Netflix’s ‘Partner Track’ is the story of a young Asian-American woman, named Ingrid, who believes that she is finally on the right track to making herself a partner in her law firm. If only she can clinch the next high-profile case for the firm, she’ll surely make her lifelong dream a reality. While it looks like an easy plan, accomplishing it is a much more difficult task than she’d imagined. The case itself has many twists and turns, but Ingrid’s complicated love life makes things more twisted. On top of that, she has to survive the work environment where toxic people thrive. The show creates such a realistic portrayal of Ingrid’s world that it makes one wonder how much of it is real, especially when it comes to her law firm. Is Parsons Valentine a real place? Let’s find out.
Is Parsons Valentine a Real Law Firm?
No, Parsons Valentine is not a real law firm in New York. It is a fictional place created by Helen Wan for her novel ‘The Perfect Track’, on which the Netflix series is based. While the name of the firm is made up, Wan used her experience in law, while also drawing from the stories of a number of other people to create a place that would realistically portray the work environment and the struggles of the profession for a person of color. “Parsons Valentine isn’t modeled after any particular law firm but is an amalgam of many big white-shoe firms, banks, or corporations where I and my minority and female friends and colleagues have worked. Whenever we got together to share war stories, we found that all our work experiences at these places were remarkably similar. Invariably, we’d say, “There should be a book!” So I finally decided to write one,” she said.
Wan has worked as an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, following which she worked for Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, a media and entertainment firm, and after that, she eventually ended up at Time Warner. While she wanted to be a writer, it didn’t seem like a practical choice. She decided to make a place for herself in law, which is what finally led her to write the bestseller book which is now a Netflix series. Her knowledge of the profession allowed her to give a more realistic look to the portrayal of lawyers. She also researched other avenues, especially talking to other people in the field. “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 found that even after working for different firms, a lot of people had similar struggles. “Like it or not, we bring to our careers all of these inherited and cultural understandings on the proper ways of being. I wish that I had been more aware when I started my legal career of how much these understandings affect the way we act in the workplace,” she said. Wan particularly found visibility and the creation of a personal brand to be something that pushes a person’s career forward. She passed on that struggle to Ingrid, who is relentless about not disappearing behind her white male colleagues and losing the chance of becoming a partner.
While becoming a partner is Ingrid’s greatest wish, Wan knows that this isn’t the end of all problems for people of color. “We are making progress in terms of the number of Asian-American lawyers who make partners. But once you make a partner, you’re not done. Once you break through that barrier, there are more battles to fight. There are partners, and there are partners — the ones who make the decisions about running the firm. I would have appreciated a book like ‘The Partner Track’ being around when I was an associate. You can read the book and infer how to manage your own career more strategically,” she said.
In writing Ingrid’s story, Wan tried to keep things as realistic as possible, despite it being a fictional story. Every little thing, be it the corporate policies that shelter wrongdoings of “important people” or a love affair with a colleague that goes wrong has its roots in reality. So, while Parsons Valentine might not be a real place, it is surely something where a lot of people in the legal profession can see their own workplaces.