I had to do research for my book by talking to people who had remained in Biglaw, getting their perceptions, anecdotes, and stories. Every time I went to a CLE event or networking event at a firm, I would try to absorb the feeling and the environment, so I could get the details correct,” she said.

Wan, who has worked as a Corporate and Media Lawyer, came up with the idea for the book after landing her first job at a big corporate firm. The world she found herself in worked much differently than what she’d expected, and she felt like an outsider looking in, especially as a woman of color. Wan found that there weren’t really any books out there that realistically approached the experience of being a young woman working in the corporate sector.

As for the books about or set around Asian-American women, the situation was equally dire. “It’s the same formula every time. Young Asian-American heroine confronts culture clash — unyielding Asian parents who won’t let her on the cheerleading squad, a flock of quaint-as-hell relatives, yadda, yadda. Throw in a budding interracial romance, stick a word like ‘moon,’ ‘jade’ or ‘dragon’ in the title, and voila! America’s new literary sensation. Give me a break. I could write an ‘ethnic’ novel in my sleep,” Wan wrote for The Washington Post.

Finding people like her underrepresented, Wan decided to write a book of her own, which took her twelve years to create, hone and publish. Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of the law and turning it into a biography or a memoir, the author decided to take a different turn. To make it further inclusive of others’ experiences, she talked with a lot of other people in a similar profession, and the similarities that emerged furthered her resolve to write a book. Wan considered writing it as a series of non-fiction essays, but with time, multiple rewrites turned it into a fictional story of a woman named Ingrid.

Considering all this, it is safe to say that even though Ingrid’s story is fictional, a lot of elements in it are plucked from reality, which are relatable to a lot of people working not just in law but a lot of other professions. Through Ingrid’s story, Wan wanted to give those people someone they could see themselves in and find the strength to stay true to themselves no matter what. “I would consider it to have been worthwhile writing this book if it helps some young people — and particularly Asian-Americans — navigate that process of learning a corporate culture while still remaining authentic to oneself,” Wan said.

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