By Michelle Cioci Adams, originally published in Buffalo Business First on Oct 6, 2020, 6:00am EDT Updated Nov 19, 2020, 12:15pm EST.

Introducing the 2020 40 Under 40 Winners

In a year as challenging as 2020, it’s important to take time to celebrate those who are making a difference in Western New York: Meet the 2020 class of 40 Under 40 honorees.

They are lawyers, entrepreneurs, health-care workers and financial experts. Some have day jobs helping their communities; others do so after hours. All of them have had to adjust to a pandemic and a new normal this year.

This marks the 29th year that Business First has chosen 40 young leaders for recognition. This year’s class brings the total number of honorees over the years to 1,160.

The thrust of the awards hasn’t changed since the program’s inception in 1992. The goal has always been to identify 40 men and women — younger than age 40, of course — who are successful in their professions and heavily involved in community activities.

This year’s winners were chosen from about 200 nominations. They will be celebrated at a virtual event at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19.

Since 1992, Buffalo Business First has honored 1,120 winners of the 40 Under 40 awards. This year we add another 40 to the 28th annual roster of people doing impressive things in the workplace and community.


Joanna Chen

Joanna Chen is partner at Phillips Lytle LLP.

Chen is a commercial litigation attorney who focuses on class action and complex commercial disputes, including theft of trade secrets, breach of contract, and business torts.

She also has counseled Fortune 500 and private entities on compliance and employment matters and defended federal and state employment lawsuits.

Chen works to promote the interests of women and people of color as co-chair of the special advisory group for the Beverly Gray Business Exchange. In less than two years, the organization has served over 125 small businesses and secured $150K in small business funding.

She also is chair of the finance committee for the Erie County Democratic Committee and co-chair of the Legislative Committee for the local chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York.

Joanna Chen

Partner, Phillips Lytle LLP

Age: 34

Lives in: Buffalo

Born in: Taipei, Taiwan

Graduate of: William P. Clements High School, Sugar Land, Texas

College: B.A., business administration, University of Texas at Austin; J.D., Cornell Law School

Community involvement: Special Advisory Group co-chair, Beverly Gray Business Exchange Center; Legislative Committee co-chair and former state delegate, Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York; Erie County Democratic Committee; ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project

When did you decide your career path: High school

Bucket list: Travel to Tokyo

Best professional advice ever received: Be willing to go outside your comfort zone.

Favorite WNY spot: Whirlpool State Park