Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Geng Chen of Susman Godfrey

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

Swiss Re v. GE likely takes the crown as my most complicated case. It concerned a tax agreement from a decade-old acquisition affecting multiple tax years in a dozen or so jurisdictions around the world. There is nothing quite like deposing a corporate representative, who happens to be a tax accountant, on German tax accruals! Having done so, I highly recommend the experience.

Massive commercial matters like Swiss Re form a significant portion of my caseload, but one aspect of my practice that’s also worth highlighting is its range. I recently concluded an individual employment representation—in fact, it was the first case I took on as a partner—and while I missed working within a busy team with my brilliant colleagues at Susman Godfrey, having the opportunity to take a case that was “mine” from start to finish was uniquely rewarding.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?

Never present a problem without suggesting a solution. That’s the single best piece of advice I got as a first-year associate, and it makes perfect sense.

As an associate, my role was to dig deep into a case and understand the factual and legal issues from the bottom up. I was in the best position to make a recommendation based on my knowledge, while flagging potential implications for other parts of the case.

Not only did this help a busy partner who may have had only 10 minutes to review my work, but it also allowed me to start developing my legal judgment earlier and practice strategic thinking. This principle served me well and I continue to follow it to this day.

I also mentor the associates that I work with to adopt this practice. I won’t deny that it makes my life easier, but more importantly, as I know from personal experience, it helps them gain a sense of ownership in the case and confidence in their own abilities.

How do you define success in your practice?

There is no one-size-fits-all definition of success. Every case is different, with its own unique characteristics and challenges. Of course, because I primarily work on behalf of plaintiffs, success usually means compensation for the wrong that they suffered.

But it could also mean resolving a dispute quickly and efficiently, even at a discount, so that the client can put the episode behind them and move on.

In other cases, it might mean getting the client her day in court, despite the risk of getting nothing, if it means that she finally has the chance to tell her story.

I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t love legal reasoning and the technical aspects of our practice, but in the end, litigants are people, not automatons, and success has to be defined by serving their individual needs to the best of my ability.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

Helping clients through what can be a disorienting, discouraging, and often emotionally fraught process. This is particularly true for individual clients, most of whom never dreamed that they’d ever be involved in a lawsuit. But if they find themselves in litigation, whether as plaintiff or defendant, that means that something has gone horribly wrong. I feel immensely privileged to be the person they count on during those times.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?

I am grateful to so many people who have helped guide me throughout my career. If I had to pick just one greatest mentor, though, it would be Arun Subramanian.

He is one of the most brilliant lawyers I have ever met. Time and time again, he has spotted issues or arguments that eluded everyone else on the team, even if he’s entirely new to that part of the case. He is also one of the best writers I know, and every brief that Arun touches is immeasurably better, no matter how dry or complex the issues.

Even more impressive than his legal acumen, though, is Arun’s ability to put anyone at ease. As a junior attorney, it was incredibly motivating to feel that someone as accomplished as Arun believed in me, valued my contributions, and was invested in helping me improve.

Arun will be leaving Susman Godfrey soon to serve as a judge in the S.D.N.Y. While the firm’s loss is absolutely the Southern District’s gain, I hope to carry on, in my own small way, that legacy of mentorship for newer attorneys who are now where I was not so long ago.

Tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist?

I recently rediscovered my love for musical theater and have been listening to the cast album for “SIX” on repeat. The show explores the lives of the six women who married King Henry VIII, which sounds heavy given what happened to many of them, but the songs are wildly catchy, and it’s good to be reminded that there’s always more to every story.

Geng Chen of Susman Godfrey in Antarctica.
Geng Chen and Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

Geng Chen, has amassed impressive victories and settlements for clients who vary from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses. In her pro bono practice, in partnership with the Legal Aid Society, Chen secured a significant settlement in a wrongful termination lawsuit in Supreme Court, New York County. She and the Society sued on behalf of a whistleblowing building superintendent who claimed he was fired after he refused the management company’s request to look for reasons to evict rent-stabilized tenants.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

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